Fairfield city council

In this photo from video, the Fairfield City Council debates a resolution to declare the city's commitment to diversity and inclusion on Jan. 10. Comments made during the discussion, particularly by council member Judy Ham, have drawn ire in the community and from the ACLU of Iowa.

FAIRFIELD — Many community members and the ACLU of Iowa are condemning the Fairfield City Council over comments made by a council member, and its tabling of a resolution that would have stated the city was welcoming to all people.

At Monday's council meeting, council member Judy Ham said the resolution was a pathway to child grooming and sex trafficking.

"This is called grooming!" she exclaimed during a more than half-hour discussion on the resolution. "If you don't know what sex trafficking is, they are getting kids ready to be groomed and they are grooming them on a daily basis. And it's very, very perverted.

"Say no. That is my motion: No, it gets ripped in half and we say no. As a whole city, no."

The statement of intent in front of the council Monday was less than a page, ultimately resolving that the city's "commitment to the values of diversity, equity, fairness, inclusion, and justice is hereby reaffirmed."

The resolution stated that Fairfield "condemns discrimination based on faith, race, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, age, immigration status, military status, class, ability ..."

Council member Paul Gandy said he failed to see how the resolution advocated sexual trafficking.

"Because you do not understand the process of grooming," Ham replied.

Fairfield City Attorney John Morrissey said the resolution does not amount to grooming.

"You couldn't make a grooming case out of this if the county attorney's office had to do it to save its neck," Morrissey said. "In the idea of tolerating transgenderism, tolerating homosexuality, ... there's a lot of people that are very upset as to how it's spun, and how it's taught and how tolerance is taught, and you're going to find pretty much that the courts are either trying to stay neutral or they're trying to say everybody is entitled to some respect for whatever their choice is."

Morrissey suggested that the council could add language that it condemns the things Ham was concerned about: sex trafficking, grooming or abuse of the uninformed.

"But at the same time, I don't know if we can pass something that is going to address the real questions as far as who should have more of a say on what we believe or don't believe, as far as our level of tolerance in the community," he said. "This is probably one of the most tolerant communities I can imagine living in: we've got 80 nationalities, we've got every type of biological anomaly as far as a person can take on in this community, and I think everybody lives a pretty unimpaired life as far as other people not attacking them."

The resolution was drafted by Fairfield's DEI Committee — Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Gandy suggested the council invite a representative of the committee to speak on the resolution.

"You also need to invite an opposing viewpoint, too," Ham said.

"I think we have one," Gandy replied.

Backlash

A statement by ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer said the resolution included language that aligns with what the city is required to do by law.

"Treating everyone equally and with dignity, as the letter of intent states, is the foundation of fair and good government," Stringer said. "It’s important to note that the law requires the government, including the City of Fairfield, to treat people fairly and equally and not discriminate. We were appalled to hear some city council members express disagreement with those long-held American principles."

Several community members have reacted in Facebook posts and letters to the city's leadership, as well.

"What occurred during the Council’s discourse can only be described as a step back in time," Lore Oliver wrote in a letter shared on Facebook. "To a time at which members of the LGBTQ community were viewed as subhuman and sexual deviants. I was appalled as at least one member of the Council compared myself, and those like myself to "perverts." It was also implied that by validating the humanity of LGBTQ people they would somehow be opening the door to "child groomers" and "sex traffickers."

Other posts show community members who have urged others to contact their city council members, including Ham. Some have called for Ham's resignation.

Jared Brown, who wrote on the Fairfield, Iowa Facebook page, said, "I call for her immediate removal. Because this is discrimination."

Josie Overmyer wrote she was thankful of Gandy's defense. She said, "Grateful to Paul Gandy for doing his best to shut that garbage down, but she (Ham) is not a person that should be representing anyone."

A Facebook event entitled "City Council LGBT Awareness" has been created, coinciding with the date of the next city council meeting on Jan. 24. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at kocker@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.

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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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