MINOT, N.D. — After a viral video showing a Minot City Council member defend the LGBTQ community as she endured almost an hour of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, city officials say Minot is in the middle of a long-needed movement for equality and respect.
Earlier this month, a rainbow-colored, LGBTQ pride flag was placed beneath the American flag in front of Minot City Hall with Mayor Shaun Sipma's approval after a local LGBTQ advocacy group asked the mayor to do so to publicly show solidarity. This move garnered outrage and support among Minot residents, many of whom showed up to a Sept. 8 council meeting to share their thoughts about the LGBTQ community.
Council member Carrie Evans heartily defended the LGBTQ community as an openly gay public official, and a video clip of her non-filtered response gained thousands of views on social media by people across the globe.
Ironically, this moment of negativity and animosity shown toward Minot's LGBTQ community has prompted hundreds to share their support for Minot and North Dakota's LGBTQ community.
"This is a good thing," Evans said. "It was painful, but the conversations and sort of the reckoning this has brought to Minot has been transformative."
Sipma said that since the Sept. 8 meeting, he's received emails and phone calls from people who are angry with the direction Minot is headed and the recent conversations about the LGBTQ community, but the number from supporters far outweighs the number from those opposed.
"I think the main takeaway that has come out of this conversation was that we do have quite a bit of diversity within our community," Sipma said. "You may not agree with it, you may have a different belief in it, but at the end of the day we're all human and we all deserve to be treated with kindness."
This week, Minot State University held a flag-raising ceremony in which the college raised a pride flag to let people know that the university supports the LGBTQ community.
"Unfortunately, bias and discrimination still persist in our society today and one of our charges as a university is call out such discrimination, encourage understanding, and help break down those barriers," said MSU President Steven Shirley in a statement. "Today, we do that by recognizing, with the raising of this flag, members of our community and their allies to ensure their voices (are) heard."
Magic City Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy group that helped spur conversations about equality, said it wants to be a "shield" for Minot's LGBTQ community. "We're making sure people are being seen for who they are as well as calling out the big discrimination within our community," said Jorden Laducer, executive co-director of Magic City Equality.
At a Sept. 21 City Council meeting, supporters of the LGBTQ community said how appalled they were by the recent hate aimed at people in that community, and most of those who spoke expressed gratitude for Evans taking a stand at the prior council meeting.
The Minot City Council has voted to restrict flying any new flags until a formal policy is drafted, as some in the community felt it was wrong that the mayor approved the flying of the LGBTQ flag with little input from other elected officials.
In the coming weeks, the Minot LGBTQ community will come together for a "check-in," as the conversation about LGBTQ equality has brought up trauma for many, especially young people, Evans said.
Evans said she's used to living among open homophobia, but some of the things said about the LGBTQ community in the past month have been hard for young people who have no experience with this kind of hate and anger.
Evans said she hopes the conversation about LGBTQ equality will spill over into the 2021 legislative session and that an LGBTQ anti-discrimination law is passed in North Dakota. She said it's something the state's youth desperately need.
"We've got to do better as a state to ensure all of our young people feel like if they want a home in North Dakota, they can and they will be embraced and accepted and not discriminated for who they are," Evans said.
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