Sometimes, you win a battle, but lose a war. You find someone to love, but spend countless hours fighting for the rights other couples have. How is that fair?
Katy and Steph’s Story
Katy and Steph were married in 2011 outside of their resident state of North Dakota. Steph was on 790FM speaking on how after getting married in Iowa they were not allowed to put an announcement in their local paper because they were a same sex couple. (Ironically, the paper does advertise for local strip clubs and other, “non-family values” items.) In North Dakota as a part of the LGBT community, until 2009, individuals could be discriminated (legally) a variety of ways including, being fired, not being able to get approved for rental housing and not getting the same level of service or care as other individuals.
North Dakota, long known for their conservative views and unwillingness to accept LGBT rights has caused distress for many same sex couples. According to CNN, in 2004,
“Voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2004 that defined marriage as the union of a man and a women and prohibited the recognition of same-sex relationships as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships.”
In 2009, Sen. Tom Fiebiger introduced legislation stating discrimination stemming on sexual orientation should be illegal. Senate Bill 2278 opposed by the NDCatholicConference, sought to end discrimination for the LGBT community. The NDCatholicConference stated,
“There is no place for arbitrary discrimination and prejudice against a person because of sexual attraction. We especially deplore violence and harassment directed against such persons. Moreover, all human persons, including those with homosexual inclinations, have a right to obtain employment and housing. We recognize that some people have a same sex attraction. This tendency is not in itself immoral or sinful. However, like all sexual activity outside of marriage, homosexual activity, as distinguished from homosexual tendency, is morally wrong. …. Based on these principles, we cannot support SB 2278. The unique legal status granted by the bill’s definition of sexual orientation appears to encompass not only homosexual inclinations, but also other sexual activities, homosexual or heterosexual, outside of marriage.”
Fortunately, even with groups like the NDCatholicConference, the bill passed in 2009.
What happened next, surprised no one. After being denied space in the paper that Katy and Steph were willing to pay for, they were also denied a “family pass” to the Park Board’s State golf courses. Since they were married and other married couples were given a discounted pass, the couple felt compelled to ask if they could have the same pass. The pass, retails for over $890 and allows golfers to visit many of the states outdoor golf courses. The North Dakota Park District, not being in a state that recognized same-sex marriage, replied with this:
“They can’t receive a family pass from the Fargo Park District because the courses base their policy on state law, which defines marriage as strictly between a man and a woman. We actually answer this question more often for (an unmarried) heterosexual couple that’s living together versus a gay/lesbian couple, And we respond the same.“
A little later in February, the park board reconsidered allowing the couple to have the pass and stated they would be moving towards a household pass model, instead. The final decision will come at the March 12th Committee Meeting, Interestingly, Commissioner Mary Johnson had this to say:
Hate Crimes: What North Dakota Refuses To Acknowledge
But you see, this is about a larger issue that Katy and Stef realized when they opened a letter with terrible handwriting and a very ironically-placed stamp for, “Equality.” If you follow this link, you can view the letter that Katy and Steph were sent. Please note, the details of the letter are extremely graphic and upsetting. After recieving the couple’s permission to post the letter and tell their story, I wondered what I could do to help. In a few searches, I was able to find Steph’s personal information, (I’ll be helping the couple take it down) and posting on what you can do to protect your home address and phone number later in the week.
The real problem is this: North Dakota doesn’t even address hate crimes as there is NO law written against hate crimes for LGBT individuals. How many more times do Steph and Katy have to suffer because they live in a state that doesn’t understand the word, “Equality.” Is it fair that Steph will now have to wonder what kind of person would even send a letter like that? Did they use the stamp as a joke? Most importantly, nothing can be done. There’s no hate crime law. But there CAN be.
What You Can Do
According to the City of Fargo, “Currently, no federal legislation exists allowing for the specific prosecution of hate crimes. Individual states have created legislation regarding hate crimes.” The State has a “cultural liason officer,” specifically geared towards working with individuals that have been affected and perpetrated hate crimes. However, Fargo does have a “GLBT Liason Officer,” as well. You can contact her here:
Officer Jesseca White: 701-541-1597: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please consider writing to Jesseca and bringing light to the fact that there needs to be a hate-crime law for ALL individuals, including those that identify with the LGBT population. No one should have to go through the constant discrimination that Steph and Katy have faced. No matter where you are in the nation, your email or call can make a huge difference. You can fill out this report, to submit a hate crime and specify the letter that the Rindy’s have received.
Steph and Katy, thank you so much for allowing me to share your story.