Children, valentines confront bill that would eliminate same-sex benefits

Andrew Pritchard

Children of gay and lesbian parents delivered valentines to legislators Friday, asking them to think of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families when voting on two controversial bills.

“We’re not talking about special rights here; we’re talking about fairness and justice,” said Rainbow Families Executive Director Deborah Talen. “These are ideas that we’re teaching our children.”

House File 330, sponsored by House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, would repeal benefits for state employees’ same-sex partners, although their insurance coverage would continue until June 30, and partners receiving tuition waivers would keep them through the end of the semester after the bill’s enactment.

Same-sex partner benefits were included in state employee contracts in 2001. If the Legislature does not act by the end of the session, or if state employees reject the changed contracts, state workers will automatically be covered by contracts in place two years ago.

“Many of our families have one partner at home,” Talen said, “and if that person is dependent on the other partner, that person does not have health care.”

The other proposal, authored by Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran, would eliminate sexual orientation as a type of prohibited discrimination for employers, landlords, labor organizations, private service groups, banks, education institutions and other groups.

Among other provisions, the bill – House File 341 – would allow landlords, employers and admissions officers to require that applicants disclose their sexual orientations, and it would prohibit the state from considering GLBT people as Holocaust survivors.

“These attacks on the GLBT community are really attacks on all of us,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, at Friday’s event. “They’re attacks on everyone who values civil and human rights.”

Lindner was not in his office when the children brought a stack of valentines addressed to him, but he said Sunday his bill seeks to protect children from inaccurate information taught in schools about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“When parents complain about this, the administrators just tell them this is the law, we have to do this,” he said.

Lindner said he does not intend to promote discrimination against GLBT people.

“(The bill) would just place them back where they were prior to ’93,” he said, referring to the year sexual orientation was added to the state’s human rights statute. “They’d still have the protection of the Bill of Rights and our laws.”

Lindner said he is confident his bill would pass the House but less confident about the DFL-controlled Senate.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis and Minnesota’s only openly gay state senator, said Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Republican-controlled House would probably keep same-sex partner benefits out of state contracts, although Pawlenty press secretary Leslie Kupchella has said the governor would veto Lindner’s human rights revisions.

Sviggum did not discuss the bills with the valentine group Friday, but Rep. Jim Rhodes, R-St. Louis Park, said he opposed Lindner’s plan.

“I do not support that crazy bill,” he said. “Ö We’re all human beings and we’re all God’s children and you all pay taxes.”

Emily Souza, co-facilitator of the University’s Queer Women student group, said University GLBT groups have not planned specific activities to oppose the bills.

“People are hoping that there’s some common sense out there,” she said. “But people are worried whenever something like this comes up.”

Andrew Pritchard welcomes comments at [email protected]