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Gay and Lesbian Legislators: Red Wing Touched Our Lives

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Joyce Russell/IPR
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Rep. Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids)

There were emotional remembrances from the floor of the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday as gay and lesbian lawmakers honored Iowa civil rights activist Donna Red Wing, who died Monday at the age of 67.   

Red Wing led the advocacy organization One Iowa from 2012 to 2016, and was nationally recognized for her work on behalf of the LGBT community.      

"Thank you for standing so strong." -Rep. Liz Bennett

Rep. Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids) recalled her own history dealing with discrimination from a young age because of her sexual orientation.

“I was 14 years old when someone first called me a dyke,” Bennett said.   “My parents skipped awards ceremonies for awards I won and did not attend my swearing-in at the capitol four years ago.”   

Bennett vowed to continue to work for equality for the LGBT community in Red Wing’s memory.

“I will remember how you engaged even those who sought to hurt you with love,” Bennett said, her voice breaking.  “Thank you for standing so strong and for letting people like me stand on your shoulders.”

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Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
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Sen. Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines)

Sen.  Matt McCoy (D-Des Moines) praised Red Wing for her charisma and purpose. He said Red Wing accomplished more in her lifetime than anyone could in two or three lifetimes.

“Truly one person can make a difference in our lives and Donna has made a difference in many of our lives and for that we will miss her very much,”  McCoy said. “Thank you for this opportunity to remember my friend Donna.”

Current One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman Zinnel says Red Wing was “a force to be reckoned with.”

Red Wing died at her home in Des Moines after an eight month battle with lung cancer.  She is survived by her wife, Sumitra, her son Julian and her grandson Jasper.