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Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline

Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage

1986 - Gender Revision in Minnesota Statutes 

Synopsis: Minnesota Statutes were completely revised to remove all non-substantial gender references (Laws 1986, Chapter 444).

Legislative History: In 1984, the Minnesota Legislature directed the Revisor of Statutes to prepare a revision of Minnesota Statutes with all nonsubstantive gender-specific terms removed. (Laws 1984, Chapter 480, section 21) During 1985, the Revisor's Office completed its analysis and in 1986, the nonsubstantive gender revisions proposed by the Office were adopted by the Legislature, with some exceptions. The bill sparked long and lively debate in the House and Senate. Representative David Bishop, author of the House bill, was surprised by the 20 floor amendments during floor debate.

A funny interchange in the Senate was related in an article in the Lake Country News Chronicle from Two Harbors. 'At one point during her debate with Sen. Bob Lessard, DFL - International Falls, who opposed the bill, Sen. Ember Reichgott said she received an unsigned note from another legislator which said, 'Dear Ember: Go ahead and shoot him. The worst you can get is people-slaughter.''

In April, Senator Ember Reichgott, as Chair of the Council on the Economic Status of Women, asked the Revisor's Office to prepare a report detailing the remaining gender-specific words that couldn't be changed, and why changing the original words would change the meaning or intent of the law. The report, Remaining Substantive Gender References in Minnesota Statutes, was released in December 1986. In 1987, additional changes to statutory language were made (Laws 1987, Chapter 39, Chapter 49). Interestingly, the 1986 law does include two phrases that were directed to be returned to their original gender-specific form in the statutes: 'airman' and 'sportsmen's club.'

Historical Context: The Gender Revision of 1986 was one of the largest revisions of the Minnesota Statutes in the history of its publication, estimated at more than 20,000 changed words. It occurred during a wave of such revisions in statutes, both state and federal, across the country.

Selected Resources
Remaining Substantive Gender References in Minnesota Statutes 1986: Report of the Revisor of Statutes to The Legislative Commission on the Economic Status of Women, St. Paul, MN: Office of the Revisor of Statutes, 1986.

This is a joint project of the LCC Office on the Economic Status of Women and the Legislative Reference Library.  The project is made possible by the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.

MNHS Legacy Grant Receipient Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment