Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor born in the late 1800s and a vocal foe of Adolf Hitler, is the source of one of my favorite quotations. Niemöller’s words below carry a powerful message about honoring the rights and equality of others. Unfortunately, there is always another reason to revisit his words.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
I was disappointed to read that Senate Bill 2252 which sought to make it illegal in North Dakota to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation died in the Senate. The bill sought to amend the North Dakota Human Rights Act which provides recourse against discrimination based on things such as age, gender, race, and disability.
I was irritated beyond words at the following statements in The Forum attributed to Republican David Hogue of Minot who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hogue, and fellow committee member Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, said enacting policies to try to change behavior quickly does not work. Armstrong called it “social engineering.”
“I think it’s working itself out naturally,” he said. “It’s happening at the grass-roots level, and it should.”
Hogue compared the idea to former President Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which addressed the issue of gay military members but didn’t invoke substantial policy change. Twenty years later, gay individuals are serving openly in the military.
Wow. Is that the way you legislate Mr. Hogue? You sit on your hands and allow folks to be treated as less until someone else steps up years later and says, “ENOUGH!” You can in good conscience tell gays and lesbians in this state just to hold on for a couple of decades and it will get better? HOW DARE YOU! What if your child or one of your family members were discriminated against based on their sexual orientation? Would you be willing to just let it slide until everyone warmed up to it? I doubt it.
You believe “enacting policies to try to change behavior quickly does not work” – yet you will spend the bulk of the legislative session doing exactly that. Of course, that behavior you will eagerly seek to change will be behavior that you simply cannot abide by – not some silly legislation that provides protection from discrimination to gays and lesbians. Why would you bother? It isn’t you that is affected.
And you know what – it isn’t me either. But I have seen the insidious nature of discrimination over my years on the planet and I will not stand silent just because I am not personally affected. For legislators to allow the mistreatment of others to continue without recourse is wrong – plain and simple. In fact, I would argue that legislators who disregard their responsibility to protect the citizens of North Dakota should resign forthwith and allow someone with a backbone to step in and get the job done.
The good citizens of North Dakota who believe in equality are not waiting 20 years for you to grow a backbone Mr. Hogue. We are going to elect more folks like Josh Boschee and the senators who supported Senate Bill 2252. Discrimination against gays and lesbians must end – we need leaders who get that and will fight to remedy that situation. And you sir, are clearly not one of them.
Day one thousand three hundred and twenty of the new forty – obla di obla da