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North Dakota transgender bathroom, higher ed sports bills emerge – InForum

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BISMARCK — North Dakota lawmakers are pursuing bills to restrict transgender people in bathrooms and in K-12 and higher education athletics, national trends in recent years.

Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, is sponsoring House Bill 1489, which would restrict transgender people from participating in athletics at colleges and universities in North Dakota.

The bill is similar to House Bill 1249, which would restrict transgender K-12 athletes and follows an unsuccessful 2021 bill that Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed. Koppelman disputes that 1249 is anti-transgender, saying it would ensure fairness in girls sports. He called 1489 “a sister bill” to 1249.

“Across the country, there have been more and more issues in college sports in addition to what’s going on in high school sports,” Koppelman told the Tribune. “There have been some successful litigation against opportunities being lost by women who are competing with those that are biologically men, and our goal is to have the same parity in higher ed as we have in K-12.”

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Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo


Neither of Koppelman’s bills has been scheduled for a hearing.

Rep. SuAnn Olson, R-Baldwin, is sponsoring House Bill 1473, which would mandate designated, respective restrooms and showers for males and females in correctional facilities, penitentiaries, domestic violence sexual assault organization facilities, college and university living facilities, and public schools.

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Rep. SuAnn Olson, R-Baldwin


Olson said the intent of the bill is females’ privacy and safety.

“There’s all kinds of examples across the country where they’ve not been safe,” she told the Tribune, citing women “being accosted by people that may be dressed as women and using those facilities.”

The bill does allow but doesn’t require “a reasonable accommodation” for “a transgender or gender-nonconforming” person. Olson said that might be a separate-use bathroom or “whatever would be appropriate in the circumstances.”

The bill also would restrict K-12 transgender athletes, but Olson said that might be amended out, due to 1249.

Olson’s bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.

North Dakota University System spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius said 1473 and 1489 “were recently introduced, so we won’t have a stance until our lawyers have had a chance to review to let us know what impact they will have on higher ed institutions.”

Gender identity has emerged as a topic in legislation this session, with numerous bills to restrict personal expression, health care and activities.

Bill supporters say their efforts are to protect children and ensure fairness in girls sports. Opponents have blasted the bills as discriminatory and harmful.

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