Religious leaders and Minnesota Democratic lawmakers joined a survivor of the Holocaust on Monday in condemning Minnesota state representative Arlon Lindner for remarks he made last week questioning whether gay people were persecuted by the Nazis during World War II. "I can testify to the fact that homosexuals were indeed persecuted based on their sexuality," said Hinda Kibort, 81, an Edina, Minn., woman who was detained in German-run labor and concentration camps from 1941 to 1945. "I was there."
Lindner said last week that the idea that the Nazis persecuted gay people is a "rewriting of history." But the Democrats said Lindner is the one doing the rewriting. "Revisionism of this kind is on a par with those who believe the Earth is flat and that the moon landing was fabricated on a soundstage in New Mexico," said state representative Frank Hornstein.
The lawmakers invited Lindner, a Republican, to join them and religious leaders next April for a tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. They also asked Steve Sviggum, speaker of the Minnesota house of representatives, to remove Lindner from his position as chairman of the house economic development and tourism committee.
Sviggum has responded that he will not remove Lindner. "Representative Lindner's comments, even though they're inappropriate and they're wrong--when do I start being judge and jury?" he said. Sviggum then asked whether he should be expected to reprimand state representative Tom Rukavina for a statement he made calling state auditor Pat Awada "Osama bin Awada" for a proposal he made that would cut local government aid to cities in his district. "In a free society, we do have certain First Amendment rights," Sviggum said.
Lindner said he doesn't doubt Kibort's own recollections of Nazi actions but that he wonders why little attention has been paid until recently, in his view, to the Nazi persecution of gays. He said he expects to be in legislative session on April 9, the date scheduled for the museum tour, and won't be going to Washington. "They talk about my particular views and so forth," he said. "But I guess I still feel like we've got a First Amendment that applies to everybody."
Lindner has introduced a bill in the Minnesota state legislature that would repeal an amendment to the state human rights law protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Minnesotans from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas. The measure also would remove sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in hate-crimes laws.