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Gov. Tim Walz Signs Order to Create Refuge for Trans People in Minnesota

The order bars state agencies from complying with other states’ orders to prosecute trans people.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks during a campaign rally at First Avenue on January 17, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at creating a statewide asylum for transgender people seeking health care in a move that LGBTQ advocates are hailing as crucial to protecting the trans community as it comes under attack across the country.

The order, which is similar to legislation being brought in the state legislature to establish Minnesota as a “trans refuge” state, aims to protect access to gender-affirming care in the state. It also ensures that people traveling to Minnesota from other states to seek such care are protected, and orders agencies not to comply with other states’ orders for arrests in relation to gender-related care.

‘While gender affirming health care services remain legal and protected in Minnesota, other states have curtailed access to, or even criminalized, this care,” the order says. “These actions pose a grave threat to the health of LGBTQIA+ individuals by preventing them from affirming their gender identities through safe and scientifically proven treatments. In Minnesota, we value LGBTQIA+ community members, and we safeguard their rights.”

Walz said that his order is about protecting trans people. “We want every Minnesotan to grow up feeling safe, valued, protected, celebrated, and free to exist as their authentic versions of themselves,” said Walz, a Democrat. “Protecting and supporting access to gender affirming health care is essential to being a welcoming and supportive state.”

The corresponding legislation, if passed, would ensure that such protections remain in place after Walz is no longer governor. It was written by Democratic state Rep. Leigh Finke, the first openly trans legislator in the state, and would similarly prohibit state courts from complying with other states’ orders to prosecute trans people seeking gender-related care.

People seeking such care could come from neighboring South Dakota, where Republican Gov. Kristi Noem signed one of the most extremist anti-trans bills in effect last month. The bill bans gender-affirming care for children, forcing trans children to detransition and opening up health care workers to lawsuits if they violate the law.

Or they could come from one of the two other states that border Minnesota where Republicans are attempting to pass anti-trans bills. They could come from Tennessee, Mississippi or Utah, where lawmakers have recently passed bills restricting access to gender-affirming care. And they could also hail from the dozens of other states where hateful anti-LGBTQ lawmakers are waging relentless attacks on the very existence of trans people.

Finke praised Walz’s order, saying that it’s crucial that lawmakers establish safe spaces for trans people.

“The lives of trans and gender expansive people this nation are under attack,” said Finke, per the Associated Press. “There is a full-scale movement in this nation against trans, nonbinary, two-spirit and gender expansive adults and children that seeks to make our community disappear.”

LGBTQ rights group OutFront Minnesota also praised the order, saying “it comes at a time when our community needs it most.”

Finke’s bill is expected to pass in the coming weeks through the legislature, which is dominated by Democrats in both chambers. It comes after state lawmakers in the House passed a bill that would ban conversion therapy, a dangerous anti-LGBTQ practice by hateful groups aimed at forcing LGBTQ people to give up their identities. The bill was previously blocked by Republicans in the state Senate, but is expected to pass with Democrats now in control.

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