Human Rights Campaign Condemns North Dakota House for Legalizing Misgendering of LGBTQ+ People in Workplaces and Schools, Calls on Gov. Burgum to Veto Disgraceful Legislation

by HRC Staff

Bismarck, ND - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, rebuked members of the North Dakota House for passing SB 2231, a bill that, if signed into law, will forbid government employers from requiring workers to address and identify colleagues by pronouns consistent with their gender identity. The bill also impacts North Dakota classrooms by outlawing any instruction on gender identity and by prohibiting schools from requiring that teachers address students by their correct pronouns. However, if any teacher does wish to use a student’s correct pronouns, they would still need to seek parental consent in advance, according to the bill’s text. It was passed by the Senate on February 10.

This legislation is the result of ongoing far-right pressure placed upon lawmakers, spearheaded by political extremists and disinformation campaigns on social media and other platforms. It is one of hundreds of bills being pushed by national anti-LGBTQ+ organizations across dozens of states.

The cruelty that echoed from the North Dakota House today is truly some of the first of its kind. Instead of focusing on ways to enhance their government’s efficiency and talent, extremist politicians in Bismarck are effectively giving public employees a free pass to harass and misgender transgender colleagues. This will do nothing but drive the best and the brightest out of the state. This bill will also make it more difficult for LGBTQ+ students to seek assistance from trusted adults in school, and could put children in real danger if they are not safe being out at home. Furthermore, the bill requires teachers and students be allowed to misgender their own pupils and classmates. We urge Governor Burgum to reject this bill that sanctions state-sponsored bigotry and flies in the face of any initiative he promotes promising to transform education and reinvent government.”

Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel

In 2018, Governor Burgum unveiled a five-point program promising a “positive and innovative state government culture.” Governor Burgum has also called for a $25 million investment in a strategic marketing plan that includes the "Find the Good Life" campaign, a talent-recruiting initiative designed to grow North Dakota's economy while promoting the state as a place of opportunity, freedom, and community. Regardless of how many millions of taxpayer dollars are spent carrying this message, 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.

Transgender students, like all students, have a right to be treated with dignity and respect at school, and federal civil rights laws protect the rights of transgender students, too. Research shows that supportive school environments lead to better outcomes for students. The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender youth in particular. This is not serious legislation – it is one more effort, by a legislature that has a long track record of attacks on LGBTQ+ people, to further marginalize transgender students.

Being transgender is not new. Some say it can feel like being transgender is very new – but that’s because the media has been covering it more in recent months and years. But transgender people have always existed and will continue to exist regardless of the bills we pass. And very few transgender people change their minds.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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