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Public input stalls decision

By Staff | Sep 13, 2015

“It’s always good to see democracy in action,” were the words city administrator Tim Ibisch used after a lengthy discussion between the Blue Earth City Council and the public at last Tuesday’s meeting.

The council’s proposed “Non-discrimination in Public Accommodations” policy was further discussed by members of the council and the attending public.

Ultimately, it was councilman Glenn Gaylord who made a motion to approve the new policy, but it died for lack of a second.

City attorney David Frundt outlined what the policy would and would not include as far as public facilities. The new policy would designate any single-stalled bathrooms in Blue Earth’s public buildings to be designated as gender neutral, but keeping any multiple-stalled bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms to still be labeled male and female.

Those needing to use the multiple use rooms would use them according to their biological gender.

Members of the public were given opportunity to voice their opinion on the subject. Some citizens stated that they felt the signage was unnecessary.

“I just hate seeing the precedent set that if you feel you’re entitled to something and the city feels they might get sued, everything gets changed to what one, two, or five individuals want out of a group of 3,000,” stated Franz Scholtz, of Blue Earth.

Another citizen of Blue Earth, Judy Frankamp, stated her concerns were for the children who visit the pool.

“As a mother and grandmother, my concern is for the little children,” she said. “Does anybody care about the children that saw this? They’re little, they can’t, in their minds, figure out things. How can you even explain this to them?”

Ibisch responded to the citizens concerns.

“We’re here to make sure our families and our young children feel safe at the pool and we took that into account when we wrote this policy and I want you to know that’s our first concern,” said Ibisch. “The pool is a family experience and that is one of the reasons we took this into account.”

“As a council, it’s our job to make sure everyone’s rights are covered,” said Gaylord. “And I think this policy does that. There is no way this policy is hurting anybody in the city doing this, it can only help.”

A letter from OutFront Minnesota, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy, to the Blue Earth City Council recommended they reword their policy. The policy originally defined gender use for the facilities for gender assigned at birth.

“The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has determined that where a transgender individual has undergone gender-confirmation surgery (also known as sex-reassignment surgery), they are entitled to use the restrooms and similar facilities associated with the sex to which they have transitioned, not their birth sex,” stated the letter.

After hearing public input, and the input of some council members, council member Marty Cassem said that he felt things were moving a little too quickly, and would rather wait to have a recommendation.

Councilman Dan Brod also agreed with Cassem and suggested getting more research and information on what other areas are doing.

Frundt shared with the council that a fair amount of research had been put into the policy already.

“We’ve researched other states where this is a requirement,” Frundt said. “Research for this did indicate that we are seeing this at public high school and university levels. The reason those things are happening is because there are anti-discrimination statutes. This policy complies with those laws and protects as many parties as we can.”

Ruth Scholtz of Blue Earth raised her concerns of a loss of revenue with the public pool if families chose not to return to the pool because of the policy change not fully addressing the original incident at the Blue Earth Public Pool.

“We have time to talk about this,” said Brod. “The place where this started was the swimming pool and now the swimming pool is shut down for the season. We have time, and I think we need to do it the right way if we need to do anything. We have to research it further. I don’t think we need to rush it.”

Frundt added that there may not be much change that can be made to the policy, but was willing to further research possible policy additions.

Once the discussion was ended, the council moved on to other business on their agenda.