Ethics complaint filed against Minnesota lawmaker

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 13 2003 1:00 AM ET

Democratic lawmakers in Minnesota filed an ethics complaint against Republican state representative Arlon Lindner on Tuesday, alleging that his remarks questioning whether gay people were persecuted by the Nazis have brought disrepute to the state house of representatives. House speaker Steve Sviggum said he believes Lindner has a "good heart" but added that he and others in the caucus were offended by remarks Lindner made on the house floor Monday, including statements the chamber's two black lawmakers called racist. Sviggum said he strongly considered but then rejected stripping Lindner of his position as chairman of a tourism and economic development committee. He said he'll expedite the ethics hearing and take back the post if the committee recommends that action.

Lindner first made remarks last week regarding the Nazi persecution of gay people while discussing a bill he has introduced in the house that would repeal the state's human rights amendment protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Minnesotans from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other areas. His bill also would remove sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in hate-crimes laws.

This week Lindner defended his remarks, saying he is concerned that the human rights law allows homosexuality to be taught as an acceptable lifestyle in schools. "What I am trying to prevent is the holocaust of our children getting STDs, AIDS, and various other diseases that's going to affect their lives the rest of their lives," he said on the house floor Monday. "If you want to sit around here and wait until America becomes another African continent, well, then you do that, but I'm going to do something about it."

It was the statement concerning Africa that prompted representatives Keith Ellison and Neva Walker, the house's two black members, to call Lindner's remarks racist. Ellison joined fellow freshman representative Ron Latz in filing the ethics complaint. The complaint, also signed by Rep. Matt Entenza, says Lindner's words violate house rules prohibiting conduct that "violates accepted norms of house behavior" and "tends to bring the house into dishonor or disrepute."

Both Sviggum and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said they don't support Lindner's bill, but each said they could support a more narrowly targeted version. Pawlenty said in a news conference that he does not think the antidiscrimination protections should extend to cross-dressers, for example. The chairwoman of the ethics panel, however, is one of a handful of supporters of Lindner's full bill. Rep. Sondra Erickson declined to comment on whether her views concerning the bill would affect her judgment on the ethics review.