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Minnesota's Same-Sex Marriage Law

Background

On May 14, 2013 Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in Minnesota. The new law went into effect on August 1, 2013. On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that there is a fundamental right to marriage guaranteed to same-sex couples nationwide. 

Religious Organizations

During debate on the bill, the Legislature sought to ensure that the legislation would not unconstitutionally infringe upon the rights of religious entities. Religious entities can therefore, consistent with their theological doctrine, policy and teachings, perform same-sex marriages. The new law doesn't compel legal religious entities to perform same-sex marriages.

Religious Exemptions

  • This law provides specific exemptions for religious entities from taking part in the solemnization of same-sex marriages.
  • Therefore, a religious entity may choose to marry or not marry a same sex couple as it has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, policy, teachings and beliefs regarding who may marry within that faith.

Other Organizations are Not Exempt

  • The law does not exempt individuals, businesses, nonprofits, or the secular business activities of religious entities from non-discrimination laws based on religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage.
  • Therefore, a business that provides wedding services such as cake decorating, wedding planning or catering services may not deny services to a same-sex couple based on their sexual orientation.
  • To do so would violate protections for sexual orientation laid out in the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The individuals denied services could file a claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights against the entity that discriminated against them.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act and Sexual Orientation

  • In 1993, the Minnesota Human Rights Act was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Act prohibits a business owner from denying goods or services to a person on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • Thus a business that provides wedding services such as cake decorating, wedding planning or services may not deny its services to a same-sex couple. Individuals denied any of the above services can file a charge with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Enforcement

If you believe you have been discriminated against based on sexual orientation or another protected class, you can contact MDHR's enforcement unit at: 651.539.1133 or online at mn.gov/mdhr/intake/

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