The Minnesota state legislature is set to hold an ethics hearing next week concerning one Republican member’s repeated claims that homosexuals were not persecuted by the Nazis.
Democrats will argue in front of the ethics committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives that State Rep. Arlon Lindner should be censured over what they say is a case of Holocaust revisionism that brought disrepute to the legislative body. They also want Lindner removed as chairman of the House’s economic development and tourism committee.
The proceeding is expected to turn into a hearing on whether gays were persecuted during World War II. Democratic leaders are planning to supply both a Jewish Holocaust survivor who says she witnessed anti-gay attacks and a local university professor who has compiled an archive of documents outlining Nazi persecution against gays.
Lindner, who represents the outer Minneapolis suburb of Corcoran, has been under fire since early last month, when he suggested that stories of Nazi persecution against gays had been fabricated.
“I was a child during World War II, and I’ve read a lot about World War II,” Lindner was quoted as saying in the March 7 edition of the Star Tribune, a Minneapolis-St. Paul daily newspaper. “It’s just been recently that anyone’s come out with this idea that homosexuals were persecuted to this extent. There’s been a lot of rewriting of history.”
Lindner was attempting to defend his proposed bill, known as the Defense of Innocence Act, which would strip gays and lesbians of any state protection against discrimination. Among other things, the bill would have altered state legislation dealing with World War II insurance policies by removing homosexuals from a list of groups that were victims of the Holocaust.
Days after his initial remark, Lindner fueled the controversy by citing a fringe book titled “The Pink Swastika” in an attempt to argue that the main gay participants in the Holocaust were probably concentration camp guards, not victims. Next, the embattled state representative took the House floor March 10 to defend his proposed bill, arguing that he was simply trying to defend Minnesota children “from the Holocaust” — an apparent reference to AIDS. “If you want to sit around and wait until America becomes another African continent, you do that,” Lindner said. “But I’m going to do something about that.”
The remarks were panned by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. Lindner met with the group, which supplied him with documents from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum outlining the persecution of gays. It also supplied him with a book on the topic called “The Pink Triangle” and invited Lindner to join the group on a previously scheduled trip to the museum in Washington on April 8.
Sources familiar with the situation say that the legislator does not plan to participate. The House minority leader, St. Paul Rep. Matt Entenza, told the Forward that he and his fellow Democrats were offering to take up a collection to pay for such a trip, if it would induce Lindner to go.
Lindner, who in the past has been criticized for describing Buddhism as a “cult” and accusing a Jewish legislator of having “irreligious left views,” did not return a call to his office. But his lawyer, James Anderson, has repeatedly insisted that Lindner is simply the victim of persecution against Christians.
“It is basically an attempt to muzzle a Christian, and, I think, at the bottom of it all is liberals today are not going be satisfied until every Christian is walking around wearing a muzzle,” Anderson told reporters last month. Best known for his work in defense of conservative Christian causes, Anderson said that he is taking the case pro bono.
Republicans have charged Democrats with prolonging the controversy in an attempt to damage the GOP. The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union and other free-speech advocates reportedly have argued that Lindner should not be punished.