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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Greg Davids (R)

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Wednesday, March 27, 2024

ST. PAUL – State Representative Greg Davids (R-Preston) said Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature continued their efforts to re-establish a religious freedom in our state, only to see Democrats continue to stand in the way.


On March 25, religious leaders throughout Minnesota joined House Republicans at a press conference in calling for religious freedom to be restored in the Minnesota Human Rights Act, protecting religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination.


Later that afternoon, Democrats in the House majority tabled a motion to bring forward legislation to make that happen. It was the third time this session Democrats had at least temporarily blocked a Republican attempt at restoring religious freedom language to the HRA, following committee votes in both the House and the Senate.


Following the vote, House Democrat Judiciary Finance Chair Jamie-Becker Finn mocked the Republican attempt at re-establishing this religious freedom, telling the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “they're doing this because it gets them a lot of clicks and they get to give some fun speeches on the floor." 


“We had given Democrats the benefit of the doubt that they had made a mistake when drafting their Human Rights Act legislation,” Davids said. “But as the days go on, and the House majority continues to find ways to dodge putting this religious freedom back into law, you start to wonder if this wasn’t the plan all along.” 


Davids noted that at least one faith-based school already is facing an employment complaint at the department of human rights because of the removal of the exemption.


Before last year, when gender identity was included (or subsumed) within the MHRA definition of sexual orientation, the still-existing religious exemption for sexual orientation covered gender identity claims as well. When a new, separate definition of gender identity was created last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added. The proposal Davids is supporting would once again ensure religious organizations and faith-based schools can, among other things, hire teachers and ministers consistent with their mission and values.


It remains unclear when – or if – the Democrat-controlled House will revisit that bill.