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Minnesota lawmakers OK transition therapy ban, gender-affirming care protections

MN Senate passes 3 bills to ban trans and reproductive health, and conversion therapy

MN Senate passes 3 bills to ban trans and reproductive health, and conversion therapy


The Minnesota Senate jumped into the culture wars Friday by passing bills to make the state a haven for youth seeking gender-affirming care, out-of-state abortion patients and protections, and to ban so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth.

All three bills passed the Democratic-controlled House earlier this session. With Democrats holding only a one-seat majority in the Senate, bill sponsors were confident of a spirited debate. First was the conversion therapy ban, which passed 36-27 with two Republicans voting “yes.” The abortion asylum bill passed on a party-line vote 34-29, and the trans refuge bill received similar approval on a 34-30 vote.

The conversion therapy ban and trans refuse bill now go directly to Democratic Gov. Tim Walz for his signature. Meanwhile, the bill expanding abortion rights was sent back to the House for agreement adding pharmacists to the list of shielded medical providers.

Minnesota Senate-Culture War

Opponents and supporters gather at the Minnesota State Capitol on April 21, 2023 in St. Paul, Minnesota, ahead of a vote on a bill to protect Minnesota abortion patients from others, for youth seeking sex-affirming care. States, and to ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ youth.

Steve Karnowski/AP

“The thread through all of this, of course, is that people should be free,” Democratic Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, author of the conversion therapy ban, said at a news conference before the debate.

“People should have the freedoms that are guaranteed in our constitution,” Diwal said. “People should have the right to self-determination, and in Minnesota, people should be free from the laws of other states that would affect and negatively affect those fundamental American rights and liberties.”

Democratic Sen. Kelly Morrison, the author of the anti-abortion bill, said the three pieces of legislation combined “tell Minnesotans that you are safe here in Minnesota, and those who are forced to flee their home state because they are not safe. Safe there, we say, ‘Welcome and You’re safe here in Minnesota.’

Walz has already signed an executive order to protect young people and their families who come to Minnesota for health care from states where it is illegal to receive gender-affirming care. But the bill would enshrine those protections into law. Similarly, another Walz executive order created a conversion therapy ban.

The abortion bill is designed to protect people who come to Minnesota for an abortion from legal repercussions in states where abortion is prohibited or severely restricted, such as lawsuits, subpoenas and extradition. Minnesota courts would be prohibited from enforcing out-of-state subpoenas for medical records or subpoenas against patients or providers.

Opponents of the ban on conversion therapy argue that it would affect religious freedom and the ability of families to seek counseling for children who they say need help choosing their gender identity.

GOP Sen. Paul Utke of Park Rapids, arguing against the abortion bill, said Minnesota would not protect doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who knowingly violated other states’ abortion laws.

“We have to uphold the rules and laws of our neighboring states and respect states across the country,” Utke said during the debate.

The author of the trans refugee bill, Democratic Sen. Erin Mae Quade of Apple Valley, filed an ethics complaint this week against Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, Republican of Glencore, over a link to a video she emailed to Democratic senators, notes saying it documented “transgender surgery on minor children.” . Extremely graphic and disturbing.”

May Quaid said at the news conference that it would be “genetically inappropriate” for senators to send genitalia videos to their colleagues. He said he wanted to “draw a very bright line in the sand of proper conduct and behavior … it crossed the line.”

Experts testified as the bill moved through committee hearings that sex-affirmation surgery is rare for minors, and that gender-affirmation care for them typically ranges from clothing and hairstyle changes to counseling and hormone therapy.

Gruenhagen clarified that what he shared was actually a video created by doctors at the University of Louisville Medical School as a tutorial to familiarize gynecologists with gender reassignment surgery. The introduction to the video does not reveal the patient’s age.

“I am disappointed that Sen. Mae Quaid chose to approach me with her concerns before … taking this matter public,” Gruenhagen said in a statement, in which he claimed the allegation was without merit. “I’m sure we can find some solutions as colleagues.”

May Quaid told reporters that senators could hold strong opinions without sharing such images. He was endorsed by Democratic Rep. Leigh Finn of St. Paul, the first trans person elected to the Minnesota Legislature.

“Trans people are not deformed. Trans people are whole,” Finke said. “We are completely ourselves. … They are obsessed with our bodies and genitalia in a way that is absolutely terrifying.”

The fight over abortion

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