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"It's a good day for freedoms": Walz signs bills on reproductive freedom and trans refuge, ban on conversion therapy

Gov. Walz signs 3 health protection bills into law
Gov. Walz signs 3 health protection bills into law 01:55

ST. PAUL, Minn. DFL Gov. Tim Walz signed three progressive bills into law on Thursday designed to make Minnesota a safe haven for LGBTQ people and people seeking abortions. 

"Freedom is on the march in Minnesota. Decency is on the march on in Minnesota. Compassion is on the march in Minnesota," Walz said during a signing ceremony surrounded by supporters. "Hate and bigotry too are on the march. But we make very clear that march of bigotry and hate stops at Minnesota's borders."

Two of the proposals are "shield" laws designed to protect patients and providers from legal actions in other states where abortion and gender-affirming care are banned or restricted. 

Both bills—the "Trans Refuge" and "Reproductive Freedom Defense Act"—prohibit enforcing out-of-state subpoenas, arrest warrants and extradition requests for people from other states came to Minnesota for care that is legal in Minnesota.

After the fall of Roe v. Wade, 14 states ban most abortions in their states, including Minnesota's neighbors. Democrats and supporters say Minnesota is now a place people can count on for access.

"When someone else is given basic rights, others don't lose theirs," Walz said. "We aren't cutting a pie here. We're giving basic rights to every single Minnesotan."

A growing number of states prohibit gender-affirming care for minors, including Iowa and South Dakota, according to an analysis by the Human Rights Campaign.

"Gender-affirming care makes us who we are. It helps us be our fullest selves," said Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul. "We are thinking about fellow trans folks in legislatures who are being silenced. We will not be silenced. Our community can never be silenced."

U.S. medical groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics and others support youth access to gender-affirming care. But Republicans during debates on the legislation raised concern about some treatments.

"House File 146 undermines parental rights and most concerningly has zero guardrails to protect our kids," said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, said last month. "It allows children, regardless of age, to receive radical medical treatments."

They sharply criticized the legislation and characterized that bill and the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act as "extreme" measures that are legislative overreaches at odds with provisions in the U.S. Constitution.

But while those two bills passed on party-line votes, more than a dozen Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a ban on the discredited practice conversion therapy for LGBTQ people, which seeks to change their sexual orientation.

Minnesota now joins 21 other states with similar laws.

"We do this for those who follow us," said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who authored that ban. "They will always get to live in a world where it just makes sense that when two people fall in love and want to build a life together to get married

Walz had previously signed executive orders conversion therapy and gender-affirming care.

Abortion access is protected by a 1995 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, but earlier this year, Walz signed the PRO Act, which codifies a "fundamental right" to an abortion in law.

Walz told reporters Thursday he hadn't received any extradition requests or other orders from other states because people traveled here for access to abortion or gender-affirming care. 

"I think the expectation is the way some of these things are going, that's the next step that they will take," Walz said of leaders in other states. "And I think this is a smart, proactive measure to make that firewall."

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