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Minnesota House passes equal rights constitutional amendment with protections for abortion rights, LGBTQ Minnesotans

Minnesota lawmakers make final decision on equal rights amendment
Minnesota lawmakers make final decision on equal rights amendment 02:03

ST. PAUL, Minn. — After delays due to prolonged debates on other legislation, the Minnesota House early Sunday approved an amendment that would enshrine equal rights in the state constitution, including protections for LGTBQ Minnesotans and abortion rights.

The equal rights amendment states that "the state shall not discriminate against any person in intent or effect on account of" race, color, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity. It also protects "making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one's own pregnancy or decision whether to become or remain pregnant," which would bolster abortion rights.

If it passes the Senate, the question of whether to amend the constitution would go before voters in 2026.

Final passage in the House came six days after DFL leaders pledged the measure would get a vote. A filibuster by Republicans pushed the discussion until Friday and over the course of the weekend, they paused debate to pass other bills and then restarted it, before it finally cleared the House early Sunday morning.

"We want to make sure that as Minnesotans, we're valuing each other by prohibiting discrimination. We must codify protections into the Constitution," Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul, the proposal's author, said. "Case law and statutes are subject to political winds and the makeup of the political leanings of judges. Rights should not hinge on these changes."

Republicans condemn adding protections for abortion rights, which were not included in the ERA that the Senate passed last year with bipartisan support. They believe there should be two separate questions before voters — one on equal rights and another on abortion.

GOP members also raised concern about "age" and "religion" being excluded from the protected classes listed in the amendment.

"Groups of people who are protected in our Human Rights Act have been left out of the constitutional amendment," said Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch. "Democrats literally chose to leave out groups of people on purpose from protection in the constitution."

Several amendments to add to or change the scope of the ERA — like just protections on the basis of sex — failed to get enough support to pass.

The ERA will now be sent back to the Minnesota Senate, where its fate is unknown. DFL Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy on Friday did not commit that her caucus — which has just a one-seat majority — supports the new language moving in the House.

"I want to see what they pass in order to know if we can support it. We have spent a lot of time on the new language. We've had a number of conversations as members about what that means," she told reporters Friday morning. "So we're gonna see what they do. We're going to see if they take amendments, and we'll make a decision after that."

Before voters can weigh in, the measure needs to clear the Senate with just hours to go before the legislature must adjourn the regular session on Monday. But lawmakers only have until just before midnight Sunday to approve legislation.

The rest of the agenda in the final hours is in question, following a 10-hour recess in the Senate Sunday as leaders worked to strike a last-minute deal to pay drivers more and keep Uber and Lyft from exiting the state. That kept them from passing other bills Democrats in charge want to check off their list this year.

Murphy late Saturday night did not answer how her caucus would clear the remaining bills before they must end and Gov. Tim Walz did not say if a special session is in play. Among the proposals in doubt are legislation legalizing sports betting and a bonding bill supporting local infrastructure projects — which needs three-fifths majority to pass, requiring Republican support.

GOP leaders said they wanted the DFL to reverse course on the ERA and other controversial bills in order to get their vote on bonding. But House Speaker Melissa Hortman Thursday said Democrats would not bargain with the equal rights amendment.

"If Republicans are conditioning their support for our bonding bill on denying civil rights to [transgender] Minnesotans, then we won't have a bonding bill," she said.

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