Discrimination​ Bill Meets Scrutiny in Bismarc​k

NDSU Pride Alliance president comments on the bill

During the North Dakota legislative session, Sen. JoNell Bakke of Grand Forks introduced Senate Bill 2303. The proposed bill would have made it illegal for property owners and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. This would mean business owners could not refuse service or evict people based on sexual orientation.

The bill was met with some backlash and was eventually sent to the Senate floor with a 5-1 ‘don’t vote’ recommendation from the judiciary committee. According to the official news release, this is the fifth time this kind of legislation has come up in Bismarck.

Bakke defended the bill. According to Bakke, these types of protections are “not about elevating one class of people over another. This is about ensuring LGBT individuals can’t be fired from their job or evicted from their homes.”

Bakke said one of her reasons for sponsoring the bill was the plight of youth in North Dakota. “Young people are leaving our state because they don’t feel welcome, and those who do stay here hide their true selves for fear of retribution,” Bakke said in the news release. “No one should have to live in fear because of who they are. At a time we are trying to recruit and retain a qualified workforce in our state, why are we closing the door to opportunities for all North Dakotans?”

Zach Tarble, the president of the Pride Alliance at North Dakota State, said he is one of the young people looking to flee North Dakota right after graduation.

Tarble said this bill is critically important. Tarble is from Minnesota, where a law like this already exists. As it pertains to employment, “It’s kind of nice to see that protection on an application or a job ad,” Tarble said. “It’s kind of just nice to know that a company can’t really fire you because of something that is not work-related.” As far as housing is concerned, Tarble said he lives in Fargo and the thought of being evicted is terrifying, but not likely.

 “(The LGBTQ community) needs to be protected because at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with the ability to hold a job or pay rent.” 

Zach Tarble, president NDSU Pride Alliance

One of the concerns regarding the bill was that it was too broad in its protection, something that Tarble said he disagrees with. “The LGBTQ community has a lot of different kinds of people who identify a lot of different ways,” Tarble said. “And they need to be protected because at the end of the day, it has nothing to do with the ability to hold a job or pay rent.”

Bakke compared this issue to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fight for civil rights. “It is fitting that the hearing was held the same week we honor the life and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Bakke said. “Dr. King taught us all Americans should be free to pursue their hopes and dreams free from discrimination.”

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