Minnesota laws affecting transgender people under fire

Advocates for transgender rights are hailing a Ramsey County court ruling that Minnesota's refusal to cover transition-related surgeries violates the state constitution.

State lawmakers enacted the ban in 2005, selling it as a cost-saving measure, and it only applied to people receiving state Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare benefits.

This week Judge William Leary III said the ban violates the right to privacy and interferes with the medical decisions transgender people make about their bodies.

The law also stigmatizes transgender people, said Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota.

"It says, from the state of Minnesota, 'Transgender people, you are not worth as much as other people and so we are not going to give you the medically necessary care that we give to other people,'" Nelson said.

St. Paul resident Evan Thomas, 64, was one of the plaintiffs in the case. He's enrolled in Medical Assistance, the state Medicaid program, and has been seeking transition surgery.

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Hormone treatments have helped Thomas develop more masculine features, but he has to bind his chest to hide his breasts. Thomas sought a bilateral mastectomy, but was denied coverage.

"I'm constantly afraid as I'm out in public that people will realize, that they will notice, that I have an anatomy that does not correspond to the person I appear to be," Thomas said.

As part of the lawsuit resolution, the Minnesota Department of Human Services has agreed to pay for Thomas's surgery, which is now scheduled for Nov. 28. The agency has not said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Mom sues for denial of parental rights over transgender teen

In another case that could affect transgender people, a Minnesota mother is suing St. Louis County, two health clinics and the St. Louis County School District for denying her parental rights over her underage child.

The case involves a now 17-year-old who was born male and wants to make the transition to female. The teen has been able to access transgender medical treatment, including hormone therapy, without parental consent.

"There's been no notice and opportunity to be heard for the parents. And so this is about having a day in court," said attorney Erick Kaardal, who is representing the mother.

He said the teenager got a letter of emancipation at age 15 from a legal aid organization. With that document came eligibility for county benefits, including health care, said Kaardal. School officials also honored the emancipation status and withheld records from the mother.

All that happened without a court order or any process to determine her parental rights. Kaardal is suing in federal court, challenging state laws allowing that to happen.

The mother, Anmarie Calgaro, said she is not opposing the transition itself. But she was robbed of the chance to guide the decision, she said.

"I just wanted him to slow down and let himself develop naturally and see if he felt the same way at 18 when he is a legal adult as he did at 15," Calgaro said.

That legal adult status arrives in July, possibly before a ruling could be made in the case. Her attorney, Erick Kaardal, argued the suit could still go forward because she has other minor children who, theoretically, could pursue the same path.