On May 14, 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation making Minnesota the 12th state to recognize same-sex marriage. The new law will take effect on August 1, 2013. The text of the bill is available here. Here are a few things that employers should keep in mind now that same-sex marriage will be legal in Minnesota:
- Sexual Orientation Discrimination: Even before same-sex marriage was recognized in Minnesota, the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) prohibited employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of sexual orientation. See Minn. Stat. § 363A.08. A limited exception to this rule exists for non-profit religious associations or educational institutions that are operated or controlled by religious associations, but the exception does not apply to secular business activities that are unrelated to the religious and educational purposes for which the institution is organized. See Minn. Stat. § 363A.26.
- Marital Status Discrimination: The MHRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of marital status. The Minnesota Supreme Court has defined “marital status” to include “the identity of the employee’s spouse and the spouse’s situation, as well as the spouse’s actions and beliefs.” Taylor v. LSI Corp. of America, 796 N.W.2d 153, 156 (Minn. 2011).
- Exemption for Marriage Ceremonies: For employers who administer marriage solemnizations or ceremonies, the new law includes an exemption for religious associations, which allows them to refuse to provide goods or services for marriage solemnizations or ceremonies that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. The exception extends to employees or volunteers of religious associations who are acting within their responsibilities for the religious association. However, the exception does not apply to secular business activities that are unrelated to the religious or educational purposes of the religious association.
Takeaways: While same-sex marriage in Minnesota will likely not have a significant impact on employment law, employers should make sure that their policies and practices do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status.