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Demuth: House Republicans score a win for restoring religious freedom in Minnesota

Wednesday, May 8, 2024


ST. PAUL – Minority Leader Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said House Republicans took a major step toward restoring religious freedom which Minnesota Democrats stripped from faith-based organizations last year.

The House on Tuesday approved a variation of Republican legislation, amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act to re-establish protections for religious entities against discrimination claims. The bill unanimously passed the Senate earlier in the day and, with the House also providing unopposed approval, it now is on Gov. Tim Walz’s desk for enactment.

“We need to safeguard the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, including the right of each Minnesotan to freely exercise their religion,” Demuth said. “This is not just an issue for one faith tradition – this affects all of us. Minnesotans across the state have been watching to see if we’ll uphold our commitment to their right to practice their religion, whatever it may be, as they see fit. This religious exemption is about upholding the fundamental right of every citizen to live according to their faith without fear of punishment or retribution.”

Demuth said this move was necessary due to HRA legislation Democrats enacted in 2023, eliminating religious protections that had been in place since 1993. 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.

“Religious freedom is not a partisan issue; it is a fundamental right that must be protected for all citizens, regardless of their beliefs,” Demuth said. “It is good we recognized that, listened to Minnesotans and put together a bipartisan solution that addresses incredibly important concerns on this issue. This is a win for Minnesotans.”

Demuth said she is confident the courts ultimately would have ruled the change Democrats made last year unconstitutional. She also indicated she’s glad it didn’t get that far.

“The last thing we needed was to have a costly court case unfold where, in reality, everyone suffers damages – including taxpayers,” Demuth said. “I am glad we avoided that, and it seems we have put this issue to rest with a just outcome.”