The Minnesota House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill on Saturday that includes a provision that would repeal transgender-inclusive policies in Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts, and prevent future districts from implementing their own.
Rep. Tim Miller, a Republican from Prinsburg, offered an amendment called the “Student Physical Privacy Act” to the House K-12 education policy and finance bill being debated on Saturday. Miller’s amendment bars schools from allowing transgender students to use facilities based on their gender and instead base those decisions on “chromosomes.”
The amendment states, in part:
The purpose of this section is to protect and provide for the privacy and safety of all students enrolled in public schools and to maintain order and dignity in restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, showers, and other facilities where students may be in various states of undress in the presence of other students. Subd. 2. Definitions. For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the meanings given them.(a) “Sex” means the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s chromosomes and is identified at birth by a person’s anatomy. Subd. 3. Student physical privacy protection. (a) A public school student restroom, locker room, changing room, and shower room accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for the exclusive use by students of the male sex only or by students of the female sex only.(b) A public school student restroom, locker room, changing room, and shower room that is designated for the exclusive use of one sex shall be used only by members of that sex.
The amendment passed by a voice vote after several DFL house members gave impassioned speeches against the amendment, and the omnibus bill that contains it passed largely along party lines
Rep. Barb Yarusso, a DFLer from Shoreview who is the parent of a transgender child, gave the House members a lesson on transgender issues, including the variability that can exist in terms of gender, sex, chromosomes, anatomy, and hormone levels.
She said the amendment “sends the message that you are not quite welcome in this school and to not be accepted for who you are puts you at huge huge risk.”
“There’s been an awful lot of stuff trying to say if we don’t do this policy there is this big safety risk [to cisgender students]. The people that actually have risk to their comfort, safety and privacy is transgender kids.”
Rep. Karen Clark, a DFLer from Minneapolis, said, “What we know about gender identity has been evolving… My message is these transgender children are our children. They are somebody’s child.”
Clark added, “I want to say to any of these children who are out there listening today, your public officials, some of us do truly support you and accept you and your families and recognize you and we want you to have that message in addition to whatever this amendment might send as a message.”
Rep. Peter Fischer, a DFLer from Maplewood who has worked with homeless youth, outlined the harm that this legislation could have on transgender youth. He said that acceptance of transgender youth is vital. “We find that not to do so causes great harm and damage as we go forward and that’s one of the primary reasons that I am opposed to this bill because it has the unintended consequences for our trans youth out there.”
Rep. Susan Allen, a DFLer from Minneapolis, said the amendment could clash with Title IX. “If you believe in local control, vote against this amendment. This amendment actually interferes with the ability of schools to create a non-discriminatory environment for their students in compliance with Title IX. This amendment will violate title IX.”
Rep. Carlos Mariani, a DFLer from St. Paul, said, “I urge you to vote against this… there’s a lot of misunderstanding and fear and lack of knowledge around these dynamics and these children, all the more reason not to do anything until we understand these issues better… It does harm to young children. We are better than that.”
The passage of the amendment comes as Republicans faced opposition even in their own party to Miller’s bill. It failed to receive a hearing ahead of a March deadline in the House and Senate, and a move in the Senate to force a floor vote on the bill failed.
The omnibus bill with the anti-transgender language now moves to the Senate where the DFL holds a majority of the seats. If the Senate does not pass the same amendment, the two chambers will meet for a conference committee to hash out differences in the omnibus bill. Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, has the power to veto the entire omnibus package if it reaches his desk. LGBT advocates are holding a lobby day on Thursday where inclusion for transgender youth — and opposition to the bill — is the major topic.
Chris Stinson, Political Director for OutFront Minnesota, posted a statement on the group’s Facebook page following the vote:
Today we experienced a painful set-back when the GOP controlled house passed a provision to discriminate against transgender kids. Together we can still defeat the provision in the Senate (and then in conference committee) and make sure that schools are safe for the most vulnerable Minnesotans but each one of us needs to be part of the fight.
Please call or email your Senator today and come to Lobby Day on Thursday.
The Minnesota Family Council and the Minnesota Child Protection League, two groups opposed to LGBT rights, have been heavily lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill barring transgender inclusive school policies.
John Helmberger, CEO of Minnesota Family Council, released a statement on Saturday praising passage of the amendment: “We are overwhelmingly grateful to Representative Miller and the Minnesota House for their leadership in protecting students’ basic physical privacy and safety rights. Like Representative Miller, I too am a parent and grandparent, so I am very familiar with praying for the safety and protection of my kids when they head out the door each day for school. Of all the things parents have to worry about, the Student Physical Privacy Act ensures that parents won’t have to worry about their child encountering someone of the opposite sex when they use the restroom or change for gym at school.”