Friday, February 15, 2013

Around The Nation

North Dakota
Proposed Legislation To Outlaw Discrimination Against Lesbian & Gay People Fails In Senate Vote
BISMARCK, ND --  Lawmakers in North Dakota's Senate killed Senate Bill 2252 in a 21-26 vote Thursday that would have given Lesbian and Gay residents legal protections against employers or landlords who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Speaking with LGBTQNation Friday afternoon, Fargo Representative Josh Boschee, (D) the only open gay member of the legislature and a co-sponsor of the measure, said that had the bill passed it would have added the term, “sexual orientation” to the North Dakota Human Rights Act. [Passed in 1983, That law allows individuals to seek recourse if they are discriminated against based on their age, gender, race and disability and the similar factors]
“It’s easier for people (to vote against it,) who don’t experience these things,” said Boschee.
Boschee pointed out that a similar measure had cleared the state's Senate in 2009 although it failed to gain passage in the House. Part of the problem he said was that opponent's arguments had apparently swayed Senators that it was a matter of the First Amendment guarantees regarding freedom of religion. Some would refuse service or employment of Lesbian and Gay North Dakotans based on their faith's beliefs.
According to InForum News, the bill first had to battle a vote over an amendment that stripped the bill of its original language in committee and added a declaration that the state does not condone discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The amendment didn’t include a way for someone to seek damages for discrimination.
Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which heard the bill and its three hours of testimony, said the original bill didn’t have the chance of passing, so he offered the amendment.
“I thought this was something we can do that would be a reasonable compromise,” he said.
Hogue, and fellow committee member Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, said enacting policies to try to change behavior quickly does not work. Armstrong called it “social engineering.”
“I think it’s working itself out naturally,” he said. “It’s happening at the grass-roots level, and it should."
Democratic State Senator Mac Schneider disagreed with Armstrong;
“If we proceed with these amendments, we are saying to thousands of North Dakotans from all walks of life that we get that discrimination happens, and understand it’s wrong, but if it happens to you, you’re on your own,” he said.
Boschee told LGBTQNation that at this point there was no plan to introduce a separate measure in the House during this session.