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Human Rights Protections in Minnesota

In 1993, the Minnesota Legislature amended the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) to prohibit many forms of discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation." The broad definition of "sexual orientation" in MHRA made it the nation's first state civil rights law to protect transgender individuals from discrimination.

"Sexual orientation" is defined as "having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one's biological maleness or femaleness. "Sexual orientation" does not include a physical or sexual attachment to children by an adult."

NOTE: Minneapolis and St. Paul have amended their respective anti-discrimination ordinances creating a stand-alone category of "gender identity," defining this as "A person's actual or perceived self-image or identity as expressed through dress, appearance, behavior, speech or similar characteristics, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's physical anatomy, chromosomal sex, or sex at birth."

Under Minnesota law, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is generally prohibited in:

  • Employment, including labor union membership
  • Real property (housing)
  • Public accommodations (such as theaters or restaurants)
  • Public services (those provided by government)
  • Education, including private, secular schools
  • Credit
  • Business contracting

However, MHRA also contains various exceptions when it comes to sexual orientation — that is, areas where discrimination remains legal. These areas are:

  • Youth-serving agencies (employees or volunteers only)
  • Duplex rentals
  • Religious institutions (applies to education, employment, housing/real property, or use of facilities, but not "secular business activities" unrelated to the institution's educational or religious purpose)

If you believe you have experienced discrimination in any of these areas, you can call the Minnesota Department of Human Rights at 651.296.5663 or 800.657.3704.

Under certain circumstances, LGBT workers -- particularly transgender workers -- may file a claim of discrimination under federal law, known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  More information is available from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Certain cities in Minnesota have their own human rights ordinance, with separate enforcement offices. In Saint Paul, please contact the Department of Human Rights at 651.266.8966; in Minneapolis, the Department of Civil Rights at 612.673.3012.


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