Minnesota legislators consider constitutional amendment to protect abortion and LGBTQ rights

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Democrats have introduced far-reaching legislation to add abortion and LGBTQ rights to the state’s constitution in hopes of making it much harder for future lawmakers to repeal these and other rights in the future.

The Minnesota Equal Rights Amendment was introduced last week and has its first legislative hearing Monday. It would be among the most expansive protections of abortion and LGBTQ rights in the nation if it is approved by lawmakers this session and then by voters on the 2026 ballot.

“This isn’t just about reproductive justice,” said Betty Folliard, whose group ERA Minnesota has been pushing for such a measure since 2014. “It’s also about pay inequity, historic stereotypes and discrimination that keep on being overlooked, generation to generation to generation.”

Minnesota already has a non-discrimination law, the Human Rights Act, that applies to individuals, businesses, schools and other institutions. The constitutional amendment would apply to state government, and would protect certain laws — including recent ones that have made Minnesota a refuge for out-of-state people seeking an abortion and gender-affirming care — from being repealed by future lawmakers and administrations.

House Majority Leader Jamie Long, a Democrat of Minneapolis, said in a statement that he strongly supports the ERA proposal, saying it would “uphold our key values of equity, non-discrimination, and reproductive freedom.”

Republican leaders have not said whether they will support or oppose the proposal.

Opponents — including anti-abortion groups, religious organizations and conservative lawmakers — say it is overreaching and divisive.

The amendment’s wording would prohibit the state from discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability or sex — including gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation. The state also couldn’t discriminate over a person “making and effectuating decisions about all matters relating to one’s own pregnancy or decision whether to become or remain pregnant.”

If approved by the Legislature, voters in 2026 would be asked: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to say that all persons shall be guaranteed equal rights under the laws of this state, and shall not be discriminated against on account of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, or sex, including pregnancy, gender, and sexual orientation?”

If approved, the amendment would take effect on Jan. 1, 2027.

Groups opposing the proposal include Minnesota Family Council, a Christian advocacy group; Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an anti-abortion group; and Minnesota Catholic Conference, a policy organization for the Catholic Church.

Moses Bratrud, a spokesman for Minnesota Family Council, said in an earlier statement, “The new ERA is about abortion and gender ideology, not protecting the rights of Minnesotans. And while previous versions of the ERA included protections based on ‘creed,’ the new version removes any religious freedom protections. This is troubling to Minnesotans from all religious backgrounds.”

Last year, a different Minnesota ERA proposal passed in the Senate but did not get a final vote in the House.

Democratic Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, a chief author of the proposals last year and this year, said several Democrats had previously raised concerns that the ERA proposal needed to do more to protect the transgender community and reproductive rights.

Her, of St. Paul, said increasing attacks on transgender people in recent years and the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court have been top of mind for many Democrats.

Democrats have only narrow majorities in each chamber — their margin is just one vote in the Senate — so they need the support of most in their party if Republicans oppose the legislation. If placed on the ballot, the constitutional amendment would need to be approved by a majority of all voters casting ballots, not just a majority of those voting on the question.

The proposed amendment would be different from the state’s Human Rights Act, said Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, an advocacy organization for gender equity that has been involved in crafting the ERA proposal.

The Minnesota ERA would amend the state’s constitution, which determines what kinds of laws are acceptable for state lawmakers to pass or enforce. Peterson said the language on abortion and gender expression is meant to prevent the state from banning abortion or gender-affirming care.

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Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15

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