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IOWA 4-H Director Fired Over LGBT Inclusion Policies

John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas  the leader of Iowa’s 4-H Youth Development was fired Thursday because of his LGBT inclusive policies.

His termination comes months after he suggested a 4-H LGBT inclusion policy, which drew rebukes from conservative groups and resulted in hundreds of complaints submitted to Iowa 4-H.

“Through my life and through my career I have always tried to foster inclusive environments that welcome diversity for all youth and all people,” Chaisson-Cárdenas said. “That’s what I believe my career was built upon.” 

In the termination letter, John Lawrence, Chaisson-Cárdenas’ boss and Iowa State University’s vice president of extension and outreach, wrote that he “decided to make a change in the leadership of the 4-H Youth Development Program.”

“Your letter of intent states that your position serves at the pleasure of the administration,” Lawrence wrote. “At this time, I have decided to exercise that provision and terminate your employment … effective immediately.”

Chaisson-Cárdenas’ departure comes after Iowa 4-H’s decision not to adopt his proposed LGBT inclusion regulations that gay rights advocates saw as a step forward for all-inclusive student rights.

After the inclusion proposal in mid-April, the Liberty Counsel, a law and policy firm that promotes “Christian” values and a nationally recognized LGBT hate group, sent Iowa State a six-page letter requesting the rejection of Chaisson-Cárdenas suggested guidelines.

4-H employees, parents and students concerned the proposed policy didn’t align with their religious beliefs contacted the counsel, Mary McAlister, lead attorney on the case, said previously. 

“The guidance is discriminatory, unconstitutional and without legal authority,” McAlister wrote in the letter. “It misstates the law regarding protected classes, and falsely adds ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity or expression’ … (elevating) them above statutorily protected classes of biological ‘sex’ and ‘religion.’ ” 

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, administers the greater 4-H organization. However, local councils are supported more directly through the extension services of a network of public universities, in this case Iowa State and doesn’t fall neatly into one set of nondiscrimination policies.

Federally, being “gay and “gender identity” are not protected under the law..

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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