Jury awards gay state official $1.5 million in discrimination case

DES MOINES — After seven years of litigation and a six-week trial, a jury has decided former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad discriminated against a gay state official. The jury awarded former Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey $1.5 million in damages.

“It’s important, indeed critical, that every single employee of the State of Iowa be treated fairly, that they be treated like a full human being,” Godfrey’s attorney Roxanne Conlin said. “That did not happen to Chris Godfrey.”

Conlin argued Branstad did not have the authority to cut Godfrey’s salary in an attempt to force him to resign.

“It was about the way that the governor of the State of Iowa treated a very, extraordinarily great workers compensation commissioner and the jury held that the reason he was treated like that was because he’s gay,” Conlin said. “We all agree that’s wrong.”

Branstad is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to China. He returned to Des Moines last month to testify in the case, telling the jury he’s employed other gay employees and wanted Godfrey to resign because of complaints from the business community. A spokesman for Governor Kim Reynolds’ office says they’re disappointed in the verdict and are consulting with attorneys about an appeal.

If the jury’s decision stands, a judge is likely to order the state to pay Godfrey’s legal bills as well. Taxpayers have already spent more than a million dollars paying the private attorneys who defended Branstad’s actions.