The Minnesota legislature on Friday passed a set of bills to bolster protections for gender-affirming health care and abortion and make conversion therapy practices for LGBTQ minors and vulnerable adults illegal.
The measures now head to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who is expected to sign them into law.
Minnesota Democrats have pushed an ambitious slate of progressive legislation this year, taking advantage of their new majority in the legislature after a string of Republican losses in last November’s midterm elections. It’s the first time Democrats have controlled both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, in close to a decade.
The state Senate on Friday gave final approval to bills to make Minnesota a safe haven for transgender minors wishing to obtain gender-affirming health care and a refuge for individuals seeking an abortion, as well as their doctors and their families. Minnesota senators on Friday also sent legislation outlawing conversion therapy, the discredited practice that claims to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, to the governor’s desk.
Minnesota House File 146, introduced in January by Democratic Rep. Leigh Finke — the first openly transgender person elected to the state legislature — would prevent laws passed in other states that ban or restrict gender-affirming health care from interfering with treatment offered in Minnesota. The bill was passed on Friday in a 34-30 vote.
The measure, if signed into law, would considerably alter the health care landscape of the Midwest, where state legislators this year have introduced more than two dozen bills to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender young people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
In neighboring North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, transgender youths younger than 18 are barred from accessing gender-affirming health care, which is considered medically necessary by most major medical organizations. North Dakota this week became the third state to pass a law that makes it a felony crime to administer gender-affirming medical care to a minor, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Walz is widely expected to sign the bill, often referred to as Minnesota’s “trans refuge” bill.
In March, the governor signed an executive order allowing state agencies to refuse to comply with another state’s investigations or orders to extradite individuals “accused of committing acts related to, securing of, or receipt of gender-affirming health care services.”
“Protecting and supporting access to gender-affirming health care is essential to being a welcoming and supportive state,” Walz said during a signing ceremony last month.
House File 366, the abortion bill approved Friday by the Senate, would similarly protect access to reproductive health care by making patient data on abortions private and restricting subpoenas and extradition requests from states that have outlawed the procedure.
An executive order signed by Walz in June — following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal abortion protections — similarly shields abortion seekers and providers from penalties in another state’s laws.
During his State of the State address this week, Walz said Minnesota plans to welcome people from across the country seeking care that has been banned or heavily restricted in GOP-led states.
“They want to put bullies in charge of your health care. We want to put you in charge of your health care, and put bullies in their place,” he said. “And that’s why we protected access to gender-affirming health care and established an ironclad right to reproductive freedom.”
Thirteen states — including South Dakota and Wisconsin, which border Minnesota — have enacted laws or policies that ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health and rights organization.
The Minnesota Senate on Friday also voted 36-27 to pass a bill banning conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable adults, becoming the 21st state, along with Washington, D.C., to do so, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Two Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the ban.
“Conversion therapy is heinous and barbaric,” state Sen. Scott Dibble, a Democrat and one of 13 openly LGBTQ members of the Minnesota Legislature, told reporters at a press conference Friday morning. “It destroys lives. It divides families. It isolates people from community and from faith. It alienates them from themselves.”
“Today, we say enough,” said Dibble, the bill’s primary sponsor, Friday. “It stops here, in Minnesota. In this state, we love our children.”
Walz partially banned conversion therapy practices in a 2021 executive order. In a signing statement at the time, Walz said Minnesota’s LGBTQ children “deserve to grow up in a state that values them for who they are — not one that tries to change them.”