At last week’s 13th Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota Pride Celebration, Timothy Purdon, North Dakota's U.S. attorney, stepped up last week and told members of the LGBT community that they will have a friend in government as long as he's the top federal prosecutor in the state. Purdon delivered his speech in front of what he said was his largest audience since President Obama appointed him to the post in February 2010:
"It was fantastic. To have the opportunity to come here and talk to people who are passionate about civil rights and the Department of Justice's role in that is a privilege."
Purdon's speech followed a parade led by a handful of same-sex couples who were legally married in neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota, after that state’s marriage equality law went into effect. Sadly, while Minnesota was enacting equality, just across the border the North Dakota Legislature was rejecting a bill to protect the LGBT population from housing discrimination.
That action caused Purdon to speak up and speak out, and admit that North Dakota has much work to do in order to "ensure equality, opportunity and justice" for its citizens, regardless of identity or sexual orientation.
"The Red River of the North is a great river. It is a powerful river. But it's not a magic line that gay Americans cross and gain rights and lose rights as they go back and forth. And it shouldn't be."—Timothy Purdon, referring to the river that separates North Dakota and Minnesota
Purdon then talked about growing up in west-central Minnesota, attending first a small high school and then a junior college in North Dakota. He went onto to a four-year college and law school. He worked in private law practice for 16 years before "winning the lottery" with his appointment as U.S. attorney.
"I did what most Americans take for granted. I tried to take advantage of the American dream, but I wonder if that journey would have been the same if I had been born a gay American. I wonder if my gay brothers and sisters always catch those breaks. My heart wants to say yes ... but my head says maybe not."
Purdon ended the speech with a comment from "my boss," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, about the Justice Department's refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court and its commitment to end discrimination:
"As the face of the Department of Justice in North Dakota, I will make you this promise: I will continue to work hard on these issues, to work hard to make sure that the civil rights of every North Dakotan, native or non-native, gay or straight, are protected. As long as I'm in this position, you will have an ally."
That’s what we need, more politicians, lawmakers, legislators, judges, attorneys, and just every day people to stand up as an LGBT ally.
Thanks, Mr. Purdon, for taking that stand in North Dakota.
The march goes on ….