Emmer Fists Minnesota AIDS Project
State Rep. Tom Emmer, a freshman Republican from Delano, has had quite an opening legislative session. The attorney and former City Council member first made headlines by introducing legislation that would provide for chemical castration of some convicted pedophiles. That provision was included in a crime bill passed last month by the full House.
Emmer's latest attention-grabbing effort is to demonize Minnesota AIDS Project. Earlier this month he introduced a measure that would strip Minnesota's largest AIDS service organization of all state funding. This amounts to roughly $400,000--or almost 10 percent of MAP's annual budget.
Emmer's objection is to explicit materials posted on the website of Pride Alive, a MAP project that does HIV-prevention work with gay and bisexual men. Specifically, the legislator is put off by extremely explicit education materials such as "A Hands-on Guide to Fist Fucking" and "Ready to be bound, BOY? A slutty bottom bitch's guide to being a good sub."
"The way people are painting it is that I'm some kind of homophobe prude and that's got nothing to do with it," Emmer insists. "Honest to God, I don't care what you do." (It should be noted, however, that Emmer also voted in favor of putting a referendum banning same-sex marriage on the fall ballot.)
Emmer says that his animosity toward MAP has been further fueled by executive director Lorraine Teel's unwillingness to discuss the issue with him. "She has refused to respond to any of my invitations to sit down and go through this stuff," he says.
MAP officials point out that no state money is used to pay for the Pride Alive materials in question. They also note that explicit prevention tools are extremely effective in reaching people whose sexual practices put them at high risk of contracting HIV.
The bill containing the MAP provision is currently being discussed by House and Senate conferees seeking a compromise package for both bodies to vote on. It's unclear, with a special session looming, when the completed bill will emerge. Bob Tracy, MAP's director of development, feels confident that the Emmer provision won't be part of the final package. "It's exactly where we wanted it to be," Tracy says. "We didn't want a fiery debate on the House floor."
But Emmer isn't likely to soon drop his vendetta against the charity, though his strategy swings in the balance. "Until I know what they're going to do in conference," he says, "I don't know what my next step is going to be."
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