A measure to allow Minnesotans to file a document renouncing racist language in the titles to their homes was cleared on Tuesday for a floor vote in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

"I am thrilled," said Kirsten Delegard, project director of Mapping Prejudice, an organization that has been working to identify every house in Minneapolis with titles that contain the language known as racial covenants. The covenants contain clauses that state, for instance, that a home cannot be "transferred or leased to a colored person." It's long been rendered unenforceable by state legislation and federal law, but the language nonetheless remains on thousands of deeds.

Under the bill sponsored by Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, a Minnesota homeowner who has a racial covenant on their title, can go to their local county recorder, fill out a document and have it attached to the title, repudiating the racist language. Davnie said the statewide uniform filing fee to cover administrative costs is $46.

"While these racially restricted covenants remain unenforceable, they remain on the property titles and a are a form of moral injury that (the bill) seeks to address," Davnie said.

Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said he plans to introduce a companion bill in the Minnesota Senate on Wednesday and will ask Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, the chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee for a hearing on it.

Mapping Prejudice, which claims to be the largest such effort in the country, has so far identified 17,000 homes in Minneapolis that contain the covenants in the original titles. The group has identified 13,000 more homes also believed to have such covenants attached, but still must be reviewed by a team of volunteers.

The covenants, which were drafted by developers in Minneapolis starting in 1910 and continuing into the 1950s, typically state that the homeowner is prohibited from selling his or her house to a black person, and if they do, the house ownership will revert to the developer. The covenants occasionally barred sales to other racial minorities or to Jews, but most of the prohibitions were against sales to blacks. They were permanently outlawed by Congress in 1968. There are similar covenants in communities all over the state.

Kevin Ehrman-Solberg of the Mapping Prejudice staff, told the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division Committee on Tuesday that a key reason for Minneapolis being so geographically segregated along racial lines is that racial covenants prohibited blacks from living in major portions of the city, creating a demographic that continues to this day.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224