Unlike in 2015, Burgum Noiseless on Gay Rights Bill

When a bill to outlaw discrimination against gay people was headed to a vote in 2015, businessman Doug Burgum shouted his support to anyone who’d listen.

He went on Fargo’s most popular radio station, KFGO, to tell host Joel Heitkamp, “This is a country where we’re based on respecting others’ differences, and it just seems so simple and so clear to me that we shouldn’t be singling out one group for discrimination.”

He did a Q&A with the High Plains Reader alt-weekly about how important it was to pass the bill, calling it “the right thing to do in terms of living up to the American ideal of equal human rights for all.”

One of his favorite arguments was that on an economic level, North Dakota couldn’t afford to discriminate. “Any laws we have that discriminate against or limit the rights of any citizens based on gender orientation create a barrier for recruiting and retaining talent in our state,” he told HPR. The bill failed.

When the same bill was revived this year, Burgum went into hiding. If he ever enthusiastically endorsed it, like he did in 2015, we didn’t hear about it.

Bill sponsor Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo) told the Bismarck Tribune this January that he hoped that Burgum “doesn’t become less vocal because he’s governor.” Yet that’s exactly what happened.

In the same Tribune report, Burgum said he “hadn’t yet read the new bill, but he believes all North Dakotans should be treated equally.”

“And that means we ought to eliminate all forms of discrimination from whatever it comes from,” Burgum was quoted as saying. “If a new effort is being made, I would hope the legislative process would produce something that everybody can agree on.”
That statement sounded awfully hands-off for a man who supposedly cared so deeply about this issue.

From that interview until yesterday, when the bill failed again, we didn’t hear Burgum pipe up on the subject. It wasn’t until we read today’s Fargo Forum that we learned that Burgum supported the bill.

Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, supported the bill.

“All North Dakotans deserve to be treated equally and live free of discrimination,” Burgum said in a statement released after the vote. “As we compete with other states to fill the thousands of open jobs in North Dakota, we must be a place where everyone feels welcome.”

“A statement released after the vote.” The expression “too little, too late” comes to mind.

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