• Key point: A number of states have enacted civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination in employment on account of sexual orientation. Most of these laws contain some form of exemption for religious organizations.
• The Minnesota legislature has amended a state civil rights law to prohibit discrimination in employment or housing on the basis of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is defined as “having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.” The term “does not include a physical or sexual attachment to children by an adult.” The prohibition of discrimination by employers based on sexual orientation does not apply to “a religious or fraternal corporation, association, or society, with respect to qualifications based on religion or sexual orientation, when religion or sexual orientation shall be a bona fide occupational qualification for employment.” Further, the ban on employment discrimination based on sexual orientation does not apply to “a nonpublic service organization whose primary function is providing occasional services to minors, such as youth sports organizations, scouting organizations, boys’ or girls’ clubs, programs providing friends, counselors, or role models for minors, youth theater, dance, music or artistic organizations, agricultural organizations for minors, and other youth organizations, with respect to qualifications of employees or volunteers based on sexual orientation.” The statute prohibits covered employers from requesting that applicants for employment (or current employees) “furnish information that pertains to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, disability, sexual orientation, or age ….” The statute further provides:
Nothing in this chapter prohibits any religious association, religious corporation, or religious society that is not organized for private profit, or any institution organized for educational purposes that is operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious association, religious corporation, or religious society that is not organized for private profit, from: (1) limiting admission to or giving preference to persons of the same religion or denomination; or (2) in matters relating to sexual orientation, taking any action with respect to education, employment, housing and real property, or use of facilities. This clause shall not apply to secular business activities engaged in by the religious association, religious corporation, or religious society, the conduct of which is unrelated to the religious and educational purposes for which it is organized.
Finally, the statute provides that it should not be interpreted to mean that the state of Minnesota (1) condones homosexuality or bisexuality; (2) authorizes or permits the promotion of homosexuality or bisexuality in educational institutions; (3) requires the teaching in educational institutions of homosexuality or bisexuality as an acceptable lifestyle; (4) authorizes the use of numerical goals or quotas, or other types of affirmative action programs, with respect to homosexuality or bisexuality; or (5) authorizes the recognition of or the right of marriage between persons of the same sex. Amendments to Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363.
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