North Dakota GOP disavows anti-LGBT policy statement after party leaders condemn rhetoric
Top Republican elected officials condemned the resolution shortly after a Forum News Service article published last week detailed the anti-LGBT language it contained.
BISMARCK — The North Dakota Republican Party has renounced a series of anti-LGBT statements that delegates approved as part of the party's official extended policy platform.
Chairman Rick Berg said in a statement Tuesday, July 28, the party's Executive Committee voted to disavow "harmful and divisive language" in a recently passed resolution that advocates against laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, often referred to as "SOGI."
That resolution contains the following statements:
"SOGI bills grant protection to voyeurs who wish to prey on members of the opposite sex."
" Research has shown that causes of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) compulsions are primarily developmental and not genetic as in color and gender."
" SOGI laws empower those practicing LGBT behaviors to assume positions of mentorships of minors often over objections of parents, influencing their emotions and thereby recruiting for their lifestyles."
" Many LGBT practices are unhealthy and dangerous, sometimes endangering or shortening life and sometimes infecting society at large."
The final line of the resolution says the party "opposes the passage of legislation which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to our Century code as protected classes."
The resolution that passed this year is nearly identical to one that passed in 2018, party documents show.
Party Vice Chairman John Trandem said he drafted the original version of the resolution in 2016 when he was the GOP chairman of a Fargo district and a member of the resolutions committee. However, Trandem said he doesn't know who penned the last five "whereas" statements, which were added in 2018 and contain most of the resolution's openly anti-LGBT language.
Party spokeswoman Alex Wilkes declined to comment on the origin of the controversial statements.
Trandem said he authored the resolution to protect his wife and children from "sex predators" who were pretending to be gender dysphoric to gain access to locker rooms and changing stations. He added that he didn't write the resolution out of hate for the LGBT community.
However, Trandem, Northwest Region Chairman Chuck Walen and Northeast Region Chairman Paul Henderson were the only three members of the Executive Committee who voted against disavowing the resolution, according to meeting minutes obtained by Forum News Service columnist Rob Port. Trandem would not comment on his "no" vote Tuesday.
Berg, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, House Majority Leader Chet Pollert and a representative for Gov. Doug Burgum were among the 11 committee members who voted to renounce the resolution.
Seventeen North Dakota Republicans, including Henderson and state Reps. Jeff Magrum and Jeff Hoverson, signed onto a letter that denies the resolution is an expression of bigotry. The letter obtained by Port also asserts that there is nothing in the party's rules that allows officials to amend or renounce a resolution after it has been approved.
The letter cuts in contrast with the sentiments of most of the state's top Republican elected officials, who condemned the resolution shortly after a Forum News Service article published last week detailed the anti-LGBT language it contained.
Burgum, who has supported previous efforts to pass LGBT anti-discrimination laws in the state, denounced the language of the resolution in social media posts .
"As I’ve long said, all North Dakotans deserve to be treated equally and live free of discrimination. There’s no place for the hurtful and divisive rhetoric in the NDGOP resolutions," Burgum said on Facebook. "We can respect one another’s freedoms without disrespecting or discriminating against the LGBT members of our state and our party, whom we support."
U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong and Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer said they were disappointed the rhetoric was included in a party document and noted that the party should promote ideas, rather than opposing people.
Party Executive Director Corby Kemmer issued an apology for the resolution, adding that GOP leaders would look into amending the language at a future meeting.
"The intent of the delegates was to stand up for individual and religious liberties, and, unfortunately, this language falls woefully short of that goal," Kemmer said in a statement.
North Dakota Democratic-NPL Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said in a statement Tuesday that Republicans made "a positive step" by denouncing the resolution, but she added that the "pearl clutching" wouldn't mean anything unless the GOP refuses to support anti-LGBT candidates in the future.
Delegates from the dominant conservative party approved a package of 53 resolutions through a mail-in vote earlier this month after the party canceled its in-person convention due to the coronavirus pandemic. Wilkes would not comment on the vote tally on the resolutions, but The Associated Press has reported the package passed by a 621-139 margin.
The party passes an updated set of resolutions every two years, and Berg said "tremendous work" goes into the process. The full text of the resolutions, which has been removed from the party's website , can be found at the end of this article.
When originally asked about the resolution, Berg said the party is "definitely not" anti-LGBT, but he would not comment any further. The list of resolutions still contains language that defines marriage as a union only of a man and a woman.
Democratic and Republican state lawmakers have introduced several bills in the last decade that would grant protection from employment and housing discrimination for some or all LGBT residents, but the proposed measures have been voted down by a Republican majority each time. North Dakota law already includes protections based on race, sex, religion and national origin.
Trandem chided fellow Fargo Republican and state Rep. Mary Johnson for sponsoring a bill last year that would have protected gay residents from discrimination. Trandem wrote in a Facebook post then the legislation would “pass special protections for people based on a class of bedroom activities and self-perceptions.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that employers cannot fire a worker merely for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The decision applies to the entire country, but other kinds of protections for LGBT residents of North Dakota still aren't on the books.