North Dakota Senate approves LGBT‑inclusive anti-discrimination bill

North Dakota state capitol in Bismark

North Dakota state capitol in Bismark

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota‘s Republican-led Senate has narrowly approved a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

North Dakota state capitol in Bismark

North Dakota state capitol in Bismark

The Senate voted 25-22 on Tuesday to send the legislation to the House, going against the wishes of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard testimony on the legislation earlier this month and voted 4-2 to give the bill a “do not pass” recommendation.

North Dakota law already outlaws discrimination based on such things as race, age, disability and political affiliation. The measure would add prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill has exemptions for religious organizations.

Supporters said the legislation protects LGBT residents from being fired from jobs or denied public accommodations.

The committee chairman, Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, said on the Senate floor Tuesday that there was never any evidence submitted to the committee of that happening in North Dakota.

“We really did not see a problem – at least the problem was never defined to us in terms of either explicit discrimination or even implicit discrimination,” said Houge, a lawyer who works in employment law. “We didn’t have witnesses come forward to say that they were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, either by the government or by the private sector.”

Hogue said supporters of the legislation testified that the legislation was an “extension” of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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“I don’t think we accepted the idea that it’s analogous to the civil rights movement,” Hogue said of the Senate Judiciary Committee members.

Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, one of the two committee members who supported the bill, said Tuesday on the Senate floor that the legislation “extends basic protections in the home and workplace” to LGBTr residents.

The legislation would prevent people from “losing jobs or evicted from homes” because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, she said.

Similar legislation in North Dakota failed in in the 2009 and 2013 sessions.

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