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Joshua Boschee

Views & Voices

‘Don’t give up on North Dakota yet … progress will be made’

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Last week the North Dakota Senate defeated SB 2252 with a 21-26 bipartisan vote, which would have amended the North Dakota Human Rights Act and the North Dakota Fair Housing Act to protect LGBT North Dakotans and their family from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and public services.

As a lifelong North Dakotan, I am appalled that our state, a state that prides itself on valuing others and taking care of our neighbors, continues to support rhetoric that is pro-discrimination.

Unfortunately, the rest of the nation seems to have its own perspective that the decision was just “North Dakota being North Dakota.”

As a co-sponsor of the legislation, I was confident in the progress our state and nation has made regarding LGBT equality.  Four years ago, the N.D. Senate passed an almost identical piece of legislation 29-17.

Could one argue that North Dakota is moving backwards?

I would argue that North Dakota hasn’t moved backwards, but certain elected leaders certainly have.  How else can you explain organizations like the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the North Dakota Association of Realtors providing supportive testimony and lobbying for passage of this bill, when four years ago they wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole?

City governments, public universities, the statewide student association, faith leaders, family members and LGBT North Dakotans that have been discriminated against, all testified in support of passage to make North Dakota a safe state for all employees and renters to live, work, learn and play.

Sadly, their testimony and experiences were lost on legislators who would rather listen to the Concerned Women of American, North Dakota Family Alliance and faith leaders that use religion to support and justify discrimination, rather than oppose it.

The most laughable aspect of all this is the Senate Judiciary Chair introducing an amendment to the original bill because he thought North Dakotans weren’t quite ready to close the door on intolerance and progress should be made “incrementally.”

The amendment stated “the state of North Dakota does not condone discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

However, if you thought you were discriminated against because of your sexual orientation, you have no “rights or protections with respect to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” or a “right to a cause of action for damages.”

In other words, we recognize discrimination occurs, but we will put into statute that the state of North Dakota won’t do anything about it — makes you want to relocate to be a part of the booming economy our state continues to experience, doesn’t’ it.

Fortunately, this horrible amendment was defeated by the Senate, and the original language of the bill received a full vote.

It’s disheartening to hear elected leaders ignore their own state’s history in stating, “social change in this country happens in fits and starts; you don’t get to come into this chamber and hit your home run on the social change that you want.”

It’s infuriating to hear elected Republican leaders repeat rhetoric from the 1980′s that implies that being gay equals the spread of HIV/AIDs.

Yes, it sounds to me that North Dakota’s elected leaders are trying their hardest to move the state backwards.

Through all of this, I encourage you not to give up on North Dakota quite yet.  There is a silver lining.

Immediately following the defeat of SB 2252, city leaders from three of the state’s largest cities contacted me to gather information to pass fully inclusive local ordinances.

Community leaders are preparing to work with the state’s most populous county to pass a similar ordinance.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual and straight state employees in the three of the largest agencies are currently protected in employment, and we are preparing to move forward to ensure protections to all state employees.

Progress will continue to be made so that LGBT North Dakotans can truly feel at home.

As one of the supporters for the bill stated in testimony, “I want my (gay) son to feel as welcome in North Dakota as he does in my own home.”

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11 more reader comments:

  1. Happened in Maine…hold on!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:33pm
  2. Come on North Dakota :) you guys will pull through!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:35pm
  3. Even in Republican dominated states it can happen.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:35pm
  4. Good luck getting them to change with regard to LGBTI people

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 5:32pm
  5. The ND Leg really needs a good spanking!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:19pm
  6. Again, another reason I’m glad I don’t actually live here. I think ND will pull through, though.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 8:46am
  7. While it is saddening that this occured, public opinion is chaning and it is “getting better” time will tell who comes out on top in this “war” we have been struggling with. Remember people, history is written by the winners not those who lose the war. We can lose a battle or two and still win the war.

    Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 9:40am
  8. I gave up on North Dakota a long time ago.

    Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 9:50am
  9. It’s North Dakota, what the fuck do you expect. Wife beaters, alcoholics, and inner family pedophiles! When I thought Alabama and Louisiana would make the worst on the list I have been wronged! Well if Minnesota passes it, Maybe it will help influence their neighbor.

    Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 9:54am
  10. That last comment coming from a resident of Kentucky ^^

    Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12:06pm
  11. I lived in ND for 2 years. I couldn’t take it any more, and returned to Minneapolis. It was like living in a different century. My former in-laws have lived there almost their entire lives. They still freely and openly discriminate against Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and any other racial or ethnic group that does not fit in with their Germanic or Scandinavian Catholic or Protestant cultures. Asking for equal rights for women and LGBT people are not even on their radar screen yet.

    Their penal system is positively draconian. A crime that would get you maybe 30 days in the workhouse–or probation in Minneapolis got my nieces almost 3 years in the state prison in Dickinson. My 75 year old grandmother is now raising 3 great grandchildren alone. I wonder, if they were White, would they have gotten such a harsh penalty? It is a human rights issue!

    I’m not even going to get started on how they treat all of the Native peoples who live on and off the many reservations in that state. That too is a human rights crime. So, when you say “Don’t’ give up” re ND granting GLBT people their human rights? Good Lord! Get in the f*cking line! It’s going to be a long, long, wait. Hope is good, but let’s be realistic here. We’re talking about a state that shut down it’s only battered women’s shelter in 1980 for a short time because “it encouraged women to run away from their husbands”. We’re talking about a state that is thisclose to shutting down the last clinic that performs abortions because of “trap laws” passed by legislators that want to deprive women of their constitutionally guaranteed access to reproductive health care, because a fertilized egg has more rights than a full-grown, living, breathing, woman.

    I support the ongoing engagement and dialog. I really do. Best of luck. Don’t hold your breath. Signed,
    Never Going Back

    Posted on Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 1:40pm