Do North Dakota Gay Rights Activists Really Want to Achieve Their Objectives?

Participants in the F-M Protest for Love gather on the Main Avenue bridge between Fargo and Moorhead. (David Samson / The Forum)

State Rep. Mary Johnson, a Republican from Fargo, has introduced legislation to address alleged discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas like hiring and housing. It’s HB1441, which you can read in full below.

Perhaps more interesting than Johnson’s bill, however, is the reaction from supposed gay rights activists who are coming out in opposition to it. Johnson’s legislation doesn’t include transgendered people, which was a hang-up for this sort of proposal last session. The intent here is to try to find some consensus on this issue, and pass what’s possible.

Because that’s what politics is, right? The art of the possible. But at least one gay rights group isn’t subscribing to that notion, as my colleague John Hageman reports:

…the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition won’t support Johnson’s bill over the gender identity exclusion, the group’s Legislative Coordinator Elizabeth Loos said. She said transgender people are “vulnerable” and have higher rates of suicide and depression.

“We believe that all people deserve those protections,” Loos said. “I think Mary Johnson and the other legislators who sponsored the bill are well-intentioned, but it’s not acceptable to exclude transgender people.”

This makes me think of the Shirky principle: “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

The political landscape is littered with advocacy groups that seem little interested in making progress toward their stated objects, and far more interested in never-ending political turmoil which they can use to raise money and pay themselves nice salaries.

I can understand why the ND Human Rights Coalition feels Johnson’s bill doesn’t go far enough, but it would be progress on this issue. Progress the NDHRC claims to want. Why let the perfect be the enemy of the good?

I suspect another complicating issue is that a bunch of icky Republicans are taking over what is traditionally an issue Democrats champion, thus diminishing it’s value as a partisan political weapon.

It sounds as though legislation to including transgendered persons is set to introduced by a Democratic lawmaker in the state Senate, and it’s likely the Democrats and their allies in the LGBT movement will coalesce around that proposal. Which is fine. I get it.

But why propose this admittedly more modest proposal? Why not support both?

Again, I suspect the reason why has a lot to do with partisanship and certain unseemly realities about the advocacy industry.

Here’s Johnson’s bill:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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