MN bill aims to create legal refuge for trans youth seeking gender-affirming care

People in a meeting room
Minnesotans gathered at the state office building in St. Paul on Tuesday for a hearing on HF146, a bill that would protect gender affirming care for transgender youth coming from out of state.
Nicole Ki | MPR News

Minnesota legislators began reviewing a bill that protects access to health care for trans youth, a move the author says is a historic first.

“This is the first committee hearing in the history of our state legislature that will hear a bill designed to protect trans and gender-expansive people in Minnesota,” said author Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, during the bill’s introduction Tuesday. “This is literally the first convening of our community for a bill that will help us live.”

The bill, HF146, and called the Trans Refuge Bill, “would make Minnesota into a trans refuge state by protecting trans people, their families and medical practitioners from the legal repercussions of traveling to Minnesota to receive gender affirming care,” Finke said.

If passed, it would change state custody statutes to include access to gender-affirming care as a consideration, giving Minnesota courts jurisdiction over certain cases.

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‘True to herself’

At the hearing, several parents of trans youth spoke in support of the bill. Attorney Hao Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant and parent to a trans child, said Minnesota has a responsibility to be a leader when it comes to protecting gender-affirming care.

“Our little 6-year-old daughter at home doesn't much care about what's going on in politics. What she does care about is being happy, being who she is and true to herself,” said Nguyen.

It comes as several states around the country, and those surrounding Minnesota, have passed or are hearing bills that would limit or ban gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Over the weekend, Utah’s governor signed a bill that bans minors from accessing gender-affirming surgeries and placed a moratorium on their access to puberty blockers and hormone therapy.

“The organized political movement that has targeted my community is at work in every state that touches ours,” Finke said.

‘Supporting transgender young people’

Supporters of the bill who attended the meeting Tuesday said it's for those reasons that this action is necessary.

“It is critical that Minnesota takes a proactive stance on this issue,” said Kat Rohn, executive director of OutFront Minnesota. “We cannot sit idly by while other states work to end essential evidence-based care.”

Some detractors who spoke at the hearing said they were concerned about gender-affirming care practices and parental rights.

“HF 146 takes away custody from parents or guardians who deny their children access to gender-affirming health care,” said Rebecca Delahunt, assistant director of public policy for the Minnesota Family Council.

However, several physicians that testified during the hearing emphasized that gender-affirming health care is often made with parental knowledge and consent.

“At its root, gender-affirming care is listening to, understanding and supporting transgender young people and their families. And it includes both mental health and medical care,” said Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, chief education officer and medical director for the gender health program at Children's Minnesota.

“All of our care is age appropriate. All of our care is provided with parental consent. We do not perform gender affirming surgeries at Children's,” Kade Goepferd said.

“Every day that I'm in clinic, I hear from patients and families in this state who wonder if they will have to flee our state in order to continue to love and support their transgender child. There are thousands of Minnesota families listening to every single word spoken here today, knowing that their child's life and their family's future depends on the outcome of this bill.”

It’s not clear when legislators will debate the bill.