Dubuque To Host "Better Together" Conference
By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter
DUBUQUE, Iowa - You may have heard of Iowa's "brain-drain". That's a problem when college students leave the state after graduation.
The Dubuque Human Rights Commission is broadening that definition to include young gays and lesbians who leave when they don't feel welcome in their community.
The group is hosting the "Better Together Dubuque" conference this weekend to help professionals better understand how gays and lesbians can diversify their workforce.
As soon as Chad Lange graduated from college he knew he had to leave his hometown near Peoria, Illinois.
Lange said, "I wanted to be in a place where I felt more connected to a community. "
Lange is gay and a fiction writer. He spent the past 16 years living in San Francisco and recently moved to Dubuque. He says it's critical for any community to accept gays and lesbians.
Lange said, "if I don't feel happy in my community, I'll leave the community. And I take whatever talents I might have elsewhere. "
The Dubuque Human Rights Department used a study by the Knight Foundation as a tool in designing its conference. That study indicates Lange is part of a trend.
Dubuque Human Relations Specialist Molly Menster said, "one of the top three things young people are looking for in a community is diversity. They are looking for open-ness. "
Organizers say the conference is designed to help gay people feel connected to the community. It's also a mission to help business professionals understand and embrace everyone in the workplace.
Menster said, "we are a growing and changing community and we have people coming in from all over the United States, all over the world. We want to do a great job of being in a safe place a welcoming place. "
This weekend's event starts Friday night with a Mississippi River boat cruise.
It will continue into Saturday with the conference at Grand River Center starting at 8:30 a.m.
Zach Wahls will be the keynote speaker. Wahls is the son of two Iowa City lesbians. In 2011, Wahls addressed the Iowa House Judiciary Committee which was considering a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Iowa.
A YouTube video of his testimony went viral.
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