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Patrick Springer, Published March 16 2012

Gay rights advocate to run for North Dakota House

FARGO – Joshua Boschee submitted a thin stack of papers Friday at the Cass County Auditor’s Office and in doing so became what might be North Dakota’s first openly gay candidate for a legislative seat.

Boschee was surrounded by a handful of friends and supporters when he filed papers to run as a Democrat for a House seat in north Fargo’s District 44, now represented by two Republicans.

“I’ve been encouraged by friends,” Boschee said, explaining his decision to run. “The more I thought about it, the more the time seemed right.”

Also Friday, a second openly gay Fargo man, Michael Lindemann, said he intends to run for a seat in the North Dakota House.

Boschee, who once wrote a local newspaper column called The Gay Agenda, said he will be an advocate for gay rights, but for other issues as well, including education.

Support for education at all levels, K-12 and higher education, is high on Boschee’s priority list. Colleges have been under attack by some legislators, he said. The Head Start program in Fargo, an early education program for low-income children, has a waiting list of about 100, he said.

As for efforts to legalize gay marriage in North Dakota, Boschee said he supports the petition drive, but sees more urgent rights issues for gays. North Dakota law now allows discrimination in housing and on the job for those who are gay, he said.

“I don’t know if necessarily right now going to the Legislature or putting it on the ballot is the best way to move forward,” Boschee said of legalizing gay marriage.

North Dakota voters overwhelmingly supported adopting the ban on gay marriage in 2004, indicating a lot of “public education” remains to be done on the issue, he said.

“Marriage is somewhat down the road,” Boschee said.

Boschee, who turns 30 in May, works as assistant director of leadership and organization at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He graduated from North Dakota State University with an undergraduate degree in political science and a master’s degree in education.

Boschee said he opposes Measure 2, an initiated measure on the June primary ballot that would end the property tax. That would undermine local government, and local officials are best equipped to decide many issues, he said.

Lindemann, 25, said he will run as a Democrat for a House seat in District 16 in south Fargo. He hasn’t yet filed his candidacy papers, but will do so soon. Both men said they have been endorsed by their Democratic-NPL districts.

Lindemann, who soon will graduate from NDSU with a nursing degree, said education, health care and flood control top his priorities.

“I care deeply about higher education,” he said. “I’m running because I care deeply about what’s happening in North Dakota. I’m just running, and I happen to be gay.”

As far as Boschee and Lindemann know, this is the first election involving openly gay candidates running for a seat in the North Dakota Legislature.

“If either of us wins, we’ll be the first openly gay member elected to the Legislature,” Lindemann said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522