On Monday morning, once he'd figured out some technical issues on his home computer, Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced new legislation intended to change the way our state reports hate crimes.
The way things stand, Hornstein told members of a House committee, a lot of bias-driven crimes are slipping through the cracks. That’s especially concerning right now, when the state department of human rights and Asian-American community organizations are getting a huge uptick in nasty incidents of prejudice against Asian people.
The new langauge would expand the definition of crimes “motivated by bias” and appropriate funds for education efforts, like training for law enforcement and collecting data on these incidents. Attorney General Keith Ellison joined the virtual meeting to testify in support of the bill.
There might be some reasonable concerns about Hornstein's proposal. For example, the price tag has yet to be determined, and with coronavirus response eating up public resources, Minnesota doen’t have a lot of money lying around.
Then there are the concerns Rep. Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) brought to the table. He couldn’t help but notice that the bill contained language related to gender identity.
“This reminds me of a video I actually saw probably about a year ago on YouTube,” he said. “There was a gas station, and a customer—a man—was in the gas station, and the clerk addressed the customer as a man, but the man thought he was a woman.”
The “man,” as Lucero called the customer, proceeded to have a “tirade” and a “fit.” He asked Ellison how he would “criminally enforce a man who demanded he be referred to as a woman.” Would that, he asked, “be a crime?”
Ellison paused before answering. There had been a little “distortion” on Lucero’s end, he said, and he wanted to make sure he was clear about what the representative was asking. Was he talking about a trans person getting referred to by the wrong pronouns, he asked?
Lucero, not one to accept moderately more sensitive language even when offered to him on a silver platter, replied in the affirmative.
“Uh, yes, there was clearly a man who was confused and believed he was a woman and demanded he be addressed as a woman,” he said. “Would that be an example of gender bias?”
This is about all you'll ever get from Lucero on issues of gender and sexuality. Last year, he stood against sex education programs that taught about a diverse array of gender identites and sexual orientations because, and we quote, "That's not biology." This year, he helped author a bill that would have banned drag queens from reading to kids at libraries.
Lucero’s informative YouTube video aside, if you’re a trans or nonbinary person, you probably know the odds of being willing to correct a complete stranger about your pronouns—let alone accost them—just to get a scratch-off and some Reese’s Pieces and move on with your goddamn life are pretty slim. But since Lucero asked: no, of course not.
“I can tell you this, it’s clear that doesn’t violate the criminal code,” Ellison said. It sounded to him like this was just an example of neighbors having to work things out among themselves. Not every “offensive thing,” he said, is a crime.
“You can stand up on a podium and say, ‘I don’t like blacks,’” he said. “You cannot say, ‘Go hurt that black person walking across the street.’”
The fact is, people in the LTBTQ community—and trans and nonbinary folks in particular—are frequently targeted for violent crimes. OutFront Minnesota, a queer and trans advocacy organization, released a statement about the bill referencing its importance. Last year, OutFront worked with nearly a thousand queer and trans survivors of violence, and nearly 270 were survivors of hate crimes specifically.
“We know that many of these violent crimes go under-reported and unreported,” OutFront’s statement said.
According to the Human Rights Commission, at least 26 trans and enby people were killed last year. The majority were black trans women.
In the end, the motion prevailed on a vote of 11 ayes and six nays—Lucero, of course, among the latter—and is headed to the House Ways and Means Committee next.