Iowa Supreme Court rules sexual discrimination judgment against former Governor Branstad should be dismissed

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Terry Branstad resigns as Iowa’s governor and is sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to China on May 24, 2017. (WHO-HD)

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed a lower court’s judgment that found former Iowa governor Terry Branstad discriminated against a former Iowa Worker’s Compensation Commissioner because he is gay.

During Branstad’s second stint as governor in 2011, he asked several department heads of state agencies appointed by his predecessor, Chet Culver, to resign.  Godfrey had two years left on his term and refused to step down. Branstad responded by slashing Godfrey’s salary by $40,000 per year.

Godfrey claimed the actions were taken because he is openly gay.

In 2019, a jury agreed and awarded Godfrey $1.5 million in his sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit against the state of Iowa and Branstad.

A previous challenge to the ruling claimed the verdict was unsupported by substantial evidence and was denied in district court by Judge Brad McCall.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court said, “Godfrey has no procedural or substantive due process right under the Iowa Constitution in continuing his salary at a particular level or in having his salary set within a statutory range according to a particular process. Godfrey’s claim thus fails as a matter of law.”

The ruling reverses the judgement in the case and remands the case for dismissal of Godfrey’s claims.

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