Grand Forks has become the first city in North Dakota to protect gays from employment discrimination. But, the ordinance passed by the City Council is just the first step. Plans are in the works for a much broader ordinance, later this summer.
At this point, the new, ordinance applies only to Grand Forks city employees and the hiring of new ones.
Howard Swanson, City Attorney: "Prohibits any discrimination in the hiring of employees by the City of Grand Forks, based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. It has no application to any other employer, other than the City of Grand Forks."
Councilman, Hal Gershman says promoting economic development was not the intent of the new ordinance. However, he says it does send out a positive economic vibe to the rest of the Country, about doing business here in Grand Forks.
Hal Gershman, GF City Council: "So, it's a message that we're a friendly town and we don't discriminate here. I think that is going to be a very powerful message in the marketplace."
And Gershman says it's a message embraced by the gay community.
Hal Gershman: "That is something that even the LGBT Community says… that for economic development, they tell us… it's very, very important for them."
And Gershman, along with Councilman, Bret Weber say, this is just the first step. They plan to introduce a new ordinance next month that would prevent discrimination against gays seeking housing in Grand Forks. That ordinance would have a far more reaching effect, since it would apply to everyone involved with commercial rental property.
The only City Councilman to vote no against the new ordinance was Terry Bjerke. Bjerke did not respond to our calls seeking comment on his vote.