aroundtheregion

Political leaders in Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota reacted to a new law in Indiana that provides a defense for those who discriminate against LGBT people. On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an amendment into law that provides very limited protections for LGBT people, a decision that brought praise and condemnation around the region…

Iowa
*Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad stayed largely silent about the controversial Indiana bill, the Des Moines Register reports. However, Branstad did offer one quote: “In Iowa we have a history of being open and fair, and I believe everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.”

*Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who is running for the Republican nomination for president stopped in Iowa to talk about the Indiana law, the Hill reports:

Much of the discussion focused on the current backlash against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for signing into law a religious liberty bill that critics say will provide cover to those who might discriminate against gay people.

Cruz defended the law and blasted liberal opposition to it.

“I commend the state of Indiana for doing the right thing,” Cruz said. “There was a time not too long ago when religious liberty enjoyed bipartisan support, virtual unanimity. What does it say about today’s Democratic Party that standing up for the First Amendment rights of Americans, standing up for the very first liberty protected in the First Amendment, is now viewed as inconsistent with the partisan political objective of the Democratic Party?”…

“Every one of us is concerned about the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage likely coming in June,” Cruz said. “The first thing and most important thing every one of us can do is pray. Lift up in prayer.”

*Iowa radio host and Washington Times columnist Steve Deace offered his opinion to Gov. Pence signing an amendment that offers limited protections for LGBT people, Media Matters reports:

Deace, who is notoriously anti-gay, initially supported Pence on his March 30 radio show, instead blaming the “rainbow jihad” and “religious bigots” for causing an unnecessary issue with a law he incorrectly claimed was the same as in 19 other states.
Despite the backing of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Pence held a press conferenceannouncing he would revisit the law and ensure there were protections for LGBT Americans. On his March 31 show, Deace called Pence a “gutless hack,” and said that any chance he had at the Republican presidential nomination is gone. Deace added of Republicans: “When you look between their legs, there’s no there, there. Eunuchs all. Well, almost all. GOP leadership is rapidly removing any reasons for a conservative to vote Republican, let alone remain one.”

*A man in Manchester sent letters out to Indiana businesses telling them to relocate to Iowa, a state that has inclusive LGBT laws, FOX 28 reports:

A Manchester, Iowa man is gaining attention for seeing this law as an opportunity for Iowa. “There are businesses that have been working in Indiana for many years, conventions that have had their event there for up to 10 years that are deciding to back out,” says JScott Images Owner Justin Scott. Scott sees this as an opportunity to bring those businesses to Iowa. He wrote them a letter. “What I learned is how progressive of a state we are. We’ve always been on the cutting-edge of being in front of things and trying to stay very progressive in everything that we do,” he says. Iowa has an LGBT non-discrimination law. 20 states have the same or a similar law, according tithe American Civil Liberties Union. Indiana has neither. “As a small business owner I feel it is very important that you serve everybody. When you work in the public arena, you serve everybody,” he says.

*MacArthur “Genius” Award winner and LGBT cartoonist Alison Bechdel will speak at Iowa State University this week.

*The Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth was held in Altoona on Friday, KCCI reprots: The middle and high school students engaged in sessions about equality and activism. An event speaker shared her story and asked students not to give up. “Just keep fighting that’s the only thing I could say, just keep on fighting when there’s a backlash you still keep on,” said Jonina Leosdottir.

*The Des Moines Register notes that a bill to ban gay conversion therapy is dead in the Iowa House.

Wisconsin
*Gov. Scott Walker took to conservative radio to talk about the Indiana law, the Hill reports:

Speaking with conservative radio host Charlie Sykes on the “Insight 2015” show, Walker, a potential 2016 presidential contender, was asked if he would sign a similar bill into law.
“We don’t need to,” Walker said, noting that Wisconsin already had such legislation. “In Wisconsin, we have it in our constitution. That’s the remarkable thing.
“For all of the hype, particularly in media, here in Wisconsin we have it in the constitution. It’s even more entrenched than anything that can be in the state statutes and we don’t have the kind of hype and hysteria that the national media is creating on this.”
“I just think this is people who are chronically looking for ways to be upset about things instead of really looking at what it is,” Walker said. “I believe in protecting religious freedoms. It’s inherent in our state’s constitution. Heck, it’s inherent in our U.S. Constitution, and again, in Wisconsin, we’ve done it, and we’re stronger for it.”

“If you look at the constitution, there is both a combination of religious freedoms protecting the constitution, and back in the ’80s, long, long ago when I was still a kid, there were also provisions there that would protect against discrimination, including a gay or lesbian individual out there,” he said.

“So there is a healthy balance of someone can’t be discriminated, say, in the workplace, and for someone who has a conscientious objection, based on their religious beliefs no matter what it might be,” he continued. “The constitution is pretty clear in the state.”

*Salon notes that Gov. Scott Walker opposed discrimination against LGBT people before he was against it.

*A Wisconsin pizzeria became the target of mistaken identity last week when a mass protest and boycott of Memories Pizza in Indiana started last week after the restaurant told a media outlet it would not cater a gay wedding. Memories Gourmet Pizza Company near Green Bay got caught up in some of the attention including some hateful phone calls, WKOW reports.

North Dakota
A bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity moved through the North Dakota House last week. On Monday, the bill was heard in the North Dakota House and Human Services Committee where lawmakers gave it a “do not pass” designation before it headed to the House floor. It then failed on a 35-56 vote. All Democrats voted for the bill and about a dozen Republicans joined them,the Grand Forks Herald reports:

A dozen Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the bipartisan bill, including Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, a bill sponsor. He said many large employers and prominent businesspeople in North Dakota backed the legislation, fearing its defeat would send a message that the nation’s fastest-growing state “is only open to some.”
“And while we can see the backlash in Indiana, the mere perception of LGBT discrimination will have negative consequences for our state,” he said.

Video of the debate can be viewed at the conservative Say Anything Blog.

After the vote, Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a statement in disappointment at the vote, the Associated Press reports:

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…
“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.
Beadle 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 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender 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.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the governor’s too little, too late approach, WDAZ reports:

“If he had some weighing in to do, it should have been in advance and not after the fact,” House Majority Leader Al Carlson of Fargo said Friday.
The House killed Senate Bill 2279 in two parts Thursday. Republicans accounted for all but four of the “no” votes on the first part, which failed 30-61, and every “no” vote on the second part, which failed 35-56.
A dozen Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the sections of the bipartisan bill that would have prohibited firing someone or denying them housing because of their sexual orientation.
In comments emailed by spokesman Jeff Zent after the vote, Dalrymple 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. We should have at least established protections in the areas of housing and employment.”
House lawmakers from both parties expressed surprise Friday morning that Dalrymple remarked on the bill.
Rep. Joshua Boschee, D-Fargo, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker and a co-sponsor of SB2279, said while he was encouraged by the governor’s statement, it could have come sooner – though he doesn’t think it would have swayed enough votes to change the outcome.
“Leadership doesn’t happen after the fact,” he said.

South Dakota
*KELO interviewed former legislator Anne Hajek about the Indiana law:

Anne Hajek, a former Sioux Falls representative, is not shy about voicing her opinions. During her time in office, she spoke out against religious freedom legislation in South Dakota that would have created a law like Indiana’s.
“You see people, and they’ll say, oh the laws you have in South Dakota. I don’t want us to be that kind of a state. I don’t believe we are that kind of state,” Hajek said.
Critics feared the previous bills within the last two legislative sessions would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gay and lesbian customers. Supporters have said the bills were not designed for that, but to protect a person’s religious views.
“I think these laws are shams that are in place to try to allow people to discriminate,” Hajek said.
When it comes to the issues, Hajek says her party is not as divided as some may think. She cites the previous bills, which died.
“The only people who can defeat a bill or pass a bill in South Dakota are Republicans, because we are that super majority,” Hajek said.
Hajek says bills pertaining to social issues will really put her party to the test.
“Maybe we’ll see more lawmakers that are moderate that will come in and say, I think think we need to get things back on track on the middle ground,” Hajek said.

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