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Around the Region: North Dakota nondiscrimination bill fails


North Dakota
A nondiscrimination bill in North Dakota was defeated last week, KFYR-TV reports:

For the fourth time in eight years, legislation which would add sexual orientation as a protected class against discrimination, has failed.

The bill’s sponsor says currently members of the LGTBQ community can be fired from their job or evicted from their home because of their sexual orientation, but opponents say there are protections under current law.
It was a familiar sound for those who support the proposed equal rights legislation on Friday.
“I was not surprised, because we’ve been working on this bill since ’09,” says Kevin Tengesdal, bill supporter.
The bill would amend the North Dakota Century Code to include sexual orientation as a protected class against discrimination.
Opponents say it’s too hard to protect legally.
“The law cannot differentiate. It only knows if you’re gay if you say so. So the reality is, the protection involves a lifestyle,” says Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield.

WDAZ has more:

House members rejected a bill Friday, Feb. 10, that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the fourth time such legislation has failed at the North Dakota Legislature over the past decade.
Rep. Joshua Boschee, D-Fargo, the primary sponsor of the bill, made two attempts during the floor debate to have House Bill 1386 amended and gain more bipartisan support. After his motions were unsuccessful, the bill failed in a 22-69 vote.
“Since day one, we’ve been ready and willing to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass this bill,” Boschee said in a statement after the vote. “We cannot let perfect be the enemy of good when it comes to providing basic protections that are so important to so many of our citizens. Passing a bill that provides these protections — even if it doesn’t include every single provision we want — is better than not passing any bill at all.”
Boschee asked to have the bill returned to committee, but that was rejected on a 32-59 vote. He then tried to amend the bill on the House floor to limit it to government employment and government-provided services, but that effort also failed.
Earlier this week, the House Human Services Committee gave the bill a “do not pass” recommendation after rejecting amendments.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said there would have been no benefit to sending the bill back to the committee because “the results would not have been any different.”
“They had that complete discussion on the very same document … down in committee and they were not accepted,” he said, adding that he was pleased with a “very polite debate.”

The Fargo Forum notes that all of the Dickinson-area representatives voted against the bill:

All four of the Dickinson-area state representatives voted against a bill on Friday that would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The legislators were among the House majority that voted 69-22 against House Bill 1386.
The bill, in its original form, would have amended the North Dakota Century Code to include sexual orientation among race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status or public assistance “to prevent and eliminate discrimination in employment relations, public accommodations, housing, state and local government services, and credit transactions; and to deter those who aid, abet, or induce discrimination or coerce others to discriminate.”
The bill was discussed in the House Human Services Committee, which rejected amendments and gave it a “do not pass” recommendation. This is the fourth time in 10 years that such a bill has failed in the Legislature.
House Majority Caucus Leader Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson, said he did not have the opportunity to consider some of the bill’s amendments because they did not make it out of committee. As a result, he could not support the bill in its form as presented on the House floor on Friday, he said.
“I don’t believe anyone should be discriminated against ever, but they do have the ability now to go to the Department of Labor as some have to have their problems solved that way. But I just think that giving them a protected class status tips the cart in the other direction,” he said. “So, again, if they’re truly discriminated against, they have the right to file a complaint now.”

The Bismarck Tribune reports that LGBTQ advocates will continue to press forward:

Despite getting slapped down in the North Dakota Legislature for the fourth time in five sessions, members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community said the fight will continue and the state will eventually embrace protections of them.
Among the nearly 50 that watched from the House gallery as House Bill 1386 was roundly defeated by a 22-69 vote Friday afternoon, many said their spirits were bent, but nowhere near broken.
“Recognize that those of us in the LGBT community are people,” said Bismarck resident Vallie Needham. “(This) is absolutely absurd.”
Needham, who is married and identifies herself as a bisexual woman, said the Republican majority’ words — that North Dakota is welcoming of all people —provided her with little solace.
“North Dakota definitely feels very hostile to the LGBT community,” said Needham, adding that she and her husband are planning on moving out of state, perhaps to Oregon or Washington, in a few years for a career move.
She said the state’s rejection of legislation, such as HB1386, does weigh into the decision.
Needham, who said she once was a staunch conservative, said she’ll be watching the actions of her district legislators and possibly be involved in next year’s campaign to try and oust those not supportive of the LGBT community.
Kevin Tengesdal, a member of the LGBT community and gay rights activist in Bismarck, said he was saddened to yet again see failure, but still hopeful and optimistic after the vote.

A super PAC in support of a county sheriff for U.S. Senate has been attacking Sen. Tammy Baldwin for being a lesbian, Huffington Post reports:

A super PAC trying to draft Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke for a Senate bid is attacking the sexual orientation of Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who is up for reelection in 2018.
The group’s website, Sheriff David Clarke for U.S. Senate, repeatedly calls Baldwin “a liberal lesbian extremist” who doesn’t represent Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Baldwin sent out a fundraising email in response mentioning the attacks (although not by name), writing, “Of course, they didn’t challenge my policies or try to question my record of fighting for Wisconsinites. They went straight to the sort of stomach-turning name-calling we’ve grown so accustomed to in today’s post-Trump-campaign landscape.”

A woman demonstrated at a government meeting last week after Wisconsin state officials revoked transgender-specific health care for state employees, Planet Transgender reports:

Wendi Kent identified herself as the woman led away by state police Wednesday after protesting at the Group Insurance Board and ETF meeting. Kent said on Facebook that when she started her lecture all of the board members were seated. But she became increasingly passionately vocal when her concerns were met with smirks as many left the room, with one notable exception.
Kent posted on Facebook that (she was at the) “…Sheraton which is where they held their meeting. This was a public part where people of the public were actually able to speak however they didn’t allow it at both this one and the last.”
Kent explained. “Before ACA, excluding trans health care was ok. After ACA, it was declared discriminatory and it was required so trans folks were able to get hormones and some surgeries through insurance. Now they are approving the reinstatement of the exclusion.
So now people insured through the state can not get trans care covered. It will be out of pocket.
That’s basically it minus the details about how they were able to get to this point.” Said Kent.

A Republican lawmaker has been accused of using a homophobic slur against his opponent at a public forum, WHO TV reports:

On Saturday, (R) Representative Ralph Watts held a public forum at the Adel Public Library to answer legislative questions or concerns, but those in attendance say it quickly spiraled out of control.
“I felt like he was not there to answer questions. He was there to fulfill an obligation to hold a public forum,” says Adel resident Bryce Smith.
Those in attendance say the long-time representative was rude, condescending, and degrading towards residents. The hour-long forum was recorded live on Facebook. The cell phone video shows Watts refusing to answer a question from someone who lives outside of his district. During another portion of the conversation, an audience member commented on the topic of abortion and Planned Parenthood, saying, “if you think someone has the right to do that because they have a uterus, then you mother should have taught you have to keep your legs closed.” Following the comment, Watts appears to smile and laugh in the video, to which an audience member asks Watts, “why are you laughing?”
However, the conversation eventually turned deeply personal for Smith. His husband was recording the forum while Smith was at work. Watts addressed the camera asking Smith’s husband asking where Smith was by using a gay slur.
“It is a derogatory term. There are multiple meanings for the term,” says Smith. “I have thick skin and I expect to run into some of that. Not everyone is going to agree with someone’s lifestyle. I was kind of disheartened and disrespected by an elected official, especially someone who represents me.”

LGBTQ advocates condemned Watts’ words:

On Monday evening, One Iowa Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel issued a statement saying, “Homophobic slurs should never be used, especially by an elected official. We must continue dialogue on inclusion and civility with an understanding of how slurs like this impact real Iowans. Respect is a non-partisan Iowa value, and leaders in our communities must model civil discourse. Bryce Smith deserves an apology from Rep. Watts.”
Channel 13 asked requested an interview with Watts but he declined. However, Watts did tell Channel 13’s Jodi Whitworth the allegations are untrue. Watts says the reason he called Smith the term was to mock his performance while on the campaign trail.

The Ames Tribune looked at life for trangender Iowans in small towns:

Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, said the biggest challenge for schools in creating safe and supportive learning environments is having the tools to do so.

“School counselors play a pivotal role in creating a welcoming school climate and, as school budgets have been cut year after year, there are fewer school counselors, which results in less of an ability to implement research-based programs to help Iowa’s kids.”

Monson said research shows the best thing Iowa schools can do is include curriculum and resources that reflect their diverse community.

“That means library books that show it’s OK to have a single mom or two dads,” he said. “It’s OK to be a boy who likes pink or a girl who enjoys building robots. It’s OK to have feelings and experiences that are different.”

At the public meeting in Nevada, it was shared that suicide rates are much higher for transgender and LGBTQ students in general than for non-LGBTQ students.

South Dakota
The ACLU notes that a discriminatory bill will be heard in the South Dakota Assembly this week:

South Dakota — sweeping, discriminatory bill that harms kids

SB 149 is extraordinarily broad – it grants a broad right for child-placing agencies to discriminate against children and families and deny children needed services based on the agency’s religious or moral beliefs. And it virtually eliminates what the state may do in response. Here are its main effects:

Child-placing agencies have a broad right to refuse to make adoption or foster placements or provide services to children they are being paid by taxpayers to care for, so long as the objection is religiously or morally-based. While an agency still may not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, or national origin, it can refuse to place based on the child or family’s religion (or lack thereof) or any other religious or moral beliefs, including about sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status.

The state would be virtually powerless to do anything in response. A discriminatory agency would still be entitled to state funding and contracts. The state cannot sue or stop the agency from discriminating. As a result, SB 149 would exacerbate the shortage we already have of available families and leave more children to grow up without ever finding a permanent home.

The bill will be heard by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee next Wednesday, February 15.