Ensuring the rights of all Minnesotans

Woe be to Christian conservatives. At least that’s the story if you believe Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran. On Thursday, Lindner introduced a bill into the Minnesota House of Representatives to remove the current protections accorded Minnesotans based on sexual orientation. In a remark only matched in its audacity by its lack of sense of irony, Lindner pled that the Minnesota Human Rights Act was being used to harass and persecute those who disagree with homosexuality. In focusing on the repercussions of the law, Lindner glossed over the laudable effect: the ending of sexual orientation discrimination in Minnesota. Minnesotans should band together and send a strong message to the Legislature that they still believe these goals to be part of Minnesota’s message and resoundingly reject Lindner’s regressive proposal.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act provides broad protections to groups that historically have been discriminated against. It mandates that labor unions, employers, realtors, retailers, schools and creditors – among others – may not treat or consider an individual differently because of his or her membership in a particular class. Instead, the individual must be judged on his or her own independent merits. Exempt from the coverage of the law is mere disagreement or condemnation of these classes at the individual level. It hopes for, but does not mandate, equality taking root in the public mind. It mandates and strives to achieve equality of treatment in the public sphere.

The bill has an uncertain future. It might pass the Republican-controlled House but will likely be defeated in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s aides announced Friday he would veto any bill passage. In his gubernatorial campaign, however, he called his 1993 vote to include sexual orientation in the law a mistake. If Pawlenty has had a change of heart since November, he is to be commended. But Minnesotans must let their voice be heard to solidify it.