Minnesota Senate OKs protections for transgender treatments, 'conversion therapy' ban
Senators also passed an abortion rights bill. The two LGBT measures are headed to the governor's desk to be signed into law.
ST. PAUL — A ban on so-called conversion therapy for LGBT minors and protections for hormone replacement therapy and other treatments for transgender children are set to become Minnesota law.
The Minnesota Senate on Friday, April 21, approved those measures as well as a bill protecting people who get abortions in Minnesota from legal action by other states where the procedure is illegal.
While the abortion bill was amended in the Senate and requires another vote in the House, the LGBT bills are headed to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz, who said he supports all the measures and will sign them into law.
‘Trans refuge’ bill
On a 34-30 party-line vote, the Senate passed a bill blocking other states from interfering with gender-affirming treatments such as puberty-blocking hormones for transgender children in Minnesota.
The move comes as many states across the U.S., including Minnesota’s neighbors, consider or enact legislation restricting gender-affirming treatments for minors. On Thursday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law a ban in that state.
“In Minnesota, if you’re transgender or gender expansive you are beloved, you are cherished, we are glad you are here,” said Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate. “If you are from a state that is banning your health care, you are welcome here.”
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.
Walz signed an executive order supporting the same policy last month.
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. Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds in March 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.
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.
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.
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.
Senate Republicans tried to introduce multiple amendments to the bill, including one to exclude gender-affirming treatments for minors that result in loss of sexual function or permanent sterilization.
In a statement on the “trans refuge” bill and others, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson said Minnesotans need to know more about what he called “divisive” policies.
“We agree we need to protect children and support families. But that doesn’t mean we must allow non-guardians to direct and manage life-altering care for children,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we should be picking fights with … states who have made different legislative decisions.”
‘Conversion therapy’ ban
Senators on Friday approved a ban on conversion therapy for minors in Minnesota, sending the bill to Walz. The bill would ban conversion therapy for people under 18 and vulnerable adults in Minnesota. The measure passed the Senate 36-27, with two Republicans joining Democrats in favor of the bill.
Specifically, the bill prohibits “offering conversion therapy in a way that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness” or therapy that “guarantees changing sexual orientation or gender identity.” The bill establishes that licensing boards may take action against mental health professionals for doing so.
The American Medical Association has said conversion therapy can result in “significant psychological distress,” depression, anxiety, self-blame, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction.
The AMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics oppose the practice for minors due to its potential for harm. More than 20 states already have restrictions on the practice, and cities including Duluth, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Rochester have bans of their own.
LGBT activist group Born Perfect estimates there are more than 60 therapists in Minnesota currently provide conversion therapy, 40 of whom are licensed.
Walz in July 2021 signed an executive order restricting conversion therapy in Minnesota, calling it a “Byzantine, tortuous practice.” His order restricted state health care programs and insurers from covering conversion therapy, but it was not an outright ban on the practice.
Past efforts to ban the practice failed in a Legislature with control divided between Democrats and Republicans. DFLers now have complete control of state government, and Walz has signaled he will sign legislation banning conversion therapy for minors in Minnesota. THe bill passed the house in February.
The “Reproductive Freedom Defense Act,” would protect those who get abortions in Minnesota from legal action from other states where the procedure is illegal. It passed 34-29 on party lines. Four Republicans didn’t vote.
Following the end of federal abortion protections last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, many Republican-controlled states moved to place new restrictions on abortion. Some states, including Iowa, are considering legislation inspired by the Texas six-week abortion ban that allows private individuals to sue people who seek abortions.
When signed into law, it would prohibit Minnesota courts from enforcing or satisfying a civil judgment from another state against someone who gets an abortion or anyone involved in an abortion. It would also protect against criminal prosecution.
Minnesota has become a virtual island for abortion access in the Upper Midwest. Abortion is now illegal in almost all cases in Wisconsin and South Dakota. North Dakota had a near-total ban “trigger law” tied to the end of Roe, but a judge blocked it and the state’s Supreme Court ruled last month that the ban can not be enforced.
Abortion remains legal in Iowa, though that state’s supreme court nullified a constitutional right to abortion in 2022, clearing the path for Republicans to pursue further restrictions.
The “Reproductive Freedom Defense Act” is yet another DFL bill aimed at bolstering protections for abortion access. DFL lawmakers and Walz vowed to protect access to abortion in Minnesota after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
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This story was edited at 5:45 p.m. to correct the month in which Gov. Walz signed an executive order supporting 'trans refuge' policies. It was originally posted at 5:19 p.m. on April 21. The News Tribune regrets the error.