Issues that matter most to North Dakotans are being ignored as some legislators continue to attack the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community and erode their rights with bills that stoke fear and hatred amid discriminatory rhetoric. 

The ACLU of North Dakota opposes House Bill 1298, House Bill 1476 and House Bill 1317. These harmful bills distract from the state’s real problems.

House Bill 1298 would ban transgender athletes from competing on the sports teams that match their gender identity, restricting participation in high school and collegiate athletic activities to the gender listed on a person’s original birth certificate. The North Dakota High School Activities Association already has a policy in place for transgender athletes. Likewise, the NCAA also has clear policies on the inclusion of transgender student-athletes and their participation in intercollegiate athletics. No one is harmed by allowing transgender people to compete consistent with who they are.

House Bill 1476 would codify discrimination and essentially make it illegal to recognize LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit North Dakotans. Among a long list of items, the bill would prohibit the state from using a person’s preferred pronouns, prohibit the state from endorsing or enforcing certain policies regarding same-sex marriage, prohibit schools from teaching curriculum that might expose students to the mere existence of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people and even ban public entities from hosting or sponsoring drag queen story time.

House Bill 1317 creates financial assistance for costs associated with adopting a newborn – but it explicitly excludes same-sex couples, unmarried couples and single people. By offering state funds for adoption only to married opposite sex couples, this bill explicitly and intentionally leaves out many LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit couples. While the Appropriations Committee gave House Bill 1317 a do no pass recommendation, it still sends the message that LGBTQ and Two Spirit families are not worthy of support.

With serious issues like our state’s COVID-19 response and economic recovery, it’s disturbing that legislators are spending so much time attacking vulnerable transgender youth and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community as a whole. These bills seem fixated on the incorrect notion that some of our friends and neighbors are not entitled to the same dignity and respect as others. Our commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit North Dakotans can live openly without discrimination remains strong. We urge North Dakota lawmakers to focus on the issues that really matter.

These discriminatory bills come on the heels of the harmful and divisive anti-LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit language that Republicans approved as a part of the state party’s official extended policy platform in July 2020. While some Republican leaders later apologized for the language in the party platform, it’s not enough – especially when bills like House Bill 1298, House Bill 1476 and House Bill 1317 are up for debate.

While LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit rights have made some giant leaps forward, the fight for equality is not over. Discrimination is still the law of the land in many states – especially, it seems, in North Dakota. We need our elected leaders to strongly assert the right of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people to be treated as equals, deserving of the full and fair protections of our laws. It’s time for the Republican party leaders who have expressed their regret about their party platform to work across the aisle to ensure all North Dakotans to be treated equally and live free of discrimination.

Decisions made during the biannual sessions of the North Dakota Legislature have a deep and lasting impact on our state’s people and communities. As new laws are created and others repealed or written, it’s important to ensure that these changes preserve and strengthen our constitutional rights.