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Minnesota House set to debate and pass "trans refuge" legislation

Bill at state capitol aims to protect health care for trans Minnesotans
Bill at state capitol aims to protect health care for trans Minnesotans 01:55

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Supporters of a bill up for debate Thursday night say it will make Minnesota a "refuge" for transgender people.

Democrats pushing the legislation forward say it will protect trans patients and providers of gender-affirming care from legal action in other states where such care is banned or restricted. It's structured similarly to a proposal that passed the House earlier this week that's works as a "shield law" for people seeking and providing abortions at a time when laws vary after the fall of Roe v. Wade.

"We have a responsibility to create more space for our community to live their fullest, authentic lives without fear of violence, rejection, abuse or political attack," said Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, the first openly transgender person elected to the Minnesota Legislature.

The legislation prohibits enforcing out-of-state subpoenas, arrest warrants and extradition requests for people from other states who sought treatment that is legal in Minnesota. It also bars enforcement of court orders elsewhere to remove children from their parents' custody for getting gender-affirming care.

The effort comes as 10 states now prohibit gender-affirming care for minors, including Iowa and South Dakota, according to an analysis by the Human Rights Campaign. Some policies are blocked in court.

DFL lawmakers say the bill ensures transgender children and adults have a safe haven in Minnesota when other states are hostile to them. Republicans ahead of the floor debate held a news conference condemning the effort as the Democrats' "transgender health care sanctuary state" bill that runs afoul of the constitution and puts children at risk.  

Rep. Leigh Finke CBS

They've raised questions and concern about the long-term impact of certain treatments.

"House File 146 undermines parental rights and most concerningly has zero guardrails to protect our kids," said Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover.

Many medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support youth access to care, which doctors say means something different to each patient and family.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd with Children's Minnesota said that gender-affirming care that involves surgical procedures is "incredibly rare" for minors under 18 and physicians at Children's Minnesota do not perform such surgeries

"The vast majority of gender-affirming care is medication based or supportive services for families," she said.  

Gov. Tim Walz recently signed an executive order designed to protect gender-affirming care.

Finke said that action recognizes the "urgency" around threats to trans people, but the making it law makes protections stronger.

"It's just absolutely crucial that we keep doing this work to build these protections and not worry about what could happen in the future. We need a law behind it," she said. 

The story is developing and will be updated.

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