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North Dakota newspaper outs lawmakers who voted down bill barring anti-LGBT discrimination

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Portion of the front page of the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead for April 3, 2015. [The Newseum]

A North Dakota newspaper identified every state lawmaker who opposed a bill expanding anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community, with a front page displaying all of their faces on Friday.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead listed all 55 members of the state House who voted against the measure, Senate Bill 2279, following a 90-minute debate on Thursday. The newspaper noted that this is the third time in six years that this type of bill has been voted down.

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As the Forum reported, the bill was split into two parts: one covered eliminating sexual orientation as the basis for bias in housing, employment, and credit and brokerage services; the other part covered “public accomodations and services.”

Both provisions were voted down. The Forum also identified the 27 legislators who voted for both provisions in the bill, as well as the 7 who split their vote, supporting one provision but not the other. Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) suggested support for expanding the state’s anti-discrimination ban to cover housing and employment-related matters.

“I’m concerned that we have missed an opportunity to affirm what North Dakotans already believe, which is that discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation is not acceptable,” Dalrymple said in a statement.

Twelve Republicans broke party lines and joined with Democrats in supporting the bill, including one of its sponsors, state Rep. Thomas Beadle (R). Beadle told the Forum that SB 2279 was supported by many of the state’s largest employers out of fear that rejecting it would spur the kind of criticism levied against Indiana and Arkansas, where “religious freedom” bills allowing businesses to reject gay customers were approved.

“While we can see the backlash in Indiana, the mere perception of LGBT discrimination will have negative consequences for our state,” Beadle said.

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The bill passed in the state Senate last month, but quickly faced hurdles in the House, where the state House Human Services Committee took it to the floor with a recommendation not to pass. The committee’s chair, Rep. Robin Weisz (R), said it “did not receive any testimony that showed any outright discrimination going on” while discussing the bill.

But contrary to Weisz’s account, WDAY-TV reported that more than 30 people testified supporting the measure, vastly outnumbering opponents.

“Listening to the testimony today, I’m wondering if I was at the same hearing as the chair because he was claiming there’s no evidence of discrimination against LGBT people in the state of North Dakota,” North Dakota Human Rights Coalition head Barry Nelson said. “I heard many stories at this hearing alone.”

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According to the Forum, the bill’s defeat has already led the Red Raven Espresso Parlor coffee shop in Fargo to post a sign banning each of the lawmakers who opposed it from entering, “unless accompanied by a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex or Asexual person.”

The front page was posted online in its entirety by the Newseum, and can be seen below.

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forum front

[h/t Talking Points Memo]


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