Minnesota Hopes to Become Refuge for Trans Minors Seeking Health Care

Minnesota Rep. Leigh Finke
Minnesota Rep. Leigh Finke
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Minnesota is advancing a bill to make the state a refuge for transgender youth seeking gender-affirming care and for their supportive parents.

The state’s House of Representatives Friday approved House File 146, which “would prevent state courts or officials from complying with child removal requests, extraditions, arrests or subpoenas related to gender-affirming health care that a person receives in Minnesota,” as explained by Minnesota Public Radio.

The bill passed by a vote of 68-62 after debate that stretched from Thursday night to early Friday morning. It now goes to the Senate. Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, has promised to sign it if it reaches his desk.

Walz recently issued an executive order protecting gender-affirming care in Minnesota and barring state agencies from cooperating with out-of-state officials seeking to prevent or penalize such care. But it’s important to also write that into law, said its sponsor, Rep. Leigh Finke, Minnesota’s first out transgender state legislator.

“It’s just absolutely crucial that we keep doing this work to build these protections and not worry about what could happen in the future. We need a law behind it,” she told reporters Thursday, according to TV station WCCO.

“In the staggering rise of anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQIA2S+ legislation by extremist Republicans, Minnesota is a beacon of hope for trans and gender-expansive children and their families,” she noted. “The passing of the trans refuge bill will send a strong message to the trans community that they are loved, supported, and protected here in our state.”

California has passed similar “refuge” legislation, while some other states have outlawed most or all gender-affirming care for trans minors, including South Dakota and Iowa, both of which border Minnesota. Others that have banned or restricted it through legislation are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Utah. Florida has put a ban in place through its medical boards and is considering a bill for an even stricter measure. The Alabama and Arkansas bans are temporarily blocked by court action. Bans are pending in several other states.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has vetoed a bill that would ban gender-affirming health care for transgender minors, limit school instruction on LGBTQ+ issues, and allow outing of LGBTQ+ students, but the Republican-controlled legislature could override his veto.

Minnesota is advancing several other measures to protect trans people, WCCO reports. A House committee has OK’d a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate-crimes law. Another bill pending in the legislature would amend Minnesota’s constitution to guarantee equality under the law regardless of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, disability, ancestry, or national origin. If legislators pass it, it would go to voters for final approval.