Minnesota Nice Time: Give Us Your Trans Refugees, America
In a huge move to protect its residents — and future residents — from the wave of rightwing laws criminalizing healthcare and other rights for transgender people, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz this week signed an executive order to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people in Minnesota. As independent journalist Erin Reed explains, once the order is fully in effect, Minnesota will rank with California and the District of Columbia among “the safest states in the U.S. for transgender individuals in terms of state policy and legislation.” As executive orders protecting LGBTQ+ rights go, you could even call it “sweeping.”
Noting that other states have been taking steps not just to criminalize gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, but that some, like Texas, are even trying to penalize parents of trans kids or to take children away from trans parents, Walz’s order explicitly calls for Minnesota to be a “refuge for those who seek and provide gender affirming healthcare services.”
Among the protections the order will ensure, it instructs all state agencies to coordinate efforts to protect people seeking gender-affirming care. That includes prohibitions on cooperating with other states’ attempts to investigate trans people, their families, or their medical providers, as well as a ban on state agencies cooperating with other states’ subpoenas for information on gender-affirming care.
Minnesota will also not enforce any judgments from other states that terminate parental rights because of providing gender-affirming care, which is huge in keeping families of trans kids with supportive parents. Walz himself also pledged to “exercise his discretion to refuse requests for the arrest or surrender of people charged with violation of the law in another state due to gender-affirming care.”
The order also expands guarantees for Minnesotans seeking gender-affirming care in several ways, as Reed explains:
It contains several provisions to mandate health insurance companies to no longer deny transgender care. It directs state agencies to require modern standards of care. Many times when it comes to transgender care, the only things that are covered are hormones and gender reassignment surgery – this was the standard of care two decades ago. Now, things like facial feminization surgery, hair removal, prosthetics, and more are considered medically necessary and supported by evidence in the modern standards of care spelled out in WPATH 8.
In addition to mandating insurance coverage for gender-affirming care, the order requires the state to investigate insurance companies’ denials of service, and would prohibit the state from contracting with insurers with a record of discriminatory denials.
And while several red states are explicitly blocking the use of Medicaid funds for gender-affirming care — including a Tennessee bill that would ban companies from working with Medicaid even if they only provide such care in other states — Walz orders user manuals for Medicaid be updated to make sure the program and providers comply with modern standards of care.
Read More: Red States About Five Minutes Away From Legalized Lynching Of Trans People
Beyond healthcare, Walz’s order bans discrimination in healthcare companies and educational institutions statewide, giving the state’s department of human rights the power to investigate such discrimination. Hell of a big move toward prohibiting school districts from restricting trans students from restrooms or locker rooms matching their gender identity.
As Reed explains, this is huge, and “goes far beyond many other safe state policies proposed or passed in other states.”
Some states have “soft” safe state laws that have been passed last year or this year that protect gender affirming care providers and patients if the conduct occurred within the safe state borders. Others, such as California and Washington, D.C., protect patients and providers even if they are fleeing conduct that occurred in another state – something I have referred to as “hard” safe state laws. These laws often also protect trans kids in child custody cases. Minnesota joins those two states in protecting fleeing trans people as well as trans kids in custody situations where a parent could have their kid removed for the provision of gender affirming care.
Of course, one of the problems with executive orders is that they can be undone with a change of administration, so Minnesota state Rep. Leigh Finke, who’s trans herself, has introduced a bill that would enact similar protections in state law; so far, it’s made it through committee. Now that Minnesota has Democratic majorities in both houses of the state Legislature, it seems like a good bet it’ll pass and be signed by Walz.
So that’s now two states and the District of Columbia that will serve as sanctuaries for people fleeing the new oppressive laws red states are busily passing. Sounds like a call for a lot more blue states to expand their own protections for trans people and their families, too. We don’t need a national divorce, but as long as bigots are passing these laws — and we have little reason to think the Supreme Court will stop them — there need to be as many sanctuaries as possible. Let’s hope it never comes to a need for an actual “underground railroad,” but being ready can’t hurt.
[Erin in the Morning / Executive Order 23-03 / Image generated using DALL-E 2 AI]
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