North Dakota is doing the most to harm queer people

Among five others, the Peace Garden state is leading the nation in hateful legislation.

This information was sourced from a recent Rolling Stones article authored by Nico Lang

Anti-LGBTQ legislation is at a record high — and states like North Dakota are responsible for the worst of it. 

North Dakota led the nation this year in the number of new laws targeting the LGBTQ community — which is, in part, due to the fact that the state didn’t have many anti-LGBTQ laws on the books before 2023.

Cody Schuler, advocacy manager for the ACLU of North Dakota, admits that civil rights groups were “blindsided by the sheer number and the wide range” of anti-LGBTQ bills during the legislative session. “It’s like we’re playing catch up,” he tells Rolling Stone. “For years, there haven’t necessarily been any targeted bills that have come from lawmakers.”

North Dakota LGBTQ advocates expected the 2023 legislative session to focus on reproductive rights in the wake of a legal injunction against the state’s 2018 abortion trigger law, which made it a felony to terminate a pregnancy after Roe v. Wade’s repeal by the Supreme Court. Although Gov. Doug Burgum (R) did sign a near-total abortion ban this April, the session agenda largely focused on the LGBTQ community instead. Of the 10 anti-LGBTQ bills that crossed his desk in 2023, Burgum would sign all but one: a bill requiring teachers to call trans students by the name and pronoun they were assigned at birth. (Burgum would, however, approve a watered-down version of the same proposal the following month, which instead allowed teachers to misgender trans students without repercussions.) The GOP also passed a series of laws making it more difficult for trans people to update their birth certificates; banning trans people from using gender-congruent restrooms in colleges and prisons; requiring teachers to out trans students to their parents; and making it a felony to provide gender-affirming medical treatments to trans minors. 

One of the reasons that advocates were caught off guard, Schuler says, is that Burgum had previously been an ally on some LGBTQ issues. While running for governor in 2016, he expressed support for LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination law and vetoed a bill restricting sports participation for trans students in 2021. But amid his own presidential bid, Burgum reversed course this year, signing legislation to prevent trans athletes from competing in accordance with their gender at both the K-12 and collegiate levels. “It’s incredibly overwhelming,” Schuler says. “The state that I grew up in was a state that was very respectful of people who were different: Your business is your business, my business is my business. I don’t remember ever anything being quite this toxic.”

This information originally appeared in a recent Rolling Stones article featuring five states targeting LGBTQ+ folks.