The North Dakota House took up SB2279 this afternoon and defeated it soundly after about an hour and a half of debate.
This has been a thoroughly discussed issue, and there wasn’t much of interest revealed during the floor debate. Democrats attempted a procedural maneuver to divide the bill and at least get parts of it addressing discrimination in employment, housing, financial assistance, and jury duty passed (the sections addressing discrimination in accommodations and public services were removed), but ultimately both divisions failed by wide margins.
Division A (accommodations and public services) failed on a 30-61 vote while Division B (the rest of the bill) failed on a 35-56 vote.
Most of the debate time was taken up by a series of lengthy speeches by Democrats who seemed to be auditioning to be quoted by the Huffington Post or booked for a segment on MSNBC, but there was never really a chance for this bill to pass.
I think bill carrier Robin Weisz (R-Hurdsfield) summed up the basis for opposition to the bill in a nutshell. Responding to repeated assertions by Democrats that discrimination against gays is widespread, Weisz said “we did not receive any testimony to support that.”
Democrats cited anecdotes, but what’s problematic is that while there are a lot of people who claim to have been discriminated against, there are none to my knowledge willing to make public the specifics. Like who discriminated against them. Vague accusations are not a sound foundation for public policy.
And that’s why this issue will ultimately have very little impact outside of the sound and fury of the debate in the House chamber today, and perhaps a few days of aftershocks heading into the holiday weekend. This issue simply doesn’t impact that many people. It is simply not the issue some grandstanding lawmakers make it out to be.
To the extent there is discrimination, a much more swift and effective way of dealing it would be for the people alleging discrimination to speak up about it.
Democrats use it as a political weapon, with some degree of success, but in the day-to-day lives of Americans there is very little discrimination against gays happening.
Democrats were quick to suggest that they would be ashamed of their state if this bill failed to pass, that many people have or will leave the state absent the alleged protections of SB2279, but I’m happy that our lawmakers chose not to legislate needlessly in this situation.
As Rep. Chris Olson (R-West Fargo) said in one of the final speeches on the bill, we ought not “wield the power of government like a club,” even against those holding unpopular points of view on an issue like homosexuality.