January 11, 2013 at 7:27 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
North Dakota’s first out legislator takes office

North Dakota, Joshua Boschee, gay news, Washington Blade

North Dakota State Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo) (Photo courtesy of Boschee)

North Dakota’s first openly gay lawmaker told the Washington Blade on Wednesday he remains “honored” to be the state’s first out legislator.

“It’s good,” state Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo) said the day after he officially took office at the start of the 2013 legislative session in Bismarck, the state capital. Public Advocate of the United States, the organization founded by Loudoun (Va.) County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, launched an online campaign against him, but Boschee said his homosexuality was “never an issue” among his future constituents. “Only heard anything positive about it during campaigning and then for the most part I don’t think anyone really recognized it. And so being elected based on my merits is definitely a great thing.”

Boschee, 30, in November defeated long-time incumbent state Rep. Donald Clark to represent House District 44 that includes portions of Fargo, the state’s largest city.

The political newcomer is the assistant director of leadership and organizations at nearby Minnesota State University-Moorhead. He also sits on the Fargo Human Relations Commission and chairs the annual Fargo-Moorhead Pride celebration.

Boschee, whom the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed, told the Blade he plans to introduce a bill that would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and employment. (Employees can legally fire an employee because of their sexual orientation in North Dakota and 28 other states. The Peace Garden State is among the 34 states that have yet to add gender identity and expression to their employment non-discrimination laws.)

The North Dakota Senate in 2009 passed an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination measure, but it failed to advance in the House of Representatives.

“Now hopefully being an actual representative will help carry some weight and convince some people to change their votes. And we have a number of new elected officials as well, so there’s a good opportunity that we can pass that at the state level,” Boschee, who was a member of the coalition of advocates who supported the measure, said. “We’re four years later. We’ve seen national opinions switching as it relates to LGBT equality and then we’ve also changed seats here in the House of Representatives and the Senate in North Dakota. All those factors play into I think progress and an opportunity to continue the conversation.”

Boschee said he also hopes to work with his colleagues to earmark some of the state’s $1.2 billion surplus for increased investment in Head Start, pre-kindergarten and other early childhood programs throughout North Dakota.

“The state is just doing very [well,] financially,” he said. “We have an opportunity to really look long-term at how we invest those one-time resources for long-term effect.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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