BISMARCK — After five attempts to pass statewide anti-discrimination bills, North Dakota lawmakers will no longer need to consider a sixth as the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision for them on Monday, June 15.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that workplaces cannot discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Since 2009, North Dakota lawmakers have introduced anti-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation and gender identity in almost every legislative session, said House Minority Leader Josh Boschee, D-Fargo. The Senate passed anti-discrimination bills in 2009 and 2015, but they failed to make it through the House.
"(This) is a huge, huge victory for states like North Dakota where these protections don't already exist," Boschee said. "We want to make sure that LGBT North Dakotans are protected."
North Dakota is "a state that I want people to be able to move to and work and live and play and feel protected in their jobs and their homes," Boschee said.
Rebel Marie, a local transgender woman from Fargo, said that the ruling will save lives.
"Your insurance is through the workplace ... when we lose access to insurance, it kills people," Marie said. "I don't foresee that for any of my future brothers and sisters and other relatives that I have, and it's just very emotional."
Fargo resident Bernie Erickson and his husband David Hamilton were plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the federal government for marriage equality, Erickson said, adding that they received a settlement in the case in 2015.
He said the Supreme Court's recent ruling gave him hope.
"It all changed today," Erickson said.
Opposition for anti-discrimination mandates, Boschee said, comes from many corners, including religious groups. However, many employers and some religious groups are in favor of the legislation.
Last year, the North Dakota Senate struck down legislation that would have banned LGBTQ discrimination primarily in housing and employment. Opponents said they were unconvinced that the bill would prevent discrimination and that there would be "broader consequences."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.