Des Moines “Gay Is Not Okay” Pastor Sues State Over Transgender Bathrooms

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The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ has filed a federal lawsuit (embedded below) against the state of Iowa over a 2007 civil rights law enacted by the Legislature prohibiting gender identity-based discrimination in public accommodations. The lawsuit also names the city of Des Moines as a defendant, because of a city ordinance it passed that closely mirrors the state law.

The church is being represented by the nonprofit group Alliance Defending Freedom and is also being supported by a second church, Sioux City-based Cornerstone World Outreach. The two churches are arguing that they should not be forced to allow transgender people to use church restrooms that match their gender identification. They also claim that Iowa’s civil rights laws are aimed at censoring the content of their sermons relating to their socially conservative views on human sexuality — something that, if the Iowa Civil Rights Commission were actually doing, would clearly be unconstitutional.

Mike Demastus, pastor of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, has made headlines for similar stunts in the past. In 2012, the Ames Progressive broke the news that his church marquee was displaying the message “gay is not okay,” prompting the church to change the message to “adultery is not okay.” Last year, he led a prayer at the state Capitol to protest an invocation on the House floor by a Wiccan invited by state Rep. Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids, in a show of religious tolerance.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.