Minnesota House passes controversial ‘Trans Refuge Act’

In the pre-dawn hours of yesterday morning, after a contentious, marathon debate on the House floor, the lower chamber passed HF 146, marketed as the “Trans Refuge Act.”

In the event, the bill passed by a margin of 68-62, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against. Under House rules, 68 is the minimum number of votes needed to pass a measure. A bill on final passage must receive support from a majority of elected members, not just voting members.

The previous afternoon, advocates and opponents of the bill held consecutive press conferences at the Capitol. The first featured Democrats and the bill’s author, first-term Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL-St. Paul).

That event was followed by the Republican press conference, where a number of members spoke in opposition to the bill.

Minnesota Catholic bishops are on record as opposing the bill. The Conference issued this statement on HF 146:

To affirm someone in an identity at odds with their biological sex or to affirm a person’s desired ‘transition’ is to mislead that person to his or her detriment. And though every instance of unjust discrimination must be avoided against persons with gender discordance, we cannot allow gender ideology to grow unchecked, as ample evidence suggests that “gender-affirming care” not only does not resolve a person’s psychological struggles but exacerbates them. The acceptance and/or approval of a person’s claimed transgender identity is particularly dangerous in the case of children, whose psychological development is both delicate and incomplete. We cannot mislead them down a path of irreversible consequences and a lifetime of pain.

[Footnotes and quotation marks omitted.]

After the press conferences, citizens opposed to the bill gathered in the Capitol for a protest.

The opponents were later joined by bill supporters. The House continued to meet during the dueling protests, behind locked doors:

Quoting the Associated Press,

Hundreds of protesters chanted for and against the bill outside the House chamber before the debate. Black signs with white text said “Protect Kids” as dozens yelled, “Vote no!” Others shouted back, “Vote yes!” and held signs with colors from the trans flag–baby blue and pink–that read, “You belong here.”

Cries of “No!” and “Yes!” echoed through the halls of the Capitol as security personnel guarded the locked doors of the chamber.

Proponents of the bill maintain that it’s needed “to prevent out-of-state laws from interfering in the practice of gender-affirming health care.”

The bill defines “gender-affirming health care” to include medications such as puberty blockers and surgical “interventions” for children of any age (lines 5.19 through 5.33). To be clear, the bill does not legalize such practices, as they are already permitted under current state law.

Our exclusive Thinking Minnesota opinion poll finds that state voters oppose sex change operations for children by a margin of 67 to 22 percent. More Democrats are opposed than favor the practice.

Which “out-of-state laws” does the bill address? Custody laws, as it turns out. The bill would insert the state of Minnesota into out-of-state custody disputes where one or both parents object to their minor child seeking irreversible health care in Minnesota.

The bill equates (in section 3) a parent’s (or parents’) refusal to consent to gender-affirming health care to child abuse or child abandonment.

The bill appears to instruct the state (sections 6 through 10) to not honor any warrants or subpoenas associated with parental or third-party kidnapping of a child for the purposes of seeking gender-affirming care in Minnesota.

Despite the plain language of the bill, proponents deny that any of the above is true. Supporters of the bill claim its intent is to protect “retaliatory” actions by out-of-state jurisdictions against persons outside of their jurisdictions.

Quoting Newsweek,

A new bill passing through the state’s legislature would seek to prevent children traveling to the state for gender-affirming care from facing legal repercussions, including warrants and extraditions, from other states.

Children, not parents. Proponents have not provided any real-life examples of such legal actions.

However, there is an active court case involving California’s similar trans refuge law, where a Texas parent is suing his ex-wife who removed his 9-year-old child to California to seek gender-affirming care. In that case, the New York Post reports that,

A subsequent [Texas] court order, however, specified that “neither parent may treat a child with hormonal suppression therapy, puberty blockers, and/or transgender reassignment surgery (if any) without the consent of the parents or court order,” reported The Texan.

But Younger is convinced that his ex-wife had uprooted their children and moved to California to circumvent that court order.

In this case, as a result of their refuge law, California courts will not honor any subpoenas or warrants issued by a Texas court for violating the parental rights and court orders obtained by a Texas parent.

HF 146 now moves to the state Senate, where Democrats hold a one-seat (34-33) majority.