Native Human Rights Advocate Defies Conservative Attacks in Iowa

Karen Mackey, executive director of the Sioux City Human Rights Commission has stood up amid political controversy driven by the right.

By Michelle Chen Aug 20, 2010

Defying all stereotypes about America’s Heartland, Iowa has made another mark in progressive local politics. Here’s some news that you probably missed this week: Karen Mackey, executive director of the Sioux City Human Rights Commission, has lately encountered political controversy driven by local conservative elements. But this week, the commission board voted unanimously to keep her in her post after supporters rallied in her defense. Mackey, a member of the Santee-Dakota Nation who is known for her progressive social views, had reportedly been the target of racially charged attacks from conservatives. According to the Sioux City Journal, another commission member used cringe-worthy epithets when debating her on landlord-tenant issues:

In the e-mail, Conrad wrote that Mackey should "walk a mile in another’s moccasins" and that one of Conrad’s tenants "went back to the reservation" to escape paying her rent.

Mackey’s popularity with the Christian right probably wasn’t aided by her decision to exercise her right to marry in one of the few places where it is recognized. The Journal reports:

[Mackey] said she believed her status as a married gay woman may have been the impetus for further debate on the board, even though it is legal in Iowa. In the end, she had the full support of the board. "I was amazed," Mackey said. "I’m ready to get back to work. We really do have more in common" than not.

In a week when right-wing bigotry was in surprisingly full bloom on the East and West coasts, at least there was some refreshing news coming out of Middle America.