IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

North Dakota advances record-setting 10 anti-LGBTQ bills in one day, advocates say

The slate of legislation includes a bill that would prohibit some drag performances in public places and another that would restrict transition-related care for minors.
The North Dakota State Capitol
in Bismarck.
The North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck.Getty Images / iStockphoto

North Dakota’s Legislature advanced 10 bills Tuesday that advocates say target the state’s LGBTQ community, setting a single-day record for such legislation, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.

The state Senate passed all 10 bills, which had already passed the House, on Monday. Eight of them are headed to Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, for either a signature or a veto.

Those eight include a broad measure that would ban “adult-oriented performances” on public property or in front of minors, which could restrict many forms of drag. Some of the bills passed with veto-proof majorities, including one that would restrict gender-affirming medical care for minors and another that would ban transgender students in public and private K-12 schools and colleges from playing sports on school teams that align with their gender identities.

Two bills have been returned to the House after the Senate added amendments. They would prohibit trans people in the state from updating the sex on their birth certificates and would ban state facilities from allowing trans people to use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities. 

Cathryn Oakley, the state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement that the 10 bills “have the sole aim of pushing LGBTQ+ people back into the closet” and urged Burgum to reject them. 

“It’s shameful, yet not surprising, that instead of spending their day attempting to tackle the real issues facing North Dakotans, extremist legislators in Bismarck were working vigorously to rile up the far fringes of their base — and now some of their most marginalized constituents could pay the price,” Oakley said in the statement. 

It’s unclear whether Burgum will support the measures. Last week, he vetoed a bill that would’ve allowed school personnel to misgender trans students and barred school districts from adopting “a policy or practice regarding expressed gender.” The Senate overrode his veto, but the House was unable to garner the two-thirds majority needed to uphold the override.

In a letter to state Senate President Tammy Miller regarding his veto, Burgum said ambiguity in the bill “would invite lawsuits and put teachers in the precarious position of trying to determine how to refer to students without violating the law.”

“The teaching profession is challenging enough without the heavy hand of state government forcing teachers to take on the role of pronoun police,” he wrote.

North Dakota’s legislation is part of a nationwide wave: State lawmakers have introduced more than 450 bills targeting the LGBTQ community so far this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and a separate group of researchers who are tracking the flow of legislation.

More than half of those target transgender youths by restricting their access to either transition-related care — like puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery — or school sports teams. 

If North Dakota’s health care and sports restrictions become law, it will become the 14th state to restrict transition-related health care for minors and the 20th to restrict trans students’ participation in school sports. 

During debate on the health care bill Monday, Sen. Keith Boehm, a Republican, falsely claimed that puberty blockers permanently sterilize children and referred to transition-related care as “child mutilation,” according to KFGO, a local public radio station.

“If someone, once they are an adult, wants to sterilize themselves, or cut off body parts, they have every right to do so — not children,” Boehm said, according to KFGO.

Democratic Sen. Ryan Braunberger spoke against the bills Monday and said that, as a gay young person, laws restricting LGBTQ rights contributed to his decision to attempt suicide.

“I was lucky to survive that suicide attempt — to be here — but many others have not and will not,” Braunberger said. If the bills pass, then “kids like me across the state will feel like the world is against them. They’ll eventually feel like they can no longer go on.”