The Grand Forks City Council voted 7-0 on Monday to support a bill that would prohibit discrimination against North Dakotans of any sexual orientation seeking housing and employment, with a recommendation legislators amend the proposal to be more inclusive.
Council members made a similar decision five years ago when they voted to create the first city ordinance in North Dakota prohibiting discrimination for all in the LGBT community.
While House Bill 1441 would guarantee equal access across the state to housing and work for many, council members struggled with the fact it leaves out North Dakotans who experience discrimination as a result of their gender identity.
"I think it's problematic to say we support everyone but the transgender community," council member Katie Dachtler said on Tuesday. "It doesn't make any sense to me that some people are considered to be more human than other people."
Community and Government Relations Officer Pete Haga, who provides council members with legislative updates each Monday, said the council's intentions Monday night were clear, even if their actions going forward might seem murky.
The fate of the bill is uncertain after a House committee voted 11-2 to give the bill a "do not pass recommendation" Tuesday.
Dachtler said she thought the bill left out gender identity to improve its chances of passing.
"I don't want to put words into the mouth of the lawmaker by any means, but I think that this bill was written the way that it was because it would have more chance at actually being passed through if they didn't include this small population," she said.
If the House went against the committee's recommendation and passed the bill as written, council members might then have to make a new decision regarding their support for the proposal.
"It pains me, it makes me sick to say that I wouldn't support something that is antidiscriminatory in nature," Dachtler said. Yet, she said she would have to oppose HB 1441.
Council President Dana Sande said if the bill were to pass without the amendment, he would likely still support it.
"Anything we can do, even baby steps, are better than no steps forward," Sande said.
Like Dachtler, Sande said he didn't know exactly why gender identity was excluded from the bill.
"If we had the opportunity to visit with some of our legislators we could've directly asked the question if transgender is being left out for a reason," he said, adding it's possible legislators didn't intentionally exclude a portion of the LGBT community.
"I don't know what the motives were. I'm trying to take it at its face value that they were trying to ensure some sort of safety net for these people, and perhaps another bill at some other time will include other groups of people," Sande said.
Haga said the city will communicate its opinion with local state legislators, including Republican Reps. Emily O'Brien and Jake Blum and Democratic Rep. Corey Mock.
Projects up for approval
Council members considered two large construction projects for the 2019 and 2020 construction seasons.
That includes a mill and overlay on University Avenue from North Third Street downtown to North Columbia Road on the UND Campus. City engineering said the stretch of street is still in very poor condition despite several spot mills and overlays they completed in 2018.
The almost $3.5 million project, slated for 2020, was originally supposed to encompass University Avenue to State Street, which is less than a mile west of Columbia Road.
City engineers readjusted their plans in light of an anticipated "Coulee to Columbia" reconstruction project for the 2019 season.
Cherry Street is also due for partial reconstruction and new lighting from 11th Avenue South to 17th Avenue South near the end of this year. The city will reconstruct the street from 11th to 14th Avenue South, and perform a mill and overlay for the rest of the project. The entire portion is due for new street lights, creating a total project cost of approximately $2.1 million.