Former Governor of Iowa Terry Branstad and ex-official Chris Godfrey (MARK SCHIEFELBEIN/AFP/Getty)
A court has found that Iowa’s Republican ex-governor Terry Branstad unlawfully discriminated against a gay official.
A Polk County jury on Monday (July 15) ruled that Branstad, a strong opponent of LGBT+ rights who served as Governor of Iowa from 2011 to 2017, discriminated against the state’s workers compensation commissioner Chris Godfrey.
Godfrey, who was appointed to a six-year term before Branstad won election in 2011, claimed in court documents that the governor had pressured him to quit because of his sexuality.
When Godfrey refused, Branstad slashed his salary by a third, in order to try and force him out of his job.
Iowa taxpayers will pick up the bill for discrimination by Republican ex-governor
After a six-week hearing, the court issued $1.5 million in damages to the former official.
However, the bill for the lawsuit will be picked up by the state instead of Branstad, who is now serving as the Trump administration’s Ambassador to China.
Taxpayers will also be on the hook for the $1 million in legal costs racked up by the state attempting to defend the Republican.
Godfrey told local media: “The jury heard my sexual orientation was clearly a motivating factor.
“This is a win for me and it’s a win for the entire gay community in Iowa.
“It shows that we have sexual orientation in the Civil Rights Act in Iowa for a reason and nobody, not even Terry Branstad, is above that law.”
US President Donald Trump is introduced by US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad before speaking at Kirkwood Community College on June 21, 2017, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty)
He added: “Obviously I’d like an apology… I don’t know if that will be forthcoming or not.
“But I had a jury of fellow Iowans sit and listen to the evidence, and they made the determination that they discriminated and retaliated against me and violated my constitutional rights.”
The official added: “A lot of people didn’t want to believe the governor of the state of Iowa himself would discriminate.
“Being able to call my mum and let her know the jury heard all the evidence and sided with us, that means a lot.”
Terry Branstad claims to treat gay people with ‘respect and dignity’
During the court battle, Branstad had returned from China to testify, telling the court that he “always treated everyone, gay or straight, with respect and dignity.”
However, Branstad has previously argued in favour of anti-LGBT discrimination.
In 2015, the then-Governor came out in favour of a Catholic school’s right to fire a teacher for being gay.
After a gay teacher was sacked in Des Moines, Branstad said that teachers “should not be asked to violate their conscience,” and should be allowed to have “hiring practices that fit with the tenets of their faith.”
Branstad also called for efforts to overturn the US Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that brought same-sex marriage to all 50 states, including Iowa.