'Trans refuge' bill, conversion therapy ban, abortion protections become Minnesota law

The new laws come into effect as many other states, including Minnesota’s neighbors, move to restrict abortion and ban treatments like puberty-blocking hormones for transgender children.

Gov. Tim Walz, with Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to the left, shows three new bills signed into Minnesota law Thursday, April 27, 2023. One makes Minnesota a 'trans refuge', a second bans so-called conversion therapy for minors, and the third protects abortion rights from out-of-state challenges.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, April 27, signed into law a ban on so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors and new protections against out-of-state laws restricting gender-affirming treatments and abortion.

The new laws come into effect as many other states, including Minnesota’s neighbors, move to restrict abortion and ban treatments like puberty-blocking hormones for transgender children.

Joined by Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers and advocates at the state Capitol on Thursday, the DFL governor echoed his State of the State address last week, where he railed against GOP-dominated states and what he called the “march of hate and bigotry.”

“We’re giving basic rights to every single Minnesotan, rights to make the decisions about their own body that they feel is best for them,” Walz said ahead of signing the three bills. “These three pieces of legislation today are really some of the most basic things we should ask for.”

What backers call the “trans refuge” bill will prevent other states from taking child protection or custody action against parents of children in Minnesota who help their children use treatments like puberty-blocking hormones. Walz signed an executive order supporting the same policy earlier 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.

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.

Many 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.

Walz on Thursday also signed a bill banning conversion therapy for people under age 18 and vulnerable adults in Minnesota.

The new law 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 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.

A third bill, the “Reproductive Freedom Defense Act,” protects people who get and provide abortions in Minnesota from legal action from other states where the procedure is illegal.


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.

Minnesota law now prohibits state 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 that remains the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.

Follow Alex Derosier on Twitter @xanderosier or email .

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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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