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Religious freedom in Minnesota: How it compares to Indiana's criticized law

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Indiana has become the epicenter in the fight for gay rights since passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, and elected officials in Minnesota are weighing in.

Indiana's law: Explained

The law and its expected effects are a bit complicated, but Newsweek does a pretty good job breaking down what it means, who it is meant to help and what similar laws have done in the past – click here to read more.

The Indy Star, which has made headlines for its "fix it now" front page criticizing the law, also breaks down what it really means for the state of Indiana.

Proponents say the law will protect people who are concerned about being forced to violate their religious commitments – like when a business is asked to provide services to same-sex couples during a wedding.

But critics say Indiana's law will make it legal to discriminate against people who are gay.

Uproar over the law in Indiana and nationally has pushed Indiana's Gov. Mike Pence, who has strongly defended the law, to ask lawmakers to clarify it by the end of the week.

Twin Cities mayors weigh in

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said this week they don't believe the law is OK – even if it's clarified.

The two mayors released a joint statement Monday:

“While the Governor of Indiana continues to defend his bill, we will stand with the people of Indiana who refuse to support laws that discriminate against its citizens. Legislation that supports discrimination against any citizen of the United States doesn’t need further clarity, it needs to be reversed.

“Here in the Twin Cities, we believe that prosperity and growth happen when everyone is welcomed and included in our future.”

Furthermore, Hodges announced Wednesday she has asked the Minneapolis City Council to pass a policy to prohibit using city funds for official business travel to the state of Indiana.

In addition, she asked the fire department to cancel its plans to attend a conference in Indiana in late April, the fire chief obliged.

The Column, a nonprofit LGBT media organization, says Minneapolis was the first city in the nation to pass a non-discrimination ordinance (back in the '70s) that protects residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The City of St. Paul has a similar ordinance.

Despite these non-discrimination ordinances, Republican lawmakers in Minnesota had planned to introduce religious freedom legislation this session, which critics say would allow businesses to discriminate against people who are gay. But it was never filed and deadlines have since passed, The Column notes.

Minnesota law

Minnesota law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, among a host of other attributes, including making it illegal for anyone publicly offering goods or services to deny a customer’s purchase based on their sexual preference – something that is at issue with Indiana’s new law.

Although included in Minnesota’s law are some religious exemptions when it comes to same-sex marriage.

Religion is also protected through a state supreme court case from 1990, FOX 9 says.

The case, Minnesota v. Hershberger, found that the state couldn't require Amish farmers to display the slow-moving vehicle symbols on their buggies (the Amish claimed the worldly symbol was against their religion) as long as they used a "reasonable alternative," like something else reflective, on their buggies.

“It was a landmark decision. I knew if it prevailed in Minnesota, it was going to make a difference for all religions, not necessary just the Amish,” Philip Villaume, who represented the Amish in the case, told FOX 9.

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