BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Republican governor on Thursday said state lawmakers missed an opportunity to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination when they failed for the third time in six years to pass a measure that would prohibit bias in housing and employment based on sexual orientation.
“Discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation is not acceptable,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement issued after the North Dakota Legislature killed the proposal.
Dalrymple made his view known on the same day that GOP governors in Arkansas and Indiana took actions designed to quell the uproar over so-called “religious freedom” laws that critics have said are disguised discrimination against gays.
The proposed North Dakota legislation is different in that it would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, government, public services and the workplace, and does not deal with religion. The bill did not include gender identity.
The state Senate approved the measure in February but House members voted to defeat it, with opponents saying during testimony such protections are unnecessary, and argued it could force businesses and religious organizations to go against their own convictions.
“It’s frustrating,” Fargo Democratic Rep. Josh Boschee, the state’s first and only openly gay legislator, told reporters.
Several Democrats spoke in favor of the legislation Thursday, joined by two Republicans – Reps. Thomas Beadle and Kathy Hawken.
Article continues belowBeadle and Boschee said the defeat of the proposal could subject North Dakota to a backlash much like Indiana and Arkansas faced from the public and businesses worried that state would appear to be unwelcoming.
“The mere perception of LGBT discrimination will have negative consequences,” Beadle said.
Supporters said many LGBT people fear they could lose their jobs or residences under current state law.
Similar legislation failed during the 2009 and 2013. Boschee said the measure will reappear in future legislative sessions until it passes.
“It will be back,” he said.