By Michael Nam
Republican state Rep. Randy Boehning of North Dakota found himself publicly outed as a frequenter of the gay dating app, Grindr, The Forum reported. While there are divisions within the gay community over forcibly outing even anti-LGBT lawmakers, this incident highlights the discrimination allowed under law in in the state of North Dakota, and the hypocrisy of a legislator like Boehning in particular.
The 21-year-old Bismark, N.D. resident, Dustin Smith, recognized Boehning from Grindr when seeing a photo of him. The exchange was amorous and sexually explicit in nature, but in an interview with the Washington Post, Smith explained why he went public with the representative’s identity.
But Smith insisted it was never his intention to out a fellow gay man. Instead, he spoke up out of concern for gay rights in what he calls a “bigoted state.”
“We live in a state that discriminates against gay people,” he told The Post, adding that gays could be denied housing or restaurant service because Boehning and other politicians voted down the anti-discrimination bill. “North Dakota is kind of being left in the dust as far as civil rights are concerned.”
State Rep. Boehning had recently voted against a bill last month (and previous bills as well) that would have expanded anti-discrimination protections for LGBT citizens of the state. While he himself has since admitted to being “relieved” at being able to publicly state his sexual orientation, he still defends his decision to vote against the bill based on a pedantic reading of the language of the bill and obeying the will of his constituency, according to The Forum.
Boehning, a self-employed general contractor, said he has voted against multiple attempts to extend protected-class status to include sexual orientation because he doesn’t believe his south Fargo constituents support it. Also, he has problems with the bill’s language, which would protect people who are “perceived” to be gay.
Incredibly, he also answered a rhetorical question about how he would react if discriminated against by a landlord, and his response was that the landlord would have the right to do so.
Unfortunately, such a position very much reinforces the reality that North Dakota is, as Dustin Smith puts it, a state far behind the civil rights curve. The Human Rights Campaign shows the state to be dismally anti-LGBT in almost every category.
“I’m just trying to point out the hypocrisy of it,” Smith also told the Washington Post. “He lives in a state where he represents constituents who don’t agree with his lifestyle. But he has to lie to them about his lifestyle and his personal beliefs to get elected.”
Such hypocrisy fuels the constant assault on civil rights protections for the LGBT population, a situation that is ongoing despite continued success stories in states unlike North Dakota.