Human Rights Campaign: Governor Burgum’s Veto of Discriminatory Senate Bill 2231 is a Win for the Dignity of Transgender North Dakotans

by Cullen Peele

Bismarck, ND - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, thanked Governor Doug Burgum for his veto of SB 2231, legislation that would have prohibited government employers from requiring workers to address and identify colleagues by pronouns consistent with their gender identity. The bill would have also impacted North Dakota classrooms by outlawing any instruction on gender identity and by forbidding schools from requiring that teachers address students by their correct pronouns.

Governor Burgum did the right thing by vetoing legislation that would have given public employees, including teachers, a free pass to harass and misgender transgender colleagues and students. This bill was nothing more than state-sponsored discrimination . In light of ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ attacks coming from the statehouse, Governor Burgum’s rejection of this bill is important to the dignity of many transgender North Dakotans."

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

In his letter to the President of the Senate explaining his veto, Governor Burgum stated that the “teaching profession is challenging enough without the heavy hand of state government forcing teachers to take on the role of pronoun police. Parents, teachers and administrators using compassion, empathy and common sense can address individual and infrequent situations that may arise."

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.

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