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ND legislator says landmark gay marriage ruling a victory for mentally ill

Rep. Dwight Kiefert, R - Valley City1 / 2
A screen grab from Rep. Dwight Kiefert's Facebook post 2 / 2

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – The U.S. Supreme Court's decision outlawing bans on same-sex marriage is a victory for the mentally ill, a North Dakota state legislator claimed in a social media post.

Dwight Kiefert, a Republican from Valley City serving in the state House, clarified in an interview Monday that while he leans toward the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness, he is not sure because he is neither a doctor nor a psychiatrist.

He said his Facebook post on Friday, the day of the Supreme Court decision, was sarcastic and he wrote it when he was feeling "disgusted."

The post began: "Yea, gay marriage is legal in all 50 states. Great victory for the METALLY (sic) ILL!!!!!"

Monday: Judge rules ND gay marriage ban 'invalid'

A screen grab from Rep. Dwight Kiefert's Facebook post

Kiefert said the Supreme Court's decision was a slap in the face to North Dakotans, who in 2004 voted overwhelmingly for a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"I don't think that it's normal," he said of homosexuality. "You can't reproduce. I mean, a man and a woman is what it takes to make a child."

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said Kiefert's post is not representative of Republicans' beliefs.

"Dwight speaks for himself. He has a lot of strong opinions," Carlson said.

Carlson said he "absolutely" doesn't believe homosexuality is a mental illness, adding, "That topic shouldn't even be discussed."

Related: Conservative Republicans question what's next after gay marriage ruling

Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis who has studied heterosexual attitudes toward gays and lesbians for more than 30 years, said the concept of homosexuality as mental illness has been completely debunked.

"The major mental health professional associations have not considered homosexuality a mental illness since 1973," Herek said, "and they also acknowledge that it was a mistake to have considered it a mental illness in the first place and that classification reflected cultural stereotypes and biases that were prevalent at the time."

Herek said sound research showed "no support" for the idea of homosexuality as a mental illness.

He noted that while the majority of lesbians and gays are mentally healthy, "there is a higher level of some forms of psychological distress" which "is generally attributed to the experience of being stigmatized and targeted for prejudice and violence throughout their lives."

Joshua Boschee, D-Fargo, the state's first openly gay legislator, said the silver lining of Kiefer's comments is that "voters in his district will know more about what he stands for. ... We'll see if they will send someone different to Bismarck."

Related: 'It's a very proud day' for ND gays as marriage ban ends

In his post, Kiefert wrote that gays "were taken off the mentally ill list in 1973" and asked if people knew why.

"I'll give you a clue, not because of any study or research," he wrote, adding, "Google it!!"

Kiefert said in the interview that his post was not a "public statement," but merely a request that people to look into the issue.

"There's a lot of question marks," he said."Was what I read true? I don't know.

"The bottom line is: Through my faith, I have to oppose it," Kiefert, who is Christian, said of homosexuality.

He added that his viewpoints have earned him threats in the past.

"I just hope people respect me for who I am," he said.

Kiefert was among the Republicans who objected to a Muslim leading prayers at the Capitol on Ash Wednesday this year.

Adrian Glass-Moore

Readers are encouraged to reach Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599 or with comments, criticisms and tips. He joined The Forum as its night reporter in 2014.