Minnesota lawmakers are debating a controversial measure that would remove language from the state's Human Rights Act that excludes pedophiles from protections based on "sexual orientation."
The "Take Pride Act" (HF 1655) was introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Leigh Finke, a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party and the first transgender legislator in Minnesota House history. The bill would amend Minnesota's Human Rights Act, which is described by the state as "one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country."
The current Human Rights Act protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation, defined as "having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one's biological maleness or femaleness."
The proposed language has shocked and bewildered Republicans, who are concerned that the bill could weaken pedophilia laws. Republican House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth issued a statement expressing her concerns. "Under the Human Rights Act, the definition of sexual orientation says that sexual orientation does not include physical or sexual attraction to children by an adult — or, more simply described, pedophilia. The Democrats’ decision to strike this language is disturbing and inexplicable," she said.
Finke says nothing in the text would weaken pedophilia laws. "Nothing in the bill changes or weakens any crimes against children, or the state's ability to prosecute those who break the law," Finke said. "Of course, pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. The language never should have been included in the statutory definition in the first place. Crimes against children are located in Minnesota’s criminal statutes, and again, they remain unchanged."
The bill also includes the addition of a definition for "gender identity," which Finke used throughout the proposed amendments to the state's Human Rights Act. The proposed definition reads: "'Gender identity' means a person's inherent sense of being a man, woman, both, or neither. A person's gender identity may or may not correspond to their assigned sex at birth or to their primary or secondary sex characteristics. A person's gender identity is not necessarily visible to others."
In addition to the change in definition for "sexual orientation," Finke's measure also includes enhancing sexual orientation and gender identity protections in housing, as well as ensuring that nonprofits abide by non-discrimination laws.
The measure is slated to come up for consideration on the House Floor on Wednesday, and Demuth says Republicans will be presenting an amendment to clarify that pedophilia is not a protected class under the Human Rights Act. "We sincerely hope Democrats will join us in ensuring our children are protected," Demuth said.