Sexual Orientation Issue on Hold For Now in Senate
Threat to Minnesota LGBT Civil Rights Abated -- For Now
[ST. PAUL, MN] - A proposal to remove protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Minnesotans from discrimination was put on hold indefinitely Friday by the bill's sponsor. "It won't come back up this session," conceded Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel.
Despite the failure, he said he was proud of the progress he had made in transforming the bill. An earlier version, backed by Corcoran Republican Rep. Arlon Lindner in the House, demanded a full repeal of any reference to sexual orientation in the state's human rights statutes. The latest proposal simply would have allowed an exemption for people who had "a conscientiously held belief" that conflicted with the law.
Jungbauer said he sponsored the legislation because a group of "somewhat fanatical" mothers from his district had asked him to. He said the bill he had crafted was designed to give parents more leverage for fighting school districts that were inappropriately teaching homosexuality.
"The problem exists," he said. "Children and parents need a way out of this."
He said the bill was about a clash of rights - those of the human rights statute dealing with sexual orientation and the state constitutional provision guaranteeing "freedom of conscience" in worship.
He acknowledged there wasn't an easy middle ground and critics said his proposal and the original bill would have essentially the same effect: allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Two mothers who testified in favor of the bill said they should be able to openly oppose their children being taught about homosexuality in schools - something they didn't feel comfortable doing now.
Judy Lindsay of Rosemount said a student in her 9-year-old son's class asked what it meant to be gay and the teacher explained the basic mechanics to the class.
"More was stolen from my son on that day than I will ever know," said Lindsay, a mother of three and former candidate for the House from Rosemount.
Rep. Tom Neuville offered an amendment to the bill that would have prohibited the teaching or promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle in schools. The amendment was defeated before the bill was set aside.
Lindner said Friday that the prospects aren't good for his version of the bill in the House, but he said he'd keep trying.
"Around here, nothing's dead until the final gavel comes down," said Lindner, who is the subject of an ethics complaint for comments he's made surrounding the bill.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum has said Lindner's bill won't get a hearing in the House, effectively killing it. But he said if Lindner were to narrow it so it prohibited promoting gay or lesbian lifestyles in schools, he might back it.
Lindner said he would consider it.
Gay activists have criticized the House and Senate bills, saying they would allow businesses, landlords, restaurants and others to unfairly discriminate against them. They said Jungbauer's decision to pull the bill was a good sign.
"I think this is absolutely a victory," said Sen. Scott Dibble, a Minneapolis Democrat who is one of two openly gay members of the Legislature.
He said he'll be watching closely to make sure something similar isn't quietly slipped into another bill.
Scott Cooper of the gay rights group OutFront Minnesota stopped short of calling Friday's actions a victory. "I think it would be a victory if no one ever wanted to do this again."