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Des Moines city manager’s office appoints LGTBQ liaison 


The Des Moines city manager’s office has appointed Joshua V. Barr to the position of designated liaison to the LGBTQ community. Barr also serves as the director of the Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Department. He will continue to serve as the main point of contact for those in the LGBTQ community with concerns or questions.

“This position now places Barr on the city manager’s staff with direct access to my office to share any concerns expressed by the LGBTQ community,” said city manager, Scott. E. Sanders.  “While our Des Moines Human & Civil Rights Commission has always served as a beacon of human rights in Iowa and Des Moines, this appointment elevates the line of communication to ensure we are hearing the voices of those in our community.”

The appointment comes on the heels of an announcement from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ civil rights organization in the U.S., that the City of Des Moines has been given a Municipal Equality Index Score of 97 for 2016 — a significant increase over the 2015 score of 82. The maximum score a city can receive is 100. The score is based on a city’s laws, policies and practices to determine how inclusive city services are of LGBTQ people.

“With our new score of 97, we are the highest ranked city in central Iowa regarding equality to the LGBTQ community,” said Cownie.  “We will continue to strive toward being more inclusive to all persons regardless of their personal characteristics in our efforts to make Des Moines a model city here in the Midwest.”

In addition to the new appointment, the Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Commission is forming a LGBTQ subcommittee to examine the issues and challenges of the LGBTQ community. Education materials are now available to help LGBTQ persons understand their rights under the Des Moines Human Rights Ordinance.

Prep Iowa

Local leaders see this addition as a significant step for Des Moines.

“The appointment of Civil and Human Rights Director, Joshua Barr, as the officially designated liaison to the LGBTQ community for the city manager’s office sends a clear message that the city values its LGBT residents,” said Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa and Des Moines Civil & Human Rights commissioner.  “This new role, together with the newly formed LGBTQ subcommittee of the commission, which I chair, will elevate the concerns of the LGBTQ community to city leaders.”

“I am honored to be working together with the city manager’s office, the mayor, city council and other departments to make a more inclusive Des Moines that is welcoming to persons from all walks of life,” said Barr. “A score of 97 indicates that we are doing some things right; however, there is still room for improvement. Our emphasis should not be on the score but rather on the services that we offer to the LGBTQ community. We must work tirelessly to ensure that Des Moines is inclusive of all persons. I invite anyone that is interested in being a part of the LGBTQ subcommittee to reach out to the commission for additional information.”

Barr began his current position with the Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Department in October 2015. From 2013 to 2015, Barr worked as a civil rights attorney and the State Fair Housing Director at the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission. Barr has a law degree from the University of South Carolina School and an MBA from the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University. He studied in Colombia, South America, conducting research on institutional corruption at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali (Javeriana University), publishing the articles: A Legal Perspective on Corruption Models and The Evolution of Business Law in Colombia: Is it Possible to End Colombia’s Legal Dependency? Joshua later became a professor at Javeriana University teaching International Business and Law courses

The Civil & Human Rights Commission works to eliminate and prevent discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, municipal practices, and public accommodations in order to make Des Moines a model city.  More information is available at

For more information, contact Joshua V. Barr, Department Director, at 515-283-4284   or at

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