Shaw backs effort to withdraw funds

Two lawmakers who represent Webster County are helping to lead a drive to take state funding from Des Moines Area Community College because they say it uses taxpayer money to send students to a gathering that organizers assert is intended to prevent bullying of gay youths.

State representatives Rob Bacon, R-Slater, and Tom Shaw, R-Laurens, are among 16 legislators who announced Thursday that they want to withold money from the Ankeny-based college.

Shaw said Thursday afternoon that the college uses taxpayer money to send students to the Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth. That, he said, amounts to helping to sponsor the event.

“We just believe that is not the proper use of taxpayer money,” he said.

The Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth is conducted by Iowa Safe Schools. The eighth annual conference will be held Wednesday at Prairie Meadows in Altoona.

The Diversity Commission of Des Moines Area Community College is listed as a sponsor of the conference on the Iowa Safe Schools website.

LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning.

The conference, Shaw said, “attacks religious liberty” and “attacks specific individuals because of their beliefs.” He said the individuals attacked at the conference include radio talk show hosts Jan Mickelson, Rush Limbaugh “and perhaps others.”

According to Shaw, talks are underway with leaders of DMACC to persuade them to stop the use of taxpayer money for the conference. He said if those talks are unsuccessful, the l6 lawmakers will introduce amendments to the state education budget bills which would strip funding from the college.

That college is the only public institution that uses taxpayer money to support the conference, according to Shaw.

“DMACC is the only one we have been able to identify,” he said.

Bacon did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has not asked event organizers to stop calling it the Governor’s Conference on LGTBQ Youth.

“It is our understanding that this is a private conference, started by and named after Gov. Vilsack,” said Tim Albrecht, Branstad’s spokesman.

He was referring to former Gov. Tom Vilsack, who is now the United States secretary of agriculture.

“Gov. Branstad has not asked that the word governor be removed from the title,” Albrecht added.