North Dakota Lawmaker Defends State’s Blue Laws So Wives Can Make Husbands Breakfast in Bed

published Feb 8, 2017
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(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Last week, as North Dakota lawmakers debated whether or not to keep the state’s “blue laws,” a precious American meal (and an affiliated gender stereotype) was dragged into the dialogue.

Blue laws in America traditionally restrict activities on Sunday, either all day or part of the day. In North Dakota, which Munchies notes has some of the strictest blue laws, retailers end up not opening up shop until noon; violating the rule would be a class-B misdemeanor.

While debating the pros and cons, Rep. Bernie Satrom had a very specific vision for what Sundays were about and why blue laws should stay: the day is for “spending time with your wife, your husband. Making him breakfast, bringing it to him in bed and then after that go take your kids for a walk.”

The problematic notion in Rep. Satrom’s statement is not women cooking, but the assumption that only wives should be cooking breakfast in bed for their husbands — especially since the gender cooking gap has been closing over the past few decades. A 2013 study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that men were spending more time cooking. Specifically, men who spent time cooking on any day went from 29 percent in 1965 to 42 percent in 2008. During the same time frame, as more women started joining the workforce, the percentages for women who cooked on any given day went from 92 percent to 68 percent.

(Image credit: Susmita Baral)

Rep. Vernon Laning also shared his questionably sexist views among his peers to defend keeping blue laws intact. “I don’t know about you, but my wife has no problem spending everything I earn in 6 and a half days,” Laning said. “And I don’t think it hurts at all to have a half day off.”

In a statement to Valley News Live, the local news site that first reported the story, Laning said his comments were a joke, people who are upset may lack a sense of humor, and the words uttered at his place of work do not reflect his views towards women or his wife.

As for the blue laws in North Dakota, the initial Sunday vote kept them in place, but a last-minute re-vote in the House repealed the law 48 to 46.