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Erik Burgess, Published August 11 2013

Many gather for F-M Pride Day

FARGO – In recent years, the Red River has become more than a simple geographic divide between two states.

It’s also a dividing line of social issues, separating two states that differ greatly on rights for gay, lesbian and transgender residents, according to U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon, who addressed a crowd of hundreds at the FM Pride Parade on Sunday.

“It’s a powerful river; we all know that. But it’s not a magic line in which gay Americans cross and gain rights and lose rights as they come back and forth,” Purdon said. “And it shouldn’t be. We have to work together to erase those lines.”

With Minnesota legalizing same-sex marriage this year and legal wedding ceremonies for gay couples taking place just across the river in Moorhead, Purdon and the other speakers saw Sunday as an opportunity to congratulate Minnesota but also recognize that the fight for same-sex rights is not over in North Dakota.

“For the last 11 days, folks on the east side of the river have had the right to marry who they love. North Dakotans don’t have that civil right. That’s wrong,” Purdon said.

Fargo City Commissioner Melissa Sobolik also spoke. Earlier this summer, Fargo commissioners unanimously voted to have the city attorney look into what law Fargo could craft to protect LGBT residents from housing and employment discrimination.

Hundreds of cities across the country have these protections in place, but they also have a state that backs them, Sobolik said. If enough cities in North Dakota pass such ordinances, the state could be persuaded to do the same, she said.

“We’re not creating a problem,” Sobolik said. “This is something that’s happening in our community every single day, and it is wrong and it needs to be addressed.”

Among the hundreds that lined Broadway to watch the parade, countless dogs were also in attendance, sporting rainbow tutus and bowties. But few were as colorful as Hathi.

Hathi’s owner, Tori Kennedy, spent the morning painting the formerly all-white Australian shepherd mix with rainbow food dye. It’s a nice break from the mud baths the dog usually takes, Kennedy said with a laugh.

The soon-to-be graduate student at North Dakota State moved here from Philadelphia and has attended pride parades there.

“I’m glad to see it’s spreading to other places like tiny little Fargo,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s definitely important that the rural communities are also showing their support for the LGBT community.”

Leading the parade this year were two gay couples from Fargo, both recently married in Moorhead on Aug. 1 when same-sex marriage became legal. The couples were carrying a large yellow banner that read, “Just married.”

Another couple drove a vehicle down Broadway with tin cans clanking behind it, a sign taped to the door that read, “Just legally married.”

“It’s just kind of nice to be proud and out there,” said Jan Titus, who carried that banner alongside his husband, Bob Stone.

The two live in Fargo in Stone’s childhood home. They’re not even thinking about moving across the river. Lenny Tweeden, who walked next to them with his husband, Wayne Rosell, said they aren’t going to move to Minnesota either.

“I see that as giving up,” Tweeden said.

Purdon said as long as he is the state’s U.S. Attorney, he won’t give up on the LGBT community here.

“We have much work to do to turn the Red River of the North back into a spot on the map and not a magic line that divides people by civil rights,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518