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Davenport led the Quad-Cities banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

Davenport led the Quad-Cities banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

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In March of 2000, the Davenport City Council became the first governmental body in the Quad-Cities to pass an ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

It didn't come easy.

The proposal to make it illegal to discriminate in areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and credit had been brought up three times previously, beginning in 1996, but had never made it to a full vote of the council. 

In 1998, Ald. Joe Seng, At Large, made a motion to consider that died for lack of a second. That prompted a stinging, half-page editorial in the Nov. 8, 1998, Quad-City Times. Following are excepts from that editorial, titled "Aiding and abetting."

"Last July, two Quad-City teen-agers were out for a drive when they spotted a man walking to work. Believing the man to be gay, they shouted slurs at him, then stopped their car, got out and brutally beat him.

"That was just a few months after the owner of a Davenport nursing home publicly boasted of purging the home of all gay employees. "When I first came here," Roger Crow told the Quad-City Times, "there was probably at least three, excuse my French, faggots working here, and I had at least three dykes working here. And when I first came here it was like, `These people are gone.' "

"Around that same time, a local resident stood up at a Davenport City Council meeting and declared that she "should not be forced to hire or rent to a homosexual, thereby encouraging their sinful conduct." ...

"But as distressing as those incidents are, they pale in comparison to what Davenport's city aldermen did last week at one of their regular council sessions. Near the end of the meeting, Alderman Joe Seng made a motion to amend the city's civil rights ordinance to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When the time came for another alderman to second Seng's motion, not one of them responded.

"The silence was deafening.

"Not one other alderman was willing to stand up and say that people shouldn't be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation."

The editorial then listed the other nine aldermen by name, and called for passage of the ordinance, stating that it is a civil rights issue.

In 2000, letters to the editor argued both sides.

"Taxpayers shouldn't support gay lifestyle" was the headline over one.

"Practicing homosexuality is certainly not condoned in the Bible and should not be legitimized by civil rights laws," the writer said. "Taxpayers should not have to support lifestyles, whatever they may be."

In response, Mayor Phil Yerington wrote that those opposed to the addition of sexual preference to Davenport's civil rights ordinance must never have read it.

"In no way will it mandate that schools, churches and workplaces change their operational rules in any fashion," he wrote. "The amendment doesn't ask you to believe or condone the gay lifestyle. It just asks for fairness — the same protection from discrimination that is supposed to be enjoyed by every American citizen.

"What I've come to realize these past six weeks is that this issue ... is about hate, pure and simple. It's about fear and intolerance. 

"Throughout the discussion of this issue, I've been saved and condemned. I've been preached at and preached to. I've been prayed for, and prayed against.

"I've been lectured, educated, insulted, threatened, intimidated, harassed and I'm not sure there hasn't been a spell or two placed upon me! My answering machine is full nightly. I can't read my e-mail fast enough.

"There are those who have suggested that my supporting this amendment, or failing to veto it, will cost me any chance of re-election in 2001. Even though I don't plan that far ahead, my response is, 'So be it.'"

The night of the Davenport council vote in March, police were stationed inside the council chamber, and people coming in were frisked with a wand.

When the vote was taken, the ordinance passed.

Seven to three.

Other milestones, evolutions

The Quad-Cities has a rich history in the road toward acceptance of the  LBGTQ+ community and assuring its civil rights. Here are some other milestones, evolutions:

Formation of various groups, programs

• Quad-Citians Affirming Diversity is a long-standing group that still exists but there are many others.

• The DeLaCerda House was founded in 1994 to provide housing and sanctuary for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. It was named after Jim DeLaCerda, a Muscatine native and nurse who worked with patients with HIV and AIDs in Chicago and San Francisco. He himself died of AIDS in Davenport in 1993. The program continues today and operates more than one housing unit. The first was in Rock Island.

• AIDS Project Quad-Cities, now known as The Project, is a nonprofit started in 1986 to provide health management, care and advocacy for those at risk of contracting, or who are affected by, or who are living with, HIV or AIDS. With an office in Moline, The Project is the only HIV/STI/AIDS organization in a 60-mile radius of the Q-C, serving four counties in Illinois and nine in Iowa, according to its website.

• QC Pride, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 and revived in 2017 to promote awareness, visibility and unity of and among the GLBTQ+ community. It sponsors the Unity Pride Week with a parade and festival.

• Clock Inc., Rock Island, is a community center founded in 2018 in Rock Island to support, promote and empower LGBTQ+ youth and adults. All clocks in the building are set at 6:28 as a reminder of the June 28, 1969, Stonewall riots. These were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York.

Debut of celebrations, festivals, parades

• Red Ribbon Dinner fundraisers were started in 1994 by the AIDS Project, and are carried on by The Project. Although the event was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, a Red Ribbon Gala is scheduled for June 26 this year in Davenport's Lindsay Park.

Many years the dinners were attended by hundreds of people at large venues with entertainment and an accompanying art auction. In 2001, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was the keynote speaker.

• In 2011, New Ground Theatre produced an original play titled "Under the Radar" based on interviews with 15-20 Quad-City area gay people.

• A Q-C Pride Festival debuted in 2008 at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, after having to relocate from LeClaire Park because of flooding. Unity Pride Week with a parade and festival have continued, sponsored by Q-C Price Inc.

Gay bars that came and went

For a long time, these were the only places GLBTQ could meet comfortably with like-minded people. Establishments included Club 506, Chances Are, The Gemini Club, Club Marquette and Lonnie's Lower Level, the Hawaiian Lounge.

Spiritual life

The Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad-Cities held its first service in 1980; in 1989 it held a service in Rock Island in the first building it owned rather than rented. It later moved to Davenport. The denomination is inclusive to all, especially of any sexual orientation.

Marriage

When the Iowa Supreme Court declared unanimously in April 2009 that same-sex marriage is legal, the Quad-Cities became a mecca for same sex couples throughout the Midwest wanting to exchange vows.

Before the benefit of law, the GLBTQ community hosted its own events. In 2004, there was an “I Do Celebration” in which 25 couples exchanged vows.

More trans

With time, the "T" of LGBTQ+ is getting more attention. Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth. 

Later this year, J.L. Simpson, of Davenport, expects to organize a trans summit in Davenport."

The wild NASA simulation shows 500 years of cosmic evolution around our galaxy’s supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* in a virtual reality environment.

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