Sunday, February 16, 2003

Gay rights in MN

There is a bit of a debate going on in Minnesota -- at least on the editorial & opinion pages of the Star Tribune -- about whether or not sexual orientation should continue to be listed in the state's human rights law. Last Tuesday there was an editorial arguing that new Governor Tim Pawlenty should oppose a current effort -- spearheaded by the Minnesota Family Council and others -- to remove sexual orientation from the law. Here is the money quote:
    Removing protections for gays and lesbians is part of a broader agenda pushed by the Minnesota Family Council. "Interim steps," the council says, might include exempting public schools and transgender persons from the human rights law. The problem, the council claims, is that the law is being used as a vehicle to promote homosexuality as a lifestyle choice.

    Well, rubbish. First, homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice. Second, for conservative Christians to suggest that it is they who are victimized by society's tolerance of gays and lesbians borders on the silly. If this were ancient Rome, Christians of any stripe could easily claim victimhood. But here? And now? Living in a plural society -- and we hope Minnesota still qualifies -- requires some accommodation. Being uncomfortable with someone who is different is no reason to change a law intended to protect people who have suffered discrimination that is real, not contrived.
In today's paper, the president of the MFC, Tom Prichard, wrote a counterpoint, refuting a number of claims made in the editorial. Here's its money quote:
    The mantra by gay advocates in the debate on the gay rights law 10 years ago was, "We just want to be left alone. We just want tolerance." But use of the law in the last 10 years has been about acceptance and endorsement of homosexuality. Removing sexual orientation from protected class status under the human rights law won't be rolling back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, as the Star Tribune says. It will merely leave gays and lesbians with all the constitutional, civil and criminal protections everybody else in society enjoys -- no less and no more.
Right on, Mr. Prichard.

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