Minnesota groups echo warning for LGBTQ+ people traveling elsewhere

A Pride flag overlooking the rotunda
May Hser and Roger Rogne hold a Pride flag overlooking the rotunda during a Trans Day of Visibility rally at the Minnesota State Capitol building on March 31.
Nicole Neri for MPR News

Minnesota LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations are echoing warnings about traveling to states that have enacted laws limiting access to gender-affirming care and bathroom access for transgender people.

OutFront Minnesota Executive Director Kat Rohn on Wednesday said the group has issued informal guidance to the community to take precautions if they go to states like Florida or North Dakota that have recently approved new restrictions.

“What we've generally said to folks is use caution when traveling to states that have a number of these restrictive laws, because not only are the laws on the books themselves potentially dangerous, and could be weaponized against people. But there is a broader climate, where folks are more likely to be targeted for harassment,” said Rohn. “Whether it's by you know, agents of the state or by individual citizens.”

The comments come a day after the national civil rights group Human Rights Campaign issued its first-ever state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States. The campaign said that 2023 brought in a record number of new restrictions that impact access to gender-affirming care, public restrooms, participation in sports, preventing the use of a child’s preferred pronouns or teaching about LGBTQ+ issues in schools.

“The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived — they are real, tangible and dangerous,” said Kelley Robinson, human rights campaign president. “In many cases they are resulting in violence against LGBTQ+ people, forcing families to uproot their lives and flee their homes in search of safer states, and triggering a tidal wave of increased homophobia and transphobia that puts the safety of each and every one of us at risk.”

National conservative groups that have steered the legislation around the country have said it could help keep children safe and prevent them from learning subjects at schools that their families wouldn’t care for them to learn.

Major medical groups dispute the assertion that denying gender-affirming care could keep kids safe and instead said it could put them at risk of adverse physical and mental health risks later. And LGBTQ+ groups and civil rights advocates said that banning conversations in schools could abridge students’ and teachers’ free speech rights.

The Human Rights Campaign recommended that residents in other states get to know their rights and consider moving or traveling to access health care in 17 “friendly” states like Minnesota that have enacted specific nondiscrimination protections and bans on so-called conversion therapy.

Minnesota this year approved legislation protecting people who come to the state for gender-affirming care and those who provide it, broadening human rights protections for LGBTQ+ people and outlawing conversion therapy for minors and vulnerable people.

Rohn said that Minnesota could be a model to other states in legislating protections for transgender residents.

“What we can do is pass good policy here, create a model for both how we talk about it, what we're doing with it, and then hope to use that to change the national narrative,” Rohn said.

DFL leaders at the Capitol said that in the face of efforts elsewhere to limit freedoms for transgender people — including in the bordering states of Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota — Minnesota should step in and guarantee access to health care services.

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