ND lawmakers advance pronoun bill

Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 5:42 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 11:27 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Who would’ve thought something as simple as pronouns could be the source of so much division among North Dakota’s lawmakers?

“It’s another week in the Legislative Session and we have another bill that’s telling certain people that they have value or don’t have value in our state,” said Representative Josh Boschee, D-Fargo.

“This protects all children. This also upholds parental rights and therefore parental confidence that their child is safe at school,” said Representative Lori VanWinkle, R-Minot.

The House of Representatives voted to advance SB 2231, which would prohibit public schools and state agencies from requiring the usage of pronouns that don’t correspond to an individual’s sex assigned at birth.

“This is a back to the basics bill. We are returning to the required constitutional obligation as lawmakers regarding education. Teachers are also able to rest with relief that they only need to remember one name and a set of historically recognized biological pronouns,” said Representative Lori VanWinkle, R-Minot.

But some lawmakers feel SB 2231 endangers children, especially trans children, rather than protects them.

“The real threats to children are poverty, hunger, lack of healthcare, gun violence, bigotry, social pressures, mental health, and bills like these,” said Representative Mary Schneider, D-Fargo.

Those in support say this is a pressing issue in schools.

“If that teacher makes a mistake and doesn’t call someone by the right pronoun, are they somehow subject to discipline? This is just common sense. It really is saying, neither is required nor prohibited,” said Representative SuAnn Olson, R-Baldwin.

The bill doesn’t include a criminal penalty. So, those opposed say it’s merely a signal to LGBTQ students, and they’re hoping to see the chamber change course.

“We can send a signal to North Dakotans saying, ‘we may not understand you, we may not agree with you, but at the same time, we’re going to let the teachers in your classroom, who just want you to be successful, treat you how you want to be treated,’” said Representative Boschee.

It passed by a vote of 60-32. The bill was passed by both the House and the Senate. Unlike some of the other trans-related bills, this one didn’t pass with a veto-proof majority in the House. Governor Burgum hasn’t indicated how he’ll act on it, if at all.