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Minnesota Gov. to Sign Gay Marriage Bill

By Brett Snider, Esq. on May 14, 2013 11:13 AM

Minnesota is no "flyover" state when it comes to civil rights, as Gov. Mark Dayton is poised to sign a bill into law permitting same-sex marriages. It will make Minnesota the second Midwest state to do so.

The Minnesota gay-marriage bill reframes all marriages as "civil marriages," removes gender from the state's definition of eligible partners to a marriage, and will allow marriages to begin August 1.

Like many other states that have passed marriage bills this spring, Minnesota's proposed marriage law has its own unique legal quirks.

Residency Requirement

Unlike the 11 other states that have passed gay marriage laws before it, Minnesota's new law will require at least one person of the couple wishing to be married to reside in Minnesota for no less than six months.

That means couples wishing to get a civil marriage in Minnesota by August 1 must have had one partner living in-state since at least February 1.

Civil Marriage

States like Rhode Island and Delaware have taken to amending their current marriage statutes and redacting gendered terms, but Minnesota has defined all new marriages, same-sex or not, as "civil marriages."

This may be an in an attempt to ground marriage as a civil institution based on contract law, which does not infringe on the rights of religious associations.

Religious Exemptions

The Minnesota bill carves out three exemptions for nonprofit religious institutions and groups that do not wish to honor same-sex civil marriages:

  1. Religious institutions can discriminate based on sexual orientation with regard to education, employment, housing, real property and use of facilities;
  2. No religious institution can be forced to solemnize a civil marriage for any reason; and
  3. Religious institutions that provide goods and services for weddings may refuse to do business with same-sex couples for based on religious beliefs.

Public Accommodations Law

The religious business exemption was likely drafted in response to the bill's Republican opponents, who were worried that religious groups that offer wedding services would be forced to do business with gay couples, the Associated Press reports.

However, private wedding planners and cake bakers with religious conflicts still have to do business with gay couples under Minnesota's public accommodation law, which prohibits discrimination by businesses based on sexual orientation.

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