Homo Neurotic

If we learned nothing else last week, we at least discovered that Katherine Kersten is most definitely not a closeted lesbian.

In her latest mind-bending screed to appear in the Strib ("As Iowa Shows, a Marriage Law Isn't Enough"), conservative apologist Kersten warned readers that Minnesota might need to pass an amendment banning gay marriage, lest we wind up like our cornpone, corn-holing neighbors to the south.

"Many folks in our state believe that heterosexual marriage is a bedrock social institution," writes the man-loving, obviously straight Kersten. "It connects fathers and mothers to their children and provides an essential framework for reconciling men's and women's sometimes different but complementary needs."

But while Kersten was distracted by the full-frontal gay attack on heterosexual marriage, she missed the bigger threat from the rear. Among the states she applauds for defending marriage in their constitutions are Kentucky, Mississippi, and Arkansas—three states whose divorce rates are also among the highest.

—Matt Snyders and Rhena Tantisunthorn

First Avenue in St. Paul?

Former First Avenue manager Steve McClellan has confirmed that he's serious about a potential downtown St. Paul music club in the 91-year-old Palace Theatre—if the property's owners will have him.

"The Palace Theater is a dream that I've talked to numerous people about re-opening," says McClellan. "Unfortunately, the decision makers, for at least seven million reasons—mostly dollars—are not me."

Speaking for owners Kelly Brothers, partner Fritz Rabens said a nightclub would be the ideal option for revitalizing the Vaudeville-era theater at 17 Seventh Place, which has sat vacant for years.

"At this point, we haven't made any decisions about anything," he says. "We have a lot of issues to resolve."

With its horseshoe-shaped balcony, lack of pillars, and 1,800-person capacity, the Palace could be a First Avenue-sized music venue in a downtown not known for nightlife, where the only consistent live music clubs over the years have been Station 4 (formerly 4th St. Station, formerly the Lab, formerly Ryan's) and the Artists' Quarter.

"I wish we could just paint it black and open it," says St. Paul arts liaison Joe Spencer, speaking for the mayor's office. "But it needs work. That said, it would be a sweet freakin' place. And we're all trying to make it happen." —Peter S. Scholtes

Served with a side of racism

Last year, Hispanic workers at Chino Latino alleged that while they were serving up queso fundido and carne asada to customers, they were receiving a diverse menu of abuse from management at the hip uptown eatery.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on their behalf charging that Hispanic employees were subject to hostile slurs and harsher discipline because of their ethnic background.

Last week, Judge Patrick Schiltz approved a settlement between the two parties. Chino Latino, which is part of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, agreed to pay $325,000 in damages.

The bulk of the money, $275,000, will be paid out to settle harassment claims made by individual employees. The remainder will be split between all Hispanic workers employed at the restaurant during the time period in which the abuse occurred.

"It's ironic that this particular employer—which serves cuisine from so many Spanish-speaking countries—discriminated against its own Hispanic employees," said EEOC attorney John

Rowe, in a statement announcing the settlement.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Chino Latino is required to hire an ombudsman to deal with issues raised by Latino workers. It also must set up a hotline where workers can lodge complaints in English or Spanish, and can do so anonymously.

Kip Clayton, vice president for business development at Parasole Restaurant Holdings, says the company is already implementing the mandated changes. A Spanish-speaking ombudsman has been hired, and the company is in the process of setting up the hotline. "It will happen in the next few weeks," he says. —Paul Demko

Tools of the trade

How far can a cop go when he's trying to catch a prostitute? Last week, an officer pulled out a weapon not registered with the Minneapolis Police Department and allowed a hooker to fondle it before he made the arrest.

"It's sad conduct on both sides," says Steve Simon, a clinical law professor at the University of Minnesota. "I never see police reports where an officer smoked crack or injected heroin before making a drug bust."

The bust raises all kinds of questions. The police are reluctant to reveal just how far they'll go "undercover" because they don't want sex workers getting wise. The courts, Simon says, are reluctant to interfere with police tactics that have thus far evaded entrapment rulings or court classification as extreme.

As a special Hennepin County public defender, Simon has tried to curtail these kinds of intimate police tactics using a decades-old California ruling, which bars evidence obtained through "conduct that shocks the conscience." He's not been successful—not terribly surprising given the full spectrum of cop-as-john behavior nationwide. This offering of a Minneapolis Police Department penis, it turns out, is notable but not remarkable.

—Jeff Severns Guntzel