North Dakota
A bill to ban discrimination against LGBTQ North Dakotans was heard for the first time in 2017, KTVQ reports:

A bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the North Dakota Human Rights Act was proposed for a fourth time.
House Bill 1386 would protect the LGBT community against discrimination in housing and employment among other things.
The state Department of Labor and Human Rights would be able to investigate discrimination claims if the bill is passed.
People lined the walls in the Brynhild Haugland Room in support of House Bill 1386.
One was a gay pastor who said the state needs to separate religion from theological issue because everyone deserves basic legal protections.
He said he knows people who will not live in the state because LGBT rights are not protected.
“I should not have to be concerned about being denied housing in North Dakota because I’m gay. In Fargo I have spoken to other gay people who have decided to buy homes in Moorhead for that very reason,” said the Lutheran Pastor.

Hardline Christians turned out to speak against the bill. The Fargo Forum recorded some of their statements:

Opponents, however, said the bill would infringe on religious liberties and would strip local school districts of their ability to address gender identity issues.
“Civil rights categories should not be used to cover a particular group’s sexual activities or perceptions,” said Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference. He added that the religious exemptions written into the bill were not adequate.
Mark Jorritsma, executive director of the Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota, said the bill could force businesses to provide services and participate in events with which they disagree “based on sincerely held beliefs.”
“All North Dakotans should be free to live and work according to their beliefs,” Jorritsma said. “This bill could greatly harm that freedom.”
Linda Thorson, state director for the Concerned Women for America of North Dakota, said such legislation is part of a larger effort to “alter America’s cultural values.” She said it’s a step toward discriminating against people with “traditional values.”

Wisconsin officials have denied transgender state workers of transition-related health care, the Wisconsin State Journal reports:

The state on Wednesday halted insurance coverage of gender reassignment surgery for transgender state workers, noting that a federal judge blocked federal rules requiring such coverage.
Covering gender reassignment surgery and related benefits would have cost $100,000 to $250,000 a year in a $1.5 billion program that provides health benefits to about 250,000 state and local government workers and their dependents, a state consultant said. The estimate assumes two to five people would have used the transgender services per year.
Mark Lamkins, spokesman for the state Department of Employee Trust Funds, said the department couldn’t determine Wednesday if any workers or dependents pursued the benefits in January, when they were available. The services had to be deemed medically necessary.
The Group Insurance Board, which oversees the benefits program, decided in July to add coverage of transgender services in 2017, following advice from its attorneys that federal rules from the Affordable Care Act require the coverage.

Central Wisconsin Boy Scouts leaders are welcoming a new policy allowing transgender scouts, WEAU reports:

The change is being welcomed by scout leaders in Western Wisconsin.
Leaders of the Gateway Area Council, which serves the Coulee Region, say things won’t change much day-to-day, but they do see an opportunity for growth.
“Really the positive news is that we are able to serve even more youth through this news,” said Mary Freybler, Development Director for the Gateway Area Council. “The opportunity to be out there and have every child be a part of the program is really what we’re all about.”
The Chippewa Valley Council also says not much will be different.
“We’re going to continue to serve youth with the leadership and character building program, and going camping,” said Tim Molepske, Scout Executive from the Chippewa Valley Council. “So, from our perspective, not much has changed. We’re going to continue to serve youth like we always have.”

In the northeastern part of the state, the reaction was mixed, the Post Crescent reports:

Local Boy Scout troops are processing the latest policy change from the Boy Scouts of America, which allows transgender boys to become scouts.
“Our troop hasn’t had the opportunity to process the information yet that’s been given. It’s so new — we haven’t talked about it yet,” said Cheryl Salzman, a leader for Boy Scout Troop 12 in Appleton. Troop 12 is chartered by First English Lutheran Church.
In a recording published Monday on the Boy Scouts of America website, Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said the organization will no longer defer to the gender listed on a scout’s birth certificates to determine their eligibility for programs.
“After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realize that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” he said. “Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently, and these new laws vary widely from state to state.”

Iowa Boy Scouts leaders welcomed the decision to allow transgender scouts into the organization, the Des Moines Register reports:

The Boy Scouts of America announced on Monday that it will allow transgender boys into its programs, and local troops will adopt the same policy, said Bob Hopper, CEO of Boy Scouts of America Mid-Iowa Council.
In central Iowa, transgender boys will immediately be accepted into the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts programs, Hopper said.
“Our perspective is full speed ahead,” Hopper said. “If a young person wants to join our program, they’ll be welcome to join.”
In a statement released Monday by Boy Scouts of America, it said that for over a century, it would only allow boys into the organization based on the gender assigned on their birth certificates.
“However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state,” according to the statement,
Boy Scout troops sponsored by a church or other religious organization may exclude transgender kids if it is against their beliefs, Hopper said.
The policy change follows the Boy Scouts of America announcement In July that it would lift its ban on gay adult troop leaders, also with the exception of church-sponsored Scout units. In 2014, openly gay boys were allowed to join for the first time.
“I know not everyone’s positive with it,” Hopper said. “We know that’s all there, but I’m for kids. If you want to join, we’ll figure out a way to make it for you.”

South Dakota
South Dakota lawmakers withdrew an anti-transgender bill last week, ABC News reports:

A bill that would have restricted which locker rooms South Dakota transgender students could use was scuttled Tuesday, averting another bitter fight in the Capitol over the regulation of school facilities.
The sponsor, Republican Sen. Lance Russell, said the measure was withdrawn because of GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s opposition and because a legal defense group that had offered to defend the bill if it passed withdrew support since it didn’t apply to bathrooms.
The proposal required public school students to use the locker rooms, shower rooms and changing facilities matching their gender at birth. Schools would have been allowed to provide alternative accommodations, such as single-occupancy restrooms.
It was similar to a proposal Daugaard vetoed last year, and he had said he would reject this bill too if it reached his desk.
Dale Bartscher, who lobbies for a conservative group that supported the bill, said the governor’s opposition was a “strong factor” in its withdrawal. Conversations had been ongoing about whether another bill would be introduced this year, but the organization decided against it, said Bartscher, of Family Heritage Alliance Action.
“We withdrew to rise and come back another day and pursue the privacy of every student in a very dignified and appropriate way,” Bartscher said.

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Andy Birkey
Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.


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