North Dakota sends transgender pronoun bill to governor

Public school teachers in North Dakota would be allowed to ignore the pronouns their transgender students use, under a bill that state Senate lawmakers passed Thursday with a veto-proof majority.

The bill would also allow employees of government entities to ignore the pronouns their transgender colleagues use. And, it would further prohibit transgender public school students from using the bathroom of their choice, unless they have approval from a parent or legal guardian. Additionally, teachers would be required to tell a student's parent or guardian if the student identifies as transgender.

The passage comes just days after House lawmakers also passed the bill with a veto-proof majority, which means the bill could become law without Republican Gov. Doug Burgum's approval.

Senate lawmakers did not debate the bill on Thursday before passing it on a 40-6 vote.

Speaking in support of the bill this week, Republican Rep. Karen Rohr said the bill includes language the governor has said “he would have no objections to signing.” The Mandan lawmaker said the bill is “also consistent with the governor’s statement that parents should be involved when these situations arise.”

Republican Rep. Cynthia Schreiber-Beck, who opposed the bill, said it does not go far enough. “I have a real concern that this is only targeted at public schools,” the Wahpeton lawmaker said, adding that private schools receiving state and federal funding should also be included.

House lawmakers passed the bill on Tuesday on a 68-22 vote. House Democrats did not speak on the floor about the bill this week, but all 12 voted against it -- along with 10 House Republicans.

The bill now goes to the governor for consideration.

If Burgum signs the bill into law, it would go into effect immediately.

The bill could also become law if Burgum doesn't sign it within three days of receiving it. Should he veto the bill, House and Senate lawmakers would likely override his veto, and the bill would become law.

Burgum has signed several bills restricting transgender rights into law this month.

One prohibits transgender children and adults from having access to bathrooms, locker rooms or showers in dormitories of state-run colleges and correctional facilities that align with their gender identities.

Another restricts transgender health care in the state, immediately making it a crime to provide gender-affirming care to minors. And another prohibits transgender girls and women from joining female sports teams in K-12 and college.

Burgum vetoed a different bill last month that would have also allowed teachers to ignore the pronouns their transgender students use. The Senate voted to override his veto at the time, but the House ultimately voted to let his veto stand. Days later, the Senate revived the effort and inserted language from the old bill about personal pronouns in schools and government entities into the new bill that passed in both chambers this week.

The efforts in North Dakota are part of a larger push by Republicans across the U.S. to restrict or roll back LGBTQ+ rights.

At least 21 states restrict or ban female transgender athletes’ participation in female sports, and at least 14 states have restricted or banned gender-affirming care for minors. Additionally, at least eight states have enacted laws preventing transgender people from using the restrooms associated with their gender identities.

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Trisha Ahmed is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Trisha Ahmed on Twitter: @TrishaAhmed15