UI College Republicans ignore controversy over 'Conservative Coming Out Week'

BY DORA GROTE | APRIL 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Quentin Marquez stood grasping a sign as a fellow College Republican offered cupcakes to those who presented their IDs.

The activity, supporting voter-ID laws, is one in a series of activities the group is holding this week to promote "Conservative Coming Out week."

Despite the sustained controversy surrounding the use of the term "coming out," University of Iowa College Republican members said it didn't influence any changes in their activities this year.

"We take a lot of controversy for this, but our message still stays true," said Marquez, the vice head of College Republicans. "We're just trying to let conservatives here in Johnson County know that there are other Republicans here and that we're doing well, and we're strong, and we're not going to let the controversy get to us."

Members of the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community, however, took serious offense to the Republican's use of the term "coming out."


"We feel that this use of 'coming out' is being used to sensationalize and provide satire to the College Republican cause," said a Tuesday's press release by the GLBTAU community.

The week also caused controversy last year when a mass email about the week's events was sent out. UI anthropology/women's Studies Professor Ellen Lewin responded to the email, then received criticism for the manner in which she responded.

"F*** YOU, REPUBLICANS," Lewin wrote in her email to the College Republicans.

But Republicans say her response did not lead to any changes in the planning for this year.

"Last year's email from Professor Lewin really hasn't changed what we're doing this year," former College Republicans President John Twillmann said. "We're just going to be open and honest with people that we're conservative in Iowa City."

Quentin Hill, a GLBTAU executive board member, said when members of their community "come out," they are faced with workplace and marriage discrimination.

"When you come out as other things, you're not becoming sanctioned to discrimination," Hill said. "You're not denied legal protections and rights. When you come out as LGBT, you're automatically rejected those legal protections and benefits, and that's the part that's most offensive about it."

Twillmann said the use of the expression is not meant to ridicule the GLBT community.

"We are in no way mocking anyone or anything," he said. "We are just being honest about our beliefs and who we truly are."

UI journalism Associate Professor Lyombe Eko said no group has a monopoly on the expression "coming out." He said the term comes from Georgian and Victorian England, when girls had "coming out" parties around the age of 16 to officially usher them into adult society.

"I think the Republicans are using the expression ironically and satirically," Eko said. "That usage is political speech protected by the First Amendment. Irony and satire should be appreciated in a university that prides itself in teaching its students to be critical thinkers."

And UI law Professor Randall Bezanson said both groups are allowed to use the term.

"Those are private groups and the First Amendment doesn't have anything to do with their disagreeing with each other," Bezanson said. "They can try to convince people, that's what the first amendment is all about. We certainly don't want to shut one side up. We should let them disagree and try to persuade."

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