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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Lisa Demuth (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, May 10, 2024
Mothers Day

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from St. Paul, where we have a big win to report among this week’s notes. Before we get to that, I want to send wishes for a happy Mother’s Day and good luck in this weekend’s fishing opener if you intend to get out on the water!

As for official business:

A win for religious freedom

religious liberty

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 his anticipated enactment.

We need to safeguard the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, including the right of each Minnesotan to freely exercise their religion. 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.

Tuesday’s action 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. This jeopardized faith-based institutions’ ability to make decisions consistent with their mission and values.

Religious freedom is not a partisan issue; it is a fundamental right that must be protected for all citizens, regardless of their beliefs. 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.

I am confident the courts ultimately would have ruled the change Democrats made last year unconstitutional. I also am glad it didn’t get that far. The last thing we needed was to have a costly court case unfold where everyone suffers damages – including taxpayers. I am glad we avoided that, and it seems we have put this issue to rest with a just outcome.

ERA bill in works

The majority has placed on the House calendar for Monday a controversial bill which greatly expands the Equal Rights Amendment, enshrining protections for everything from race, sex and gender identity to abortion and infertility treatments into state law. Here is a link to more on this issue and I may get into it more pending developments at the Capitol next week.

Senate ethics hearing

The Senate Ethics Committee this week held a hearing to determine if one of their members broke Senate rules by allegedly breaking into her stepmother’s house before being arrested and charged with felony burglary.

Unfortunately, the hearing didn’t provide much in the way of substance. The senator in question didn't speak a word during the hearing, instead having her lawyer plead the Fifth for her repeatedly.

The most important point of all remains: With a 34-33 balance of power in the Senate, a charged felon should not be the deciding vote on new laws for Minnesotans. It is unfortunate that scenario unfolded yesterday, with her vote allowing a gun-control bill (H.F. 2609) to pass the Senate.

Stay tuned for more from the House soon as Monday brings us into the final full week of the session with adjournment scheduled for May 20. As always, I appreciate the input and welcome your continued correspondence as we head into these final days at the Capitol this year.