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Former North Dakota governor ‘probably’ considered LGBT people in 1981 policy

Former North Dakota Gov. Allen Olson (R), speaking in Bismarck in 2008.
Former North Dakota Gov. Allen Olson (R), speaking in Bismarck in 2008. Will Kincaid, Bismarck Tribune (AP, File)

BISMARCK, N.D. — Former North Dakota Gov. Allen Olson said Tuesday he “probably” considered lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people when he crafted a nondiscrimination policy for state employees 34 years ago.

Olson, a Republican who was governor from 1981 to 1984, told The Associated Press that the intent of his 1981 executive order was to treat “human beings as human beings.”

“That’s the way I felt,” said the 76-year-old Olson, who now lives in Minneapolis. “I had a father who was very much a person who accepted all human beings regardless of their failings and that was very influential on me.”

Olson’s executive order that mandated all state employees be provided “fair, equitable, and uniform treatment” was reaffirmed and ratified last year by current GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

All 38 Democrats from the House and Senate delivered a letter to Dalrymple on Monday asking him to issue an executive order to require state agencies to ban discrimination in hiring and employment based on sexual orientation. Dalrymple’s staff responded by saying one is not needed because the governor adopted Olson’s executive order.

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Ron Rauschenber, Dalrymple’s chief of staff, also sent a letter Monday to all agency directors appointed by the governor stating: “Ours remains a policy of non-discrimination, including no discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

The debate over gay rights in North Dakota has intensified after the state House last week killed a bill that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, government, public services and the workplace.

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