Governor Walz signs executive order seeking to protect LGBTQ+ rights

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at protecting the rights of Minnesota’s LGBTQ+ community and access to gender-affirming health care.

It comes as a few states around the country consider restricting drag shows. Tennessee’s governor recently banned public drag performances, labeling them as “adult cabaret.” Several other states, including Idaho, North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma, are considering similar bans.

Walz said the order directs state officials to work with health care officials to ensure access to gender-affirming care is available to everyone and also made clear that the state won’t cooperate with any others seeking to restrict the rights of or punish anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.

“In this state, hate has no home. In this state, love and acceptance is what we preach, and we will live by that,” Walz said. “As states across the country move to ban access to gender-affirming care, we want LGBTQ Minnesotans to know they will continue to be safe, protected, and welcome in Minnesota. In Minnesota, you will not be punished for seeking or providing medical care. This Executive Order delivers the urgent action that our LGBTQ Minnesotans deserve.”

Rochester Pride member, Julie Winters, says while surrounding states seem to be going backwards on protecting the LGBTQ+ community, she is thankful that Minnesota is going forward.

“Everyone thought it was the right move for Minnesota. It sends a strong signal that Minnesota is a safe space for trans and LGBTQ+ people and it’s an encouraging first step in some very dark times,” Winters explained.

The Executive Order protects gender affirming health care in Minnesota by directing state agencies to take the following actions:

  • State agencies will coordinate to protect people or entities who are providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining gender affirming health care services.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Commerce (COMM), and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) will investigate and take administrative actions for unfair or deceptive practices related to the denial of gender affirming health care services.
  • MDH will prepare a report summarizing the literature on the scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of gender affirming health care and its public health effects.
  • The state will decline to help other states that try to penalize individuals and entities seeking gender affirming health care services.
  • To the maximum extent possible, the state will refuse requests to extradite individuals accused of committing acts related to, securing of, or receipt of gender affirming health care services.
  • MDH, COMM, MDHR, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services will issue a joint bulletin to health plan companies regarding the availability of health insurance coverage and the provision of health insurance benefits for medically necessary gender affirming health care services. 

“When someone comes to me and says we’re trying to ban gender-affirming care, what they’re saying to a trans person is we prefer it if you weren’t here,” Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL-St. Paul), who is the state’s first out transgender lawmaker, said Wednesday.

Finke added that she’s not trying to change the beliefs of anyone who doesn’t support transgender rights but those beliefs shouldn’t prevent anyone from seeking gender-affirming care.

Meanwhile, in February the Minnesota House passed conversion therapy legislation that had been proposed multiple times in past years and while some individual cities in Minnesota already outlaw the practice, it has yet to be banned statewide. Supporters of a statewide ban say conversion therapy involves many harmful practices that often cause anxiety and depression and can lead to suicide while opponents of a ban dispute those points.

In 2021, Gov. Walz signed an executive order restricting conversion therapy for minors in Minnesota.