The Potluck

House passes bill making Minnesota a refuge state for transgender people

By: - March 24, 2023 8:22 am

Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, DFL lawmakers and trans activists at a press conference before the House vote on Thursday, March 24. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

The House on Friday morning passed a bill deeming Minnesota a refuge state for transgender people, protecting them from legal repercussions for traveling to Minnesota for gender-affirming health care. The bill still needs Senate passage and the signature of Gov. Tim Walz to become law.

The legislation, which passed the House by a 68-62 vote, would block other states’ laws that are meant to ban or reduce access to gender-affirming care, with a particular focus on protecting a child’s right to the health care, said Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul.

“To all those families across the United States that are afraid and wondering where they can go for help — Minnesota is saying we see you, we love you and you belong here,” Finke said.

The bill prohibits people from other states from being arrested for giving or receiving gender-affirming care, even if a state has made the care illegal. The legislation also changes state custody statutes to include access to gender-affirming care as a consideration for custody disputes and gives Minnesota courts jurisdiction over some cases.

Gender-affirming care varies widely for each individual person and can include mental health care or hormone therapy.

In recent years, Republican lawmakers and right-wing activists have engaged in a campaign to reduce transgender health care.

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, Michael Knowles, a commentator for the right-wing Daily Wire, said, “for the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 150 bills have been proposed so far this year in state legislatures that restrict the rights of transgender people.

Finke, Minnesota’s first out transgender legislator, said misinformation has been swirling around what the legislation does, with Republicans falsely claiming kids from other states could be kidnapped and brought to Minnesota to receive gender-affirming care.

Finke said access to care is extremely difficult, so a child wouldn’t be able to receive care without going through many hurdles.

“We are interacting with the system that exists in a way that says gender-affirming care should be considered one option in a child’s well-being,” Finke said at a committee hearing for the bill last month. “The idea that we want to bring kidnapped children to Minnesota to receive gender-affirming care — this law doesn’t do that and we don’t want to do that. Nobody wants to do that.”

Before the House floor session began on Thursday, anti-trans demonstrators shouted at trans-rights activists, calling them groomers and pedophiles. The majority of attendees were protesting the trans refuge bill. 

“Hey hey! Ho ho! Transgenders have got to go,” they chanted outside the House chambers.

Earlier this month, Walz signed a mostly symbolic executive order reaffirming the right to access gender-affirming care in Minnesota.

House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, became emotional at a press conference before the House floor session, saying he was thankful for the legislation.

“We are going to say ‘You are welcome here’ today. This is a good day,” Long said.

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues.