Anti-discrimination bill not likely to pass this session

Members of Pride Minot say they are disappointed that the State Legislature failed to pass a bill that would have prohibited housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Senate Bill 2303 failed by a vote of 20-27 on Jan. 27. It was the fifth attempt within 10 years to include protections for LGBT people in the state’s non-discrimination statute, according to media reports. Opponents of the bill said they didn’t think the bill would prevent discrimination and might have other consequences such as lawsuits. Another version of the bill, House Bill 1441, removed gender identity from the list of protections but included sexual orientation. This bill was defeated by a vote of 70 to 22 in the House on Feb. 18.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, one of the sponsors of the bill, said in an email that it is unlikely the legislation will be revived during this session.

“Generally speaking, opponents of HB 1441 (and previous efforts) are concerned with a few items, from creating protected classes to infringing on individual and religious liberties,” said Mock in the email. “Attempts have been made to address those concerns, but we’ve also received considerable push back over inclusion of gender identity and the fact that it’s a “perceived” state. HB 1441 was drafted to remove gender identity and simple provide protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I do not believe there’ll be any other attempts to pass these protections yet this session (would need to come in the form of an amendment to another bill or a delayed bill – there doesn’t appear to be any rush to do either this session.) I suspect bills will be introduced in future legislatures, but many of the same concerns will emerge.

“Some solutions have been kicked around. One is prohibit discrimination without mentioning any specific criteria. This would be challenging and may have some federal implications, but if possible this would be the most popular solution.

“Another option removes this from the hands of the legislature altogether: initiated measure. I’m not aware of any specific polling or efforts, but this may be the best chance the measure has to become law in the relative near future.”

Members of Pride Minot said members of the LGBTQA+ community still face discrimination, despite recent gains in civil rights. LGBTQA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, asexual and allies.

“As someone who identifies as an open gay male, I have seen and been through my own struggles due to my own sexual orientation,” said Jorden Laducer, a member of the group, in a statement. “There have been instances of being (discriminated against) due to my sexual orientation. I was passed up on for a position for which I meet all standards / requirements, have the education, and previous job experience, yet I was not given an interview. In fact, there were others who didn’t meet the requirements but were given an interview and ultimately given the position. Twenty states, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of localities have taken steps to protect LGBTQA+ people by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to their nondiscrimination laws, yet North Dakota is still one that does not protect the LGBTQA+ community from discrimination in the workforce or housing.”

Laducer noted that lesbian, gay and transgender people in the United States have “celebrated incredible wins” over the past few years, including the right to marry and to serve openly in the military, but still face a lot of challenges. He said more than 40 percent of people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual have reported being discriminated against at some point when they applied for jobs. Some 90 percent of people have reported being harassed, mistreateed, or discriminated against at work or have tried to hide their sexual orientation to avoid being treated differently. He said people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender also have been discriminated against when they apply for housing, at school, in the criminal justice system, when they go to the doctor or when they go shopping.

“It is vital that the nondiscrimination laws explicitly include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, as experiences of discrimination based on all three are strongly linked,” said Laducer in the statement. “Doing so will capture more fully the complexity of how bias against LGBTQA+ communities operates and the ways in which these biases are rooted in assumptions about both gender and sexuality.”

James Falcon, another member of the group, echoed Laducer’s sentiments.

“House Bill 1441, which would protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, is a very important bill,” said Falcon. “I’ve read and heard comments from the public asking why this bill is so important. Some comments have said that members of the LGBTQ community are already protected by the U.S. Constitution. But are they? There is no provision in North Dakota law that explicitly addresses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Members of the community should not be in fear of losing their job, their livelihood, based on who they are. Everyone should be guaranteed the right to live and work without fear of persecution, based on the prejudices of others.

“In the past, lawmakers have argued that this bill is unnecessary because there “isn’t a need.” However, in 2015, Joshua Boschee testified of at least five instances of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I think five is too much. Heck, one is too much!

“I would like to know what harm would come about if this bill passed? What is so bad about fighting against discrimination? All that is being asked is for this bill to pass to protect members of our community.”

“Anti-discrimination bill not likely to pass this session” Minot Daily News 28 Feb 2019: A1
Written by Andrea Johnson