People traveling to Minnesota for abortion or gender-affirming care will now be shielded from legal consequences in other states under new laws signed by Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday.

The proposals advanced by Minnesota Democrats come as GOP-led states are debating and passing restrictions on abortion and health care for transgender and nonbinary people. That includes neighboring states such as North Dakota, which recently enacted a law creating felony penalties for health care providers who provide gender-affirming care to minors.

Republicans have criticized the measures for making Minnesota an outlier in the nation, but Democrats are embracing the state's status as a refuge.

"That march of bigotry and hate stops at Minnesota's borders," Walz said Thursday, surrounded by legislators and advocates of the proposals before signing them into law. "Freedom is on the march in Minnesota, decency is on the march in Minnesota, compassion is on the march in Minnesota."

The governor also signed a long-sought measure to ban conversion therapy, the discredited practice of trying to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. The proposal will prohibit the practice on minors and vulnerable adults.

"It's been 10 years we've been fighting for this; it feels good," said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who led the push for the proposal at the Capitol. "It's about making sure those who follow us live in a better world."

More than a dozen GOP legislators joined Democrats in voting for the ban. But many Republicans and conservative groups were critical of the measure, which they argued would put restrictions on conversations between children and trusted adults,

"Today, Governor Walz signed three deeply concerning bills into law," said John Helmberger, Minnesota Family Council CEO. "Governor Walz says he wants Minnesota to be the best state in the nation for kids to grow up in — yet each of these bills puts Minnesota children further at risk."

The abortion and gender-affirming care laws, which went into effect immediately, codify recent executive orders from Walz that respond to a rapidly changing national landscape.

More than 100 proposals have been introduced in legislatures across the country this year that aim to restrict health care affirming a person's gender identity, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Along with North Dakota, neighboring Iowa and South Dakota have taken steps to restrict such care.

Medical organizations such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that access to gender-affirming care is essential. The American Medical Association recently urged state leaders to oppose restrictions on this care, calling it "medically necessary" for transgender people "who face increased risk of anxiety, stress, substance use disorder and suicide."

The new laws will protect families and children traveling to Minnesota for gender-affirming care from repercussions and extradition orders from other states. The abortion proposal would enact similar protections, making patient data on abortions private and restricting subpoenas from other states.

"We need to start thinking about how we're going to support families coming to Minnesota. I expect thousands — if not more — people to respond to what we are doing here," said Rep. Leigh Finke, the sponsor of the gender-affirming care measure and Minnesota's first transgender legislator.

"People are desperate, scared — they need safety. Our schools are going to have to be ready, our health care providers are going to have to be ready," said Finke. "This is real; it's not hypothetical."

Abortion and gender-affirming care providers in Minnesota have said they've already seen a spike in people traveling here for care. Legislative Republicans criticized the proposals for ignoring the rule of law in other states.

Abortion access is protected in Minnesota through a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling and a new law signed in January that codifies abortion rights in statute. Neighboring states South Dakota and Wisconsin immediately banned most abortions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. North Dakota's governor recently signed law banning nearly all abortions.

The governor's office said they haven't received subpoenas or requests for extradition orders against people who have traveled here for abortion care since he issued his executive order last summer, but states are still passing new restrictions.

"We are saying we will not police your body here in Minnesota. We are saying you are safe here in Minnesota," said Sen. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, who sponsored the abortion bill. "We are saying you can receive the care that you need here in Minnesota."