‘Dangerous and scary’: Rep. Finke recounts 2023 legislative session with Ilhan Omar

The first-term legislator from St. Paul frequently accuses those who don’t share his views on gender of committing “genocide.”

Left: Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks at a town hall in February 2020. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr); Rep. Leigh Finke/Minnesota House.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and state Rep. Leigh Finke recently hosted a live discussion on the 2023 Minnesota legislative session.

Finke said the session became “dangerous and scary” after he introduced a bill to make Minnesota a “refuge state” for kids seeking sex changes, claiming GOP House members acted with aggression towards him.

Finke also implied that he faced death threats and harassment for bills he carried during the session. In April, Republican Rep. Dawn Gillman accused Finke of yelling at and intimidating her on the House floor, leaving her “fearing for my personal safety.” According to Gillman, Finke later apologized.

During the discussion, Omar and Finke explained that many people coming to Minnesota for “gender-affirming care” are “uprooting” to move to Minnesota, rather than traveling only for treatment. Finke said that the state should be prepared to offer these people resources like housing in addition to transition services.

He belittled those who call gender-affirming care “child mutilation,” saying that most children don’t medically transition.

During the live video, Omar asked Finke if he had crazy stories or moments of “deranged arguments” from colleagues during the session. “Yes, yes to all of that,” Finke responded.

Finke went on to explain that he doesn’t care about people’s values. “I don’t care what your values are. Doesn’t matter to me if your religious system tells you that there are no trans people. That’s irrelevant to the question,” he said.

Finke called Republican arguments against his bills “ridiculous,” saying that all the GOP can do in Minnesota is “shout” because Democrats control the legislature and governor’s office.

“The minority talks, the majority votes,” Finke said during the interview. “They have no power.”

Finke’s comments reflect a growing breakdown of bipartisanship at the legislature. The first-term legislator from St. Paul frequently accuses those who don’t share his views on gender of committing “genocide.”

Democratic Rep. Brion Curran, a Finke ally, recently lamented having to be in the same building as her Republican colleagues.

“I love most of my job as a legislator. Being isolated for hours on end with colleagues who scream at you for existing is not pleasant,” Curran wrote on Twitter, later admitting that she tries to “actively avoid” sharing an elevator with “most” Republicans.

“You should hear what they say to our faces. I’m not about to share confined space with people who literally scream against an entire community’s existence,” Curran added.

Omar and Finke also discussed Minnesota’s new ban on “conversion therapy,” which Finke warned is being used as an “anti-trans tool.” House Democrats rejected a Republican amendment this session to include gender transition services for children in the conversion therapy ban.

“We need to be careful and expansive in our language. There is a movement to adopt conversion therapy [bans] as an anti-trans tool. They say, ‘You were made perfect and we need to make sure your transition is stopped because you are perfect,’” Finke said.

Finke is the Minnesota Legislature’s first transgender lawmaker. He has received awards from Children’s Minnesota and the Minnesota Timberwolves for carrying the “trans refuge” bill and was named USA Today’s “Woman of the Year” for Minnesota.


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.