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A move to fact track a bill that would overturn transgender-inclusive high school policies was rejected by the Minnesota Senate on Thursday afternoon. The bill, SF1543, was introduced by Sen. David Brown, R-Becker.

The bill is a conservative Christian reaction to transgender-inclusive policies that have been adopted in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts, as well as the Minnesota State High School League.

The bill did not receive a hearing before the committee deadline, so Brown moved to have the bill heard on the Senate floor with out a hearing.

The Senate rejected that motion in a 37-28 vote. All Republicans voted for the bill, as well as DFL Sen. Lyle Koenen.

The vote breakdown was:

Voting yes: Anderson, Benson, Brown, Chamberlain, Dahms, Fischbach, Gazelka, Hall, Hann, Housley, Ingebrigtsen, Kiffmeyer, Koenen, Limmer, Nelson, Newman, Nienow, Ortman, Osmek, Pederson, Peterson, Pratt, Rosen, Ruud, Senjem, Thompson, Westrom, Weber

Voting no: Bakk, Bonoff, Carlson, Clausen, Cohen, Dahle, Dibble, Dziedzic, Eken, Franzen, Goodwin, Hawj, Hayden, Hoffman, Jensen, Johnson, Kent, Latz, Lourey, Marty, Metzen, Pappas, Reinert, Rest, Saxhaug, Scalze, Schmit, Sheran, Sieben, Skoe, Sparks, Stumpf, Tomassoni, Torres Ray, Wiger, Wiklund

Absent: Eaton, Miller

Testimony was brief. Here’s a transcript:

Sen. David Brown: SF 1543 is a bill that protects public school students in their lockers rooms and bathrooms at their schools. I have submitted a hearing request but I have been informed that this bill will not be given a hearing I am bringing this motion today. Because this issue needs to be addressed by this body. between recent actions by the state high school league and the St. Paul school district policies are being adopted which allow biological males and biological females to share locker rooms and restroom at the same time, these policies put Minnesota students in risky and potentially dangerous situations Madam President, I ask for a roll call.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer: In this particular one I am especially concerned and I think to myself as a woman: Have we come this far to now go backwards? Have we fought so hard for some of the things of the girls participation in sports and in having those individual opportunities for them to now be put in this kind of a situation? Have we now come to this point where young girls at an early maturity who are already very uncomfortable about their body image and other things are now going to be put in the situation that that is worsened and hurtful to them and exposes them in a very vulnerable time. This is a very personal time of life for our teenagers and especially for our girls and we as a Senate should stand up to protect them to stand up for them especially since Sen. Brown’s bill makes exceptions for those who have other needs, so all the needs are balanced. We just want to be sure that we also take care of our young girls at a very special time of their life and not expose them. I urge the members to vote yes.

Sen. Torrey Westrum: I would too rise in support of this motion. I think it’s a pressing matter that the Senate and the Legislature should take up and address. As a father of two girls and constituents across my district and parents across the state, this is an issue that we need to address right now and deal with it so girls locker rooms and the issues that go along with this new policy do not continue down this road in the state of Minnesota. We need to ensure, as Sen. Kiffmeyer talked about, we need to ensure that our female athletes have their privacy protected as they engage in the sports that they’ve chosen to go out for. We need to make sure our schools have the policy that’s been in place continued and not have biological males and females mixed in locker rooms or bathrooms going forward. We need to pass this bill and address this issue now because it’s become such an issue in the past 6 months with the high school league action, and our students are relying upon us. It was the Legislature that created female sports teams decades ago and we don’t need to go backwards which is what appears the state high school league rule would have us doing. As others have talked about on this floor and I think we need to just establish now that we want to protect womens’ athletics, you know, during the week of state high school girls basketball. I have a niece that was able to play in the tournaments this week. It’s very apropos that we address this issue so that female athletics are not changed in the future of this state. And we continue the strong tradition that decade ago we set forth when we created female athletic teams to not just have male athletic teams in this state. And as a father of girls who are getting into athletics, I want to ensure that the integrity is there for them and all the other constituents and parents I represent in my district.

Sen. Scott Dibble: Well Madam President, it seems as though we are debating the merits of this bill in the form of a motion to place the bill on the floor so I think it’s important that there be a response. I would encourage members to vote against this motion. Members, understanding what a transgender person is can be pretty hard, especially if you don’t know a transgender person yourself. I think polls show that only 8 percent of us know whether or not we know a transgender person so just let me say that the statements that have been made on the floor here are disturbing. A transgender person is someone whose biological sex at birth is different from what they know to be true. Some people are prescribed hormones to undergo changes, some at some point have survey to become who and what exactly they are. Members it’s extremely important to know that all of these young people are someone’s son or daughter. If I had a child who was transgender, I would want my child to be treated with respect and fairness and dignity. The Minnesota State High School League worked very, very hard working through these issues over a very long period of time to try to uphold dignity and respect for all of our students in the schools. Minnesotans believe in the golden rule that we treat others as though we would want to be treated ourselves. This takes away local control for schools who want to be safe and supportive and inclusive of all of our children. Finding the right balance, finding the privacy issues, finding the measure of dignity, and they’ve done a really good job. Members you should also know that this bill would run smack into Title IX protections and would cause a great deal of legal challenge and problems for our schools. So members, please vote against this measure. This does not treat transgender students or their families or the communities that are working through these issues with the kind of respect they deserve and should be accorded.

Sen. Warren Limmer: Thank you Madam President. I’ve been listening carefully to this discussion and I’m also familiar with Sen. Brown’s bill. This bill, if it’s been alluded to, this bill is not discriminatory toward any single student. This would be — this reinforces existing policy in the state that we protect the safety and privacy of all students. There’s no discriminatory practice here as some may have suggested. And this whole issue started with the high school league creating its rule that changes existing public policy and contravenes existing state law. Sen. Brown has already suggested there might be a couple of school districts that are launching forward following high school league rule as if it was state law. Clearly this is a time when the Legislature should be involved. This is a time when the Legislature could give direction as well as clarification that it upholds existing state law to protect the safety and the privacy of all students. It seems like a common sense idea. I’m saddened that we did not get a hearing in the policy committee that it should be in. It’s unfortunate because I know the chairman of the committee is always in other responsibilities of being chair in other committees, he’s given hearings to everyone that would have a bill before his committee, but sadly that policy is changed and this bill did not get a hearing. So as we look at this, it’s not the boogeyman issue that so many people would like to think of it is or characterize it is. Students have a right to privacy in their bathrooms and locker rooms in this state. And the way the law is written now it should have separate facilities for the different biological sexes. I think that makes common sense and it’s what parents expect from our public schools.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Senator Limmer, to quote Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg in the majority opinion in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, “a tax on wearing yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.” When you create a law that pretends to fairness but actually specifically targets a group for discrimination, that law is discriminatory. Forcing bathroom use and sports team participation based on the construct of “biological sex” is intended to sound fair while actually discriminating against transgender girls, who would be prohibited from taking advantage of academic and athletic opportunities intended for girls.

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