The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

JoCo recorder Kim Painter awarded for LGBTQ+, gay marriage advocacy

Painter received the Rick Graf award for her help legalizing gay marriage in Iowa.
Sara Stumpff
Kim Painter, recorder for Johnson County, poses for a portrait in Iowa City, on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. Painter recieved the Rick Graf award from the Iowa City Human Rights Commission for her help legalizing gay marriage in Iowa.

Kim Painter described the topic of gay marriage as “politically volcanic” before it was legalized. Painter, the Johnson County recorder, advocated for the LGBTQ+ community and gay marriage through protest.

Painter received the Rick Graf Award from the Iowa City Human Rights Commission on Oct. 25, which recognizes the long-term commitment to a specific cause or for the benefit of a specific group of persons. Painter was awarded for her advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, which helped legalize gay marriage in Iowa.

The award comes 19 years after Painter assisted in a demonstrative protest for same-sex marriage licenses.

Iowa City protestors and Painter set up an event on Feb. 27, 2004, during which forty couples came to the recorder’s office requesting same-sex marriage licenses and Painter would deny them the license.

Painter referred to the event as a “ceremony of denial,” saying she felt as though the rejection should be dignified in the same way as a marriage license.

The couples knew beforehand that they would be denied, but Painter said denying them was still hard. However, Painter said if she had accepted the licenses, the backlash could have led to a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage which would make it impossible for gay marriage to be legalized in the future.

The event garnered heavy media attention and pushed the conversation of marriage equality, highlighting the constitutionality issue of equality and same-sex marriage.

Five years later in 2009, gay marriage became legal in the state of Iowa, making it the third state to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Painter recalled being in the Johnson County boardroom when the legalization was announced.

“Everybody just went crazy. So it was really a moment,” Painter said. “It was very cool, of course, and you just think ‘This is history.’”

Painter said gay marriage wasn’t a topic of conversation when she ran for recorder in 1998.

“When I ran for recorder, [gay marriage] wasn’t even on the radar, it wasn’t even a thing people were talking about,” Painter said.

When the topic of gay marriage came to her office, Painter had to decide what to do. She said saying no to the licenses was the right thing for everyone, and even though the reward came much later, it was well worth it.

Painter said the award was more special because she knew Rick Graf personally, as the two worked together during the AIDS crisis in Iowa City.

As well as serving as county recorder since 1999, Painter has been involved with the Women’s Resource and Action Center, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, and served as vice president for the Iowa State Association of Counties.

Painter was nominated for the Rick Graf award by Johnson County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Rod Sullivan. Both county officials attended the University of Iowa at the same time.

“I was super impressed by her, and when I started to realize all the important work she was doing, I really admired her from the beginning,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he thought it was shocking that Painter had not yet won the award considering her involvement was largely based in the early 2000s.

Doug Kollasch of the City of Iowa City’s Human Rights Commission helped evaluate the nominations for the award, and said Painter stood out for her record and reputation in Iowa City “as a staunch defender and supporter of the rights of LGBTQIA individuals.”

Kollasch said it is important to recognize individuals for work like Painter’s because it is a testament to the impact one person can make, and individuals like Painter and other award recipients improve our community, society, and world.

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About the Contributors
Roxy Ekberg, News Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a news reporter at the Daily Iowan, Ekberg worked at her local newspaper.
Sara Stumpff, Photojournalist
Sara is a third year UI student who transfered from Kirkwood. She is a "non traditional" student who will hopefully obtain her BFA in Photography and BA in Spanish.