New anti-discrimination bill in North Dakota and transgender bathroom debate - we talk to Rep. Thomas Beadle

We spoke with Rep. Thomas Beadle about the anti-discrimination legislation he's co-sponsoring. The bill aims to prohibit housing, workplace, and government discrimination based on sexual orientation.

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)

Chris Berg:
We're doing all we can trying to put together fund raising opportunities to help deputy's family. When we have more information, we will let you know. Good evening and welcome to "Point of View." I'm Chris Berg. Thank you so much for joining us. We're going to shift gears for a moment and talk about discrimination based on sexual orientation. A bill would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Big question is, will the fourth time be a charm for this bill? Joining us tonight's from our Bismarck studio is a co-sponsor of the bill, Representative Thomas Beadle. Great to see you. Thank you for joining us. Before we get to the discrimination bill, I want to give you a chance to comment, sir, on the loss of one of our outstanding law enforcement officers.

Rep. Thomas Beadle:
Yeah. Thank you, Chris, for having me on tonight. I appreciate it. It's my first time on the program. I appreciate what you do and keeping the citizens informed. Today we lost deputy up in Rolette County. Unfortunate situation. We're about a year ago when we lost officer Moser in Fargo. In legislative assembly this morning or this afternoon when we had our floor session, our prayer of the day was led by a pastor here in town. Said some words in response to the situation up in Rolette and really our thoughts and prayers go out to all our peace officer, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency responders. It's a terrible situation when we lose someone like Deputy Allery and we hate to see it. Our thoughts and prayers and hearts go out to the friends, family and everyone who knew him.

CB:
Thank you very much for that. I appreciate the comments. Let's talk about now this bill that you're co-sponsor of, four straight sessions something like this has been introduced. Let's talk about what this bill could potentially do. We all know about the photographers, the pizza shops, the cake bakers that say hey, I've got a religious conscience or religious liberty to not go out there and render my services for a same sex marriage. If this bill were to pass, would it force that photographer, that pizza make tore render their services for a same sex marriage?

TB:
Well, Chris, this bill verbatim is identical to what senate bill 2279 was in the last legislative session. So you're right, this issue has been discussed in one form or another for the last four sessions, I believe. This is, I believe -- I don't think I was a co-sponsor on it last time, but I've spoken in support of it last time. With the public accommodation aspect, it's something that everyone immediately jumps to. We look at the cake baker, the photographer, kind of those big issues. The same reason why the religious freedom bill got so much attention in Indiana with the pizza shop and everything else there. That certainly concerned a lot of people have. But when we look across the country, 21 states have passed some level of protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, including Utah did it three weeks after we failed to pass last legislative session. Most of those are red Herrings thrown out there as far as the concerns about people being sued over these issues. Honestly, the public accommodation piece, it does apply to them. But it's kind of simple. As long as it's not overtly expressing a case because of their sexual orientation, then there is really not a concern to be had. That's why we don't see a string of litigation coming out.

CB:
Come on, sir. There is the situation in Oregon where you had a I believe a cake Baker, a couple, they got sued and there was -- I don't remember the exact amount of money, it was a six figure situation for them. When you say it's a red Herring, it's not for that family. Go ahead.

TB:
You're right. Chris, there certainly are circumstances out there. I think it's important to put out there that the burden of proof lies with the individual making the accusation that they've been wronged and discriminated against. I'm not trying to get our cake bakers and our photographers in trouble with this legislation. All I'm trying to do is to say that as a state, we don't condone discrimination and we -- you don't need to like their lifestyle. You don't need to appreciate it or be happy for them, but you have to understand that they have the same rights that you and I have. So that's where the bulk of this legislation pertains to issues such as housing, employment, insurance, hospital rates. These are the things that -- the cake bakers and florists will get the attention, but there is real issues that we need to make sure that we don't disenfranchise a portion of our population over.

CB:
Many people say there is not a problem here. You know that as well as I do. Obviously nobody is getting discriminated against based on sexual orientation. So in order to say hey, Chris, here is why I'm a proponent of this bill, what data do you have to show it's a problem in this state of North Dakota?

TB:
Well, Chris, it's not necessarily that we need to show that there is so much of an issue out there as much as our state should go on record saying we don't condone it. Three weeks ago up in Williston, there is a case that the EEOC brought against a company because there has been proven circumstances of discrimination for one of their employees. So to say it doesn't happen here is not true. We just don't have the ability to track it. Last legislative session when we were discussing 2279 in this identical language, the labor commissioner came in at that time and said yes, their office does receive calls. They do receive complaints. And we had a number of individuals from citizens in the state come and testify with their personal experiences and what's happened to them and they all brought this up. But there is currently no ability in state law for them to be taken care of.

CB:
Representative Beadle, go ahead. Let's move on to this. One of the big I think sticking points that could happen with this bill is going to be the transgender bathroom debate. Let's get some clarity on this for people because in your definition of sexual orientation in this bill T does include gender identity. So were a student at school who feels that they're a man, but actually biologically is a woman, will they have the right to go into the man's bathroom or the men's locker room?

TB:
Chris, I think that's a scare tactic that's out there. The same sort of bathroom issue has been discussed ad nauseum. In Minnesota, they've had this exact protection language on the books since 1993. The bathroom issue is not saying that we're gonna have a bearded individual going in and leering at children and leering at women in the women's room. That's not the case. But rather if it's an individual that identifies as one gender or another, you and I don't have the situation, but an individual who identifies as one or another, somebody other than what they were born in and has taken the steps for it, I personally know people who have gone through the gender reassignment process.

CB:
But my question to you --

TB:
There is some people out there that clearly look like a man, but their birth certificate will say they're a woman.

CB:
My question to you, though --

TB:
People should not be forced to go into -- go ahead.

CB:
There is a bill in South Dakota, when it came to the schools. So let's say there is a 13-year-old student. They're born as a boy but feel they're girl. Will that student be able to go inside the girl's locker room, go inside the girls’ bathroom at that school?

TB:
Well, Chris, kind of what we've seen in practice with the way that this accommodation piece is worked for the restrooms is you'll see in schools, they're not going to have them go in and disrupt other children. Rather they'll give them the accommodation to go and use the teachers’ bathroom or go into different areas and give them that ability. It works the other way in reverse, too. If you are uncomfortable in a situation, they'll make accommodations for you to go and have a private facility as well.

CB:
But in your bill, sir --

TB:
I don't think that we need as a state, and myself as a Republican, I don't think we want to go through and micromanage and be the underwear inspectors and check to make sure that everything aligns properly to see which room you go into. It doesn't matter to me. We have laws on the books already to protect things like assault, protect harassment, intrusion. We have laws on the books to protect any of the evils that we think are going to happen. All we're asking is for someone to be able to go and use the restroom --

CB:
Representative Beadle, for time sake, just clearly yes or no for the parents that are out there watching, my 13-year-old boy, I feel like I'm a girl and I feel like it's my right to go into that girls locker room or girls bathroom. Will I have a legal leg to stand on?

TB:
I think that's an oversimplification that cannot have a yes or no answer.

CB:
Really?

TB:
I think that's an oversimplification. To just wake up one day and say, oh, I feel like a girl. That's not the way that any of this happens.

CB:
But I'm saying, let's say I've got a doctor's note that says I feel like I'm a girl. My question to you is, yes or no, I've got a doctor's note, whether a 13-year-old biological boy feeling like a girl, can I go into that locker room and bathroom?

TB:
Chris, I believe accommodations need to be made. I don't believe they'll be walking up into the shower stalls and undressing.

CB:
Thank you for your time. I appreciate the clarity. I know we'll have you back for this conversation. It's not over. We really appreciate it. We'll see you soon. Okay?

TB:
Absolutely. Chris, I'm happy to be on to discuss this going forward. Like I said, we're not the only state doing this. Utah just passed it right after we did last session. Or failed to pass it last session.

CB:
Yeah.

TB:
This is something that's happening. We're moving in this direction.

CB:
Thank you very much. Representative Beadle.



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