Anoka continues its war against gay teens

Timothy Kincaid

October 9th, 2012

Once again, Anoka Minnnesota is in the news. And once again it’s due to absurdly anti-gay behavior.

You may recall that until 2009 the Anoka-Hennepin School District had a policy which banned teachers from referring to homosexuality “as a normal, valid lifestyle.” And you may know that in 2009 the policy was changed to require that teachers “remain neutral” (actually an improvement). The result of the ban was that teachers were afraid to protect gay kids from bullying, lest any defense be deemed un-neutral. In 2010 Justin Aaberg, a 15 year old student, was tormented daily to the point where he finally took his own life. He was one of nine such students that year.

In response, the school board denied that there was a problem with bullying and refused to change the policy. They said that parents who complained that their kids were being bullied were liars.

After teachers began abusing gay students in class, the Minnesota State Department of Human Rights rebuked the school and the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights held an investigation. Rolling Stone magazine wrote about “One Town’s War on Gay Teens”, and Justin Aaberg’s mother Tammy plead for her representative, Republican Michelle Bachmann, to take action.

But it seems that Anoka has no problems with dead gay teens. The Parents Action League, one of only 26 certified anti-gay hate groups in the US, fought to keep anti-gay animus present on the campus. At one point they demanded that rather than be free from bullying, gay kids should be offered ex-gay therapy. Rep. Bachmann, who shares the views of the hate group and whose flamboyantly effeminate husband runs an ex-gay counseling center, refused to assist the kids who were being bullied.

It wasn’t until the Southern Poverty Law Center sued that things changed. In March of this year, the school board settled the lawsuit and agreed to establish anti-bullying programs specifically addressed to meet the needs of gay youth.

But that was the school, not the community. And anti-gay hostility in Anoka rages on.

In response, some in the community stepped up and tried to provide a safe space for LGBT youth. Supported by First Congregational UCC, last August Tammy Aaberg took her pain and turned it into power by creating a non-profit called Justin’s Gift to “help fill the following needs: belonging, self-esteem, self-respect, and ultimately a realization of their importance in the world.”

It seems inconceivable that a group which was created for no other purpose than to help kids in crisis would have opponents. Who wants to dismiss, harm, or cause grief to a kid in crisis?

But as inhumane as that may seem to us, Anoka Minnesota is home to just that mindset. (Minnesota Public Radio)

Organizers of an annual Halloween parade in Anoka denied a request from a gay youth group to walk in this year’s parade.

Justin’s Gift, a nonprofit group created to support gay youth after several suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, received a letter dated Sept. 25 denying their request to walk in the Oct. 27 parade. The letter is signed by the parade chair, who included only her first name, Liz.

“At this time we are unable to accept your application for the parade,” the letter said. “We have reached our maximum for walking units.”

No, they weren’t “pushing the HomoSEXshull Agenda”. As far as I can tell, they had no plans to advocate for opposition to Minnesota’s propose anti-gay marriage ban. They just wanted to march down the street as their favorite fairy tale character. And this is a big deal in Anoka, which imagines itself to be the Halloween Capital of the World. (Conveniently ignoring that half a million people – gay and straight – pack the streets for West Hollywood’s Halloween Carnival.)

Although there is room for “units from all over the midwest“, there’s no place in Anoka for 30 gay kids.

“The kids are pretty upset,” Fietek said. “We’re trying to show these kids that they’re part of the community and unfortunately it backfired and sent a completely different message.”

I have no problem calling this one like I see it. Anoka has yet again shown itself to be a haven for bigots and the enemy of their own LGBT children. If you agree, there is a petition on

No, Anoka will not change its mind. They will continue to bar the gay kids. But at least they will do so knowing that they do so with the contempt of decent people across the country and the world.


October 9th, 2012

I try to come up with any way an excuse could be true… but it’s a *parade.* Unless that word is preceded by “Macy’s Thanksgiving” or “Tournament of Roses,” there’s no reason not to let the length be determined by how many groups want to participate.


October 9th, 2012

Well – they should sue! We’ve had this same thing play out in New England multiple times and when you take it into court you usually win.


October 9th, 2012

The simple fact is this particular area has been a hotbed of church groups and racial issues for decades. Change is going to happen slowly. Its going to take more PR disasters like this one, a few brave kids, and maybe a few more lawsuits but its going to happen. Minnesota as a whole is a pretty moderate live and let live state but we have our pockets of wingnuts. Although – thanks to redistricting – I can take some solace that Bachmann will no longer represent my home town.

Conveniently ignoring that half a million people – gay and straight – pack the streets for West Hollywood’s Halloween Carnival

What the hell does half a million people dressing up, getting drunk, and hitting on the bartenders at their favorite gay bars have anything to do with Halloween?

I’ve attended both West Hollywood’s Halloween Carnival and New York Halloween Parade. While fun – neither of them are Halloween. Halloween to us mid-westerners is all about going on hay rides, hitting haunted houses, carving pumpkins, roasting pumpkin seeds, dressing up the kids and walking door to door getting candy. Its the last opportunity to have fun before snow hits the state. We take it seriously. You treat it as just another night out in the gayborhood.

Halloween in Minnesota is on my top ten things I will miss now that I live in San Diego.

Lindoro Almaviva

October 9th, 2012

well, there is only one way to know. can an anti-gay group, fake, make a request? We’ll know if they are lying or not.


October 10th, 2012

Halloween is a God-hatin’, devil-worshipin’, evil-promotin’, decadence-encouragin’, impostor of a holiday, not a “holy day” at all.

So, kinda makes you wonder why the devout fundamentalist Christians of Anoka are sponsoring a Halloween event at all, don’t it?

Michael C

October 10th, 2012

I do believe that there is a slight chance that Justin’s Gift was overlooked for purely logistical reasons. It is possible that, by the time they filed their application, all slots had actually been filled. However, if this is the case, the Anoka parade organizers missed the perfect opportunity to improve the image of the city.

My guess is that the organizational team for this parade consists of two or three sixty year old white women who are very good at pursing their lips and shaking their heads.


October 11th, 2012

The whole notion of right-wing Christians at all upholding the teaching of Jesus is at this point, absurd. I am Christian, and I was taught to love my neighbor, to forgive and to be loving towards other human life. I am continually insulted by the invoking of Christ as a justification to exclude and mistreat human beings for being different and/or unlike your own reflection in the mirror. Its like we have our own Jihad in this nation, and its the right-wing, fundamentalist ‘Christians’. Grow up Anoka! Dont make God come down there and teach you a lesson about love, acceptance and peace! As the Dalai Lama says, “Kindness is my only religion”. Take a note.

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