The Ten Percent Society is the name of the first gay rights organization in North Dakota to be created by students and faculty at the University of North Dakota in 1982. The organization gained its name from a widely held belief that scientist Alfred Kinsey's research in the 1940s and 1950s had stated that ten percent of the population was gay. While the organization had little early success, it started to foster an increased tolerance for gay people and a more active gay rights movement in the region.

Gay Rights in North DakotaEdit

When the Ten Percent Society was created in the early 1980s there was no organized movement for gay rights in the state, and the only gay bar in North Dakota was in the City of Fargo. While homosexuality had not been a crime in the state since the 1970s, North Dakota was deeply conservative on matters relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. Hence it was only in the few urban areas, with significant college populations, that the state had any organized gay community. UND had the first gay rights organization in the state.

The UND Ten Percent Society would soon be joined by a second chapter at North Dakota State University, and a third at Minnesota State University Moorhead (Moorhead is a border city in west-central Minnesota, which tends to share the conservative values of North Dakota). Several PFLAG chapters would later spring up in larger cities in North Dakota as well, but throughout the 1980s to the mid-1990s these organizations had little public visibility and often chose to focus less on state or regional politics, and more on providing a non-homophobic semi-regular events and dances. Advocacy for gay rights seemed like a lost cause - and with good reason.

In the 1980s, the North Dakota legislators refused to include sexual orientation in the state-wide human rights act, and the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the sexual orientation of a parent was grounds to deny that parent custody of a child. Outside the more socially progressive atmosphere of the college towns, few people seriously entertained the notion of promoting gay rights in the state. This began to change in 1999 with the creation of Equality North Dakota, the first gay rights organization in North Dakota that was not affiliated with a state college or the largely supportive role that local PFLAG chapters engage in.

That same year, the I-beam night club opened in Moorhead, MN and became the only gay bar accessible to people in North Dakota and west-central Minnesota. In 2001 the Pride Collective Community Center was created as the first LGBT community center for North Dakota and for the west-central region of Minnesota. The growing popularity of the Internet allowed for formally isolated gay people to network for socialization and for gay rights.

Campaigns to increase political and legal rights and protections for LGBT issues have had mixed results. In 2003 the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the sexual orientation of a parent should no longer be grounds for automatic loss of custody. In contrast, the 2004 North Dakota legislature passed a constitutional amendment that banned legal recognition of same-sex marriages, domestic partnership benefits and civil unions. Although this was a major setback for GLBT advocates, this amendment did have organized opposition from gay rights organizations, other progressive organizations and the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party candidate for Governor. The amount and visibility of opposition to this highly controversial amendment alone demonstrates significant growth of LGBT culture and a more general trend of changing awareness of LGBT rights in North Dakota overall.

References Edit

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