Minnesota House passes bill to protect gender-affirming treatments for minors
The move comes as many states across the U.S., including Minnesota’s neighbors, consider or enact legislation restricting puberty-blocking hormones and other treatments for transgender youth.
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota House voted Friday morning, March 24, to approve a bill blocking other states from interfering with hormone replacement therapy and other treatments for transgender children.
The move comes as many states across the U.S., including Minnesota’s neighbors, consider or enact legislation restricting gender-affirming treatments for minors. Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, the state’s first openly transgender woman lawmaker, said the protections are needed amid the national push to restrict treatments for children.
“We have a responsibility to create more space for our communities to live their fullest authentic lives without fear of violence, rejection, abuse or political attack,” said Finke, the bill’s main sponsor in the House.
After hours of debate early Friday morning, the House approved the bill 68-62. It will need a vote in the Senate before it can head to the governor's desk. Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order supporting the same policy earlier this month.
What backers call the "trans refuge" bill would prevent other states from taking child protection action against parents of children in Minnesota who help their children use treatments like puberty-blocking hormones. A parent in another state would not be able to take custody action against a parent in Minnesota who is facilitating treatment for a child. Minnesota would not honor extraditions, arrest warrants or subpoenas from states that ban the treatments. The bill would also protect medical providers from legal action.
Minnesota courts could also obtain temporary emergency jurisdiction if a child is in the state and can't obtain gender-affirming treatments. Under current law, courts can get the same emergency power if children have been abandoned or are threatened by abuse or mistreatment.
There has been a flurry of legislation across the U.S. this year aimed at blocking minors from accessing hormone replacement and other treatments aimed at addressing gender dysphoria — where a person’s body’s sex characteristics do not match their gender identity. Utah and Florida enacted laws earlier this year, and Georgia did so Thursday. Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee also have bans. Some have been challenged by lawsuits.
Minnesota's neighbors have also moved on bans. Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday signed into law a bill restricting children from accessing gender-affirming treatments. And in February, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, also a Republican, signed a bill banning gender-affirming medications and procedures for minors . The North Dakota Legislature is also considering a bill to restrict treatments.
Supporters of the Minnesota refuge bill say medication and surgical procedures can save lives by allowing people suffering from gender dysphoria to change their bodies in ways that align with their gender identity. Groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association oppose state interference with treatments.
“It is lifesaving, specialized, evidence-based health care that has been proven several times over to improve outcomes for youth who can access it,” said Dr. Angela Goepferd, medical director of gender health at Children's Minnesota.
Republicans, some religious groups and other critics say children are too young to make fully informed choices about medical treatments that could have irreversible lifelong consequences. There are also concerns that the refuge bill could undermine parental rights.
“The bill makes Minnesota a sanctuary state for so-called gender-affirming care, while simultaneously infringing on the fundamental rights of parenting,” said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover. “These treatments can be dangerous and permanent.”
Further, Republicans argued the bill could potentially interfere with the uniform child custody law, a state compact designed to ensure states honor one another’s child custody rules. Rep. Harry Niska, a Republican from Ramsey and an attorney, also argued the potential law could potentially face constitutional challenges for interfering with the “full faith and credit” clause requiring states to honor judgments from one another’s courts.
Ahead of the vote, hundreds of activists from both sides of the debate gathered outside the House chamber at the Minnesota Capitol. Amid the rallies, individuals from either side could be seen engaging in heated debates about the issue. The roar of the crowds could be heard echoing throughout the Capitol.
Supporters and opponents of a bill to make MN a “trans refuge” by protecting gender affirming treatments from interference from other states gather outside the House chamber ahead of a vote. People are fired up. pic.twitter.com/dcaQBiH5Bd— Alex Derosier (@xanderosier) March 23, 2023
House action on the bill comes just weeks after Minnesota's governor signed an executive order protecting access to gender-affirming medication and procedures in Minnesota. Walz at the time said while the Legislature was working to advance bills to do the same thing, it was urgent for his administration to act because of bans in other states.
Earlier this week, House Democrats passed a similar bill protecting people seeking and providing abortions in Minnesota from action by other states.
Follow Alex Derosier on Twitter @xanderosier or email firstname.lastname@example.org .