North Dakota
The North Dakota Senate rejected a measure to change state statutes to reflect marriage equality, the Bismarck Tribune reports:

The North Dakota Senate voted down legislation to update state law with gender-neutral language Tuesday, about 18 months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry.
Opponents of the Senate Bill 2043 said the change was unnecessary and dismissed arguments from supporters that failing to amend state law could leave the state open to litigation. The bill failed 15-31, with one senator absent.
The bill would have amended a variety of references to “husband and wife” in state law to “two individuals married to each other” and other similar changes. It affected parts of state law dealing with fishing licenses and adoption, along with other provisions.
Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, pointed to a section of the North Dakota Constitution that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, as approved by 73 percent of the state’s voters in 2004. She also said committee testimony indicated that the change was not needed.
“A ‘yes’ vote on Senate Bill 2043 will actually accomplish functionally nothing, though it will serve to diminish with official intent the honor and sacredness of what the human institution of marriage is described as in (the) North Dakota Constitution as it stands today,” she said.

Say Anything Blog captured video of the moment the Senate votes the measure down.

Valley News Live asked North Dakotans what they thought about the vote:

Supporters of LGBT rights have criticized the vote.
Bernie Erickson and his partner were among the couples who were challenging the state’s gay marriage ban before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all states in an opinion issued in 2015.
“It’s hard to not take personally the elected officials telling you you are a substandard citizen,” he said.
Lawmakers recommending the changes said they would help prevent lawsuits against the state, a prospect Erickson said he hopes to avoid, too.
“I’m hoping it never comes to that. I don’t think anyone wants to deal with the time, certainly the expense and certainly distraction. We all know how it ends … because it ended a year and a half ago,” he said.
But after this week’s vote, the attorney for Erickson and the six others couples who sued the state over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage passed by voters in 2004 sent a letter to the Legislature asking lawmakers to “quit with political games.”

Do you prefer the terms husband and wife or should it be more generic when it comes to state law? A Senate bill was rejected recently that sought to change North Dakota’s laws to reflect the Supreme Court’s ruling making gay marriage the law of the land. Now supporters of the bill say there’s potential for expensive and lengthy lawsuit against the state.

“I think we have to be more accepting more diverse,” said Connie Tharaldson of Fargo.
“Oh I don’t know if I want to comment on this. I think I’m going to not comment,” said Jessica Privratski from Hawley, Mn.
“I’m satisfied the way it is. I like it the way it is yep,” commented Dale Medenwald of Wahpeton.
There was no consensus among West Acres Mall shoppers on Wednesday when asked about Senate Bill 2043. It sought to change the terms husband and wife to language such as “two individuals married to each other.” In 2004, a statewide ballot measure limiting marriage rights to only a man and woman passed with almost a 75% vote. But do we really need to change the language?
One of North Dakota’s few openly gay legislators Joshua Boschee posted his disappointment on Facebook, listing every lawmaker and their vote. His post also said “not making some of these changes could lead to an expensive lawsuit.”

LGBTQ Iowans rallied at the Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, the Des Moines Register reports:

Wearing blue T-shirts with an equality message and chanting, “We will not be silent,” more than 100 Iowans rallied at the Iowa Capitol on Thursday and later lobbied state lawmakers in support of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The activists vowed to fight efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people and to protect the rights they have earned, including marriage equality, anti-bullying initiatives and protection against employment and housing discrimination.
But they also want to expand legal protections. This includes legislative proposals to include transgender Iowans as a protected class under the state’s hate crime law, and to prohibit the use of so-called “conversion therapy” aimed at changing the gender identity or sexual orientation of a young person.
“This is a very great day for our issue, but it is far from the end of our fight,” said Cecilia Martinez, a student activist from Simpson College.
However, LGBTQ activists may be spending most of their time on the defense during the 2017 Iowa Legislature, where Republicans now hold majorities in both the House and Senate. Rep. Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, a leading social conservative, said Thursday he is aware that some of his colleagues are working on religious liberties legislation, but he doesn’t know yet exactly what will be included. Religious conservatives have sometimes clashed with gay rights activists, complaining they are being forced to participate in activities that offend their religious beliefs.

Two gay refugees walked from North Dakota to the Canadian border and fell victim to frostbite rather than be departed by the United States back to Ghana, Grand Forks Herald reports:

What kept them going was knowing that if they gave up before getting to Canada, they would be taken to a detention facility in the United States, then be deported to Ghana.
“I can’t go back,” Mohammad said. He had to flee Ghana because of his sexual orientation, he said.
They knew that if they managed to get to the Canadian border, they could file a refugee claim and make their case before the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Canada’s immigration system is seen by human rights advocates and lawyers as more fair and thorough than that in the U.S.
When they realized they would likely freeze to death before getting to their destination, they started walking along the highway hoping someone on that frozen Christmas Eve night would pick them up.
“We tried stopping cars,” Mohammad said. “Nobody stopped.”

South Dakota
South Dakota’s governor told reporters that there’s no reason to introduce anti-transgender legislation in 2017, the Argus Leader reports:

Transgender bathroom debates should not become a priority of the 2017 legislative session, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday.
The Republican governor who vetoed a 2016 bill aimed at restricting bathroom, locker room and shower facility access for transgender students said he viewed the debate as unnecessary in the Statehouse as school districts have dealt with the issue on a case-by-case basis.
“It is a solution in search of a problem,” Daugaard told Argus Leader Media. “I think to the extent that there are issues that concern transgender students in our schools that, as I mentioned in my veto message, those are being addressed at the local level and there is no need for a state one-size-fits all solution to be imposed upon local governments when those governments can manage the situation already.”

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