A bill to make discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is before the North Dakota legislature again. The bill is SB2279, introduced by Senator Carolyn Nelson.
It appears to be a duplicate of SB2252 from the 2013 legislative session. That bill had Republican backing in the state House from Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck and Rep. Nancy Johnson of Dickinson. In the 2015 session, SB2279 has Republican backing from Rep. Tom Beadle of Fargo and Rep. Andy Maragos of Minot.
In the 2013 session SB2252 died in the state Senate after it was amended in committee to remove the addition of homosexuals from the state’s protected classes and state simply that North Dakota does not condone discrimination against homosexuals. The vote was 20-27. Democrats then moved to bring back the original bill, and that failed on a slightly narrower 21-26 vote (video here).
So what does the bill do?
It defines “gender identity.”
It defines “sexual orientation.”
It then adds these two things to a whole host of prohibited practices including discrimination for hiring, housing, etc. And as a sop to objections from social conservatives, it also includes this exemption for religious organizations and their affiliated groups:
Backers of the bill are making something of a unique bid for the legislation, arguing that it would be akin to economic development. They’re pushing the idea that companies and workers don’t want to move into a state which lacks these legal protections.
Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, a co-sponsor of the bill, said 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.
“We continue to need to fill jobs in the state,” Boschee said. “As someone who has done a job search and looked throughout the country and is gay, the first thing I do is look at the laws on the books — what are the protections afforded to me at my place of employment.”
He said technology, biotechnology and financial institutions are all growing industries in the state and need a talented workforce, “regardless of who they are.”
Personally, I think discrimination against anyone based on anything as arbitrary as skin color or gender or sexual orientation is pretty disgusting. That said, I get queasy when we start telling private people how to make their private decisions about renting or hiring, etc.
I don’t think we should make things illegal simply because we object to them on a moral grounds.
I might feel differently if there were evidence of widespread discrimination against homosexuals and the transgendered in North Dakota, but those facts aren’t in evidence. Proponents of this sort of legislation assure us that it’s happening, but most of these anecdotes and the primary actors are usually anonymous.
If there is a business in North Dakota discriminating, why not protest and picket them? On the seemingly rare occasion this sort of thing happens, why not leverage the free market to make businesses who discriminate pay?
The most basic measure of the efficacy of public policy is whether or not that policy will actually, you know, work. I don’t see this sort of bill changing anything.
I am pro-gay marriage. I have no moral objections to homosexuality at all. But I am opposed to frivolous and unnecessary public policy.