I’ve written frequently over the past few years about the chilling epidemic of anti-LGBT bullying in the state of Minnesota; the anti-gay animus of the Minnesota GOP; and the spiritual bullying of Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, one of the most outspoken homophobes in the American Catholic hierarchy.
But today those three topics have intersected in a way that makes me sick to my stomach: Minnesota Republicans have forced the withdrawal of an anti-bullying bill in the state senate after the Minnesota Catholic Conference claimed that if the measure was signed into law, it would turn schools into “re-education” camps.
The Safe and Supportive Schools Act had already passed the Minnesota House earlier this month when the Senate began debate on it late yesterday evening. But Senator Scott Dibble, the bill’s sponsor, pulled it early this morning after Republicans announced that they planned to stretch debate on the bill for ten hours. Since the legislature is required to end its session by midnight tonight, the GOP’s move doomed the bill. As Mary Elizabeth Williams notes at Salon.com, Minnesota Republicans literally bullied an anti-bullying bill.
Catholic leaders in Minnesota lobbied hard against the bill, calling it an “Orwellian nightmare” and hysterically warning that if the bill passed, kids bullied on the basis of sexual orientation and “‘gender identity and expression'” [scare quotes theirs] would receive “special attention and favored treatment.” They also claimed that LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying guidelines would “usurp the rights of parents” to teach their kids that their LGBT peers are inferior.
In reality, the Safe and Supportive Schools Act would have considerably strengthened Minnesota’s embarrassingly weak anti-bullying law by providing clear definitions of bullying, harassment, and intimidation and requiring school districts to investigate all formal bullying complaints, keep detailed records of bullying to help improve school safety, work with students and parents to develop anti-bullying policies, and train teachers in bullying prevention techniques. Dibble (left), who plans on reintroducing the bill next year, told Minnesota Public Radio this morning:
Republican after Republican got up and said ‘I talked to superintendents and they say things are just fine in our schools.’ Not one of them talked about talking to kids themselves. Well, I talked to literally hundreds of kids and they tell us things are not fine in their schools.
No word yet on whether any Republicans bothered to speak with the families of students like Sam Johnson, Jay Jones, or Justin Aaberg — all Minnesota kids who took their own lives as a result of relentless anti-LGBT bullying.
According to Williams, the passage of Minnesota’s historic marriage equality law earlier this month may have prompted “angry and frustrated” conservatives to dig in their heels and redouble their efforts to block anti-bullying protections for LGBT kids.
Minnesota’s Republican and Catholic leaders are apparently so incensed about losing the fight to preserve marriage discrimination that they’re taking their anger out on bullied schoolchildren, some of whom are being tormented so mercilessly that they’re literally killing themselves.
I can’t think of anything more disgraceful.