On Thursday, North Dakota lawmakers rejected extending legal protection from discrimination to gays and lesbians, for the third time in the last six years. Two bills that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation were soundly defeated by the North Dakota House, by votes of 56-35 and 61-30.
One of the bills would have banned discrimination in housing and employment, and the other would have banned discrimination in public services. On the bill banning discrimination in housing and employment, all 56 NO votes were cast by Republicans. 25 Democrats and 10 Republicans supported ending discrimination in housing and employment.
The North Dakota House killed a similar bill 54-34, in 2009, after it had passed the State Senate. In 2013, another similarly worded bill failed to make it through the Senate, losing on a 26-21 vote.
The North Dakota legislature has made a habit of rejecting LGBT equality over the past decade, soundly rejecting legal protections every time they come to a vote. However, Thursday’s vote comes at a time when the national spotlight is focused on Indiana’s recently passed “religious freedom” to discriminate law. North Dakota lawmakers who once quietly affirmed the right to discriminate outside the public glare, may now face a political backlash because their constituents are paying closer attention to their actions this time around.
Conservative Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple is clearly concerned about the state’s image. He had hoped lawmakers would at least ban anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment. In a statement, the Republican Governor said:
I’m concerned that we have missed an opportunity to affirm what North Dakotans already believe, which is that discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation is not acceptable.
Of course, with all due respect to the Governor, North Dakota’s Republican-controlled legislature has affirmed what they believe, over and over. What they have affirmed is that they believe that discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation should remain legal. Not every Republican state lawmaker believes that, but enough of them do, so that every time an equality measure is brought to the floor, it is routinely crushed by the anti-gay, majority wing of the North Dakota Republican Party.
Until the homophobic wing of the GOP is swept out of office, North Dakota will remain mired in the last century, an archaic state stuck in the distant past, while the rest of the nation marches forward. 2016 would be a good time for North Dakota voters to rise up, and vote out the buffoons who have turned Bismarck into the capital of anti-gay bigotry.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.