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Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline

Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage

1973 - Minnesota Human Rights Act 

Synopsis: In 1973, Minnesota passed amendments to its human rights law to prohibit discrimination against women in employment, housing, public accommodations, public service and education. (Laws 1973, Chapter 729)

Legislative History: The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) was renamed in the 1973 legislation. It was formerly known as the Minnesota State Act Against Discrimination (MSAAD). The MHRA, now codified in Chapter 363A of Minnesota Statutes, prohibits all forms of illegal discrimination across a spectrum of groups and in different areas of the economy, except where there is a bona fide occupational requirement.

Amendments to Minnesota human rights law affecting women were added incrementally. In 1969, MSAAD was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in employment. (Laws 1969, Chapter 975) This was a huge milestone for women in Minnesota; in fact, Minnesota's law went beyond federal law in that it required anyone employing one or more workers to comply with the law. In 1973, the MSAAD became MHRA and was further amended to prohibit sex discrimination in the areas of housing, public accommodations, public service, credit eligibility and education. It also extended protected status to women based on their marital status. In 1977, protection from discrimination in employment and education based on pregnancy was added to the MHRA. (Laws 1977, Chapter 408)

Historical Context: The early 1970s were active years in the area of women's rights legislation. The limitations and implications of state and federal civil rights laws were being tested in the courts, locally and up to the Supreme Court. Civil rights issues dovetailed with women's rights issues under the banner of general human rights. Many states formed human rights commissions or departments and produced a barrage of anti-discrimination laws during the 1970s that are still being amended to this day. In Minnesota, the Department of Human Rights was created in 1967 to replace the State Commission Against Discrimination. The Minnesota Human Rights Act, enacted in 1973, is the umbrella legislation covering illegal discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, public assistance status, pregnancy status, disability, age and sexual orientation.

Selected Resources
Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Department of Human Rights Timeline.

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.

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