A bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation has been introduced each legislative session since 2009. It has been voted down each time. This year it is SB 2279 and the primary sponsor is Senator Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo.
There are a lot of reasons for the legislature to vote this bill down again. There are a lot of reasons that adding “actual or perceived” identity to the state’s anti-discrimination law is a bad idea. There are, in fact, a lot of problems with the whole approach of our anti-discriminations laws where we continually carve out more and more “protected” groups rather than using a uniform law to prohibit eviction without reason or termination without cause.
The most remarkable thing about this bill, however, is the reason that the primary sponsor has given for introducing it:
“The reason I think that this bill is important is that I think that the young people are looking at not only getting a good job but moving to communities that are accepting,” Nelson said. “Despite the fact that Fargo and Grand Forks are pretty liberal and above board, there are a lot of places in North Dakota that are not yet there.”
That’s a pretty remarkable quote. I guess Nelson probably thought she was being very politically savvy as a Fargo legislator giving an interview to be published in the Grand Forks Herald. She may find, however, that insulting the 75% of North Dakotans who don’t live in Grand Forks or Fargo may not have been the best approach to getting this bill passed.
Apparently, according to Nelson, the reason this bill is important is that all you dumb hicks out in the western half of the state are not liberal enough and so you’re “not yet there.” We hayseeds here on the farms and in the small towns of the eastern half of the state are equally suspect. It is only in our cosmopolitan strongholds of Grand Forks and Fargo that we have “communities that are accepting” and people who are sufficiently “there.”
Look, I love Grand Forks and Fargo Out of all the cities in North Dakota with more than 50,000 people they would definitely make my top four. I wouldn’t want to pay property taxes in either one of them but I find both to be delightful places to visit. As a legislator, however, Senator Nelson may want to learn how to take pride in her favorite city without denigrating the rest of the state.
This sort of cheap anti-rural prejudice is usually worth little more than a smirk or a sigh but it is particularly amusing when it is expressed by a state legislator who thinks she’s combatting prejudice.