Port: Are we sure North Dakota is open for business?

"The LGBTQ+ community in Fargo is moving their Pride Month events to Minnesota, and that's a shameful turn of events for North Dakota."

FM Pride Week
FM Pride Week parade in 2017.
Forum file photo

MINOT, N.D. — The politics of populism and culture war may have a big price tag for North Dakota.

We're a state that has prided itself on being "open for business." Under three decades of Republican governance, we've touted low tax burdens and a light regulatory touch, and it's worked.

When I started writing about North Dakota politics, our state had few opportunities. The population was shrinking; schools were closing, and communities were dying. Our demographics were aging. Our young people were leaving to find more favorable circumstances elsewhere.

Now our state population is at record highs, and we're home to one of the youngest populations in the nation. The biggest challenge we face as a state is finding enough workers to fill our open jobs.

We seem to be taking that turn-about for granted.


News from Fargo is that the Fargo-Moorhead Pride Planning Committee, tasked with organizing events in June, which is Pride Month, is moving their events out of Fargo and to Moorhead.

"Chelsea Diederich, chair of the FM Pride Planning Committee, said the change in location stems from a slate of new North Dakota laws targeting transgender people, drag shows and the LGBTQ+ community," Christopher Hagen reports.

What a shameful turn of events.

The people in the LGTBQ+ community are our neighbors. Our co-workers. Our family. Our friends. Yet this ugly moment of populist politics — the culture war obsession with which so many of our elected officials are preoccupied — has made them feel so unwelcome in our state that they're taking their cultural events, and their business, to another state.

That's an economic blow to Fargo, to be sure, and as important as that is, it's a trifle compared to what this says about our state's honor.

There are thousands and thousands of people in the LGBTQ+ community. They're North Dakotans, and Americans, too. This state, and this country, belong to them, too. What right does anyone have to make them feel hated and unloved and unwelcome?

I suspect some of you reading this will say, "who cares" or "good riddance," and shame on you for feeling that way. Shame on you for being so callous as to believe that ostracizing an entire community of people is, at worst, no big deal or, at best, a positive for our state.

There's a part of me that wishes the FM Pride organizers would keep their events in North Dakota, as an act of defiance toward what's been happening in our state. But they don't feel safe holding these events in our borders, and who am I to tell them otherwise?


The cost of this situation will be hard to calculate. Again, the most pressing problem our state has is a workforce shortage. Yet many of our elected officials are embracing an ugly strain of populist politics that is actively driving people away from our state.

Is North Dakota really open for business? I'm not so sure we are.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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