Editorial Roundup: Minnesota

Minneapolis Star Tribune. July 19Gov. Tim Walz issued his 25th executive order of 2021 (his 171st overall) to bar the practice of conversion therapy on children in Minnesota.

Conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people in service of a worldview that says everyone can and should be made straight.

Conversion therapy bans have been challenged in court in other jurisdictions, often on religious grounds and based on arguments that such bans infringe on First Amendment right to freedom of speech. It’s likely Gov. Walz’s recent action will see a similar challenge.

There are dozens of reasons why conversion therapy should never be committed against minor. First among them: Study after study has shown it to be extremely harmful, even life-threatening. , 2021.

Editorial: Rep. Thompson should resign now

He has lost the ability to effectively represent his district.

It is rare that a governor, state House speaker and chairman of one’s own party would demand the resignation of a legislator. Yet such is the case with Minnesota Rep. John Thompson, whose accusation that he was racially profiled by St. Paul police has snowballed into revelations that he has been accused of domestic abuse.

Police reports show that Thompson was accused on several occasions of choking and punching a female companion, including an incident in which the victim’s 5-year-old daughter was said to be an eyewitness. He’s also accused of exposing his genitals to female acquaintances while young children were present.

Gov. Tim Walz over the weekend tweeted that “Minnesotans deserve representatives who uphold the highest moral character and share our values. Following the deeply disturbing reports of domestic violence against multiple women, Rep. Thompson can no longer effectively be that leader and should immediately resign.”

Thompson indeed should promptly resign. Instead, he is clinging to office and questioning the authenticity of police records that stretch back nearly 20 years in two states.

Thompson, who has held a Wisconsin driver’s license for 20 years and who declined to make his address public on his campaign filings, has yet to prove which state he in fact resides in. Wisconsin requires that its driver’s license holders attest under penalty of perjury that they live in the state. Minnesota, obviously, requires that its lawmakers reside here. Thompson’s legislative bio offers only a P.O. box in St. Paul.

Thompson proved problematic as a candidate. He hung on to his party endorsement even after displaying a shocking lack of judgment at a protest in Hugo last year when he told the crowd, “You think we give a f--- about burning Hugo down?” and was seen hitting effigies of then-Minneapolis police union head Bob Kroll and his wife, television news anchor Liz Collin. The protest was held in front of the couple’s home.

Thompson got so far in arrears on child support that his driving privileges were suspended in Minnesota, a situation that also came to light during the July 4 stop that led him to accuse a St. Paul police officer of profiling. Thompson also is currently on trial for a 2019 misdemeanor charge of obstructing the legal process for his actions at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale during a visit that got out of control.

DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman is considering what steps to take should Thompson continue to refuse to step down. Expelling Thompson would require a two-thirds vote of the House. That is drastic move and not to be taken lightly.

But Walz is correct when he says that Thompson, facing bipartisan calls to resign, has lost his ability to be an effective legislator. Holding office is a privilege. Thompson has forfeited that privilege through his own actions. St. Paul’s East Side residents deserve a representative who can work effectively on their behalf.

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St. Cloud Times. July 16, 2021.

Editorial: Conversion therapy has no place in health care

Gov. Tim Walz issued his 25th executive order of 2021 (his 171st overall) to bar the practice of conversion therapy on children in Minnesota.

Conversion therapy, sometimes called reparative therapy, seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ people in service of a worldview that says everyone can and should be made straight.

Conversion therapy bans have been challenged in court in other jurisdictions, often on religious grounds and based on arguments that such bans infringe on First Amendment right to freedom of speech. It’s likely Gov. Walz’s recent action will see a similar challenge.

There are dozens of reasons why conversion therapy should never be committed against minor. First among them: Study after study has shown it to be extremely harmful, even life-threatening.

Second: Conversion therapy has little concrete record of success. The most generous view of its efficacy suggests it rarely “works.” And often the definition of success includes not turning a gay person with healthy romantic relationships into a heterosexual person with healthy romantic relationships, but into a person with no healthy romantic relationships. Strange definition of “success.”

The price of this ineffective, harmful so-called therapy can be lives.

Medical professionals are vocal about their opposition to conversion therapy. In response to the governor’s executive order, the Minnesota Medical Association President-elect Dr. Randy Rice issued a statement calling conversion therapy “not therapy at all. It leads to poor self-esteem, self-harm, guilt, and anxiety, all while being devoid of any scientific basis.”

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the Committee on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the American Counseling Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are all on record opposing the practice. They variously cite evidence that says it can do serious harm resulting in mental health problems, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. Many of those organizations also point out that homosexuality is not a disorder or illness and therefore does not need a “cure.”

Protecting children from known systemic health hazards to their well-being is a time-honored, legitimate role of government. Minnesota is now one of 24 states that limits mental health professionals from seeking to change sexual orientation. Eleven Minnesota cities have local bans, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Duluth.

The Minnesota Legislature had the opportunity in 2019 to head off the executive order, but let the pitch go by amid Republican opposition. Minneapolis Sen. Scott Dibble, a Democrat who is gay, told PBS that “more than a handful of Republican senators” told him they would change their votes if they had to opportunity to do it again.

Those assurances may be needed. The governor’s executive order is easily reversed by a successor; a law passed by the Legislature is more complicated to undo. It should be taken up in the 2022 legislative session, but will likely see continued opposition from Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake.

The issue must be intensely personal for him. His adult child Genna Gazelka, who identifies as bi-gender and uses they/them pronouns, was vocal during the 2019 legislative debate about their time as a teenager in therapy with Marcus Bachmann, the husband of former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. “This is harassment and it is tantamount to what could be said of torture or sexual torture,” Genna Gazelka said of conversion therapy in 2019.

Sen. Gazelka said at the time that Genna was in therapy for healing, not conversion, and he was seeking a legislative balance that would reduce harm while allowing therapy for unwanted sexual attraction to those who want it.

This is that compromise. It allows adults to choose conversion therapy against mountains of expert advice, while protecting minors from coercive, harmful and pointless “treatment” for something that is not a disease.

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Mankato Free Press. July 18, 2021.

Editorial: Education: Schools should make gains with robust funding

While Minnesota legislators deserve a grade of A when it comes to school funding, school boards across the state should do their homework to not only make schools whole from pandemic cuts but also look for ways to improve and innovate.

The Legislature approved a bipartisan school funding bill that provided the biggest school funding increase in 15 years, with a 2.5% and 2% increase in each of the next two years. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it is a significant boost to budgets battered when enrollment declined during the pandemic.

While the funding does not include new mandates and lets local schools make decisions on where the money should go, there was also money earmarked for early childhood programs, affordable day care, mental health support, summer programs, diversifying teacher ranks and long underfunded special education programs.

Some educators, like Duluth Supt. Dan John Magas, said the budget created “exciting times” for education. “We have had a shift, a major reset,” he told the Star Tribune. We share his optimism and can see great opportunities for the funding at local schools that have a reputation for innovating.

Still, some schools face budget struggles and have plans to lay off teachers due to enrollment losses during the pandemic. And even with enrollment lower, schools still have the same fixed costs for running school buildings and providing services.

In June, the Mankato Area Public Schools Board approved $7.5 million in budget cuts and cut 100 staff positions. Those cuts were made on an assumption of a 1% increase in state funding with the thought that anything over that would go toward replenishing reserves.

With new state money that will be a stable addition to yearly budgets, some of those cuts should be reconsidered.

Enrollment will continue to be the wild card. The Mankato schools and others are not anticipating regaining all the enrollment that was lost during the pandemic. Some students switched to private schools. Some may continue with distance learning or online learning.

The state funding increase for schools is unprecedented. Schools should not miss the opportunity to improve.

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