To: Senate Judiciary
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: Senate Bill 2303 - Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Date: January 23, 2019

The Catholic Church affirms the dignity of every human life and rejects unjust discrimination. Acts of violence, degradation, or diminishment toward any human person are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is no place for arbitrary discrimination and prejudice against a person because of the person’s sexual attraction or self-perceived gender identity.

This legislation, however, is not about how we feel about discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not about whether a nondiscrimination policy is good for business. It is not about whether we should be like other states. It is about this bill.

This bill gives individuals a right to sue - and some would say harass - based on a set of undefined or poorly defined phrases. This bill would create special protections for a certain class of activities and self-perceptions — not individuals as individuals. Current law already protects lawful activities outside the place of employment. Civil rights law should not become a vehicle to give elevated protection to sexual activities and self-perceptions.

This bill is also replete with infringements upon conscience and religious liberty. Do not be fooled by the bill’s “religious exemptions.” The problems with the purported exemptions are numerous. Here are just a few: The first exemption applies only to employment matters when hiring employees and volunteers for religious positions. As such, it does not provide anything that does not already exist under Supreme Court decisions. The second purported exemption also applies only to employment matters, but would require the religious organization to restrict its employment to people of the same religion, effectively scaling-back protections that exist in the current law. The third exemption states that a religious organization can limit admission to places of worship and parochial schools to people of the same religion. This is a right we already have and it has nothing to do with the type of discrimination this bill purports to reach.

We realize this is an emotionally-charged issue. However, respect and cooperation, among people with legitimate differences of opinion is what makes North Dakota great. There is no place for hate, name-calling, or stereotyping by people on either side of this issue or this particular bill. Keeping those principles in mind we urge this committee to carefully review what this bill actually does and give it a Do Not Pass recommendation.

1. N.D.C.C. sec. 14-02.4-03. “It is a discriminatory practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire an individual; to discharge an employee; or to accord adverse or unequal treatment to an individual or employee with respect to application, hiring, training, apprenticeship, tenure, promotion, upgrading, compensation, layoff, or a term, privilege, or condition of employment, because of . . . participation in lawful activity off the employer's premises during nonworking hours which is not in direct conflict with the essential business-related interests of the employer.”