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Minnesota lawmakers seek to expand discrimination prohibitions

Five Minnesota DFL senators recently offered a bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in jury service. The bill would add sexual orientation and marital status to current prohibitions against discrimination based on more familiar protected categories, such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, economic status or a physical or sensory disability. The provision would be in accord with Minnesota's Human Rights Act, which has offered protection against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace since 1993.

Notably, however, the protected category of sexual orientation is interpreted more broadly than many Minnesota readers might be aware. Specifically, Minnesota's Human Rights Act defines sexual orientation as having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one's biological maleness or femaleness. In other words: transgender protection. An employer who discharges an employee on those grounds will have violated the law.

Minnesota is one of only eight states in the nation to offer protection against gender identity discrimination. Several municipalities across the country include such a category in their anti-discrimination laws, such as New York City, but very few states are as progressive.

Yet transgender protections may be on the national radar. For example, the first openly transgender person was invited last June to testify before a Senate committee in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If passed, that federal law would end workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gender expression and identity -- how a person chooses to express his or her masculinity or femininity -- is a basic human right. For transgender individuals, who identify their gender differently from traditional roles, the protection offered by Minnesota's state law is necessary for their safety. No employee should be denied job opportunities on the basis of this protected category, or have to suffer gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

Source: tcdailyplanet.net, "Minnesota Senators offer bill to end anti-LGBT discrimination in jury service," Andy Birkey, Jan. 17, 2013

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