Human Rights Campaign: “Instead of Helping North Dakotans to ‘Find the Good Life,’ Governor Burgum Decided to Sign Away the Ability for Transgender People to Safely and Openly Exist”

by Cullen Peele

North Dakota is on track to pass more anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2023 than any other state

Bismarck, ND - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, condemned North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum for signing three new laws designed specifically to limit the ability for transgender people to be legally and socially acknowledged in accordance with their gender identity. The bills are as follows:

  • HB 1522: Prohibits schools and state employers from requiring respectful pronoun use for students or colleagues and forbids transgender students from using school restrooms consistent with their gender identity;

  • HB 1297: Prohibits a transgender individual from being able to update the gender marker on their birth certificate under any circumstances; and

  • HB 1474: Erases LGBTQ+ people from multiple areas of state law by adopting a discriminatory, unworkable definition of “sex” that would have a particularly harmful impact on nonbinary and transgender people. The bill would prohibit LGBTQ+ people from bringing claims of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in areas of law including employment, housing, and public accommodations. The bill would also impact intersex people.

Governor Burgum has now signed a total of 11 anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year. Several additional anti-LGBTQ+ bills are still advancing through the legislative process, and North Dakota is on track to pass more anti-LGBTQ+ legislation this year than any other state.

“Creating jobs, growing the economy, and lifting up the most marginalized North Dakotans is clearly not a priority for Governor Burgum, especially when he indicates that the lives of transgender people are worth sacrificing for cheap political points. After passing more anti-LGBTQ+ bills than lawmakers in any other state this year, the Governor and his extremist allies in the statehouse are sending a direct yet dangerous message that LGBTQ+ people in their state do not belong, nor should they publicly exist. Instead of helping North Dakotans to ‘find the good life,’ they are instead playing to the far fringes of their base. To that, we have a simple response: our community isn’t going anywhere and we will always fight back against these attacks.”

Cathryn Oakley, 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.

The following discriminatory bills have been enacted into law in North Dakota this year:

  • HB 1473: Prohibits transgender individuals from using restrooms and other facilities in domestic violence shelters, correctional facilities, and university dormitories consistent with their gender identity.

  • HB 1254: Bans gender affirming care for trans youth

  • HB 1333: Restricts drag performances

  • HB 1136: Legalizes “religious refusal”

  • HB 1249, 1489, and HCR 3010: Prohibits transgender students from participating in school sports aligning with their gender identity

  • HB 1139 and HCR 3010: Restricts personal identity documents to discriminate against transgender individuals

So far in 2023, HRC is opposing more than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. More than 220 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.

This year, HRC is tracking:

  • More than 125 bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; this year, 13 have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Dakota, and Montana

  • More than 30 bathroom ban bills filed,

  • More than 100 curriculum censorship bills and 45 anti-drag performance bills.

In a coordinated push led by national anti-LGBTQ+ groups, which deployed vintage discriminatory tropes, politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills – 149 bills – targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.

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