U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the keynote speaker at Thursday’s Iowa LGBT Rural Summit on the campus of Drake University, told dozens of assembled participants that he beams with pride about the “amazing cultural transformation” he has overseen during his seven years at the Department of Agriculture.
Thursday’s event — officially called #RuralPride Campaign: LGBT Rural Summit Series — was an outreach effort aimed at gay, lesbian and transgender people who reside in rural areas, reports The College Fix.
In addition to the taxpayer-funded U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Center for Lesbian Rights sponsored the event. A third sponsor was True Colors, a group founded by Cyndi Lauper to help homeless gay people.
The event was attended by 125 people.
“We are a much more functioning, better department because we represent the entirety of America,” Vilsack said in his keynote address, according to The Cedar Rapids Gazette.
The Department of Agriculture has become “an inclusive department” he added.
The formerly twice-elected Iowa governor described America’s rural gay population as “a community in rural America that needs help.”
“Oftentimes when we think of this community, we think of an urban-centric community but the reality is that there are many who live in rural areas and many of those who live in rural areas are challenged economically,” Vilsack lamented.
Another speaker at the Iowa LGBT Rural Summit, Naomi Goldberg, suggested that America’s rural areas are chock-a-block with gay men and lesbians.
“We have this perception that LGBT people leave rural areas and I think that’s not actually true,” Goldberg, policy director for the Movement Advancement Project, said, according to The Gazette.
“Breaking the stereotype that LGBT people don’t live outside of cities is really important,” Goldberg said, adding that she believes many gay Iowans are living in rural poverty.
Goldberg’s research shows that 96 out of 99 Iowa counties are home to gay couples who are raising children.
Approximately 66,000 of Iowa’s 3 million people identify as gay, lesbian or transgender, organizers of the Iowa LGBT Rural Summit said.
That’s 2.2 percent. (RELATED: Americans Vastly Overstate Gay Population)
Another speaker at the summit, Drake University employee Mat Russell, was slated to speak about the travails of farming with his husband roughly in the middle of nowhere in Lacona, Iowa (pop: 361).
In the last two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has sponsored at least 14 summits for rural gay people across America’s fruited plain, according to the Fix.
The aim of the first such summit, in North Carolina, was to “strengthen the daily lives of LGBT rural community members” by helping them obtain food stamps and other government benefits, according to a glowing 2014 Buzzfeed piece.