I was drawn today to Teri Finneman’s last Ask Your Government column. Teri’s started a doctoral program and will not be doing this column any longer, but she leaves it with a powerful exit. The column addresses this question: Can someone be fired in North Dakota because they are gay?
Teri went to Labor Commissioner Tony Weiler for an answer and he said the following:
“Sexual orientation is not a protected category under state human rights laws or under federal law. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), however, is litigating some cases and arguing the firing is still based on sex and is having some success. So, the answer is: It will depend on the circumstances but, under state law, generally, the answer is yes.”
Teri then asked Barry Nelson of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition to respond, here is what Barry said:
“Even though there is a human rights law in North Dakota, it does not specifically note sexual orientation as a ‘protected class,’ meaning that someone who is gay can be fired solely for that reason with impunity for the employer. This extends to housing as well. A landlord could legally evict someone from their housing or refuse to rent to someone because they are gay in North Dakota.
The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition has advocated time and again for legislation that would protect all North Dakotans, no matter who they love, from infringements on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. An attempt to pass legislation in the 2009 legislative session to include sexual orientation as a protected class from discrimination under North Dakota law was passed in the North Dakota Senate but defeated in the House of Representatives. The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition will continue to fight for all North Dakota residents, recognizing that its residents currently can be discriminated against with impunity.”
It is time for North Dakota to come into the 21st Century in regard to equality. This type of lingering discrimination makes our state look like it is full of uneducated hicks. We can do better North Dakota.
Why label folks in ways that distance them from others in this state? Why isn’t there a singular designation – North Dakotan? Why must there be qualifiers on being North Dakotan such as – gay, straight, male, female, republican, democrat, etc.? We are better than that.
This is a great state that has been made great by its residents. It is time to adopt a singular designation. If you ask me for my label I will say, I am North Dakotan. That is our overriding unifier in this state – whether it is evidenced in existing law or not.
It is time for North Dakota legislators to remove the discrimination in our laws that allow for differential treatment of North Dakotans. If our North Dakota legislators cannot do that, then the rest of us North Dakotans should vote in North Dakotans who will.
Day one thousand one hundred and forty-seven of the new forty – obla di obla da