Letter to the Chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee

Hon. Ron Latz
Chair, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee
Minnesota Senate
MSB 3105
95 University Ave. W.
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Sen. Latz:

As you spearhead the enactment of various omnibus bills related to public safety, judiciary policy, and civil law, the Minnesota Catholic Conference asks that you leave out from the various omnibus bills lines 24.14-24.17 of S.F. 200 (First Engrossment), repealing important exemptions in the Minnesota Human Rights Act (HRA). These changes would start to turn the HRA, which is meant to function as a shield against unjust discrimination, into a sword against homeowners, as well as against people and organizations who wish to provide mission-based youth activities. The legislation undercuts the pluralism that guided the enactment of this law.

We did not oppose the addition of sexual orientation as a protected class when it passed in 1993. The goal of the legislation at that time was to protect a small minority of the community who struggled with same-sex attraction (and gender discordance), and to provide them with a shield against discrimination in the basics of life, particularly in housing and employment.1

The language was able to pass because there were sufficient accommodations for people and organizations, particularly religious organizations, who, in good conscience, held traditional views about sex and sexual identity.2 In other words, a shield was created for certain individuals and organizations to be protected from the HRA being weaponized by those who identified as LGBT or by associated activist groups.

The law’s original intent shielded people from charges of discrimination in the rental of a dwelling unit within the same structure in which they resided. But this proposed legislation removes the protection of choice when it comes to who is living under one’s own roof. This change puts at risk the ability of families and resident owners desiring to share a living space with other likeminded individuals.

Similarly, when the HRA was changed in 1993, nonpublic organizations serving youth were shielded in employment matters. They have and deserve the right to hire an employee who fits within their mission and values, and who is the best fit for the youth in their program. Should girls-only programming, especially camps, be required to have transgender females/biological males serving as overnight camp counselors? Removing this allowance for youth organizations could bring forth dangers to our young people who are still growing, developing, and learning who they are, especially as some activists proactively seek to undermine parental authority3 and engage in the sexualization and legal emancipation of youth.4

Furthermore, being dogmatic about certain nondiscrimination principles will end up harming the young people served by these organizations if they can no longer do so consistent with their mission and are forced to close down rather than compromise their values.

Some argue that the world has changed and that the existing language “rankles.”5 But the reality is that the current legislation attempts to accommodate two sets of competing interests and viewpoints and has done so rather successfully over the past 30 years. There are very few Minnesota appellate decisions at the nexus of these issues.

To change the Minnesota Human Rights Act now because politically empowered activists feel the need to coerce others into living in accord with their worldview is neither popular,6 nor a productive way to manage ideological differences about issues over which the population is divided. There is a high price to be paid for mandated ideological conformity on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity, especially when it comes to our youth. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Jason Adkins,
Executive Director
[email protected]

CC: Hon. Warren Limmer, GOP Senate Lead

1 See Thorson v. Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., Minn. Ct. App., Oct. 19, 2004, wherein the Minnesota Court of Appeals denied a claim of employment discrimination on the ground that certain types of employers were explicitly provided protections in the Human Rights Act to hire consistent with their mission and values, which aided in the law’s passage and protected pluralism. Available at https://mn.gov/law-library-stat/archive/ctappub/0410/opa040404-1019.htm

2 Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. 674 (2016) (mandating that states allow same-sex marriages), noted that opposition to same-sex marriage, “long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world.”

3 Karol Markowicz, “I’m quitting Disney after seeing it boast about pushing ‘gender theory’ on kids,” N.Y. Post, March 30, 2022, available at https://nypost.com/2022/03/30/disney-is-boasting-about-pushing-gender-theory-to-kids/

4 See, e.g., Education Minnesota Action Alert (opposing legislation protecting parental authority over a child’s education, and which they claim would require schools to not withhold information regarding a child’s intent to undergo gender transition), available at https://secure.ngpvan.com/F8NXb2jByUGlQY5HoUwlCw2 (accessed
March 1, 2022), see also Nia Tipon, “California High School Installs ‘Transition Closet’ To Help Students Hide Their Gender Expression From Their Parents,” msn.com, available at https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/california-high-school-installs-transition-closet-to-help-students-hide-their-gender-expression-from-their-parents/ar-AAUdJRE

5 Jess Braverman and Christie Hall, “The Groundbreaking Minnesota Human Rights Act in Need of Renovation,” Hennepin Lawyer, available at https://www.mnbar.org/hennepin-county-bar-association/resources/hennepin-lawyer/articles/2020/03/04/the-groundbreaking-minnesota-human-rights-act-in-need-of-renovation.

6 Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, 2019 Religious Freedom Index (noting that 70 percent of respondents support the freedom of religious organizations to make leadership and hiring decisions without government interference, and that 74 percent of respondents said individuals and groups should not face discrimination, fines, or penalties from
the government for beliefs that marriage is a union between a man and a woman), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/becketnewsite/RFI_summary.pd

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