Ames Chamber Lobbies Against Anti-Gay “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”


A week ago, the Ames Chamber of Commerce’s Statehouse lobbyist Drew Kamp declared the organization’s opposition to a bill that would allow businesses and schools to discriminate against transgender Iowans by preventing them from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.

When the Informer reported on the Chamber’s opposition to the bill, the organization had yet to take a position on a similar bill that we highlighted in our list of the most extreme legislative proposals introduced so far in the 2018 session: the deceptively labeled Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would give businesses increased legal cover for “any action that is motivated by a sincerely held religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.”

But on Wednesday evening, Kamp declared the Chamber’s opposition to both the Senate and House version of the bill.

The legislation was first introduced last year by state Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, who has a history of making anti-gay remarks. In 2013, he warned Senate colleagues of the numerous supposed health risks of homosexuality, claiming that “many civilizations have fallen” because they failed to defend the traditional family against the “lie” of the homosexual lifestyle. “Simply put,” Guth said, “it saves lives to have honest communication not only about the sexually transmitted diseases that shorten lifespans, but also about the deep loneliness that accompanies a life based on youth, beauty and sex.”

Guth’s bill was reportedly modeled after a notorious Indiana bill signed into law in 2015 by then-Gov. Mike Pence. The law sparked widespread opposition, with critics arguing that it opened the door for businesses to legally discriminate against the LGBT community. Companies pulled out of the state in response, and the state government spent $2 million on a global PR firm in an effort to help restore the state’s tarnished image.

Earlier this week, Kamp told the Informer that the Chamber opposed the anti-trans bathroom bill “because we support an environment of diversity and inclusivity, as that is an environment in which both business and community interests can thrive and prosper.”

As the Informer has previously reported, the Chamber adopted an inclusivity statement in January 2017 stating that it “believes in and stands for values of inclusion, equity and justice.”

Gavin Aronsen
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.