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Minn. anti-bullying bill advances

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Farmer Labor Party, gay news, Washington Blade, anti-bullying

Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bullying measure if it were to reach his desk. (Photo public domain)

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Senate on April 3 approved a measure that would strengthen the state’s anti-bullying laws.

Minnesota Public Radio reported the bill passed by a 36-31 vote margin after lawmakers debated it for nearly six hours. The measure’s sponsor, gay state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis,) said his proposal would require schools to train teachers and other personnel on how to better respond to bullying and mandate the district to investigate and track incidents.

“It provides for that balance of local initiative and control,” said Dibble, according to Minnesota Public Radio. “There’s some training and some resources so people have tools to respond in an appropriate fashion.”

The Minnesota House of Representatives on April 8 debated an anti-bullying bill that state Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced.

The Associated Press reported that Gov. Mark Dayton has said he would sign the bullying measure if it were to reach his desk.


Chris Kluwe talks Michael Sam, marriage, Redskins name

Chris Kluwe, National Football League, gay news, Washington Blade

Chris Kluwe (Photo by Joe Bielawa)

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe told the Washington Blade during a May 30 telephone interview that Michael Sam’s sexual orientation “definitely had something to do” with his low ranking in last month’s National Football League draft.

Kluwe — who is the grand marshal of this year’s Capital Pride parade — noted the Associated Press last year named Sam its 2013 Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year when he played for the University of Missouri. The outspoken punter who is now retired from the league said those with comparable rankings over the last decade have been drafted into the NFL no lower than during the second round.

“The only thing Michael Sam is is a first-round talent,” Kluwe says. “Michael Sam is definitely not a second-round talent.”

Sam had been projected to be drafted during the third or fourth round.

Observers noted his disappointing performance during the NFL scouting combine that took place shortly after he publicly came out during interviews with the New York Times and ESPN likely contributed to the St. Louis Rams choosing Sam during the seventh round.

Kluwe told the Blade that potential draftees who perform poorly during a combine may drop one and a half rounds — and not three as Sam did. He said the Rams choosing him so late in the draft is “an indication that there is something else going on there.”

“The only thing that is different about Michael Sam is his sexuality,” Kluwe says.

Sam coming out is a ‘brave step’

Kluwe says Sam did not seem “too nervous” about coming out when the two met during a dinner at the Los Angeles home of Howard Bragman, a gay Hollywood publicist, in February. The defensive lineman’s interviews with the New York Times and ESPN appeared the next day.

“It’s a brave step,” says Kluwe, noting Sam had been tipped to become the country’s first openly gay NFL player after coming out. “It’s great to see Michael be the one to do it.”

Kluwe told the Blade he hopes that Sam is “given a chance to succeed.”

“It’s tough to make it in the NFL and there’s so many plausible ways to get rid of someone,” Kluwe says. “I am hopeful that this is a situation where Mike is given a chance to show his talents, show if he can make it or not based on who he is as a football player, not who he is as defined by his sexuality.”

Kluwe also dismissed suggestions that Sam’s coming out has been too choreographed.

“There are a lot of people that pay attention to the NFL,” he told the Blade. “This isn’t like Pop Warner or little league. That just shows an understanding of the realities of the situation in that this is a historic moment.”

Kluwe added he feels using someone like Bragman allows Sam to “have ownership” and control over his message.

“You’re going to have to sit down and plan how this is going to go out,” Kluwe says. “That’s just reality.”

Kluwe: Vikings cut me because of marriage support

Kluwe, who played for the Vikings from 2005 until 2013, emerged as a prominent supporter of marriage rights for same-sex couples during the debate over a proposal that would have amended the Minnesota Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“I don’t think discrimination should be enshrined in the state constitution,” Kluwe says. “I’m in a position to say something about it, so I should say something about it.”

Kluwe in 2012 sharply criticized Maryland state Del. Emmett Burns (D-Baltimore County) after he suggested then-Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo “should concentrate on football and steer clear of dividing the fan base” over the issue of gay nuptials ahead of a referendum on the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed earlier in the year.

Kluwe said he initially found Burns’ comments against Ayanbadejo’s same-sex marriage advocacy as “kind of messed up.” He then proceeded to write a profanity-laced letter to the outgoing Maryland lawmaker who also voted against a transgender rights bill that O’Malley signed into law last month.

“Why do you care so much about what other people are doing with their lives?” says Kluwe, referring to Burns. “This isn’t going to affect your life in any way, shape or form. Why are you trying to tell other people that they can’t exercise their own free will? You’re essentially trying to take someone’s humanity away from them.”

Kluwe and Ayanbadejo — who guest edited the Blade’s sports issue last summer — in 2013 filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case that challenged California’s Proposition 8.

The former punter earlier this year claimed his advocacy in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples prompted the Vikings to cut him from the team.

The team — which has claimed Kluwe’s performance and salary contributed to the decision — launched an investigation into the allegations. Kluwe told the Blade he “definitely” still feels his activism on gay nuptials prompted the team to cut him.

“It’s something where institutionally I don’t think the NFL has a policy has a place against same-sex rights, but I think on an individual level, there are a significant portion of people in the NFL that don’t believe same-sex rights are something worthy of respect,” he says. “That’s something that needs to be changed.”

Reluctance to change Redskins name ‘so stupid’

Kluwe also said he would have “been fine” with a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in Sochi, Russia, over the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record. He also sharply criticized Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder over his continued opposition to changing the team’s controversial name.

“Yeah, it’s going to cost some money in the short-term,” Kluwe says. “In the long-term do you want your children looking back at you saying, ‘Yeah, Dad, he was a racist, yeah he didn’t do the right thing.’ It’s so stupid.”


Minnesota Senate approves marriage bill

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Minnesota Senate on Monday approved a bill that would allow same-sex marriage in the state.

The 37-30 vote took place four days after the measure passed in the state House of Representatives.

“I am proud to be a Minnesotan today,” gay state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis) said before lawmakers approved House File 1054. “Today we have the power — the awesome, humbling power — to make dreams come true.”

State Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) referenced his sister who has been with her partner for 16 years as he spoke in support of the bill.

“We have nothing to fear from love and commitment,” he said.

An emotional state Sen. Roger Reinert (DFL-Duluth) evoked the Declaration of Independence before he announced he would vote for HF 1054. State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis,) who is originally from Colombia, explained her support for the measure to her family members and others in Spanish.

“My work is for justice,” she said.

Lawmakers rejected two proposed amendments to HF 1054 that state Sens. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) introduced that would have expanded religious exemptions and kept “mother, father” and “husband, wife” in Minnesota laws.

State Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville) stressed marriage exists to “bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife.”

“Dismantling marriage will bring hurt, shame, confrontation and more indoctrination,” he said.

Assistant Minority Leader Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) stressed HF 1054 did not protect faith associations, corporations and non-profits that receive public funds who oppose same-sex marriage based on their religious beliefs.

“While advancing the rights of some, this bill denies the rights of others in the process,” she said.

Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) said the state would “go down that road of taking mother and father out of our recognition of what our children” if lawmakers approved HF 1054. Assistant Minority Leader Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) added she feels “our very nature” and not statute defines marriage.

“While Minnesota statutes will change today, the foundational truth of this uniqueness will remain,” she said before the vote.

Neighboring Iowa is among the nine states and D.C. in which same-sex couples can currently marry.

Delaware’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on July 1, while gays and lesbians can begin to tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1.

Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman.

“The Minnesota Senate has just taken a historic step towards affirming what we already know to be true: Marriage is about the love, commitment, and responsibility that two people share,” Minnesotans United, which led the campaign in support of HF 1054, said after the vote. “It is time to stop denying that to some Minnesotans just because of who they are.”

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye last week reaffirmed to the Washington Blade President Obama’s support for marriage rights for gays and lesbians in response to HF 1054’s passage in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“While the president does not weigh in on every measure being considered by the states, he believes all couples should be treated fairly and equally, with dignity and respect,” Inouye said. “As he has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relationships, and want to marry, from doing so.”

Same-sex marriage opponents quickly criticized HF 1054’s passage.

“The full social and legal effects of marriage redefinition will begin to manifest themselves in the years ahead,” the Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement.

Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann reaffirmed her opposition to nuptials for gays and lesbians shortly before state senators approved HF 1054. National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown said advocates for nuptials for gays and lesbians who campaigned against the state’s proposed marriage amendment “because Minnesota already had a traditional marriage law on the books” had changed it and “imposed genderless marriage.”

“Legislators who voted to redefine marriage were foolish to do so,” he added. “They cast a terrible vote that damages society, tells children they don’t deserve a mother and a father and brands supporters of traditional marriage as bigots. We predict that this vote will be career ending for many legislators in Minnesota.”

Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to sign the bill into law on the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul tomorrow at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. in D.C.) local time.

Chris Johnson contributed to this story.


Minnesota governor signs same-sex marriage bill

Mark Dayton, Minnesota, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed a bill that made his state the 12th to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“You changed the course of history for our state and for our nation,” he said as he referenced President John F. Kennedy’s book “Profiles in Courage” in his praise of lawmakers who supported the measure. “It is now my honor to sign into law this next step for Minnesota to fulfill its promise to every Minnesotan.”

State Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis) and state Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL-Minneapolis,) the two gay legislators who introduced House File 1054 in their respective chambers, joined other same-sex marriage supporters on the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul as Dayton signed the bill into law.

“Today is a day for rejoicing and celebrating in Minnesota,” Dibble said.

Dayton signed HF 1054 into law a day after the state Senate approved it by a 37-30 vote margin.

Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We never guessed two years ago when we had that horrible constitutional amendment proposed that we would be here today,” Clark said. “We are very blessed to be here.”

Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1.


Obituary: S. Eric Thomas, 56

S. Eric Thomas, obituary, gay news, Washington Blade

Original Nellies investor S. Eric Thomas (Photo courtesy of Tim Schoeffler)

S. Eric Thomas, an investor who helped start Nellies Sports Bar in Washington, died May 15 at Sibley Memorial Hospital after a battle with cancer of the kidneys, according to his friend Tim Schoeffler. He was 56, gay and had been a D.C. resident since 1983.

Thomas, a Minneapolis native, was the son of W. Lee Thomas and Jean McGrath Thomas and was born on Dec. 29, 1956, the second of five children. He graduated from Cook County High School in 1975 and the University of Minnesota in 1980.

Thomas worked as assistant press secretary to Minnesota Congressman Gerry Sikorski before becoming a PR consultant with the Fratelli Group where he became vice president. He continued there as a principal of the firm until his death.

Thomas is survived by his mother, sisters Leah Thomas, Carah Thomas, Emily Thomas and brother Matthew Thomas, and his nieces Molly Thomas, Sophia Anderson, Audrey Yukimura and Elise Yukimura.

A memorial was held at LongView Gallery in Washington on May 18. Doug Schantz, Nellie’s owner, gave the eulogy. About 350 attended. A memorial is planned in Thomas’s Grand Marais, Minn., hometown in June.

Donations may be made in his name to the Casey Trees Foundation (crowdrise/com/ericthomasmemorial) or the Cook County Historical Society (


Video: Moving Minnesota legislature marriage testimony

Former Republican Minnesota lawmaker Lynne Osterman tears up on the stand as she implores legislators to back gay marriage and be on the right side of history.


Video: The strangest argument against gay marriage ever

This gentleman is very much opposed to same-sex marriage in Minnesota, but the reasons for which he is opposed are very peculiar indeed.


Activists urge labor unions to support trans health

Minnesota, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota (Image public domain)

MANKATO, Minn. — Labor unions and LGBT activists in Minnesota are pushing for a trans-inclusive health care report as part of the first-ever Transgender Month of Action, the Minnesota Daily reported Monday.

Activists are pushing for health care access for transgender people that will include coverage of hormone treatments and gender-reassignment surgery, said Gabriel Haaland, vice president of Pride at Work — a project of the AFL-CIO — the Daily said.

Pride at Work and other groups are educating union members nationwide, asking them to pledge to bargain for transgender health care through contract negotiations, the article said.

“Labor unions have historically fought for LGBT issues — like domestic partnership benefits — so including the workforce in the conversation seemed logical,” Cherrene Horazuk, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 for University clerical workers, told the Daily.


Minnesota House approves marriage bill

Minnesota, gay news, Washington Blade

Minnesota State Capitol (Photo by History127 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would extend marriage to same-sex couples in the state.

The measure that state Rep. Karen Clark (D-Minneapolis) introduced passed by a 75-59 vote margin after lawmakers debated it for nearly three hours.

“I do believe we are on the verge of changing Minnesota’s history,” Clark said before legislators approved House File 1054. Her long-time partner, Jacqueline Zita, was inside the chamber for the vote. “We are strengthening the meaning of marriage by opening it to couples who are committed.”

State Rep. Rena Moran (D-St. Paul) referenced the Declaration of Independence and the civil rights movement as she spoke in support of HF 1054.

“Either we’re equal or we’re not equal,” she said. “Equal is really equal, so today I stand believing that we are on the right side of history.”

State Rep. Tim Faust (D-Hinckley) discussed his own marriage as he discussed why he now supports nuptials for gays and lesbians in Minnesota.

“Today we have the opportunity — the opportunity to give a part of our population, fellow brothers and sisters of God the same rights that most of us have taken for granted since the day we knew what the opposite sex was,” he said.

Same-sex marriage advocates quickly applauded the vote.

“Today, Minnesota moves one significant step closer to finally securing the freedom to marry for same-sex couples,” Minnesotans United, a group that supports the same-sex marriage bill, said. “This is the first time in history that legislation to extend civil marriage to same-sex couples has passed a body of the Minnesota Legislature, and we are deeply grateful to the 75 leaders in Minnesota House of Representatives who listened to their constituents and chose to stand on the side of love and family by voting yes.”

“Thank you Minnesota House,” former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe added in a post to his Twitter account after the vote. “Equality is only equality if everyone has it. You’ve made society that much better today.”

Neighboring Iowa is among the nine states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can currently marry.

Delaware’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on July 1, while gays and lesbians can begin to tie the knot in Rhode Island on Aug. 1.

Minnesota voters last November rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage in the state as between a man and a woman.

State Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) said HF 1054 would classify “half of Minnesotans as bigots” as he spoke against it.

“We are being asked to redefine marriage,” he said. “We are redefining today in this bill the definition of marriage that has been the bedrock of society for thousands of years.”

State Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) cited 2,500 studies he said confirms the benefit of “traditional marriage for men, women and especially children.” State Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) added HF 1054 would remove “gender-specific terminology” from Minnesota’s marriage laws.

“There will be consequences intended and not intended to the very essence of who we are and what we become,” state Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) said.

Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard is among those who criticized lawmakers for supporting HF 1054.

“The passage of the marriage redefinition bill marks an unprecedented assault on the religious freedoms and the well-being of children,” he said.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference said in a statement it is “disappointed” legislators voted “to redefine the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

“In doing so, it has set in motion a transformation of Minnesota law that will focus on accommodating the desires of adults instead of protecting the best interest of children,” the group added. “This action is an injustice that tears at the fabric of society and will be remembered as such well into the future.”

Lawmakers on Thursday also rejected a proposed amendment to HF 1054 sponsored by state Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing) that would have converted all Minnesota marriages to civil unions by a 22-111 vote margin.

The Minnesota Senate on Monday is scheduled to vote on the same-sex marriage bill.

Governor Mark Dayton has said he will sign it into law if lawmakers approve it.


Del. advocates optimistic ahead of marriage debate

Jack Markell, gay news, Washington Blade

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (Photo by Molly Keresztury via Wikimedia)

Marriage equality advocates in Delaware continue to organize in advance of the expected introduction of a bill later this year that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the First State.

More than 150 people attended an Equality Delaware-sponsored town hall meeting in Wilmington on Jan. 30 at which U.S. Sen. Chris Coons spoke. A second gathering that drew nearly the same amount of people took place at Camp Rehoboth in Rehoboth Beach on Jan. 31.

Equality Delaware President Lisa Goodman told the Washington Blade her group continues to work with the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, the Gill Foundation, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other national and local organizations on the issue.

The organization is holding weekly volunteer events, trainings and phone banks across the state to garner further support for marriage rights for same-sex couples. Goodman said Equality Delaware also continues to engage people of faith and communities of color on the issue.

“We are doing a very serious and robust faith outreach,” she told the Blade. “We had wonderful faith support for the civil union bill, and we are very confident that we will have an even broader-based faith support for the marriage effort. We also believe that we will have even broader support of people of color and across the board.”

Gov. Jack Markell, who signed Delaware’s civil unions bill into law in 2011, suggested to the Huffington Post last August that state lawmakers could debate a same-sex marriage bill during the 2013 legislative session that ends on June 30. He referenced the looming debate in his second inaugural speech last month.

“We will advance the cause of liberty, equality and dignity in our time,” Markell said. “Our state will be a welcoming place to live, to love and to raise families for all who choose to call Delaware home.”

Goodman did not provide a specific timeline in which she feels lawmakers would consider the issue, but stressed “we expect it to happen later this session.” She further noted House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) and Senate President Pro Tempore Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) are among the lawmakers and other state officials who support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Obviously given the events of this last election cycle, there is a lot of momentum,” Goodman told the Blade.

Neighboring Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. that allow same-sex marriage.

An Illinois Senate committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to the knot, while the Rhode Island House of Representatives last month overwhelmingly approved a same-sex marriage measure.

Hawaii lawmakers on Jan. 24 introduced two proposals that would extend nuptials to gays and lesbians in the Aloha State. New Jersey legislators in the coming weeks are expected to once again debate the issue after Gov. Chris Christie last February vetoed a same-sex marriage bill they approved.

“Every state that passes a marriage equality bill I think starts to convince other legislators that, wow, it’s OK for us to do it too,” Andy Staton, a gay Rehoboth Beach Realtor who unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate last year, told the Blade. “Legislators are very influenced by their constituency. And if the constituency is telling them not to do it, then they’re not going to do it, which is why it’s important for people to be vocal.”

President Obama spoke out in support of the same-sex marriage referenda that passed last November in Maryland, Maine and Washington. The White House has also urged Illinois and Rhode Island lawmakers to support measures to allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in their respective states.

Goodman said she expects Obama and Vice President Biden to do the same in Delaware.

“We certainly would welcome his support and have no reason to think that he will not be supportive and publicly so, as will our vice president, Joe Biden, who of course all of Delaware is incredibly proud of,” she said.