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Created By Rainbow Health Initiative

Minnesota is a unique state for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights, as the local government has taken multiple positive steps to protect and outline the rights of LGBTQ individuals. One of the landmark actions Minnesota has taken is the expansion of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Learn more via OutFront Minnesota.

In 1993, the Minnesota Legislature amended the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to prohibit many forms of discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation.” The broad definition of “sexual orientation” in MHRA made it the nation’s first state civil rights law to protect transgender individuals from discrimination. While there is still ample room for growth and protection, Minnesota is making progress. This is especially useful as legal protections and rights in the community vary by state, and few national protections exist.

While there is still ample room for growth and protection, Minnesota is making progress. This is especially useful as most legal protections and rights in the community vary by state.

However, some national protections exist. Beginning in 2012, the federal government began explicitly recognizing that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination. Currently, many federal agencies interpret “sex” to include “gender identity.” (This includes critical protections provided by the Affordable Care Act.) Additionally, some agencies are beginning to find protection against sexual orientation discrimination within existing sex-discrimination laws.

Understanding legal rights can be difficult because of the way laws are written, and how they are enforced. To help with this, this section is broken down into two main categories: rights and laws specifically pertaining to minors (those less than 18 years of age) and laws and rights specifically afforded to legal adults (those 18 years of age and older). Citizenship status will also be reviewed in relationship to health care accessibility and eligibility.

It should be stated that protecting your legal rights can also be challenging, and often times it requires significant privilege and power to defend yourself. Take time for self-care, remember to breathe, and find advocates to help with your work.

Legal Protections Specific to Minors

In 2015, the Safe and Supportive Minnesota School Act was signed into law. This replaced the largely ineffective 37-word policy on bullying originally used by Minnesota to shape school policy. The new act outlines gender identity and sexuality as protected from bullying, and requires schools to provide training to all staff on bullying prevention. The law also expands the scope of protection to include all extra-curricular activities, cyber bullying, and other forms of intimidation that were previously ignored.

The Saint Paul Public School District (SPPS) has also adapted gender inclusion policies that will go into effect during the 2015-2016 academic school year. This policy can be found here and specifically protects students right to a preferred name and pronouns, ability to participate in classes that do not engage in gender segregation, and affirms students’ rights to participate in any team or intramural sport that best aligns with their personal gender identity. Several other Minnesota school districts implemented similar policies.

The Minnesota State High School League passed policy going into effect for the 2015-2016 academic year allowing students to participate on any sports team that best aligns with their gender identity.

Minors and young unmarried adults up to age 21 are also protected by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which requires that outreach programs provide counseling, temporary housing, food, medical services, mental health services, education resources, and employment aid. One exception of note is that individuals who are incarcerated may not seek or receive help from this law.

Finally, the MHRA protects all LGBTQ individuals, including minors, from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. *Importantly, under a variety of circumstances, minors may consent to receiving health-care services, and providers may deliver them, without need for consent by the minor’s parent(s) or guardian(s).

Legal Protections Specific to Adults

In 1993, the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) was passed in the state legislature. This act guarantees freedom from discrimination for residents of the state regardless of their marital status, age, race, national origin, disability, sex (including pregnancy status), and sexual orientation. These freedoms are guaranteed in employment with both public and private businesses, housing and real estate, public accommodations, public services, and education. The MHRA also reaffirms the legal right every person has to health care and treatment in the state, and means that, in the state of Minnesota, a practitioner cannot refuse treatment on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. However, it is important to note that there are exceptions: exempt organizations include all religious groups or jobs wherein sex/gender is a determining factor of employment, or nonpublic service organizations targeted at youth such as 4-H clubs or scouting organizations. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act bars discrimination on the basis of sex, including gender identity, in health-care facilities receiving federal funds.

For all adult Minnesotans, the Freedom to Marry law was passed in March of 2013, and was enacted (with marriage certificates issued) on August 1st, 2013. LGBTQ couples are guaranteed the same right to engage in marriage as any other couple, and benefit from the same legal protections. On June 26th, 2015, the US Supreme Court affirmed that all American citizens have the legal right to marry their partner, regardless of gender identity or sex.

Legal Rights Specific to New Citizens and Residents

For Minnesotans who are new to the state, from outside the United States, there are specific protections to ensure access to health care. A full guide to accessing care is provided by the Minnesota government and can be found here.

While accessing care in Minnesota, adults are guaranteed the right to a translator who can speak fluently in the patient’s preferred or primary language. Translators can either be used in person, or through a phone based system; access, however, is limited to the resources of each care facility. A family member who is multilingual may also be used as a translator. We recommend a professional translator when possible because medical terminology can be difficult to fully understand and convey without essential training and experience.

For more on the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Rule, please visit the insurance section of this toolkit. It is illegal to discriminate or refuse treatment to transgender patients and facing refusal to care or discrimination is grounds for investigation by HHS.


310 East 38th Street #209
Minneapolis, MN 55409

Gender Justice
200 West University Ave, Ste 200
St. Paul, MN 55103     

Minnesota Lavender Bar Association
2751 Hennepin Ave. S. #703
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612-822-0127, ext. 530
800-800-0350, ext. 530