James Kerian: Encouraging "Perceived Identity" Lawsuits Will Not Attract Businesses


There are a lot of reasons for the House of Representatives to reject SB 2279, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bill.  Last week I discussed reasons ranging from the lack of any evidence for the discrimination the bill is supposedly meant to prevent to the arrogant prejudice of the bill’s primary sponsor in the Senate.

This week I want to look at what is probably the most absurd argument that proponents of SB 2279 are making at the legislature.  According to the Grand Forks Herald:

“One way supporters of the bill are appealing to the Legislature’s conservative majority is pointing to the positive effect it will have on workforce development and attracting businesses to the state… [The sponsor] said technology, biotechnology and financial institutions are all growing industries in the state and need a talented workforce.”

So the idea here is that we’re “attracting businesses to the state” with a piece of legislation with the stated goal of enabling individuals to file lawsuits against businesses and business owners.  Whatever the merits (or lack thereof) of this particular policy that is just an insane argument.

Here’s how this “attractive” policy has worked for business owners in other states:

“A state judge has determined that the government can force a floral designer to do custom design work and provide wedding support services even if she has a religious conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman. Barronelle Stutzman was found guilty for referring her friend and long-time customer to another florist because the customer wanted her to design floral arrangements and provide services for a  same-sex wedding. Barronelle’s referral ensured the customer received the services he wanted, but has been labeled “discrimination” under Washington law.”

If you decline service to someone (not because of who they are but because of what they are asking you to do) and if they have sufficient political support then you will be sued to the point of losing your business, your savings and your home.  Does that sound like the way to encourage entrepreneurship in the state?

SB 2279, however, gets even worse by adding not just sexual orientation but also “actual or perceived gender-related identity” to the state’s anti-discrimination laws.  So with this piece of legislation lawsuits could be filed when you are discriminated against for being something that you actually are not.

This is a terrible piece of legislation with support from a very small but very vocal group of people who see themselves as more advanced than the rest of the state and would like the state law to confirm that self image.  If there was genuine interest in protecting people from discrimination the bill’s supporters could have introduced a uniform law to prohibit eviction without reason or termination without cause.  But this bill is not even about discrimination. It is not necessary.  It is certainly, whatever the sponsors may say, not going to be “attracting businesses.”