LGBTQ Agenda: Onslaught of anti-LGBTQ bills continues in North Dakota, Kansas

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday April 11, 2023
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LGBTQ groups have called on North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum to veto 10 anti-LGBTQ bills. Photo: Courtesy State of North Dakota
LGBTQ groups have called on North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum to veto 10 anti-LGBTQ bills. Photo: Courtesy State of North Dakota

The onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation is intensifying — with the North Dakota state Senate passing 10 bills that would restrict the LGBTQ community in a single day last week. This came one day before the Kansas Senate passed its own restrictive "bathroom bill" by margins large enough to withstand a veto by the Sunflower State's Democratic governor.

The Human Rights Campaign expressed horror at the record number of anti-LGBTQ bills forwarded in a state in a single day, in North Dakota on April 3, now headed to the desk of Governor Doug Burgum (R).

"It's shameful, yet not surprising, that instead of spending their day attempting to tackle the real issues facing North Dakotans, extremist legislators in Bismarck were working vigorously to rile up the far fringes of their base — and now some of their most marginalized constituents could pay the price," Cathryn Oakley, HRC's state legislative director and senior counsel, stated in a news release. "These 10 bills — the most anti-LGBTQ+ bills to pass a single legislative chamber in one day in modern history — have the sole aim of pushing LGBTQ+ people back into the closet. We urge Governor Burgum to reject this plain and simple discrimination."

The bills address a number of issues that have been seen in other statehouses where lawmakers are working to curtail LGBTQ rights.

House Bill 1139 would define "sex" as "the biological state of being female or male, based on the individual's nonambiguous sex organs, chromosomes, and endogenous hormone profiles at birth" for the purposes of birth certificates.

HB 1297 would prohibit changing the gender marker on a birth certificate "due to a gender identity change."

HB 1249, addressing primary and high schools, states that "an athletic team or sport designated for 'females', 'women', or 'girls' may not be open to students of the male sex," though male sports are open to all. HB 1489 would do the same thing on the college level.

HB 1254 would criminalize gender-affirming care via an emergency declaration.

HB 1333 would prohibit an "adult-oriented performance" in a public place.

HB 1473 would restrict bathrooms and locker rooms based on biological sex.

HB 1474 would define male and female as stated in other laws. "'Female' means a girl, woman, or an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova. ... 'Male' means a boy, man, or an individual whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce sperm," the bill states.

HB 1522 would penalize schools for making pronoun accommodations for trans students.

HCR 3010 would use biological sex for data collection and vital statistics.

"North Dakota lawmakers have made clear through the multitude of anti-LGBTQ+ bills they've introduced and passed that some people are simply not welcome in North Dakota," HRC's Oakley stated.

There is some hope, though. Burgum vetoed Senate Bill 2231, which would have made public employees use biological sex as the basis for pronoun usage. Burgum cited the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, arguing the bill — if it became law — would have illegally compelled speech.

"The teaching profession is challenging enough without the heavy hand of state government forcing teachers to take on the role of pronoun police," Burgum wrote in his March 30 veto message. "Parents, teachers, and administrators using compassion, empathy, and common sense can address individual and infrequent situations that may arise."

When the B.A.R. reached out to Burgum's office for comment for this report, his press representative Mike Nowatzki stated that "the governor generally does not comment on legislation before acting on it (unless it's one of his proposals)."

'Bathroom bill' showdown in Kansas

Meanwhile, Kansas' SB 180 would restrict bathrooms and other single-sex spaces so that trans people could not use them in accordance with their gender identities. It was passed by the state Senate in a 28-12 vote April 4.

However, Kansas' Democratic Governor Laura Kelly is likely to veto the legislation.

Thomas A. Alonzo, a gay Latino Air Force veteran who is the Equality Kansas board chair, told the Bay Area Reporter that he thinks they have a chance at stopping the legislation even though the state Senate's vote was veto-proof.

"On [SB] 180 there's a lot of people working behind the scenes — a lot — and we still have a chance to sustain the veto," Alonzo said. "And if we can sustain that veto we will have won part of the battle. This has come up three years in a row and we've managed to beat it till this year."

Alonzo said that Kelly reiterated her support for the LGBTQ community at an Equality Day event last month.

"We have an Equality Day that Equality Kansas puts on every year and it's our effort to celebrate equality and make sure Kansas isn't so damn mean to its people," Alonzo said. "The governor came out, bless her heart, she spoke to us and committed to protecting trans kids and the whole of the LGBTQ+ community. She's done a great job supporting us despite what we have in the Legislature."

The B.A.R. reached out to Kelly's office for comment for this report but has not heard back as of press time.

Alonzo said that the Legislature will be gone until the end of the month, at which time it will take up any vetoes by the governor.

Ian Benalcazar, a 13-year-old trans boy from northeast Kansas, spoke at the Kansas State Capitol recently, the Associated Press reported, saying, "I am what they are scared of. I am a human being and I deserve to be treated as such, and I deserve to be happy."

The Legislature did override Kelly's veto of HB 2238, a bill to restrict scholastic athletics on the basis of biological sex.

"The governor vetoed that and that was the one where they were going to establish that only boys compete with boys and only girls compete with girls," Alonzo said. "The Republicans were using the term 'man,' though there's no men competing with girls in the schools."

Nonetheless, the veto would've been sustained if not for some Democratic support for overriding it.

"The governor's veto was overridden due to one Democrat, Marvin Robinson, from Kansas City," Alonzo said. "That's the end of 2238 for now. We all know these things will end up in court."

Robinson's office did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time.

Some groups are calling for Robinson to resign on account of his decision.

"If Rep. Robinson is going to allow hate to overrule his commitment to Democratic values, he needs to step aside and let a real Democrat represent his district," Brandie Armstrong, the chair of the Kansas Democratic Party's LGBTQ+ Caucus, told the Kansas City Star. "Democrats barely have representation in Kansas as is, the least someone who claims to be a part of our party can do is represent our ideals."

To testify in favor of HB 2238, Kansas Republicans brought in Riley Gaines, the former Division 1 college swimmer who has been in the news in the Bay Area of late after she spoke against trans female inclusion in women's sports at San Francisco State University. KTVU-TV reported that Gaines claims she was "physically hit" after a speech about "saving women's sports." There were vocal protesters during her appearance.

Gaines is the swimmer who tied with collegiate trans swimmer Lia Thomas in a 200 freestyle race last year.

Other states

In Arkansas, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill March 21 barring trans people from using school bathrooms that don't align with the sex on their birth certificate. School officials who do not comply can be fined $1,000.

However, a broader bathroom bill was gutted. A proposal to make it a criminal offense to use the bathroom of the opposite sex (again, defined by the sex on a birth certificate) when a minor is present was amended so that the offense only occurs if the entrance is "for the purpose of arousing or gratifying a sexual desire." The amended version was sent to Sanders' desk April 4.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

Updated, 4/11/23: This article has been updated with a comment from the North Dakota governor's office.

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