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Same-Sex Marriage FAQs

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/


Additional Information

Health Therapist FAQs

Q: Can an individual who identifies as LGBTQ demand a mental health therapist that identifies as LGBTQ?

A: No. The general rule is that companies that provide goods or services can’t preclude an employee from performing work on the basis of the employee’s race, gender or sexual orientation unless such characteristic is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) necessary to perform the work.
Accordingly, a health care provider can’t capitulate to the preferences of its customers who do not wish to receive health care services from employees on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation.
Courts have recognized a limited exception to this general rule when the BFOQ is (1) premised on the privacy or safety interests of individuals who are institutionalized or infirm, and (2) the position requires workers to come into physical contact with individuals when they are undressed, exposed or sexually vulnerable. An employer does not satisfy the safety rationale based on a vague notion that having men care for women creates a “heightened potential” for assault. Below is a link to the EEOC’s 2013 discussion of sex as a BFOQ relating to caregivers. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/foia/letters/2013/title_vii_sex_bfoq_11_22.html

Q: Does a health care plan violate the Act if the plan fails to provide a mental health therapist that has expertise concerning LGBTQ mental health issues.

A: Maybe. The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits a health care provider from denying full and equal enjoyment of health care because of race, color, creed, religion, disability, national origin, marital states, sex or sexual orientation.
In order to establish a violation of the Act, the individual must prove that the health care provider denied access or provided substantial unequal access of service because of the patient’s membership in a protected class. De Minimis differences in the medical care provided by a health care provider are insufficient to create liability under the Act. See generally, Abdull v. Lovaas Inst. For Early Intervention Midwest, 2014 WL 6775275 (Dec. 2, 2014), aff’d 819 F.3d 430 (8th Cir. 2016).

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