‘Trans Refuge’ bill closer to becoming law despite concerns of lacking protection safeguards
ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Lawmakers in Minnesota are working to ensure transgender youth have a safe space when seeking gender-affirming healthcare, moving a new "Trans Refuge" bill closer to law after passing the House of Representatives early Friday on a vote of 68-62.
Known as the "Trans Refuge" bill, H.F. 146, would prohibit the court-ordered removal of a child from one state from applying in Minnesota, if the basis of the removal was, "for receiving medically necessary health care or mental health care that respects the gender-identity of the patient."
"Gender-affirming care is lifesaving health care, and withholding or delaying health care can have a dramatic impact on the mental health of any individual who needs it," said Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL-St. Paul), who is the sponsor of the bill. "Forced de-transition is a violence against my community that I can’t begin to imagine, and that’s what’s happening across America."
The law would amend a portion of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to allow the court to find, "the parent and child have significant connections with the state when the child is in the state for gender-affirming health care."
Lawmakers in Minnesota are working to ensure transgender youth have a safe space when seeking gender-affirming healthcare, moving a new "Trans Refuge" bill closer to law.
It would allow a court to "find temporary emergency jurisdiction in a child custody proceeding when the child has previously been unable to obtain gender-affirming health care," essentially making Minnesota a safe haven for trans youth from surrounding states.
"While anti-LGBTQ+ legislation by extremist Republicans continues to rise across the nation, Minnesota has the opportunity to say ‘you belong here’ to all those families wondering where they can go for help," Rep. Finke said Thursday.
Taking protections a step further, the law would also prevent, "a foreign subpoena from being recognized in Minnesota when the subpoena is designed to interfere with a person’s right to seek gender-affirming healthcare," allowing for a protected status for trans youth within the state. It also prevents a subpoena from being issued when designed to interfere with a person’s right to seek gender-affirming health care.
The law would also prohibit a judge from issuing a warrant for the arrest, and a peace officer from arresting a person charged in another state, for a crime arising from acts committed in Minnesota involving gender-affirming health care.
According to Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, Chief Education Officer for Children's Minnesota, and the Medical Director for the Gender Health Program, bans on gender-affirming care are creating geographical inequities, effectively legislating health care disparities into law.
"This care is being politicized, and we’re already receiving calls about care from families in surrounding states," Kade Goepferd said Thursday. "These families are scared, desperate, and willing to do anything they can to protect the well-being of their transgender children."
Under the law, "gender-affirming health care" would be defined as "medically necessary health care or mental health care that respects gender identity of the patient."
The law would protect care that includes interventions to suppress the development of naturally occurring secondary sex characteristics; interventions to align the patient’s appearance with their gender identity, interventions to alleviate the patient’s symptoms of distress or gender dysphoria; and developmentally appropriate exploration of the patient’s gender identity and coping to help the patient and the patient’s family related to the patient’s gender identity.
Previously, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order enacting similar measures, but the "Trans Refuge" bill would codify the efforts into state law – further ensuring future protections, according to proponents.
"As states across the country move to ban access to gender-affirming care, we want LGBTQ Minnesotans to know they will continue to be safe, protected, and welcome in Minnesota," Gov. Walz said in a statement. "In Minnesota, you will not be punished for seeking or providing medical care. This Executive Order delivers the urgent action that our LGBTQ Minnesotans deserve."
However, opponents of the law have dubbed the effort "the kidnapping bill," worrying it could potentially provide a loophole for custody disputes to escalate under the pretense of seeking gender-affirming care.
"This allows children, regardless of age, to seek and receive radical medical treatments that can cause sterilization, bone loss, loss of sexual function and brain development - all without their parents guidance and love," said Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover). "We used to protect our kids in the state of Minnesota… You can always move to California, they already passed these laws."
When asked whether the bill would create loopholes for child abductions, Rep. Finke said, "kidnapping is still illegal… You still cannot kidnap kids after this."
The bill companion, S.F. 63, awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety. It would also need to be approved before being passed into law.