Governor Dayton recently signed into law a bill recognizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota. During debate, opponents of the bill introduced an amendment (which was subsequently defeated) to the bill that would have allowed any individual to refuse to conduct business with someone in a same-sex relationship if that relationship clashed with their sincerely-held religious beliefs. In support of this amendment, State Senator Warren Limmer was quoted as saying: “The question for this body is do we offer protection for all or only a few.” Later he added: “I’m sorry we don’t have room in our statutebooks for people of faith anymore.”
You may be guessing that the direction that this blog post is heading is to explain the nuances of the Establishment Clause. Or that I may be about to analogize this argument to those people who have sincerely-held religious beliefs which might make them uncomfortable doing business with Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, etc. You would be mistaken, despite the fact these would be very persuasive arguments against Senator Limmer’s position.
Rather, I want to simply point out that refusing to do business with someone based on their sexual orientation has been illegal in Minnesota for years. The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), which I have referred to repeatedly in this blog because of the protections it provides employees in Minnesota, also includes a provision that specifically prohibits business discrimination. Minn. Stat. § 363A.17 states in relevant part: