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Minnesota will soon become “sanctuary state” for people fleeing trans healthcare bans

Walkers at the 2019 Twin Cities Pride Celebration in Minneapolis, Minnesota Photo: Shutterstock

Minnesota seems likely to pass a bill that would make the state one of two U.S. “sanctuary states” where families can safely access gender-affirming care for transgender youth even if their home states ban and prosecute such care as “child abuse” — the other sanctuary state is California. Minnesota’s bill is especially important since several neighboring midwestern states have recently passed gender-affirming healthcare bans.

Last Friday – the Transgender Day of Visibility – the Minnesota House passed H.F. 146, a bill introduced by state Rep. Leigh Finke (D) the state’s first out trans representative. The bill forbids state legal authorities from removing a child from a parent or guardian in response to another state’s laws against gender-affirming care for youth. The bill also says that the Minnesota government won’t honor any out-of-state subpoenas or arrest warrants seeking to bring civil or criminal actions against anyone who helps provide gender-affirming care.

The bill now heads to the Democrat-controlled state senate where it’s expected to pass with a simple majority vote. Gov. Tim Walz (D) has also signaled his willingness to sign the bill into law.

The bill will help protect families fleeing other nearby midwestern states that have banned or criminalized gender-affirming care. South Dakota passed such a ban in February, Iowa passed one in March, and Indiana passed one in April.

“Families who have fled are already here, and many more are planning to come,” Finke told the Minnesota Reformer. “We’re going to be ready to take care of them, and to provide them with the health care they need.”

Walz signaled his willingness to sign H.F. 146 into law by signing an executive order on March 9 that directed state agencies not to comply with any out-of-state efforts to investigate or prosecute anyone seeking or providing gender-affirming care. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) recently signed a similar order.

Walz’s order also directed the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to compile and present a summary of pre-existing scientific literature affirming the safety and effectiveness of gender-affirming care. Additionally, the order informed all healthcare providers within the state that they could bill health insurance companies for gender-affirming care.

After Gov. Walz issued his order, the state’s lead LGBTQ+ organization OutFront Minnesota wrote in a tweet, “With the rights of our neighbors under threat, this order sends a strong message to trans people, supportive families, and care providers — you are welcome here.”

So far, 13 states have banned gender-affirming care for trans youth, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Two of those, Alabama and Idaho, have passed legislation making the provision of such care a felony, though a court has blocked Alabama’s legislation from going into effect. Additionally, three other states have taken non-legislative steps to block gender-affirming care for trans youth.

In May 2022, the LGBTQ Victory Institute announced a plan for 19 states to establish themselves as safe harbors for families fleeing trans healthcare bans.

While California has already passed legislation towards this aim, similar legislation will be introduced by LGBTQ lawmakers in Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia, the Victory Institute said.

“We’re sick of just playing defense against what these red states are doing,” gay California state Assemblymember Anthony Wiener (D) said about the plan. “We’re going on offense, we’re going to protect LGBTQ kids and their families, and we’re going to build a rainbow wall to protect our community.”

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