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The executive director of the North Dakota GOP has apologized for several anti-LGBTQ statements in the party’s official extended policy platform. Executive Director Corby Kemmer said the party regrets any offense caused by the rhetoric contained in the platform, which contains 53 resolutions asserting the GOP’s major policy positions.
The platform document outlines the state Republican Party’s stance on various issues, including a resolution dedicated to expressing opposition to any legislation that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, also referred to as “SOGI bills.”
The resolution says that SOGI bills “grant protection to voyeurs who wish to prey on members of the opposite sex” — a well-worn trope that is used to justify blocking legal protections for transgender people — and “seek to pacify those made uncomfortable as a result of their gender dysphoria by compromising the potential comfort and safety of an untold number of innocent individuals.”
The platform also states that proponents of SOGI bills have failed to demonstrate that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a pressing issue that requires legislation. It claims LGBTQ “compulsions” are the result of developmental factors and are not rooted in a person’s genetic makeup, that LGBTQ practices “are unhealthy and dangerous, sometimes endangering or shortening life and sometimes infecting society at large” — an apparent reference to the HIV/AIDS epidemic — and that nondiscrimination laws empower LGBTQ adults to “assume positions of mentorships of minors, often over objections of parents, influencing their emotions and thereby recruiting for their lifestyles.”
Republican Party Chairman Rick Berg told The Dickinson Press that the resolution is intended to protect the religious liberty of individuals who oppose homosexuality and protect business owners from costly lawsuits alleging discrimination, as in the case of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case where a baker was sued for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He added that the party is “definitely not” anti-LGBTQ, but declined to comment about the language contained in the resolution.
Kemmer said in a statement on Wednesday that party officials would look at amending the language of the resolution.
“The intent of the delegates was to stand up for individual and religious liberties, and, unfortunately, this language falls woefully short of that goal,” he said. “We regret any offense this may have caused, and we will be reconsidering this resolution at a future meeting to bring it more in line with what delegates were attempting to communicate.”
House Minority Leader Josh Boschee (D-Fargo), the state’s first openly gay state legislator, called the resolution’s language “hurtful and disturbing,” especially for young people who may be struggling with their identity and may now see the state’s dominant party as hostile to them.
Boschee says he is happy to see party leaders condemning the offensive language in the resolution, but marvels at how it managed to avoid being flagged as potentially problematic.
“How does language like this get through a 50 person committee and a vote of over 900 delegates without strong opposition as part of that process?” he said. “Apologies should not be directed to me, but to the LGBT members of the ND GOP, their family members and the citizens of North Dakota…. We see a lot of people leave the state because of bigotry like that.”
Gov. Doug Burgum, who has supported past efforts to add LGBTQ protections into state law, took to Facebook and Twitter with a statement denouncing the problematic language.
“As I’ve long said, all North Dakotans deserve to be treated equally and live free of discrimination. There’s no place for the hurtful and divisive rhetoric in the NDGOP resolutions,” Burgum wrote. “We can respect one another’s freedoms without disrespecting or discriminating against the LGBT members of our state and our party, whom we support.”
We can respect one another’s freedoms without disrespecting or discriminating against the LGBT members of our state and our party, whom we support. 2/2
— Gov. Doug Burgum (@DougBurgum) July 23, 2020
Rep. Thomas Beadle (R-Fargo), who is running for state treasurer, weighed in with similar sentiments, tweeting, “I strongly disagree with the anti LGBT language in the resolutions. We are a big tent party and should be welcoming to others, not discriminatory against people for how god made them.”
I strongly disagree with the anti LGBT language in the resolutions. We are a big tent party and should be welcoming to others, not discriminatory against people for how god made them.
— Thomas Beadle (@ThomasBeadle) July 23, 2020
But Dakota OutRight, a state LGBTQ group, said it isn’t enough for individual legislators to condemn or try to distance themselves from the language of the resolution.
“The platform directs legislators to reject attempts to protect basic human rights for the LGBTQ+ community and allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity to continue without recourse,” the organization wrote in a statement on its Facebook page. “This is not only prejudice, it endangers the livelihood and the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We call on the Republican party of North Dakota to immediately rescind, not tweak, these hateful and discriminatory principles from the party’s platform. The damage it has already caused to our community and to LGBTQ+ youth in North Dakota cannot be measured. All North Dakotans deserve to live free from discrimination and to be treated equally.”
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