Protesters for and against three social issue bills gathered near the Capitol’s Senate chambers on Friday April 21, 2023. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.
UPDATE April 27: Today, Governor Tim Walz signed these three bills into law.
The Minnesota Senate passed three bills on Friday that fulfill important progressive policy goals: a bill banning “conversion therapy” for minors, which is the medically discredited attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation; a bill that ensures Minnesota will not comply with other states’ laws or subpoenas regarding abortion-related health care; and a bill protecting transgender people from legal repercussions for traveling to Minnesota for gender-affirming care.
The three bills have become pillars of the Minnesota DFL’s social issue agenda this session, and the conversion therapy ban is years in the making. The Senate is expected to debate the bills for hours, with many Republican amendments expected.
Around midday on Friday, the Senate passed the conversion therapy bill 36-27, garnering two Republican votes — Sens. Zach Duckworth of Lakeville and Jeremy Miller of Winona.
“People should have the liberties that are guaranteed in our Constitution. People should have the right to self-determination, and the Minnesota people should be free from the laws of other states that would impact and negatively affect all of those basic American rights and freedoms,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who is chief author of the conversion therapy ban.
The bill to ban conversion therapy has been a nearly decade-long effort. The legislation defines conversion therapy as any practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It prohibits mental health professionals from providing conversion therapy to people under 18 and vulnerable adults, and prohibits false advertisements about the effectiveness of conversion therapy — which has been widely debunked for years.
The “Reproductive Freedom Defense Act” states Minnesota will not share a person’s abortion or contraceptive health care records with another state that wants to prosecute them.
The Senate at about 2 p.m. Friday passed the bill — 34-29 — with all Democrats in support.
The legislation is meant to protect out-of-state residents who travel to Minnesota for an abortion or reproductive health care. It also protects abortion providers who have lost their license in other states — due to abortion restrictions — from having their license revoked in Minnesota.
“The reality is that as long as people are able to become pregnant, there will be people who will need or want to end a pregnancy for a whole myriad of different reasons — none of which is any of your business or any of my business,” said Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, and the bill’s chief author. “It is essential that we protect patients and providers in Minnesota from the restrictive laws that are being passed all over the United States.”
All the states bordering Minnesota have either banned abortion or proposed bans.
The final bill deems Minnesota a “refuge state” for people seeking gender-affirming care. The bill prohibits people from other states from being arrested for giving or receiving gender-affirming care, even if a state has made the care illegal. The legislation also changes state custody statutes to include access to gender-affirming care as a consideration for custody disputes and gives Minnesota courts jurisdiction over some cases.
The Senate passed the bill late Friday afternoon by a 34-30 vote — with all Democrats in support.
“Every kid in the United States — transgender, gender expansive, cisgender — you’re our kids today,” said Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, and the bill’s chief author. “We are glad that you are here. If you’re from a state that is banning your health care, you’re welcome here.”
The Star Tribune on Thursday reported that Maye Quade filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, for sending an email containing a graphic video to DFL senators with images of gender-affirmation surgeries on minors. Maye Quade in her complaint said Gruenhagen violated the standards of Senate behavior.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, nearly 30 percent of transgender youth live in states that have passed bans on gender-affirming care for minors. Just this week, North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill into law that bans gender-affirming care for minors and charges doctors who perform sex-reassignment surgery on minors with a felony punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said in a statement that the Democrats were prioritizing divisive bills at a time when Minnesotans should come together.
“We agree we need to protect children and support families,” Johnson said. “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.”