House passes bill that makes Minnesota a ‘transgender refuge state’

(ABC 6 News) – Early Friday morning, lawmakers passed a bill at the State Capitol that makes Minnesota a transgender refuge state.

Debate on the measure took hours, with voting happening shortly before 5:30 a.m., more than five hours after it was introduced.

RELATED: Minnesota moves to strengthen status as ‘trans refuge state’

The bill, HF 146, whose chief author is DFL Rep. Leigh Finke, the state’s first openly transgender legislator, passed by a 68-62 vote, along party lines.

Finke says the measure is meant to protect transgender people, their families and healthcare providers from legal repercussions if they travel to Minnesota to get gender affirming care.

“Gender-affirming care is lifesaving health care,” Finke said at a news conference before the debate. “Withholding or delaying gender-affirming care can have a dramatic impact on the mental health of any individual who needs it. Rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse are dramatically higher in transgender and gender-expansive individuals who lack access to care.”

“To all those families across the United States that are afraid and wondering where they can go for help, Minnesota is saying, ‘We see you, we love you and you belong here,’” Finke said.

Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order two weeks ago to protect the rights of people from Minnesota and other states to receive gender-affirming health care in the state.

RELATED: Governor Walz signs executive order seeking to protect LGBTQ+ rights

The bill comes as governors in other states in the region have signed gender-affirming care bans into law. On Thursday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a pair of laws restricting the bathrooms transgender students can use and banning gender-affirming medical care.

RELATED: Iowa governor signs gender-affirming care ban, bathroom law

South Dakota has also banned gender-affirming care for youth, while North Dakota and Nebraska legislatures are considering similar legislation.

Supporters say this bill would write even stronger protections into state law. Meanwhile, House Republicans say the bill is misguided, and would put children at risk.

A similar bill is awaiting further action in the Minnesota Senate after getting a hearing last month. The chief Senate author, Sen. Erin Maye Quade, of Apple Valley, said in an interview Wednesday that she expects a floor vote there soon. But she said she’s still working to make sure it has the necessary support in the Senate, where Democrats hold just a one-seat majority.