Interview: North Dakota’s First Openly Gay Legislator Says Sexuality Wasn’t An Issue In His Campaign

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Representative-elect Joshua Boschee won election to represent North Dakota’s District 44 in the upcoming legislative session, splitting the ticket with incumbent Republican Blair Thoreson. Boschee is the first openly gay legislator to serve in the state’s assembly. I interviewed him earlier this week about his experiences as a gay candidate in North Dakota, and his policy priorities for the upcoming session.

Boschee told me that he didn’t exactly campaign as a gay candidate. He said that at most events the campaign focused on fiscal issues. “For the most party my sexual orientation wasn’t brought up,” he told me noting that he felt it was most appropriate to talk about it only at events focusing specifically on issues of sexual orientation.

I asked him about the issues of identity politics, and if he was worried that people might have voted for him not because of his policy positions but because of his sexuality. “I wouldn’t say it bothered me,” Boschee told me. “I would hope people are voting on the facts.”

Asked if he faced any anger from voters over his sexual orientation, Boschee told me “Not really.”

“It was only positive,” he said of experiences out knocking on doors. He did refer to what he described as a Virginia-based “hate group” which encouraged its membership to oppose him as a proponent of a “gay agenda,” but noted that most of the emails came from out of state.

Boschee says he does plan on backing one area of policy reform related to homosexual issues. He said he’d like to see gays included as a protected class under state law prohibiting housing, employment and other sorts of discrimination.

He also spoke of the state’s need for tax reform, spending on higher education and more appropriations for early childhood education.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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