LGBTQ+ Policy in the Time of COVID-19

On May 17, OutFront Minnesota hosted its fourth virtual town hall to educate and call to action members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies on pro-equity legislation. The panel included Track Trachtenberg (they/them), trans equity project coordinator in the Division of Race and Equity at the City of Minneapolis; Jesus Lucero (they/them, he/him), public policy coordinator for faith communities at OutFront Minnesota; and Cat Salonek (she/her), policy and organizing director of OutFront Minnesota. It began with a discussion about the conversion therapy bans passed in Minneapolis and Duluth.

The work that led to Duluth’s ban, Lucero said, was eye opening. “At Duluth/Superior Pride we collected signatures to show support for a conversion therapy ban, and what we found was that Duluth has the highest concentration of conversion therapy survivors of any Prides around Minnesota,” Lucero says. “There is a lot [of conversion therapy] up north, especially in the Iron Range region.”

The Impact of Collective Voice and Vote

OutFront Minnesota and its partnering organizations are working to bring people from rural areas to the forefront of the discussion. Minneapolis, for one, tends to have a more inclusive community, with voters that city elected two black, queer, trans people to its city Council.

“There are a lot of folx who are experiencing apathy, feeling like their voices do not matter,” says Lucero. “I have POC friends asking ‘why does my vote even matter? It isn’t going to change anything,’ and that’s the notion we need to dispel right away,” they said. “Get your friends radicalized and angry. Get them involved.”

“Please fill out your census,” Trachtenberg adds. “We know that queer and trans folx are historically undercounted, so it is very important that we fill out our census and help folx in our lives, who are bouncing between housing situations, complete their census, too.”

Other pro-equity legislation in the works include a rent/mortgage payment cancellation during the pandemic, laws against hate crimes, and comprehensive consent-based sex education.

Much pro-LGBTQ+ legislation has been pushed to the next legislative session, due to the coronavirus, but the panel noted that much of the COVID-19 response legislation in this session (which ended May 18), also heavily impacts the LGBTQ+ community.

Senator Scott Dibble, who is the only openly gay Minnesota state senator, provided an analysis of work on the (virtual) senate floor right now. “A barrier we face is a lack of sensitivity to the struggles and suffering of LGBTQ+ folx,” Dibble said. “We need people to confront these lawmakers, share their stories, and hold them accountable.”

Dibble encouraged Minnesotans to stay involved in the electoral process and to show up — or, in the times of COVID-19, mail in — to elections. “We need to overcome the far-right controlling the country through our elections,” he said. “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Our movement has been marked by a few steps forward, one step back, sometimes three steps back.”

Dibble left the town hall with a message of hope for everyone in the fight for LGBTQ+ equity: “We are strong, we are fabulous, and we have so much to contribute to this world.”

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To vote early by mail in the state of Minnesota, visit the Secretary of State website.