OutFront Minnesota is rallying and lobbying at the Capitol to stop bills to rescind Minnesota Human Rights Act protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Rep. Glen Gruenhagen is the author of a bill that would allow businesses to prevent transgendered people from using the bathroom of their choice, instead limiting it to their “biological sex.” Gruenhagen says a letter from a constituent expressing fear led him to author the bill.
Several years ago, Gruenhagen grabbed national attention when he said legalizing gay marriage would strengthen the false notion that homosexuality is biological and not a “sexual choice.”
“There is no gay gene, OK? The concept that you’re born that way and it’s an immutable characteristic is an unscientific lie,” Gruenhagen said in 2013.
While the bill is not likely to pass, LGBTQ activists know this is not the same Minnesota legislature that legalized same-sex marriage just a few years ago. Republicans won a majority of the House seats in 2014. The activists fought for marriage equality are hoping to fight off challenges to LGBTQ rights this session.
Prior to the beginning of the session, Outfront Minnesota Executive Director Monica Meyer told The UpTake she expected conservative lawmakers would try to repeal part of Minnesota’s Human Rights Act so “if you have strong religious beliefs you don’t have to follow the law.”
Minnesota passed the Human Rights Act in 1993 to protect LGBTQ people in housing employment and education and public accommodations. Meyer says and for the first ten years they had to defend challenges to the law. “So we’re going to keep defending it and keep saying that it’s never OK to discriminate.”
Playing offensive as well as defense
Video above: Monica Meyer and other supporters talk about the legislative session.
Video below: Rep. Glen Gruenhagen explains his “bathroom bill.”
Click here for shareable version of this video
OutFront is doing more than playing defense this legislative session. It’s going on the offense about several other issues.
“We want to keep having the conversation about trans people not having access to health care,” says Meyer. “For people who are on medical assistance or Minnesota care they’re banned from having gender confirmation surgery currently in our state law. That’s just discriminatory.” She says the conversation around that issue is a good opportunity to talk about all of the different barriers that trans Minnesotans face.
Meyer says she also wants to talk about banning “conversion therapy” for young people who are LGBTQ. She says there are young people who are told that it’s not OK to be who they are. “It’s not OK to be LGBTQ and then that they’re brought to therapists to try to change who they are. And that’s so harmful.”
“We want to ban that kind of therapy because we know there’s nothing wrong with being who you are. And we want to make sure that young people have all the opportunities in the world to just be who they are, be affirmed.”
Meyer says it’s often parents, faith leaders and other “well meaning people” who take children to conversion therapists. They “go to this therapist because they say they deal with issues of sexual orientation or gender expression or identity. I don’t think people are doing it necessarily to even try to convert youth. Sometimes they are but we want to make sure that that kind of practice is banned.”
According to Meyer, every major psychological association in this country has said that the practice is truly harmful for LGBTQ youth.
“I think that we’re going to have a difficult time in this short session passing the proactive legislation that we want.” She says there are other options. Earlier this year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took executive action banning private and public health care insurers from covering conversion therapy in that state. Cuomo said “We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”
Overall, OutFront is happy with the progress Minnesota has made, “but there’s still more work to do to have this state be affirming for all LGBTQ people. Youth are still bullied quite a bit in school,” says Meyer.