Legislative Committee Couldn’t Even Stomach Banning Government Discrimination Against Gays

Rep. Tom Beadle, seen here speaking on the House floor in 2015, offered amendments to legislation outlawing discrimination which would have narrowed its focus.

When it comes to the issues surrounding gay rights both sides of the argument are guilty of intransigence.

Those on the right who oppose things like marriage equality for homosexuals are quickly being moved to the margins of American politics. But something which has hurt the cause of gay rights are folks on the left carrying on as though that term means destroying businesses the owners of which, for whatever reasons, don’t want to work at a same sex wedding.

We’d be in a much better place, as a society, if there were a little more “live and let live” on both sides of this political fault line.

Case in point, the latest iteration of anti-discrimination legislation being considered by lawmakers in Bismarck. HB1386 was introduced by Rep. Josh Boschee, a Democrat from Fargo, and it’s essentially the same bill that’s been introduced in at least two previous sessions.

This latest bill, like its earlier versions, seems headed for sure defeat. Yesterday the House Human Services Committee gave it a 12-1 “do not pass” vote. But lost at the committee level was an opportunity to make this legislation into something which could pass.

Rep. Tom Beadle, a Republican from Fargo and a co-sponsor of the legislation, offered some amendments to the bill which would have narrowed its scope down to something much less controversial. He “brought forward HB1386 amendments to remove language relating to gender identity as well as an amendment to have the bill only apply to public housing as well as public employees in local and state government,” the Bismarck Tribune reports.

Rep. Tom Beadle, a Republican from Fargo and a co-sponsor of the legislation, offered some amendments to the bill which would have narrowed its scope down to something much less controversial.”The intent of the amendments was to alleviate every concern that has been brought up about these bills in the past (the cake bakers, frivolous lawsuits for businesses with their employees, etc), and limit it to the areas where tax dollars are at work,” Beadle told me in an email this morning. “Basically: If the government runs it, than it shouldn’t discriminate.”

As the bill is currently written it lumps “actual or perceived gender identity” in with the definition for sexual orientation. That’s provocative given how controversial bathroom laws, to cite one example, have been in other states. Beadle’s amendments took gender identity out, narrowing the focus to just sexual orientation.

“The intent of the amendments was to alleviate every concern that has been brought up about these bills in the past (the cake bakers, frivolous lawsuits for businesses with their employees, etc), and limit it to the areas where tax dollars are at work,” Beadle told me in an email this morning. “Basically: If the government runs it, than it shouldn’t discriminate.”

That’s far less controversial than the sweeping changes in the original bill. It would be something which would probably pass in the state House, and a give gay rights activists a win they would probably be happy to take even if it’s a smaller sort of win than they wanted.

Would it mean this issue would go away entirely? Probably not. But it would allow us to perhaps remove from the debate some areas where we can all agree.

Unfortunately, Beadle’s amendments weren’t allowed. So what will go to the House floor will be Boschee’s entire bill which doesn’t stand a chance of passing.

That’s too bad. We could have made some progress on this sticky social issue.

Perhaps in the future Boschee could split his bill up into parts so that at least some of it could pass, but I’m not entirely convinced that he wants any part of this legislation to become law in North Dakota. It’s too potent a tool for fundraising. Boschee raised more money for his party’s legislative campaign in District 44 than any other member of his state party, and not surprisingly District 44 was the only place where Democrats picked up legislative seats back in November.

Perhaps something for Republicans to keep in mind.

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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