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Veto of North Dakota Anti-Trans Pronoun Bill Stands, but More Bad Bills on Way

Veto of North Dakota Anti-Trans Pronoun Bill Stands, but More Bad Bills on Way

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum

Lawmakers failed to override Gov. Doug Burgum's veto of the pronoun bill, but they're still pushing a health care ban, bathroom bills, and anti-trans sports legislation.

North Dakota legislators have failed to override Gov. Doug Burgum’s veto of a bill that would have barred teachers from using students’ preferred pronouns, but meanwhile lawmakers are advancing a raft of other anti-transgender bills, including one that would criminalize the provision of gender-affirming care.

Burgum, a Republican, vetoed the pronoun bill Thursday. “The teaching profession is challenging enough without the heavy hand of state government forcing teachers to take on the role of pronoun police,” he wrote in a letter to state Senate leaders, the Associated Press reports. “Parents, teachers and administrators using compassion, empathy and common sense can address individual and infrequent situations that may arise.”

Just hours later, state senators voted 37-9 to override the veto of Senate Bill 2231. But Monday, the House of Representatives couldn’t muster the two-thirds majority needed for an override, so the bill will not become law.

“The bill would have prohibited public school teachers and employees from acknowledging the personal pronouns a transgender student uses, unless they received permission from the student’s parents as well as a school administrator,” the AP notes. It also would have barred government agencies from requiring workers to acknowledge transgender colleagues’ pronoun use and banned classroom instruction on “expressed gender,” as the bill puts it.

Burgum has been more resistant to anti-trans legislation than some members of his party; he vetoed a trans-exclusionary sports bill in 2021. But now the House and Senate have approved two new bills barring trans girls and women from competing on female teams, one dealing with K-12 public schools, the other with state colleges and universities, North Dakota news outlet InForum reports. The bills now go to Burgum for his signature or veto.

Both chambers have also approved the gender-affirming care bill, which would make it a felony to perform gender-affirming surgeries on minors for the purpose of transition and a misdemeanor to prescribe hormones or puberty blockers. The penalty for the felony charge would be a prison term of up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine; for the misdemeanor, it would be up to 360 days in prison and a $3,000 fine. This legislation is headed to Burgum as well.

The House and Senate still have to reconcile versions of anti-trans “bathroom bills” before sending them to Burgum. One affects K-12 schools, the other prisons and public college dormitories. The school bill also would force school personnel to out trans students to their parents, according to InForum.

Other bills the chambers still have to agree on include one that would ban most gender changes on birth certificates and one that would define “male,” “female,” and other terms in state law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota has dubbed this spate of anti-trans bills a “slate of hate.” It’s not clear what action Burgum will take, but “it’s a sure bet that Burgum will veto at least some of them,” InForum columnist Rob Port wrote in a commentary published Tuesday.

Port noted that legislators are spending time on these “moral panic bills” while failing to appropriate money that would allow for expansion of school lunch programs for children from low-income households. The anti-trans bills are “all in pursuit of solving problems North Dakota doesn’t have,” he wrote, adding, “Does this problem exist anywhere but on social media and the shows of overwrought cable news pundits?”

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