Grand Forks City Council members all made a point to speak out against discrimination of any kind Monday night, as they discussed the best way to respond to a House bill that would prohibit discrimination against homeowners or workers based on sexual orientation.
While House Bill 1441 would guarantee equal access to housing and employment for many in the LGBT community, it fails to address discrimination against North Dakotans for gender identity, a point council members struggled with as they weighed their options to either embrace or oppose the proposal.
Council members ultimately voted unanimously to support HB 1441, and to request that state legislators amend the proposal to include North Dakotans of all gender identities.
“My concern is that if we only support a bill that includes one part of a group of individuals, why? That’s my concern. Why do we cut out an entire group of individuals that are a protected class?” asked council member Katie Dachtler.
Grand Forks was the first North Dakota city in 2013 to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, expression and sexual orientation.
Council member Ken Vein pointed out the motion, which was brought forward by council member Sandi Marshall, was unconventional since the city typically only supports, opposes or is neutral to bills from the state Legislature.
Marshall did point out it was hard to tell if legislators were deliberately excluding a class or if it was a mistake, something council member Danny Weigel addressed in his own remarks.
“This is the second time now we’ve spur-of-the-moment brought a bill up,” Weigel said, referring to a vote council members had in January to oppose a bill that would enforce party declarations in local elections. He requested more time in the future to study bills and speak with their legislators before coming up with recommendations as a city.