ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - The authors of a bathroom bill in the Minnesota Legislature will tell you it’s about protecting rights to privacy, but opponents say it’s about transgender discrimination. In between, there’s no shortage of fear and emotion.
When you walk into a bathroom, there’s already a reasonable expectation of privacy. But Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-Glencoe) wants to take it a step further. His bill would amend Minnesota’s Human Rights Act to change the rules for bathrooms and locker rooms. Read a copy of the proposed legislation at http://bit.ly/1RhueKs.
“It protects the constitutional right to privacy and public safety for transgenders, straights, gays and also our children,” Rep. Gruenhagen said.
Gruenhagen’s bill says clearly that no employer, public school or university “shall permit access to restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and other similarly places on any basis other than biological sex.” Supporters say the current law is a free-for-all.
“Over the last summer I encountered a biological male in the women’s locker room watching women shower and typing on his phone,” said Kate Ives, a mother in favor of the bill.
“That’s a situation that’s ripe for abuse by those who have the intention of harming children,” said Emily Zinos
But the LGBT community argues there are no such documented cases, and one lawmaker with a transgender adult son says fear does not equal danger.
“This bill treats my son like a dog, because he can’t pee inside of a public accommodation,” said Rep. Barb Yarusso (DFL-Shoreview).
"How many gays and lesbians must God create before they are accepted?” asked Rep. Danny Schoen (DFL-Cottage Grove).
“I want to live my life, and this guy wants to call me a rapist so that he can win some seats on the state and national level,” said Catherine Crowe, a transgendered attorney.
The bill has one big political obstacle in Gov. Mark Dayton. The governor has already banned non-essential travel to North Carolina, where a similar bill has passed. Last week, he also imposed travel restrictions to Mississippi after the state passed a law allowing religious groups and private businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people.
“It’s just a step backward for this country,” Gov. Dayton said.
Caught in the middle of this debate are the people who want their rights protected, too.
“I want to live,” said Andrew Dodge, a transgender 16 year old. “I don’t want to be in a mental hospital because I want to use a bathroom.”
There was no vote on this bill Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean the bill is dead. Rep. Gruenhagen said he has more than 40 co-sponsors and they want to try to find a way to bring this up for a floor vote this session.