Jury finds ex-Iowa governor discriminated against gay official

Terry Branstad

(CNN) — A jury found former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and others discriminated against a state government official because of his sexual orientation, awarding the employee $1.5 million in damages.

Christopher Godfrey said Branstad, who has been serving as the US ambassador to China since 2017, and others demanded his resignation because of his sexual orientation and drastically reduced his salary after he refused to resign, according to court documents. The jury ruled against the state of Iowa, Branstad and Brenna Findley, who was the legal counsel to the governor.

Branstad and others in his office demanded Godfrey’s resignation first in 2010, according to court documents. Godfrey refused. He was ordered to resign multiple times, and was told his pay would be decreased to the bottom of his pay grade if he did not.

Godfrey did not resign, and in 2011, his pay was reduced by nearly $40,000, according to filings.

Godfrey said he suffered mental and emotional harm, anxiety, depression, degradation, loss of wages, loss of earning capacity and benefits.

Godfrey initially filed a claim of employment discrimination in August 2011. He was serving as the governor-appointed, state Senate-confirmed Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner at the time. Godfrey is currently the chief judge and chairman of the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board.

“It has taken eight years to get to a verdict in this case. We are very pleased with the verdict, we think the jury made the right decision,” Roxanne Conlin, Godfrey’s attorney, told CNN.

Godfrey, she said, “wanted justice and he was willing to pursue it to the ends of the earth and that’s what we did.”

CNN has reached out to the attorney who represented the state and to the state governor’s office.

Related: Branstad explains reason for trying to oust gay official

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was the lieutenant governor at the time of Godfrey’s appointment, was initially listed as a defendant but was later dropped from the case. Jeffrey Boeyink, who was the governor’s chief of staff, was a named defendant in the suit but was not found responsible.

Conlin told CNN that though the jury awarded $1.5 million, that number may not be the final amount awarded.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.