Guest Opinion: Actually doing something for gay rights in Iowa City

An Iowa City activist lays out their call to action for the advancement of LGBTQ people in the Hawkeye State and throughout the country.


Emily Wangen

Paul and Chad Clark prepare to lead the Iowa City Pride parade as a family at Iowa City Pride on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

“Why don’t you guys do something?”

Stormé DeLarverie said those words 50 years ago, the first night of the Stonewall Inn raids, powering a movement for LGBTQ liberation and equality. They still echo in 2019.

Pride is celebrated in June because of Stonewall and the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Watching television that day was the clarion call I needed to come out to my family. I felt dignity in the eyes of society. Activists, since before my birth, changed hearts with their voices and laws with their votes. They were vindicated.

Yet today, our military bans trans people. Conversion therapy for minors and LGBTQ discrimination are legal in most states. NextGen Iowa follows DeLarverie’s call to action, engaging communities across the state on a Pride Road Trip, registering voters and petitioning Sen. Joni Ernst to cosponsor the Equality Act to ban LGBTQ discrimination nationwide.

National news paints an image of Iowa being behind the times, like Pennsylvania, where I grew up. There, you can be fired or lose housing based on who you love or how you identify. On my campus, a person wasn’t charged with hate crimes after attacking a visitor because of outdated laws. I’d sometimes walk down that road asking, “What if it’s me next?”

What I found instead were moms giving free hugs. Congregations offering blessings. Young people unafraid to petition their senator and excited to vote. In Iowa City, we found a crowd blocking the sight of hate preachers with rainbow umbrellas.

I walk down that street today and think, “Maybe there won’t be another.”

Iowa City: You guys really did something, and I’m proud to be a part of it. The moral arc of the universe is long, longer than a month, or 50 years, but it bends toward justice, and it’s an arc of all colors.


—  Anthony J. Zarzycki

Iowa City Regional Organizing

Director, NextGen Iowa

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