(BISMARCK, N.D.) – North Dakota Senate Dem-NPL leadership today urged a no vote on recent amendments to SB 2252, legislation which seeks to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. The “hog house” amendments to the bill, passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee late Tuesday, not only completely eliminate protections for those who suffer discrimination based on sexual orientation, but also widen discrimination on the basis of age and limit remedies to those who have proved they were terminated from employment because of their race, gender, religion or for other discriminatory reasons.
“We introduced this bill on a bipartisan basis to prevent discrimination,” Senate Dem-NPL Leader Mac Schneider said. “Somewhat stunningly, the amendment would permit discrimination against more people on the basis of age. If these amendments pass, it actually becomes a pro-discrimination bill.”
Under the amendments to SB 2252, the legislation would no longer amend the North Dakota Fair Housing Act and the North Dakota Human Rights Act to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Instead, the amended bill would state that North Dakota does not “condone discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation[,]” while making clear that those discriminated against on that basis have no legal protection or recourse under state law. Specifically, the amendments state that there is no “right to a cause of action for damages for a claim of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation” and that the bill would not “create any rights or protections with respect to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation[.]”
“That is literally the definition of ‘condoning’ discrimination,” Schneider added.
Furthermore, the bill changes two key provisions of the Human Rights Act, both of which are wholly unrelated to the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation. First, the amendment changes the legal definition of “Age” for purposes of determining age discrimination from “at least forty years of age” to at least “fifty-five years of age.” Should the statute become law, in other words, an employer could legally terminate a 54 year old employee purely because of his or her age.
Second, the bill seeks to limit remedies provided under existing law to those who prove discrimination at an administrative hearing or in court. In cases of employment discrimination, individuals would be limited to one year of back pay instead of the two years available under current law.
“The North Dakota Human Rights Act has been on the books in North Dakota since 1983,” Schneider said. “To use this bill to weaken the Act is wrong. It is devious. The Senate should reject these amendments.”
The amendment is expected to be debated on the Senate floor Thursday, February 14th.