The Grand Forks City Council’s decision to pass a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in rental housing was celebrated quietly Monday night.
Much of the public fanfare surrounding the city’s initial decision to become the first in North Dakota to pass such a law happened during its first reading two weeks ago.
At that time, the council approved the proposed law by a vote of 5-2. Its decision was met with clapping from the dozens of residents who showed up to voice their support.
At its second reading Monday, there was no clapping but a few supporters added their voices to the dozens that had already spoke out for or against the law.
Grand Forks resident and lawyer Todd Chrzanowski told of a young man who came to his office with a problem. He told Chrzanowski his lease was not being renewed because he was gay.
“Imagine my displeasure when I had to tell them there is absolutely nothing the young man can do,” Chrzanowski wrote in a May 2012 letter to the editor.
He told the council he recounted the story in that letter and said he received a flood of responses — most in disbelief that there is no legal protection from this type of discrimination in the state.
“This is an opportunity we should not let pass by,” Chrzanowski said of changing the law.
The ban received its final stamp of approval during its second reading by the same vote of 5-2.
Council member Ken Vein, one of the dissenters, said his vote was not against the LGBT community. Instead, he said we was worried about the law’s “unintended consequences” and would not support it until those were addressed.
One of those is the eviction of all tenants from a property if a landlord is found to be in violation of the law.
Under the new law, landlords found discriminating against tenants could lose their occupancy license for the affected property, meaning all other renters would have to leave the premises. The could also face up to a $500 fine if convicted in court.