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Remember when the Minnesota legislature criminialized “gay conversion therapy”?

Neither do we.

Nor did MinnPost’s Beth Hawkins when she reported in Impact of green light for California’s conversion-therapy ban will likely be felt in Minnesota:

Buried by Monday’s other headlines, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a California ban on so-called conversion therapy for gay and lesbian minors. Without comment, the jurists declined to hear the appeal of a federal appeals court decision that called the “pray away the gay” counseling extreme and dangerous.

The impact doubtless will be felt in Minnesota, where a similar measure failed in the 2014 Legislature. The bill, authored by Minneapolis DFL Reps. Karen Clark and Susan Allen, would have prohibited health-care professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of anyone under 18. . . .

The proposed Minnesota ban is just one of a number of measures raised during recent legislative sessions that died amid arguments that it violated the right to religious freedom. . . .

And that bill? HF1906 would have banned the use of conversion therapy on people under 18, but those inflicting it on children would be subject to disciplinary action by the provider’s licensing board.

But in the homophobic world of Crow Wing County Republicans Deputy Chair Doug Kern, there’s a law on the books criminalizing the practice. He writes to the editors of the Wadena Pioneer Journal in his letter, Vote Republican to protect marriage, sexuality:

. . .One of the first things our legislators attacked was re-defining marriage. Our great state has removed references to husband and wife as this is insensitive and now illegal to have on public documents, as well as father and mother. Thanks John and Joe.

We also can thank them for the “bullying bill”, which does not protect all children and the “ban on conversion therapy,” which makes it a criminal offense to sway a child away from homosexuality through counseling. My Bible says, “Train up a child in the way they should go…” Yes we have a lot to thank our non-representing Representatives for.

The bullying bill does protect all children–and the conversion therapy bill never got out of committee (neither Ward nor Radinovich are sponsors of the bill, nor do they sit on the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee).

So Kern is attacking the legislators for an imaginary penalty in a bill that didn’t pass, that neither man sponsored and that languished in a committee where neither was a member.

Somehow, Bluestem missed that part in the Bible about Jesus being a-okay with making stuff up about one’s neighbor.

This isn’t the first time Kern has taken liberties with the facts. In 2012, he predicted that if the marriage amendment was defeated, that marriage equality would be the laaw of the land within two years, and that churches which refused to marry same-sex couples would lose their tax status.

The Column’s Andy Birkey doubted that the first was possible (as with most observers, Birkey underestimated how the two amendments motivated voters to toss Republicans from power in the state legislature), but wrote in Chair of Crow Wing County GOP makes false claim about anti-gay marriage amendment that the second claim was simply false:

But even if, in the unlikely event, a marriage equality bill did get signed into law within the next two years, would churches that refuse to marry same-sex couples lose their tax exempt status?

No. The Seattle Times fact-checked a similar claim that said if gay marriage were legalized in that state, it would create a rash of lawsuits against private businesses that refused to serve gay couples. It found that in the 6 states that have legalized same-sex marriage, there was no increase in lawsuits.

But, Kern was talking about churches. There is one case where a church’s tax exempt status was challenged. That was in New Jersey where same-sex marriage is not legal. In addition, the church lost one form of tax exemption — it had been getting a favorable deal from the state because its property had been open to the public — in exchange for another one. That church still has its tax exempt status.

A search of newspaper clippings in the states where same-sex marriage is legal turned up no instances where a church lost its tax-exempt status for failing to marry a gay or lesbian couples.

Kern’s letter to the editor is false. Churches will not ose their tax-exempt status for not marrying gay couples. And a no vote on the amendment will not necessarily result in gay marriage becoming legal.

Minnesota’s same-sex marriage law protects the right of religious groups, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights:

The new law provides specific exemptions for religious entities from taking part in the solemnization of same-sex marriages.
Therefore, a religious entity may choose not to marry a same sex couple as it has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, policy, teachings and believes regarding who may marry within that faith.

Kern also launched a recall petition against Radinovich when the first-term legislator announced that he would vote for marriage equality. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Gildea quickly tossed Kern’s petitions against Radinovich and Ward.

In the second half of this 2013 post, we looked at Kern’s long history of anti-gay activism, including his role in the eventual defeat of former state senator Paul Koering, a conservative Republican, after he came out as a gay man.

In July, MinnPost’s Briana Bierschbach reported in Whatever happened to the gay-marriage backlash?:

Democratic Rep. Joe Radinovich was marching in the city of Aitkin’s famed Fish House Parade last November when he saw his Republican opponent’s truck roll past. Painted on the side of the vehicle: “Marriage = one man + one woman.”

Radinovich wasn’t terribly surprised. In May 2013, he had become the poster-child for tough calls when he voted to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota. That vote came despite the fact that, just seven months earlier, more than 60 percent of voters in his rural district cast ballots in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Republicans in the area tried to recall Radinovich from office over his vote, but the effort was struck down by the state Supreme Court. . . .

. . .something unexpected has happened in the year since the issue became one of the state’s most high-profile and hotly debated topics: Outside of a handful of districts across the state, gay marriage has quietly faded into the background this campaign season. Statewide GOP candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate are talking about the economy, not social issues. Even DFL incumbents in rural districts say the issue doesn’t come up as much as they thought it would.

Leave it to folks like Kern–that guy–to bring it up again. And again. And again, each time including the over-the-top assertion about penalties that never were in a law that never passed.

Photo: Doug Kern. He’s back.

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