No waffling as N.D. House votes for Sunday breakfast in bed

Reps. Vernon Laning, left, and Bernie Satrom. (Photo: North Dakota Legislative Branch)

North Dakota husbands — or for that matter wives — worried they might be deprived of their Sunday breakfasts in bed can rest easy: A bill to repeal Sunday-closing blue laws was voted down by the state House of Representatives after a plea by one legislator to set aside the morning for pancakes and scrambled eggs instead of shopping.

Arguing against repealing the law that requires most businesses to close between midnight Saturday and Sunday noon, Rep. Bernie Satrom recommended “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.” He later clarified that he meant to say “’em” rather than “him,” meaning the breakfast could be cooked, and consumed, by either spouse.

During the debate, Rep. Vernon Laning added: “I don’t know about you, but my wife has no problem spending everything I earn in six and a half days. And I don’t think it hurts at all to have a half day off.”

The comments were roundly criticized as sexist and quickly caught fire outside of North Dakota, appearing in a number of national news outlets.

A number listed as Satrom’s office number reached Dianne Satrom, his wife. She rejected the accusations of sexism directed at her husband, citing the dynamics of their relationship as proof.

“I’m my own person. I’m free. He’s not sexist at all,” she said, noting she recently vacationed in Maui while her husband stayed in Bismarck.

She also said her husband’s comment was misconstrued as a directive for wives to serve their husbands, when the intended meaning was that couples should “serve each other, bring them breakfast in bed,” emphasizing the gender-neutral pronoun.

“As his wife, I can tell you he’s brought me breakfast in bed many times,” Satrom said. “The only time I brought him breakfast in bed was when he was sick.”

In an email, Bernie Satrom confirmed, “I frequently cook breakfast on weekends and bring it to her as a way to show my love and appreciation for the blessing she is in my life.”

Satrom said his opposition to repealing blue laws stems from concerns “about how busy people are and how they seem to have limited time for family.”

Echoing his wife, Satrom contended he “intended, meant, and thought” he said “’em” instead of “him.” When he first saw the quote on a blog, Satrom said he “became nauseous and incredibly sad.”

Laning declined to be interviewed. In an email, he wrote, “Normally, I would accept but I have responded to 4 interviews on the topic to date and quite frankly none of them reflected anything close to a balanced report of what transpired, so I am going to respectfully decline any more interviews. Thank you for your interest.”

Satrom, who was sympathetic toward his colleague, said Laning is a “a gentle man who treasures his wife and picked a bad time and way to try to make a point.”

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