By Faye Seidler
In 2015, The Forum published the information and faces of every North Dakota state representative, as well as whether they voted for or against LGBTQ+ protections. This created transparency and clarity. We knew where our elective body stood.
In 2023, North Dakota saw nearly 20 bills impacting the LGBTQ+ population, making it more difficult to effectively track our lawmakers. However, analysis shows that the majority of these bills came from two districts, five lawmakers and two lobbyists.
Rep. Brandon Prichard introduced bills banning trans medical care (HB1301: failed), allowing conversion therapy (HB1332: failed) and restricting drag shows (HB1333 passed).
Rep. SuAnn Olson introduced bills banning trans bathroom inclusion (HB1473: passed), restricting definitions of sex (HB 1474: passed), and a resolution to protect cisgender women (HCR 3010: passed).
Both representatives are from District 8 and are serving their first term in office.
Fellow newcomer Rep. Scott Dyk introduced bills banning trans expression in school (HB 1522: passed) and a school policy revision that restricted trans students (HB 1526: failed) as his only bills.
Rep. Ben Koppelman introduced bills banning trans people in sports (HB1249 + HB 1489: passed). Sen. David Clemens introduced a bill allowing parents to opt out of any instruction on sexuality (SB2188: failed) and a bill fining any organization inclusive of trans people $1,500 (SB2199: failed). Both represent District 16.
Additionally, Sen. Larry Luick sought to remove trans and pronoun policies from schools (SB2311: failed). Rep. Bill Tviet brought criminalization of trans youth medical care (HB 1254: passed). Rep. Bernie Satrom proposed a binary sex model for birth certificates (HB 1139: passed). Rep. Jim Kasper introduced a prohibition from changing sex on birth certificates (HB 1297: passed). Rep. Lori VanWinkle didn’t introduce any LGBTQ+ focused legislation, but cosponsored nine of the bills above, the most of any lawmaker.
Looking at votes across all of these bills, the following representatives always voted in favor: K. Anderson, Bellew, Christensen, Dyk, Fisher, Frelich, Hauck, Heilman, Henderson, Holle, Kasper, Kiefert, Koppelman, Marschall, McLeod, S. Olson, Prichard, Rios, Rohr, Schatz, Schobinger, Steiner, Timmons, Tveit, VanWinkle.
In the Senate, Clemens, Larsen, and Magrum voted for all these bills. However, if you subtract only Clemens's bills then the list becomes: Beard, Bekkedahl, Boehm, Burckhard, Clemens, Conley, Dwyer, Elkin, Erbele, Estenson, Hogue, Kannianen, Kessel, Klein, Larsen, Larson, Lemm, Luick, Magrum, Meyer, Myrdal, Patten, Paulson, J. Roers, Rust, Sickler, Sorvaag, Vedaa, Wanzek, Weston, Wobbema.
The first lobbyist of note was Christopher Dodson, the Executive Director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference (NDCC). According to reporting by The Forum’s Jeremy Turley, NDCC requested Sen. Luick to introduce SB2231, which prohibited trans or pronoun policies in school.
It’s unclear how much influence NDCC has on our legislative body, but Dodson was invited to speak to the committee alone about SB2231, where he instructed them how to make the bill passable. SB2231 appears to be an escalation of NDCC’s protest of UND’s proposed gender inclusive policy. And while this bill was vetoed, the same language was amended into HB1522, which did pass.
During joint committee work on HB1474, Rep. Karen Rohr directly quotes an email from Dodson suggesting the bill needs to accomplish “establishing sex is biological and at birth.” There are two times during the discussion where committee members directly use his direction instead of seeking legislative counsel.
While it wasn’t reported locally, Healthcare Finance News reported that the Diocese of Fargo, a part of NDCC, won a joint lawsuit against the federal government in 2022, allowing them to not provide trans care.
During the same time, the other key lobbyist, Mark Jorritsma, Director of the North Dakota Family Alliance (NDFA), encouraged members to threaten a boycott of Sanford Health for hosting a conference geared toward improving equity for transgender individuals in healthcare, saying “let’s make sure Sanford knows that we don’t want them (or our dollars) to be part of it.”
That boycott is in sharp contrast to Jorritsma’s Letter to the Editor talking about believing in a pluralistic nation. The NDFA was formerly called Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota, and it was under that name that Jorritsma recorded a video celebrating their 2017 legislative victories against LGBTQ+ protections and inclusive marriage language.
In March of this year whistleblower Elisa Shupe alleged that groups like NDFA had the goal of “inflicting maximum harm on transgender people” after releasing hundreds of internal emails of anti-trans groups, policy makers, and legislators.
Locally, NDFA has sponsored an NDCAN event about how the transgender movement is impacting every aspect of society. NDCAN’s website says they’re geared towards “battling out-of-control federal government, cultural Marxism and authoritarian globalist initiatives.”
Rob Port reports that far-right activists are taking over North Dakota GOP at the district level and lawmakers are afraid to vote against these bills or be censured, indicating these bills will become more frequent. Governor Doug Burgum did sign every bill that reached his desk on this topic, with the exception of vetoing SB2231.
The 2024 election cycle will determine if these bills match North Dakota values or prompt the electorate to seek new representation. North Dakotans looking to get involved either way can follow League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization providing voters with information related to elections, candidates, and how to run for office.
November 14th 2023
October 16th 2023
October 14th 2023
October 2nd 2023
September 20th 2023
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