In recognition of ongoing discrimination against LGBTQI Minnesotans and the need to center gender equity in public policy, Senator Karla Bigham (DFL- Cottage Grove) Senator Ann Johnson Stewart (DFL- Minnetonka), Senator Jen McEwen (DFL- Duluth), Senator Jason Isaacson (DFL- Shoreview), and Senator Foung Hawj (DFL- St. Paul) have introduced legislation (SF 360) to address long-needed changes for Minnesotans in the LGBTQI community.
“SF 360 provides a range of solutions for issues impacting LGBTQI Minnesotans – including a ban on the horrible practice of conversion therapy, modifications ensuring that our state’s criminal law does not let violent criminals off because their victim is not straight or cisgendered, and establishing a Council on LGBTQI Minnesotans to ensure that state officials hear from a wide range of voices on civil rights issues impacting our family and neighbors,” said Senator Karla Bigham. “Policymakers have overlooked- and caused- harm to LGBTQI Minnesotans for far too long, and we have the chance to be part of the solution with this bill.”
The bill establishes a Council on LGBTQI Minnesotans. The council would include members of the public with a range of gender identities and sexual orientations, ensuring that their voices are at the center of the policymaking process. In addition, one legislator from each of the four caucuses would serve on the council. Under SF 360, the council must work for the implementation of economic, social, legal, and political equality for Minnesota’s LGBTQI community.
“I am proud to support the formation of the Council of LGBTQI Minnesotans,” said Senator Ann Johnson Stewart. “Our government serves Minnesotans best when we listen to and honor the experiences of every Minnesotan, and this council ensures that the voices of LGBTQI Minnesotans are front and center. We have plenty of work left to achieve economic, social, legal, and political equality for all Minnesotans, and the proposed council can hold the government’s feet to the fire and build urgency to further that work.”
The bill also includes a ban on the harmful and dangerous practice of conversion therapy. Any health care professional practicing conversion therapy on a minor or a vulnerable adult would face disciplenary action through their respective licensing board. As conversion therapy includes a range of practices and has no medical basis, SF 360 would also establish a working group to develop a detailed, uniform definition of conversion therapy to be adopted by the medical licensing boards in Minnesota. 20 states and Washington D.C. have already banned conversion therapy.
“We came extremely close to banning conversion therapy in the legislature in the past, and the fact that we haven’t done so is a stain on our state and a direct attack on LGBTQI Minnesotans,” said Senator Jason Isaacson. “Senate Republicans have blocked this effort in the past despite conversion therapy being denounced by every mainstream medical and psychological health association. A person’s gender identity and sexual orientation is a central part of who they are and we need to take a stand and reject this hateful and toxic practice.”
Additionally, the legislation also updates language in state statute on assisted reproduction practices. The bill would strip the majority of the currently gendered language in statute to be replaced by gender neutral alternatives. The title of the section would be modernized as well, from “Artificial Insemination” to “Assisted Reproduction”.
“Ensuring that the language of our laws is accurate, to include all Minnesota parents, is just good policy– it’s fundamental, and the way we should be drafting all of our laws,” said Senator Jen McEwen. “Minnesotans of all identities are parents. This update modernizes our statutes to make sure that our laws don’t impose undue restrictions based upon inaccurate language.”
The final section of SF 360 ensures that discrimination is not a viable defense for violent criminals in Minnesota. Current Minnesota statute does not explicitly stop the use of the “panic” defense, a legal strategy that uses a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression as a defense for a violent action against that person.
“Minnesota statutes must not leave doubt: discrimination cannot be used as a defense for a violent crime. The lives of LGBTQI Minnesotans are just as valuable as any others, and we must ensure that this legal defense has no place and no grounding in Minnesota,” said Senator Foung Hawj. “We all belong in this One Minnesota – no matter our race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other fundamental part of our identity.