Just when you think conservative blogger Rob Port cannot possibly stoop any lower, he does.
Boschee, a Democrat from Fargo, has tried multiple times to pass bills outlawing discrimination against gay people, only to have them killed by the Republican majority in the Legislature. Port has decided to blame Boschee, rather than Republicans.
Port’s theory is that Boschee and other Democrats secretly want the bill to fail because they can use it as a “fundraising weapon” and a “political weapon on the campaign trail.”
So Port believes that a gay lawmaker would rather see a boost in his campaign contributions than achieve a substantial gay rights victory for himself and other gay people. Not only is the argument extremely fucked up — it’s even worse because Port presents zero evidence to back it up.
Let’s break Port’s argument down and address his points individually. He writes:
“If Boschee is so concerned about working with Republicans to pass this legislation, why has he been introducing what has essentially the same bill over and over again?”
Well, what changes could be made that would not be detrimental to gay people? All the bill does is add “sexual orientation” to an existing list of protected classes, which currently includes “sex,” “religion” and other categories. It’s a very simple bill. Boschee explained in an email to Mean Read,
“As someone who has worked on this bill since 2009 and worked with a coalition of stakeholders, we have had many conversations of the various changes that could be made to the legislation before introduction. In the end, the stakeholder coalition asked that we not introduce legislation that allows discrimination in some areas, but not others. The coalition wanted to let the legislative process play out, knowing the potential risks of doing so, and see what the committee will amend.
Ok. Let’s move on to Port’s next criticism of Boschee:
“Why hasn’t he reached out to the Republican majorities voting against these bills to craft something that wouldn’t, to use his words, let “the perfect be the enemy of the good”?”
Boschee has reached out. This year’s attempt, House Bill 1386, included two Republican sponsors: Representatives Thomas Beadle and Mary Johnson, both of Fargo. When the bill came to a vote on the House floor earlier this month, Boschee made a point of asking a committee chairman, Republican Rep. Robin Weisz, “Were committee members or yourself amiable to any version of this bill?”
To which Weisz answered, “There were two sets of amendments…and they were discussed and the committee did reject both sets of amendments.”
Boschee then tried to have the bill sent back to committee, but his motion failed and the House voted 69-22 to kill the bill. Boschee wrote to us:
“This session, Rep. Beadle, a Republican, led the conversation on encouraging the committee to amend the bill to alleviate their concerns. They refused to. After visiting with many Republicans on the House floor about their desire to vote for an amended version of the legislation, I attempted a final procedural move to 1) send the bill back to committee for further discussion and amending and then 2) amend the bill on the House floor to address concerns I had been hearing.”
How much more reaching out can someone do? Port’s next argument is:
“Why not split the bill up into parts, some of which might earn a majority of lawmaker votes?”
That strategy was employed in 2015, when the bill was divided into two parts; both parts failed in separate votes.
Here is Port’s final argument:
“And why, after a decade of trying in the Legislature, haven’t Boschee and others sought to put this issue on the statewide ballot through the initiated measure process? …
If anti-discrimination policy is important to gay rights proponents – and I have no doubt that it is – what’s the excuse for not taking the issue to the people?
The only answer I can come up with is that it wouldn’t serve the interests of North Dakota’s Democrats.
That’s quite a jump. Here’s another theory: it’s obvious that gay rights would fail if put to the voters. In 2004, North Dakotans voted 73 percent to 26 percent in favor of an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Though it was more than a decade ago, the decisiveness of that vote sent a clear message. It is difficult to imagine any scenario in which a majority of North Dakotans would vote in favor of any pro-gay referendum.
Still, Boschee says it’s something he’s considering. It may be the only option considering a Republican leadership in the Legislature which, according to Boschee, has no appetite for this kind of legislation.
“Republicans had a version of the bill drafted and ready to introduce. They were told by their leadership not to introduce it,” Boschee wrote to us. “Further demonstrating that from the very beginning Republican leadership is not interested in making the legislation palatable.”