Hateful legislation attempts to repeal gay rights

by Scott Laderman

AApparently it’s never too early to legislate hate. Five Minnesota House of Representatives members last week introduced a bill to remove civil rights protections for gays and lesbians from the state’s human rights law. In a bizarre logical formulation, the bill’s proponents allege that affording homosexuals the same rights as other persons is, according to a report in the Star Tribune, a means of persecuting or harassing “Christian conservatives and others who consider homosexuality a violation of God’s law.”

As hilarious as this nonsense might initially sound, it is important Minnesota residents take it seriously. Right-wing Christian evangelicals are seeking to enshrine their religious beliefs as state law, and they might have the support to do it.

To be sure, the agenda of these folks is fueled by hate. But that is hardly all. Attached to their venture is also a fundamental reinterpretation of well-established history. Consider, for instance, the temerity of the bill’s chief author, Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran.

Among the provisions of his legislation is an insistence that sexual orientation be removed as a classification in the human rights law’s categorization of Holocaust survivors and victims. If you think you just misread that line, let me repeat it. Among the provisions of Lindner’s legislation is an insistence that sexual orientation be removed as a classification in the human rights law’s categorization of Holocaust survivors and victims.

How, one wonders, could such a repugnant and intellectually indefensible position be seriously advanced? Is Lindner seeking a place in the Arthur R. Butz School of Holocaust Denial? (Butz, the huckster who wrote “The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry,” has himself trod Minnesota soil; much to the institution’s shame, he is a graduate of the University.)

Lindner’s shameful attack on certain victims of the Nazi genocide is akin to anti-Semites denying that Jews – or, for that matter, Roma and Sinti, communists, et al. – were persecuted by the Third Reich.

The only major difference is that substantial segments of American society presently consider it acceptable to continue to discriminate against homosexuals. Whereas anti-Semitism is no longer socially acceptable and is thus properly denounced, the same does not hold for hatred of gays and lesbians, which enjoys wide support among many right-wing Christians.

This phenomenon manifests itself in different ways. On the same day last week Lindner’s bill was introduced to the House, for example, a number of legislators presented a measure revoking the benefits of state employees’ same-sex domestic partners. It seems denying health insurance is now a “family value.” The evangelicals’ strategy is actually quite simple: First deny gays and lesbians the right to marry. Then, when they cannot legally marry, simply deny them the ability to care for one another.

Among the more pernicious strategies the Christian right has pursued during its campaign is targeting children. In defense of his bill, Lindner, for example, was quoted in the Star Tribune as saying he knows “a lady who was fired from her job because she disagreed with homosexual activities in her school.”

The article does not elucidate his comment, but one is almost left with the impression students were having sex on campus and this poor woman was given the boot because she objected. Of course, this could not be what Lindner meant, as sexual activity of any sort – heterosexual or homosexual – is prohibited in Minnesota schools.

While the nature of the woman’s alleged termination is unclear in the report, the “homosexual activities” in question were almost certainly student clubs or support groups that have been vehemently opposed by a number of evangelicals. For many young gays and lesbians, coming out requires remarkable courage. They often face rejection by their parents, hostility from their friends or ostracism by their peers. It is little wonder many turn to suicide. It is thus crucial these youths have outlets in which they may safely seek support. School groups, many of them “gay-straight alliances,” have provided one such venue.

But the evangelicals will have none of this. To them, gays and lesbians are deviants seeking to “recruit” other students into the “homosexual lifestyle” and should thus enjoy no sanctuary.

Attorney General John Ashcroft is hardly alone in seeking to undermine the civil liberties gained in this country through decades of popular struggle.

In Arlon Lindner and his colleagues, Ashcroft has found willing allies. It is incumbent that we let our legislators know when they attack the rights of any of us, they attack the rights of all of us.

Call your representative today.

Scott Laderman’s biweekly column usually appears Tuesdays. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]