Can I Be Denied Service for My Sexual Orientation?

There has been plenty of progress over the last few decades concerning the advancement of LGBTQ issues. There has also been pushback, as we recently learned when the Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church voted to defrock a Minneapolis pastor for permitting same-sex marriage. They even expelled his church from the denomination.

Rev. Dan Collison has his credentials removed following the Evangelical Covenant Church’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Collison became the pastor at his First Covenant church in 2009 and said he is not surprised by their decision.

“I feel grounded in the path we have chosen. I feel grateful for the pastors and churches who stood up for us. I feel compassion to those caught in the middle,” he said.

Protection in Minnesota

We are caught in a strange time for LGBTQ rights. A few years ago, we were celebrating the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country. Now the community grapples with pushbacks, both politically and religiously.

However, Minnesota has been at the forefront of this battle for human rights. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), sexual orientation is a “protected class.” The law also prohibits discrimination of a person on the basis of their gender identity or gender expression.

It is illegal to treat you differently because of your sexual orientation (or your perceived sexual orientation) in:

  • Housing
  • Public accommodations
  • Public services
  • Employment
  • Credit
  • Education
  • Business

Sexual orientation harassment is most prevalent in the workplace and can show up as a:

  • Refusal to hire
  • Demotion
  • Failure to promote
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Denial of benefits
  • Wrongful termination
  • Layoff decisions

Many people who have been discriminated against or know of discrimination are often afraid to come forward out of fear of retaliation. Under the MHRA, it is illegal to retaliate or punish someone for:

  • Opposing discrimination
  • Having friends of being associated with someone in a protected class
  • Filing a discrimination charge or making a harassment or discrimination complaint
  • Taking part in an investigation by a human rights organization

Can a business owner refuse services to you because of your sexual orientation or for your same-sex wedding?

This is one of the most common questions we hear and one that has made it all the way to the US Supreme Court. The answer is, no.

The MHRA makes it illegal to deny commercial activity or refuse to enter into a commercial contract with someone on the basis of their sexual orientation. For example, a business that provides decorations, planning, or wedding cakes for weddings may not deny its services to a same-sex couple.

What you can do if you think you’ve been the victim of discrimination in Minnesota

If you think you have been the victim of discrimination based on your sexual orientation, secure an attorney as soon as you can. The state of Minnesota recommends taking the following steps:

  • Write down what happened in the incident of alleged discrimination.
  • Write down the dates when the unfair treatment occurred.
  • Write down the names of everyone present when the discrimination occurred.
  • Write down what the people who were present said.

You or your attorney should contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights as soon as possible. You have one year from the time of the incident to file a complaint.