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LGBT rights in North Dakota


LGBT rights in North Dakota

LGBT rights in North Dakota
North Dakota (US)
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1973
Gender identity/expression Altering sex on birth certificate requires SRS
Discrimination protections None
Family rights
Recognition of
Same-sex marriage and civil unions banned by the state constitution
Adoption Unclear

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of North Dakota face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in North Dakota. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all of the protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Laws against homosexuality

The first criminal law against sodomy in North Dakota was enacted in 1862, then the Dakota Territory. It prohibited heterosexual and homosexual fellatio. The law was expanded in 1885 to include anal intercourse and fellatio.[1] The state's vagrancy laws were expanded in 1903 to cover anyone whose speech or conduct was deemed to be "lewd, wanton and lascivious".[1] In State v. Nelson (1917), North Dakota Supreme Court broadened the scope of the sodomy law to include acts of cunnilingus.

In 1927 the law initially designed to permit the sterilization of mentally and physically disabled inmates was expanded to include anyone who the State authorities believed might be "habitual criminals, moral degenerates and sexual perverts".[1] The forced sterilization law was repealed in 1965.

In 1973, the State legalized private, adult, consensual homosexual relations as part of a larger revision of the criminal code that set the universal age of consent at eighteen years.[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

North Dakota voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2004 that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman and prohibited the recognition of same-sex relationships as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships.[3] Similar restrictions appear in the state statutes as well.[4]

Ramsay v. Dalrymple

On June 6, 2014, seven same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit against North Dakota officials seeking the right to marry and recognition of marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Five of the couples had married in other states and one couple in Canada. The suit, Ramsay v. Dalrymple, was brought by Minneapolis civil rights attorney Joshua Newville, who filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of six same-sex couples in South Dakota on May 22, 2014.[5]

Adoption and parenting

North Dakota permits adoption by individuals and the law does not expressly ban LGBT people from adopting or having custody of children. However, in the 1980s, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that because of societies prejudices, the sexual orientation of a parent would be the deciding factor in child custody cases. This ruling was subsequently reversed in 2003.[6]

The law expressly allows private adoption organizations in the State to discriminate against LGBT individuals or couples seeking to adopt children.

Discrimination protection

Map of North Dakota counties and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

No provision of North Dakota law explicitly addresses discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation or gender identity.[7]

Since 2001, the City of Fargo has had a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation, but it only applies to city employment.

On June 17, 2013, the Grand Forks City Council approved a measure to protect city employees and city job applicants from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, becoming the second city in North Dakota to do so, and the first to address gender identity-based discrimination[8] Later that year, the city became the first in North Dakota to ban discrimination in rental housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity.[9]

Hate crime laws

North Dakota law does not address hate crimes based on gender identity or sexual orientation.[10]

Living conditions

In the 1980s, the Fargo City Mayor, Jon Lindgren, caused some controversy when he publicly supported gay rights and supported the efforts of a local gay businessman to open up a gay bar.

In September 2012, North Dakota State School of Science football player Jamie Kuntz was dismissed from the team after it was discovered that he was gay. The coach and the college insist that that the decision was not motivated by Kuntz's sexual orientation, but because he had initially lied about it to his coach and had been seeing kissing his boyfriend. [1]

In 2012, Joshua Boschee was elected to the North Dakota State legislature, representing District 44. He is the first openly gay person to win a legislative seat in North Dakota, possible the first openly gay person to hold any partisan, elected office in the state.


  1. ^ a b c The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States - North Dakota
  2. ^ William N. Eskridge, Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003 (NY: Penguin Group, 2008), 201n, available online, accessed April 10, 2010
  3. ^ CNN: 2004 Ballot Measures, accessed April 10, 2011
  4. ^ Human Resources Campaign: North Dakota Marriage/Relationship Recognition Law, accessed April 10, 2011
  5. ^ Gunderson, Dan (June 6, 2014). "Lawsuit challenges ND gay marriage ban". MPRnews. Retrieved October 21, 2014. 
  6. ^ North Dakota Adoption Law, accessed April 10, 2011
  7. ^ Human Resources Campaign: North Dakota Non-Discrimination Law, accessed April 10, 2011
  8. ^ "Grand Forks: First in N.D. to add protections for LGBT city workers". June 17, 2013. 
  9. ^ Jewett, Brandi (October 21, 2013). "Grand Forks becomes first city to pass gay discrimination ban for rental housing". The City Street Beat.  
  10. ^ Human Resources Campaign: North Dakota Hate Crimes Law, accessed April 10, 2011
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