One Iowa Action, an Iowa LGBTQ advocacy group, recently put out a statement reversing its endorsement of Iowa Senator Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant). The group did so because Nunn supported a state Health and Human Services (HHS) budget that will block Medicaid recipients and prison inmates from using an estimated $52 million in taxpayer funding for sex changes or similar operations.

“Endorsement or no endorsement, I don’t vote based on what lobbyist groups demand,” Nunn said, noting he is accepting of all Iowans and respects the group’s decision. “Giving prisoners and Medicaid recipients coverage for types of operations that aren’t even covered for most public, private, or military insurance is not good policy.”

One Iowa Action stated it thought Nunn would stand for the LGBTQ community.

“We firmly believed he was a moderating force on the far-right Senate Republican caucus,” the statement said. “We see now that was a mistake.”

For his part, Nunn said the group endorsed him because he was willing to be a friend for people of diversity.

“I still support acceptance of all Iowans who are open to others,” Nunn said.

In October of 2018, One Iowa faced some backlash from its members for endorsing Nunn, who has a strong conservative background on a range of issues. The group publicly replied that “an endorsement does not condone every vote a lawmaker has ever made. It is a strategic move to build relationships and influence. We don’t agree with Nunn or any of our endorsed candidates on everything. Building a closer relationship with them will allow us to have more meaningful conversations about our policy disagreements.”

With its latest move, One Iowa has made it clear that the new watermark for receiving the group’s endorsement is to support publicly funded sex changes for Medicaid recipients and prisoners.

However, a transgendered business owner in Nunn’s community was the first to tell Nunn he did not want his tax dollars going to somebody else on Medicaid to get a sex change.

Nunn reminded that despite this endorsement reversal, he worked with stakeholders on all sides to ensure civil rights were preserved in the HHS appropriations bill, and he “continues to work on a DHS waiver program for transgender persons in an approved medical program.”

Nunn, an air combat veteran with the US Air Force and current Lt. Col. with the Air Guard, also cited his work advancing mental health and medical services for members of the military, including those who identify as transgender.

“It’s really important that people can be empathetic to folks who are questioning what their gender needs to be. I’m kind of a live-and-let-live person,” Nunn said. “But I’m not going to pay for somebody to go live the way they want to live at my expense or at a cost to state government of $52 million…Most public and private insurers don’t even afford that, including the military.”

One Iowa Action also criticized Nunn for voting for the campus free speech bill. The group pointed to Sen. Tom Greene (R-Burlington) as someone who has “stood up for what is right, even when it wasn’t politically expedient.”

The group has similarly praised Nunn in the past, noting in October of 2018, that “Nunn’s work behind the scenes is a large part of why we haven’t seen a huge backslide in LGBTQ rights.”

One Iowa Action concluded by stating it still hopes to work with Nunn in the future, but regrets having supported him in the 2018 election.

Nunn said no matter what the group decides, he will continue to “work on good public policy that is fair to all Iowans, both as individuals and as taxpayers.”

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall