Item Coversheet

Board Action Request

Item Description:
Affirm gender identity and expression of residents, workers, and clients receiving county services; authorize County Administrator to review and revise policies to ensure Hennepin County and those awarded contracts affirm gender identity and expression - offered by Commissioner Fernando

WHEREAS, there is expanding legislation across the country that excludes or discriminates LGBTQ+ youth, workers, and communities; and


WHEREAS, the Minnesota Human Rights Act has included protections regarding sexual orientation, self-image, and gender identity since 1993 (Minn. Stat. § 363A.03), making Minnesota the first state to protect the civil rights of transgender people through its human rights legislation; and


WHEREAS, Hennepin County is committed to supporting and promoting a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of our residents, and Hennepin County’s diversity policy states a commitment to providing public services and a workplace free from discrimination; and


WHEREAS, transgender and gender non-conforming youth, especially youth of color, disproportionately experience homelessness, involvement in the justice system, involvement in the child protection system, and poor educational outcomes, and are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking; therefore.


BE IT RESOLVED, that Hennepin County affirms the gender expressions and gender identities asserted by each individual, and commits to be a safe and welcoming county, employer, and service provider for LGBTQ+ people; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Hennepin County Administrator is delegated authority to review and revise existing policies and remove barriers to ensure that any individual or group receiving county services can do so inclusive of their asserted gender identity; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Hennepin County Administrator is delegated authority to review and revise existing policies and agreement language to ensure this aforementioned commitment to LGBTQ+ clients and communities is expected of partners or contracted providers; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County Administrator is delegated authority to implement this action, including adopting new and revised policies, and instituting mechanisms regarding contracts and agreements to comply with said policies.


Several states have adopted or are considering legislation, policies, and practices that discriminate against transgender persons and against persons based upon perceived gender identity or expression. For example, the State of Texas adopted a policy through a gubernatorial executive order that instructed child welfare officials to investigate reports of gender-affirming care for children as abuse. The State of Florida enacted legislation that now outlaws discussion of sexuality or gender identity in schools regulated by the state. Research by the Fenway Institute and other peer-reviewed medical journals document significant harm that such public policies cause to transgender and gender non-conforming youth. 


By comparison, in the recent past, Hennepin County has taken concrete steps to be inclusive and affirming of gender expression and gender identity. For example:

  •  Non-Discrimination and Respectful Workplace Policy: Hennepin County revised this policy to make clear that the County is committed to providing public services and a workplace free from discrimination based on an individual’s gender expression or gender identity.
  •  Code of Conduct: Hennepin County revised its employee code of conduct to make clear that staff may not discriminate against any person on the basis of gender expression or gender identity.
  •  Contracts: Hennepin County revised its Form 101, which is utilized when the County contracts for personal or professional services, by updating the Non-Discrimination clause to prohibit contractors from discrimination based on gender expression or gender identity.


Through this action, the County Board can re-affirm its commitment to being inclusive and affirming of individuals’ gender expressions and gender identities, across all of the County’s critically important work. For example, Hennepin County is the administrator of Minnesota’s largest social safety net system. In the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, nearly 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+, compared to 7% of the general population. The data shows a devastating connection to sexual exploitation, meaning LGBTQ+ youth are much more vulnerable to trafficking.

  •  Services delivered from the County, or through partnerships and contracted providers, include emergency shelter and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness, children involved in the child protection system, youth receiving educational support services, and justice-involved youth. The County prohibits contracted providers from discriminating on the basis of gender expression and identity as they provide services to juvenile clients on behalf of the county, which can span from mental health to educational support to sexual healthcare. 


An affirmation of gender expression or gender identity should not be burdensome to the person receiving services; the individual’s gender identity and expression should be recognized and respected. The assertion may be evidenced by an expressed desire to be consistently recognized as the sex consistent with their gender identity. For example, an individual preparing to socially transition may initiate a process to update their name, pronoun, and access to resources consistent with their gender identity—and Hennepin County should strive to provide equal access to county programs and activities.


Lastly, research consistently shows dramatically higher rates of suicidality among transgender individuals, especially transgender youth. As stories about transgender or gender non-conforming foster youth are becoming more known across the country, it is increasingly important for the County to remain centered on the mental, emotional, and social health of children in our care, and to ensure our policies and practices reflect this commitment.