Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Cedar Rapids, located in east central Iowa, is the second largest city in the state. The entire metropolitan area has a population of approximately 200,000 and is surrounded by smaller rural, farming communities. Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, is located just 25 miles south of Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids is within driving distance of several large Midwestern cities.
The economic base is a mix of traditional manufacturing, high-tech industry, and agribusiness activity. The largest employers include Rockwell Avionics (communications equipment), The Quaker Oats Company (cereal and chemicals), IES Utilities (electric utility company), Cedar Rapids Community Schools (education), St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Hospitals (complete medical facility), and MCI Communications and McLeod (telecommunications). There is a good balance between white and blue-collar employment.
Coe College and Mount Mercy College, both independent, four year, liberal arts colleges are located in Cedar Rapids as well as Kirkwood Community College, a two year college that offers college credit, continuing education and high school completion programs. Also Hamilton Business College which is a 2-year accredited business and computer science college. The city is also nationally known for its fine public school system. The city boasts one of the finest Theater of the Arts in the state of Iowa -Paramount Theatre; an excellent Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra; the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art; Theatre Cedar Rapids stage productions; theNational Czech & Slovak Museum & Library; CSPS (Legion Arts) which hosts many GLBT entertainers and artists; and Brucemore Mansion which hosts many art and theater productions.
Cedar Rapids can be described as the biggest small town in Iowa. It shares the friendliness and neighborly attitudes of a rural village with the diversity and culture of a large city. One will not find extremes in conservative and liberal thought. The city was proud to host both the Iowa State Republican Party Convention and the first annual Gay Pride Fest on the same day just blocks apart without incident. The Linn County Democrats adopted support for gay marriage in it's county platform.
"City of Five Seasons"
The GLRC is the only public gay organization in the city, although there are other groups in nearby Iowa City and Waterloo. Coe College and Kirkwood community college have gay organizations as does nearby Cornell College in Mt. Vernon. There are other organizations of interest to gays and lesbians. Located in a former Czech social hall near downtown, CSPS is an independent, nonprofit contemporary arts center managed by Legion Arts, Inc. The center frequently brings gay oriented performers and art exhibits such as the nationally acclaimed "Love Makes a Family" photo exhibit of GLBT families to the general audience of the Cedar Rapids area.
Cedar Rapids is host to the only rooming service for people with AIDS in the State of Iowa. Clare House, which is run on the tradition of the Catholic Worker has a beautiful new community garden complete with fountain and patio furniture. The vegetable garden provides a great deal of the food used by the residents during the summer months.
Club Basix is the hottest G/L/B/T night spot in town and is located on one of the busiest streets in the city in the NE part of town.
Several Churches provide a welcoming community for gays and lesbians. Faith United Methodist Church in the NE part of town has been a strong advocate for GLBTs in the community as well as for Labor, Hispanic immigrants, and other peace and justice causes. Site of one of the few ever performed unions between a couple of the same sex in Iowa, it is a member of the Reconciling Congregations of the Methodist Church and is home to the local chapter of PFLAG, and a support group for transsexuals. Peoples Unitarian Church, near downtown, has publicly supported the Pride Fest celebration as well as the Unity Center on Blairs Ferry Rd. First Lutheran Church on Third Ave. and Christ Episcopal Church on 42nd St NE also welcomes the gay/lesbian community to worship.
The numbers of GLBTs that are "openly out" in the Cedar Rapids area is growing as the climate for gays and lesbians continuously improves, and as more of the G/L/B/T community come out. The Cedar Rapids City Government added "sexual orientation" to its civil rights code in January 1999, as it is in Iowa City, Davenport and Ames, Iowa.