Emotions high during debate over controversial bathroom bill

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There was a contentious debate at the state Capitol Tuesday, as supporters and activists gathered to discuss a controversial bathroom bill.

The House bill (read it here), which is being called the "Individual Right to Privacy and Safety in Public Accommodations Act," would amend the Minnesota Human Rights Act so that public restrooms would be based on a person's biological sex at birth – not the gender they identify with.

Supporters of the bill argue it protects privacy and safety of children and adults. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Glen Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said Tuesday the proposal "protects the privacy and public safety of adults both in our society and schools" and is "based on objective standards of biology and not on feelings," according to Session Daily.

But opponents argue bills like this promote discrimination, harassment and violence against people who identify as transgender. Rep. Barb Yarusso, DFL-Shoreview, said: "We’ve heard a great deal about the bill’s attempt to deal with fear of harm. No instances of actual harm have been cited ... Fear does not equal danger," according to the Pioneer Press.

The bill, which is co-authored by 35 Republicans, was discussed during an emotional 90-minute House Civil Law Committee meeting Tuesday, with MPR News noting the committee chair Peggy Scott had to use her gavel frequently to quiet down the crowd.

Here's video of the discussion (the bill comes up at the 6 minute, 35 second mark):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHTh3H3YkwA

Transgender rights debated nationally

The measure comes not long after North Carolina passed a similar bill into law – a move that drew uproar nationwide, and prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to ban all state-funded travel to the state in protest.

The governor also called for a similar travel ban to Mississippi following that state's passage of a bill that's also being called discriminatory against LGBT groups.

Dayton has also said he'd veto the Minnesota House bill if it got to his desk.

No action was taken at Tuesday's informal hearing on the legislation, with Scott noting it was important for the state of Minnesota to have a discussion about the topic.

The bill's companion in the Senate is still awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Session Daily says.

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