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Grand Forks doesn't want state anti-discrimination bill to threaten city law, council member says

A Grand Forks City Council member worries if a state legislative bill outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation is rejected, it could incite actions that trump the city's anti-discrimination housing law.

A Grand Forks City Council member worries if a state legislative bill outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation is rejected, it could incite actions that trump the city's anti-discrimination housing law.

Senate Bill 2279 proposes statewide protection for people based on sexual orientation or gender identity not only in housing, but also in the workplace.

City Council member Bret Weber is worried not all state legislators will support the bill, and said the city doesn't want SB 2279 to incite an opposing bill outlawing Grand Forks' housing law against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Examples of protections offered by SB 2279 include making it illegal to either fire an employee or evict a renter because they identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer).

"The reason I think that this bill is important is that I think that the young people are looking at not only getting a good job but moving to communities that are accepting," Sen. Carolyn Nelson, D-Fargo, the primary sponsor of the bill, said in a recent Forum News Service article. "Despite the fact that Fargo and Grand Forks are pretty liberal and above board, there are a lot of places in North Dakota that are not yet there," she said.

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In 2013, Grand Forks was the first city in North Dakota to pass a law against housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Fargo followed with a similar law shortly after.

By passing that law, Grand Forks showed its stance of support for statewide anti-discrimination laws like SB 2279, said Weber, co-chairman of the city's Legislative Committee.

"It's clear where the city stands," Weber said. "Our concern would be if the opposition comes up with a counter bill."

If SB 2279 simply does not pass, without an opposing bill, nothing would change in Grand Forks, and the city's anti-discrimination housing law would still stand, he said.

The city will continue monitoring the bill as it moves through the Legislature, Weber said.

Bills similar to SB 2279 were brought forward in 2009 and 2011, but failed to pass.

The bill is scheduled for a Senate committee hearing at 9:30 a.m. today.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Nelson; John Grabinger, D-Jamestown; and John Warner, D-Ryder; and Reps. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo; Joshua Boschee, D-Fargo; and Andrew Maragos, R-Minot.

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