With its author declaring Minnesota “a beacon of care,” a bill passed the state Senate today that protects transgender people and their parents from legal repercussions for traveling to the state to receive gender-affirming care.
The “trans refuge” bill, which passed by a vote of 34-30, now heads to Gov. Tim Walz (DFL). The governor — who signed a similar executive order in March — has pledged to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.
The legislation prevents Minnesota courts from complying with child removal requests, arrests or subpoenas from states that have declared gender-affirming care — such as counseling, puberty blockers and hormone treatment for gender dysphoria — a violation of local laws.
“Minnesota is a sanctuary,” said Sen. Erin Maye Quade (DFL), the chief author of the Senate version of the bill. “We are an island, a beacon of care and compassion and personal freedom, where people get to make their own health care decisions with their doctors.”
Maye Quade called out the names of children who are the motivating force behind the bill: “You make your parents so proud,” she said.
The vote came after more than two hours of debate, with several Republican lawmakers pushing back against the bill, arguing it undermines parental rights and puts children at risk.
Leading up to the floor vote, hundreds of demonstrators rallied in the statehouse rotunda and gathered outside the Senate chambers, chanting, “Trans rights are human rights.” Those opposing the bill also made public displays, carrying signs that read, “Kids deserve a whole body.”
Before passing the trans refuge bill, the Senate voted in favor of other pieces of legislation banning “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ minors, and protecting people who travel to Minnesota for abortion-related health care.
Other parts of the country are going in the opposite direction. A slew of states have enacted anti-trans legislation, including Minnesota’s neighbors: Iowa, South Dakota and most recently, North Dakota.
“This bill protects those parents, it protects those kids and it protects those providers,” Maye Quade said of nearby residents who may seek refuge in Minnesota. “Because the increasing threat for providing medical care that is appropriate and evidence-based, peer-reviewed, studied, is increasingly putting doctors in threat of jail.”
Several other states are considering bills that would deny or further restrict gender-affirming care for trans youth, including criminal penalties against health professionals and parents who enable access to such care. Last year, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents whose children are receiving gender-affirming health care, under threat of a foster care removal.
In the wake of such actions, at a rally last month, trans youth and their advocates urged passage of the Minnesota legislation, and urged trans people to stay strong.
“Trans kids have never been safe,” Jayce Olson, 20, said at the rally. “This isn’t new. This isn’t different. We’ve overcome it. We survived. We’re all still here.”
Currently, roughly 30% of trans youth — almost 88,000 people — live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care, according to the Human Rights Campaign. An additional 20% — more than 63,000 — are living in states that are considering bills and policies that would deny or further restrict gender-affirming for trans youth.
Such care for youth includes an array of health services that can involve counseling and support during a social transition as well as hormones or medications. For adults, it may include surgery.
Major professional health care associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming care and consider it safe and medically necessary. For young people, it has been shown to improve mental health and decrease suicidal ideation.