Newsaper: U.S. Ag Department pressured 4-H to change LGBTQ-friendly policy

DES MOINES — The Des Moines Register reported on Sunday that the the U.S. Agriculture Department under the Trump Administration pressured the national 4-H organization to withdraw a LGBTQ-friendly membership policy which also allowed a leader in Iowa to be pushed out.

4-H, an international youth organization that in the U.S. receives its funding from the Agriculture Department, introduced the policy in the U.S. earlier this year to make LGBTQ members feel welcomed, according to the Register. The new policy was posted on the websites of state organizations, including Iowa. Religious conservatives objected to the change.

From the Register:

Within days of the LGBT guidance’s publication, Heidi Green, then-chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requested that it be rescinded, Sonny Ramaswamy, then-director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the federal department that administers 4-H, told the Register.

Afterward, a NIFA communications manager sent an “urgent” email to at least two states — Iowa and New York — urging the 4-H organizations there to remove the LGBT guidance from their websites, the Register found.

The subsequent decision to take down the policy set off a firestorm this spring that engulfed 4-H programs in at least eight states — including Iowa, Idaho, Wisconsin, California, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia and New York.

And it eventually precipitated the firing of Iowa 4-H director John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, a fierce advocate of the LGBT policy, the Register found after conducting extensive interviews and examining more than 500 pages of state and federal communications.

This is just the latest move by the Trump administration to roll back gains made by the LGBTQ community in recent years.

“Under Iowa law, LGBTQ youth are protected from discrimination. They have the right to participate in all activities and use facilities that match their gender identity, and Iowa 4-H must recognize this,” said One Iowa executive director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel when contacted for comment. “The Human Rights Campaign has made a Freedom of Information Act request to the USDA to get more information about the Trump administration’s decision to rescind this important guidance. We thank HRC for taking this action to get more information about this cruel and unnecessary attack on LGBTQ youth.”

“This latest action by the Trump-Pence Administration is an unnecessary and cruel attack on LGBTQ youth that seeks to destroy community rather than create it,” said HRC Senior Vice President, Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof on the HRC’s website. “It is unconscionable that the anti-LGBTQ discrimination under this president has now inexplicably expanded into the Department of Agriculture. We are determined to get answers on how this came about and demand that Congress protect LGBTQ youth from this callous attack.”

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