- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Supporters of a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation are vowing to keep fighting for rights, despite the bill’s rejection by North Dakota lawmakers for the fourth time in recent years.

About 50 of the bill’s supporters watched Friday as the House bill was defeated 69-22.

Kevin Tengesdal, a member of the LGBT community and a gay rights activist in Bismarck, told the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2lyxxod ) he’s saddened, but hopeful that the legislation will eventually pass in North Dakota.

Bismarck resident Vallie Needham, who is bisexual, said it’s absurd that the bill failed and that she and her husband plan to leave the state in a few years for a career move - but that the legislators’ decision will weigh into the decision.

“North Dakota definitely feels very hostile to the LGBT community,” she said. Needham, who said she once was a staunch conservative, said she’ll be watching the actions of her district legislators and will possibly be involved in next year’s efforts to oust those who don’t support the LGBT community.

Bill opponents have argued that the measure is unnecessary and could force businesses and religious organizations to go against their own convictions.

Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said repeated attempts to pass legislation isn’t the right way for the LGBT community to reach its goal.

“The right way to do it is by changing hearts and minds,” Dodson said. “If more people treated people with respect, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

Rep. Robin Weisz, R-Hurdsfield, chairman of the House Human Services Committee that heard the bill and carried it to the House floor, said the way the bill is written is an issue and that discrimination against an individual within the LGBT community and infringing on one’s religious beliefs need to be reconciled in future versions.

“I’m sure, at some point, we can find a solution,” Weisz said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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