What’s Brewing: 3rd El Paso suspect arrested

Ivan Gallardo

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A third suspect has been arrested in a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso on May 7. Ivan Gallardo, 17, is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Two other suspects, ages 16 and 19, have also been arrested in connection with the attack outside the Old Plantation, which police say was gang related. The 22-year-old victim, Lionel Martinez, remains in critical condition after suffering a fractured skull and brain swelling. A total of six people reportedly jumped Martinez while he was waiting for a ride, punching him, kicking him and hitting him with a baseball bat. Martinez is straight, but LGBT advocates say it was a hate crime because the suspects were yelling anti-gay slurs, and the FBI is investigating the incident as a possible civil rights violation. Police have increased patrols around the nightclub in the wake of the incident, and an anti-hate crime rally reportedly is planned for next week outside the County Courthouse.

2. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which calls for the death penalty in some cases, is still alive. The bill is one of three that have been carried over to the new Parliament, which convenes today, after the old Parliament was dissolved without considering them.

3. The Minnesota House is expected to vote today on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The amendment, which would appear on the 2012 ballot, has already cleared the Senate. On Wednesday the House Rules Committee voted 13-12 to approve the amendment. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but cannot veto it.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Highland Park Presbyterian says it won’t allow gay clergy despite policy change

Pastor Ron Scates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Minnesota Senate voted 38-27 Wednesday to place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot that would ban same-sex marriage. Minnesota already has a statute limiting marriage to one man and one woman, but Republicans in the Legislature are apparently looking for a boost in next year’s election. Only one Democrat in the Senate voted in favor of the amendment, which now goes to the Republican-controlled House, where it is also expected to pass. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the measure but cannot veto it. Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage have passed in all 31 states where voters have considered them. On the bright side, Delaware’s civil unions bill was signed into law Wednesday night and will take effect next year.

2. Highland Park Presbyterian Church, led by our old friend Pastor Ron Scates, plans to send a letter to its 5,000 members reaffirning the congregation’s commitment to “traditional” marriage and celibacy for unmarried clergy, the Associated Press reports. The letter comes in the wake of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s decision this week to remove the celibacy requirement for unmarried clergy, thus paving the way for the ordination of gays and lesbians. Pastor Scates has long been a vocal opponent of gay clergy, and Highland Park Presbyterian has formed a task force to study the impact of the new policy. In 2009, Scates admitted in a personal letter to Instant Tea that he’s “been taken into the world of homosexual sex …” and sent us a copy of a newsletter from an “ex-gay” group.

3. Contrary to some published reports, Uganda’s Parliament still plans to consider an Anti-Homosexuality Bill this year that currently includes a death penalty provision for repeat offenders and other violators. The Uganda parliament is now scheduled to debate the bill on Friday.

—  John Wright

Gay marriage ban keeps moving toward Minn. ballot

MARTIGA LOHN | Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage moved closer to getting on Minnesota’s 2012 ballot Monday, clearing a Republican-led House panel after its first Senate committee approval last week.

If both chambers approve the proposal, voters would be asked next year whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage solely as union of one man and one woman.

The amendment’s prospects have improved this year after last year’s elections gave Republicans full control of the Legislature for the first time in nearly four decades. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton opposes the amendment but doesn’t have the power to block it.

The 10-7 party-line vote by the House Civil Law Committee seemed almost preordained, with the panel’s Republicans voting yes and Democrats no. Minnesota law already prohibits gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states and countries. But Rep. Steve Gottwalt, the bill’s sponsor, said he wants voters to be the ones to define marriage in Minnesota, not lawmakers or judges.

“It is not about hate, it is not about discrimination, it is about defining in Minnesota’s constitution the definition of marriage,” said Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud.

The amendment’s opponents predicted it would unleash a divisive political campaign that could tear apart families and communities.

“How many more gay people does God have to create before we ask ourselves whether God actually wants them around?” said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, drawing applause and shushing from panel chairman Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake.

Religious leaders of various backgrounds testified on both sides of the issue about the importance of families.

Pastor Sergio Choy of Bloomington’s Ministerio Maranatha Church spoke in favor of traditional marriage, adding that redefining the institution to include same-sex unions would be comparable to trying to make water out of hydrogen or oxygen alone.

“It is one mother and one father, one man and one woman who make up the foundation of the family,” Choy told lawmakers.

Gay-rights supporters warned legislators they risked overstepping their role and going against the tide of history as acceptance of gay relationships increases.

“This is not the religious law committee — this is the civil law committee,” said David Cummer, an elder at Grace Trinity Community Church in Minneapolis. “You guys have not been elected to the College of Cardinals. You are not members of the state church of Minnesota.”

The bill now heads to the Ways and Means Committee, its last stop before reaching the full House. The Senate version will go before a rules panel before reaching the floor.

—  John Wright

Target changes giving policy that led to boycott

Target has changed its corporate donation policy more than six months after LGBT groups criticized the company for donating $150,000 to Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who said he thought someone who said it was OK to kill gay people was a nice guy.

The new policy involves a committee of senior executives overseeing donations to parties and candidates.

Since the donation was made, Human Rights Campaign tried to negotiate a comparable donation to LGBT groups, but the company broke off talks. Many members of the LGBT community stopped shopping at Target and HRC deducted 15 points from Target’s Corporate Equality Index score.

The LGBT Creating Change conference was held just blocks from Target’s Minneapolis headquarters this month. Creating Change organizers approached Target about sponsoring the conference, but the company declined. However, employees from Target corporate headquarters volunteered at the conference.

Best Buy, which is also based in Minneapolis and also made a large donation to the PAC supporting Emmer, the anti-gay Republican running for Minnesota governor, was a sponsor of Creating Change.

Target says its has supported Twin Cities Pride in the past and plans to continue doing so. The company also says it will contribute to gay Pride celebrations in San Francisco and Chicago.

Ironically, the political donation may have backfired for the candidate as well.  The money Target gave to Emmer may have energized enough people in the LGBT community to vote for Mark Dayton, the Democrat who won the election by a slim margin.

—  David Taffet

Emmer concedes; Target doesn’t

Target Retail StoreRepublican Tom Emmer finally conceded defeat to Democrat Mark Dayton in the Minnesota governor’s race. Although behind by 9,000 votes, the homophobic Emmer still thought he should have won.

The race gained national attention when Target and Best Buy made substantial donations to a PAC that supported Emmer. Although they claimed they supported Emmer for his position on lower taxes, LGBT groups jumped on the candidate’s extreme anti-gay views. He called one person who called for death to gays “a nice guy,” for example.

Target has refused to budge on its position, however. The Human Rights Campaign spoke to representatives of the company over the summer to encourage them to make equal donations to LGBT groups. Negotiations broke down and the company has not responded or supported LGBT groups in any significant way since then.

HRC’s rating of Target in the Corporate Equality Index was lowered from 100 percent to 85 percent in the latest listing.

—  David Taffet

HRC still calling on Target to ‘Make it right’

Target Retail StoreA reader wrote to me last week and said that he and his boyfriend are continuing to boycott Target, and he requested an update.

I contacted Paul Guequierre, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, who said the organization is still calling on Target to “Make it right.”

At issue was Target’s $150,000 donation to MN Forward, a political action committee supporting the candidacy of anti-gay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Guequierre said HRC has staff in Minnesota working for the Mark Dayton campaign. Dayton is the Democrat opposing Emmer, a Republican.

“Minnesota could be the next state to have marriage equality,” Guequierre said.

But he said that will only happen with Dayton as governor. Currently, Dayton is ahead in the polls.

Target’s parent company was originally called Dayton-Hudson and candidate Dayton, whom Target opposes, comes from the store’s founding family.

Guequierre said if Dayton wins, “Target will have to ask themselves if it was worth it. Their reputation within the community has changed.”

Personally, since being asked to leave a local Target for asking questions while trying to cover this story, I’ve stayed away and am unlikely to go back. I don’t shop where the LGBT community is not welcome, but I really avoid stores where I’ve been thrown out. (The offensive question: Has the LGBT boycott of Target affected your store at all?)

Target once received a perfect score of 100 percent in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. This year, the company had 15 points deducted because of the political contribution and its refusal to make it right.

Best Buy also made a large donation to MN Forward and has not made it right either.

But Guequierre said HRC has never called for a boycott.

“Both companies treat their LGBT employees right,” he said.

So there is no HRC-sanctioned boycott, but many members of the LGBT community have decided to find other places to shop.

—  David Taffet

How is Target’s donation being used

MN Forward is the group to which Target and Best Buy directed a combined total of $250,000. The organization is a political action committee supporting a candidate with pro-business positions.

Here’s the ad they released this week to support pro-business and anti-gay Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

In the ad, they refer to Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate Mark Dayton, claiming he supports taxing e-mail. Dayton is a former Democratic Minnesota senator. While in Congress, he addressed a proposal at the time to levy a tax on e-mail and said he would not support it. His mention of the issue on the floor of the Senate is what MN Forward calls support.

Emmer’s anti-LGBT positions are not addressed in the ad, but that was never MN Forward’s purpose. Their mission, as stated on their website is:

MN Forward is focused on issues related to creating jobs and economic opportunity. That includes tax reform, spending reform, and ensuring our children receive a world-class education.

After being criticized for only supporting Republicans, the PAC steered some money to some Democrats. An example is Rep. Gene Pelowski. On their website they wrote:

Rep. Pelowski broke ranks with his party and voted against a $1 billion tax increase in 2009 and against a veto override attempt on the same bill. That year he had the highest ranking on the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce scorecard of any DFL House member.

So in being non-partisan, they chose Democrats who “broke ranks” with Democrats.

—  David Taffet

Gay rights group: Target won’t offer olive branch

STEVE KARNOWSKI  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Target Corp. has decided against giving money to gay-friendly causes to quiet the uproar over a $150,000 donation that helped support a Minnesota governor candidate who opposes gay marriage, a national gay rights group said Monday, Aug. 16.

In response, the Human Rights Campaign said it will contribute the same amount of its own money to political candidates in Minnesota who support gay marriage, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

A Target spokeswoman did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. Target has been under pressure for three weeks for contributing $150,000 to MN Forward, a group that has run ads supporting Republican Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.

Fred Sainz, an HRC spokesman, said Target and his group had reached two tentative agreements over the last couple weeks for the discount retail giant to give money to various
gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender causes in Minnesota.

“Then when we were ready to pull the trigger, literally at the 11th hour on two occasions, they pulled back and said they were not ready to proceed,” Sainz said. “They said no deal. They said it was over.”

Target didn’t say why, he said.

“They were very diplomatic. They simply said they were going to take no corrective action,” he said.

Minneapolis-based Target has cultivated a good relationship with the gay community and its image as an inclusive employer. The company has been a sponsor of the annual Twin Cities Gay Pride Festival. On Aug. 5, CEO Gregg Steinhafel wrote employees to say he was sorry for the hurt feelings over the donation, which he said was motivated by Emmer’s stance on business issues, not social issues.

Liberal groups reacted to news of Target’s donation angrily. Their calls for a boycott and several scattered protests outside Target stores highlighted the risks companies face if they take advantage of their new freedom under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows them to spend company funds directly on political campaigns.

A Boycott Target page on Facebook had over 62,000 fans as of Monday. But conservatives also threatened a backlash from the right, and an anti-boycott page on Facebook had over 17,500 fans as of Monday.

Sainz said the HRC has not decided how it will allocate the $150,000 it plans to spend on Minnesota campaigns.

“But at the top of our agenda is the next governor of Minnesota will hopefully be in a position to sign a quality-of-marriage bill,” Sainz said. “Obviously, that is a priority for our community and having a Legislature that will pass that bill is equally important.”

—  John Wright