James Kerian: Discrimination Bill Is Bad Policy

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted (4 to 2) to give a “Do Not Pass” recommendation to SB 2279, a bill to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  In weekend op-eds the sponsors promoted SB 2279 as the only way for our state to achieve “culture, creativity, and acceptance.”  This was an improvement over their earlier talking points in which they directly insulted 75% of the state but the bill remains bad policy and the legislature should reject this bill just as it has in every legislative session since 2009.[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]SB 2279 invites North Dakotans into the world of crazy lawsuits that we have seen in other states that have tried to legislate thought as well as action.[/mks_pullquote]

No one wants bigotry to deprive someone of housing or employment.  But if you are going to try to prohibit such things in law then the rational way to do so is with a uniform law against eviction without reason and termination without cause.  Continually carving out more and more groups to be given special protection by anti-discrimination laws may work well in the short term for politicians who are pandering to special interest groups but in the long run it makes a mess of the law and does very little to actually protect anyone.

If any given persecuted minority finally attained enough power and influence to get its own bill through both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office then it would be fairly likely that the threat against them had already seriously diminished.  If you truly want to protect people from discrimination you have to pass a bill that will protect everyone equally, including those without enough political power to pass their own bill.

SB 2279 invites North Dakotans into the world of crazy lawsuits that we have seen in other states that have tried to legislate thought as well as action.  It would weaken the state’s current anti-discrimination laws by adding “actual or perceived” identity to the list of protected classes.  This will allow you to file legal complaints when you feel you have been discriminated against for being something that you actually are not.  Go ahead and read that again.

SB 2279 is a particularly clear example of the minority party’s superficiality and irresponsibility.  The four Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were right to vote for the “Do Not Pass” recommendation and hopefully their colleagues will again defeat this bill and move on to better conceived proposals.  The sentiment behind this bill is easily understood.  Sentimentality, however, tends to make horrible law.

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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