Governor Walz signs order seeking to protect LGBTQ+ rights

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order on Wednesday aimed at protecting the rights of Minnesota’s LGBTQ+ community and access to gender-affirming health care.

Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan joined Walz for the signing ceremony at the Capitol shortly before 11 a.m.

It comes as a few states around the country consider restricting drag shows. Tennessee’s governor recently banned public drag performances, labeling them as “adult cabaret.” Several other states, including Idaho, North Dakota, Montana and Oklahoma, are considering similar bans.

Walz said the order directs state officials to work with health care officials to ensure access to gender-affirming care is available to everyone and also made clear that the state won’t cooperate with any others seeking to restrict the rights of or punish anyone in the LGBTQ+ community.

“In this state, hate has no home. In this state, love and acceptance is what we preach, and we will live by that,” Walz said.

“When someone comes to me and says we’re trying to ban gender-affirming care, what they’re saying to a trans person is we prefer it if you weren’t here,” Rep. Leigh Finke (DFL-St. Paul), who is the state’s first out transgender lawmaker, said Wednesday.

Finke added that she’s not trying to change the beliefs of anyone who doesn’t support transgender rights but those beliefs shouldn’t prevent anyone from seeking gender-affirming care.

RELATED: “Conversion therapy” ban again headed for vote in Minnesota House

According to the Executive Order, this care is “supported by numerous major professional associations” — including the American Medical Association, the Minnesota Medical Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to name a few.  

Governor Walz says this is happening because of actions by other states — including neighbors to the west and south. Legislation in Iowa would ban gender-affirming care for people under 18. Last month, South Dakota’s governor banned the same thing — and in North Dakota, lawmakers are considering a bill that would criminalize health care providers who give this care to minors.

Conservatives say the governor’s order will hurt vulnerable children instead of helping them. In a statement, Christian-based organization Minnesota Family Council’s CEO John Helmberger said, “People who struggle with their gender identity deserve compassionate care that will help them become comfortable in their bodies, not mutilate them.”

With full control of the Capitol, Governor Walz and the DFL have locked in laws that lean in their favor this legislative session — which is why political science professor with Hamline University David Schultz is surprised Governor Walz didn’t have legislators try to make this law.

“As an executive order, this can be reversed in the future by another executive order, potentially by a republican [governor],” Schultz said. “[But], the statutory route, passing a law I should say, is a firmer way of guaranteeing certain things.”

The Executive Order protects gender affirming health care in Minnesota by directing state agencies to take the following actions:

  • State agencies will coordinate to protect people or entities who are providing, assisting, seeking, or obtaining gender-affirming health care services.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Commerce (COMM) and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) will investigate and take administrative actions for unfair or deceptive practices related to the denial of gender-affirming health care services.
  • MDH will prepare a report summarizing the literature on the scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of gender-affirming health care and its public health effects.
  • The state will decline to help other states that try to penalize individuals and entities seeking gender-affirming health care services.
  • To the maximum extent possible, the state will refuse requests to extradite individuals accused of committing acts related to, securing of, or receipt of gender-affirming health care services.
  • MDH, COMM, MDHR and the Minnesota Department of Human Services will issue a joint bulletin to health plan companies regarding the availability of health insurance coverage and the provision of health insurance benefits for medically necessary gender-affirming health care services.