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Minnesota Senate passes bills for reproductive freedom and trans refuge, and ban on conversion therapy

MN Senate passes 3 bills for trans and reproductive health, and conversion therapy ban
MN Senate passes 3 bills for trans and reproductive health, and conversion therapy ban 00:53

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Senate on Friday took up three bills DFL leaders say are designed to protect Minnesotans and people who visit the state seeking medical help, and ultimately passed all three.

As of 1 p.m., Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said that a bill banning conversion therapy had passed in the Senate. The bill bans the practice of giving therapy aimed at converting members of the LGBTQ+ community to a heterosexual lifestyle, for anyone under 18 years of age.

"Today is a historic day in Minnesota. We are affirming that being LGBTQ+ is normal, healthy, and natural. After years of carrying this bill, the Minnesota Senate passed this long overdue legislation to ban the dangerous and discredited practice," Dibble said. "The medical and scientific community has been clear that individuals deserve to be supported for who they are, and by passing this bill, we show our LGBTQ+ Minnesotans that we will do that."

Shortly thereafter, the senate passed the Reproductive Freedom Defense Act, by a vote of 34 to 29. Supporters of abortion rights championed the passage.

"The champions of reproductive freedom in our legislature have made it clear that Minnesotans will not stand for the attacks on abortion rights and access that have spiraled out of control across the nation," Megan Peterson, executive director of Gender Justice, said. "Now we must strengthen these protections still further by removing from Minnesota law the anti-abortion restrictions that will remain a threat to reproductive freedom as long as they remain on the books."

Supporters say the laws are needed at a time when others states are seeing to ban abortion procedures as well as gender-affirming care for minors.

"This legislation simply keeps patients and providers safe when they receive or provide reproductive health care that is legal in Minnesota. What people need right now is care, support and assurances that they are safe," said Sen. Kelly Morrison, who authored the bill. "I'm proud to pass this legislation and keep Minnesota a welcoming and supportive state."

Finally, after 4 p.m., the Senate passed a bill that would make Minnesota a "refuge" state for transgender people. All 34 Democrats voted in approval, while 30 Republicans voted against it. Three Republicans did not vote, according to the chamber roll.

The consideration of transgender refuge comes as part of a string of moves that have served to bolster transgender rights in the state. Minnesota lawmakers recently passed legislation that aimed to make Minnesota a "refuge" for transgender people. Those pushing the legislation forward said it would protect trans patients and providers of gender-affirming care from legal action in other states where such care is banned or restricted, creating a safe haven in Minnesota.

Walz had earlier signed an executive order designed to protect gender-affirming care.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson said he agrees on protecting children and families, but "that doesn't mean we must allow non-guardians to direct and manage life-altering care for children. That doesn't mean we should be picking fights with others states who have made different legislative decisions. That doesn't mean we should sever the rights of parents who are just trying to raise and care for their kids in an increasingly challenging world."

Meanwhile, neighboring states have moved in the opposite direction. Earlier this week, North Dakota's Republican Gov. Doug Burgum on Tuesday evening signed two transgender athlete bans into law, effectively prohibiting transgender girls and women from joining female sports teams in K-12 and college.

"While rights are being stripped away by the courts and by lawmakers in states across the country, Minnesotans have told us time and again that they want us to expand rights, not take them away, and that they don't want us to criminalize their health care," Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "Today, the Senate DFL majority is leading and acting to ensure the right to reproductive health care.  We are also taking steps to protect those seeking gender-affirming health care within our borders.  And we have banned the cruel practice of conversion therapy.  Today, we are protecting rights and expanding rights for Minnesotans and those seeking care in our state."

All three bills are expected to move on to be signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz, as early as next week.

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