BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Gay rights activists in North Dakota are already trying to drum up support for legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, even though the next legislative session is still a year and a half away.
Community members in Bismarck gathered to discuss the issue of discrimination at a new series called “Diversity University,” where they talked about legislation introduced this session that would have made sexual orientation a protected class.
Organizer Jennifer Cook told the Bismarck Tribune many private companies are already accepting of gay and lesbian employees but that North Dakotans still need a state law protecting them from losing their jobs.
“It’s still completely legal in North Dakota to fire someone because they are gay, because of whom they love,” said Cook, the policy director for the North Dakota American Civil Liberties Union.
T.J. Jerke, an activist for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, said nondiscrimination policies are popular with the public.
But activists have tried three times to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in North Dakota, failing each time. Cook and Jerke are already working to drum up support for similar legislation in the future.
Cook said she hopes the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states will improve the laws on gender identity and sexual orientation as well.
“The court’s decision didn’t touch on these issues specifically,” Cook said. “But there is a lot of good language in the testimonies, and it did have the effect of changing the dialogue in the nation.”