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Bill would allow some MN businesses to refuse service at same-sex weddings

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A state senator from Nisswa introduced a "Freedom of Conscience" bill Thursday that would allow some businesses to refuse marriage services to same-sex couples due to their religious beliefs.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Paul Gazelka, a Republican, is narrower than legislation that caused uproar in Indiana and other states as it only concerns the marriage ceremony, he said at a news conference Thursday.

He says his bill would give religious organizations and small businesses (20 or fewer employees) with sincerely held religious beliefs the right to pass on marriage ceremonies that go against what they strongly believe, the Star Tribune reports.

But the bill says no business may refuse service if it presents a hardship to customers who can't find similar services within a reasonable distance (30 miles) and that can provide the service in a reasonable time frame, MinnPost says.

Gazelka says the bill isn't meant to discriminate, but to compromise, adding he unveiled it so late in the session to "start the conversation," MinnPost notes.

"I was one of the legislators who opposed gay marriage but even then I said that gays and lesbians should be able to live as they choose," Gazelka said Thursday, according to the Pioneer Press. "I'm simply asking that Christians and people of faith be allowed to live as they choose without the threat of punishment from the government."

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Minnesota in 2013.

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