North Dakota House votes down sexual orientation anti-discrimination bill as Republican official chastises party's own lawmaker

Rep. Mary Johnson, R-Fargo, looks at the tally board as she records her vote on a anti-discrimination bill during the House floor session at the state Capitol in Bismarck on Feb. 18, 2019. Photo courtesy of Bismarck Tribune
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BISMARCK — A North Dakota Republican official condemned a lawmaker from his own party and district for sponsoring a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, a proposal that House lawmakers again rejected Monday, Feb. 18.

The chairman of the Republican Party in District 45, which Fargo GOP Rep. Mary Johnson represents, criticized her support for the protections in a post on the group’s public Facebook page last week. The message came days before House lawmakers turned down her anti-discrimination bill in a 70-22 vote Monday, marking the second time such legislation has failed this session.

District 45 Republican Chairman John Trandem wrote that Johnson’s use of the Bible to support her bill was “bizarre.” He said the legislation would “pass special protections for people based on a class of bedroom activities and self-perceptions” and warned it would open up Christians to “frivolous litigation borne of ideological hostility.”

Trandem also found fault with Johnson’s vote against a bill outlawing an abortion procedure that’s commonly performed in the second trimester of pregnancy, which the legislation refers to as a “human dismemberment abortion.” During a debate on the House floor last month, Johnson questioned whether the bill called on lawmakers to neglect their duties by imposing an effective date that's contingent on future court action.

“District 45 legislators represent us so be sure to let them know when they are doing a good job or when you may be dissatisfied with their performance,” Trandem concluded the Facebook post.


In an interview Monday, Trandem argued Johnson’s actions have run afoul of party values, noting that the North Dakota GOP adopted a resolution last year in opposition to sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination bills. He said he drafted the original resolution a few conventions ago and emphasized that opposition to the bill wasn't an endorsement of discrimination.

The 2018 version of the resolution argues, in part, that such anti-discrimination bills "grant protection to voyeurs who wish to prey on members of the opposite sex" — bill supporters have disputed similar arguments — and that proponents have failed to demonstrate a pressing need for the protections. Johnson previously said she knew of someone being fired because they were gay.

Johnson was first elected to the Legislature in 2014. She failed to receive the Republican endorsement for a second term last year but defeated the party’s favored candidate in the June primary election. The District 45 Facebook page still prominently displays a campaign sign featuring Johnson's vanquished primary opponent.

“She’s certainly not ingratiating herself to the Republican Party,” Trandem said. “I would just prefer that she be honest and run as either an independent or a Democrat.”

Johnson shrugged off Trandem's broadside.

“He just doesn’t understand what lawmaking is about,” she said. “Lawmaking is about civil discourse and mutual respect. And I have that with those that oppose the bill.”

Johnson’s bill faced familiar criticism from groups like the North Dakota Catholic Conference and the Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota, but it was also opposed by LGBT advocates because it excluded transgender people from the protections. Johnson said the bill was meant as a compromise to get something on the books after repeated rejections from the Republican-led Legislature.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum's office testified in favor of Johnson's bill, arguing that it could help address the state's workforce shortage.


Johnson’s bill would have added protections for sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations and other areas. State law already bans discrimination based on race, sex, religion and other factors.

"I look forward to the day where we can repeal the portion of the code banning discrimination because discrimination becomes so foreign to the collective conscious of society," Johnson said on the House floor Monday.

How they voted on House Bill 1441


Mary Adams (D-Grand Forks); Pamela Anderson (D-Fargo); Thomas Beadle (R-Fargo); Rick Becker (R-Bismarck); Jake Blum (R-Grand Forks); Tracy Boe (D-Mylo); Glenn Bosch (R-Bismarck); Matt Eidson (D-Grand Forks); Ron Guggisberg (D-Fargo); LaurieBeth Hager (D-Fargo); Richard Holman (D-Mayville); Mary Johnson (R-Fargo); George Keiser (R-Bismarck); Bob Martinson (R-Bismarck); Alisa Mitskog (D-Wahpeton); Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks); Jon Nelson (R-Rugby); Marvin Nelson (D-Rolla); Emily O’Brien (R-Grand Forks); David Richter (R-Williston); Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo); Mary Schneider (D-Fargo)


Bert Anderson (R-Crosby); Dick Anderson (R-Willow City); Larry Bellew (R-Minot); Josh Boschee (D-Fargo); Mike Brandenburg (R-Edgeley); Ruth Buffalo (D-Fargo); Chuck Damschen (R-Hampden); Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood); Bill Devlin (R-Finley); Gretchen Dobervich (D-Fargo); Jason Dockter (R-Bismarck); Sebastian Ertelt (R-Lisbon); Clayton Fegley (R-Berthold); Jay Fisher (R-Minot); Jim Grueneich (R-Jamestown); Karla Rose Hanson (D-Fargo); Patrick Hatlestad (R-Williston); Craig Headland (R-Montpelier); Pat Heinert (R-Bismarck); Jeff Hoverson (R-Minot); Michael Howe (R-West Fargo); Craig Johnson (R-Maxbass); Dennis Johnson (R-Devils Lake); Daniel Johnston (R-Kathryn); Terry Jones (R-New Town); Tom Kading (R-Fargo); Karen Karls (R-Bismarck); Jim Kasper (R-Fargo); Keith Kempenich (R-Bowman); Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo); Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo); Gary Kreidt (R-New Salem); Vernon Laning (R-Bismarck); Mike Lefor (R-Dickinson); Donald Longmuir (R-Stanley); Scott Louser (R-Minot); Jeffrey Magrum (R-Hazelton); Andrew Marschall (R-Fargo); Aaron McWilliams (R-Hillsboro); Lisa Meier (R-Bismarck); David Monson (R-Osnabrock); Mike Nathe (R-Bismarck); Mark Owens (R-Grand Forks); Bob Paulson (R-Minot); Gary Paur (R-Gilby); Chet Pollert (R-Carrington); Todd Porter (R-Mandan); Brandy Pyle (R-Casselton); Karen Rohr (R-Mandan); Dan Ruby (R-Minot); Matthew Ruby (R-Minot); Bernie Satrom (R-Jamestown); Mike Schatz (R-New England); Austen Schauer (R-West Fargo); Jim Schmidt (R-Huff); Randy Schobinger (R-Minot); Cynthia Schreiber-Beck (R-Wahpeton); Luke Simons (R-Dickinson); Kathy Skroch (R-Lidgerwood); Vicky Steiner (R-Dickinson); Michelle Strinden (R-Fargo); Nathan Toman (R-Mandan); Wayne Trottier (R-Northwood); Bill Tveit (R-Hazen); Steve Vetter (R-Grand Forks); Don Vigesaa (R-Cooperstown); Robin Weisz (R-Hurdsfield); Greg Westlind (R-Cando); Denton Zubke (R-Watford City); Lawrence Klemin (R-Bismarck)



Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City); Mark Sanford (R-Grand Forks)

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