Shaw: Bigotry is alive and well in Bismarck

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

Every time the North Dakota Legislature takes up the issue of equal rights for the LGBT community, I keep thinking they will do the right thing and pass the proper legislation. Unfortunately, I have been proven wrong again. The legislation failed again this year. Bigotry is alive and well in Bismarck.

It is astonishing how out of touch the Legislature is on this issue. In recent years, same-sex marriage has become the law of the land, as has adoption of children by same-sex married couples, as have hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The North Dakota Legislature is standing still while the country goes forward on LGBT rights and protections.

The lawmakers failed to protect gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs or being kicked out of their homes. It happens here, the legislators know about it, and they shamefully do nothing to stop it. Max, a graduate of the University of North Dakota, was homeless for three months after his landlord kicked him out of his apartment because he is gay. Susanna, a Bismarck mother of two, was fired from her job when her supervisor found out she had a female partner. Jesse, of Bismarck, was harassed and later fired because he is gay. Max, Susanna and Jesse didn’t choose to be gay, but the Legislature chose to allow discrimination against them.

Some legislators oppose equal rights because of writings in the Bible. In that case, I assume they also favor stoning to death young women who have sex before marriage, and executing married people who commit adultery.

Some have argued this would give special rights to the LGBT community. No, it would give them the same rights as those protected because of their religion, race, sex, age and national origin. Apparently, it’s better to have many job openings in the state go unfilled than to welcome talented gays and lesbians to fill them.

Then, there’s the brilliant logic of Bismarck Republican Sen. Diane Larson who said, “Legislation will be used to sue people and will not enhance people loving one another.” In other words, it’s better to do nothing than try to prevent discrimination. If Larson is correct, then it was a mistake for Congress to pass the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Not to be overlooked is the logic of District 45 (in Fargo) Republican Chairman John Trandem, who said opposition to the legislation wasn’t an endorsement of discrimination. Sure, and preventing African-Americans from voting or eating in certain restaurants in Alabama in the 1950s wasn’t discrimination either. When one group of people doesn’t have the same rights as everyone else, it’s discrimination.

The Legislature has sent a clear and unmistakable message to those who are LGBT: You are not wanted in this state. It’s a rotten message that legislators should be ashamed of.

  • Gotta go now. I’m meeting with Tim Apple and Bill Microsoft.