The same day North Carolina's government introduced and signed into law a bill barring local governments from enacting anti-discrimination measures to protect LGBT citizens, GOP lawmakers in Minnesota unveiled a bill preventing transgender people from using public bathrooms that don't correspond with their "biological sex."

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, the bill's lead author, held a press conference on Wednesday together with other legislators who framed it as protecting privacy.

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"No claim of nontraditional identity or 'sexual orientation' may override another person's right of privacy based on biological sex," the bill reads.

Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore and Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, are all listed as sponsors of the Gruenhagen bill. Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, is a sponsor of the Senate version.

Contacted Wednesday, Gazelka described his position as protecting women.

"Particularly, we don't want a male transgender going into a female bathroom," he said. "I am concerned about women's rights here, and the vulnerability of women."

Heintzeman was at the press conference with Gruenhagen.

"I'm not sure the bill in its current form is the very, very best path forward, but I think it's a start, this session, to have that conversation," Heintzeman said.

Gazelka acknowledged Gov. Mark Dayton did not support the bathroom bill or Gazelka's bill from last session that would allow businesses a religious exemption from participating in same-sex weddings and celebrations. However, the debate was still worthwhile, he said.

"People are trying to change the cultural norms and force things upon people, and we think that debate should continue," Gazelka said. "One of those places is in the legislative branch."

The Crow Wing County GOP at its convention March 19 considered a resolution in the "Public Safety" section of the platform that multiple person bathrooms be used by people of that "biological" sex only.

Heintzeman said he heard from "numerous folks" on the issue, concerned about the implications of gender-neutral bathrooms.

"This is something that I'm not just hearing from dyed-in-the-wool Republicans on, I'm hearing from people across the political spectrum," he said.

When asked whether he had talked with transgender people regarding the bill, Heintzeman said they didn't reach out to him.

"As you might expect, it's not necessarily a very prevalent community of those folks in Crow Wing County," he said. "To my knowledge, no one has attempted to reach out to me on this. If anybody from my district had wanted to meet, I certainly would have."

Both the Senate and House versions mandate businesses limit use of multi-occupant bathrooms.

"Other than single-occupancy facilities, no employer shall permit access to restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and other similar places on any basis other than biological sex," the text reads.

That conflicts with Gazelka's opinion.

"First of all, I think private employers should be able to do whatever they want to do," Gazelka said of enforcing the bill. "I don't think we should force anything upon the private sector, on either side of that issue."

The next paragraph of the bill mandates public schools and universities do the same thing.

Regarding public schools, Gazelka said in many of them the bathrooms were already divided by gender.

"I think that we should continue to enforce that," he said.

However, if a school were to add gender-neutral single-occupancy bathrooms, Gazelka thought it would be a "good solution."

Calls to Kresha were not returned. Efforts to reach Anderson through a spokesperson were unsuccessful.

 

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.