Today, Rep. Robin Weisz (R-Hurdsfield) had the impossible task of trying to justify a “no” vote against a bill to outlaw discrimination against gay people.
His lengthy speech was the most nonsensical, stupid thing we’ve heard emanate from Bismarck so far this year.
He started out by admitting that gay people are discriminated against. This is actually somewhat groundbreaking information in the state legislature, though not groundbreaking to anyone else.
“Have they been discriminated against? Are they currently? The answer is yes,” Weisz said.
Well, if they’re being discriminated against, then why not pass a bill to outlaw that discrimination, much in the same way that it’s illegal to discriminate based on race, sex, religion and other categories?
Weisz argued that adding sexual orientation to this list would not “make a difference.”
He said that the federal government can come in and investigate cases of discrimination against LGBT people. This is one of the few times you will hear a Republican express support for federal intervention in the state.
Next, Weisz pointed out that North Dakota’s Labor Department received 17 complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation in the last year. He argued that this number is low compared to the more than 400 total complaints received. “You have just a tiny percentage that are related to sexual orientation,” he said.
How many cases is he expecting? A thousand? Does he know North Dakota has a tiny population, and that LGBT people make up less than 4 percent of the population?
Despite having admitted that gay people are experiencing discrimination, Weisz continues his speech by contradicting himself.
“North Dakotans accept whoever you are. Our employers, they need quality people, do we really think that they’re going to actively discriminate?” Weisz asked. How fucking naive are you?
In December, a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Williston man named Michael Allyn who said he was repeatedly singled out for abuse at work for being gay. His coworkers allegedly “called him offensive and homophobic slurs; they defaced company vehicles with sex-based remarks about him; they painted a truck Allyn was known to use with pink polka dots, hearts and rainbows; and they left him pornographic magazines with titles like ‘Chicks With Dicks.'”
Weisz’s worst argument came at the end of his speech, when he made conflicting, incoherent remarks about the gay “lifestyle.”
“Legally … what we’re protecting is a lifestyle. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that you’re not born gay or anything else. But what I’m saying is the law cannot differentiate. It only knows if you’re gay if you say so. So the reality is that the protections involve the lifestyle and that’s where we run into some conflicts here.”
Weisz’s point seems to be that there’s a problem with outlawing discrimination based on something that isn’t visibly apparent, like the color of your skin. But as Rep. Karla Rose Hanson (D-Fargo) pointed out, North Dakota law bans discrimination on the basis of religion, which of course is not visibly apparent.
Rep. Thomas Beadle (R-Fargo), one of the few Republicans to support the bill, neutered another of Weisz’s arguments, that the federal government is already handling discrimination cases.
Beadle pointed out that the federal government’s protection is limited to employment issues. “You can still have housing discrimination because of sexual orientation,” he said.
Beadle also argued that it’s unfair for North Dakota to protect various classes but leave out sexual orientation, calling it the “one really core group left out.”
“I rise today on this issue because I think our state needs to take a stance to say it’s not okay to have an un-level playing field,” he said.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo), who is the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, appeared frustrated that fellow legislators were not making an effort to amend the bill so that it could pass.
“Were committee members or yourself amiable to any version of this bill?” he asked Weisz, the chairman of the House Human Services Committee, which gave the bill a near-unanimous “do not pass” recommendation.
“There were two sets of amendments… and they were discussed and the committee did reject both sets of amendments,” Weisz answered.
Boschee asked that the bill be sent back to committee to be worked on further, but his motion failed. The bill died in a 22-69 vote.
The lesson? Republicans were not interested in supporting any version of this legislation.
The bill’s failure was somewhat surprising because last year when a similar bill failed, there was a public outcry that suggested it would fare better the next time around. But today’s bill failed by an even larger margin than before.
Some legislators flipped their votes. Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) voted against the bill today, but he voted for it previously.
Rep. Randy Boehning (R-Fargo) voted against the bill the last time around, but voted for it this time.