Only 13 days passed from the day Major Bart Peterson signed Indianapolis' Human Rights Ordinance into law until the first attempt to undo it by amending HB 1010 earlier this week to nullify gender identity and sexual orientation as civil liberty protections. While many have decried the method used in this human rights nullification attempt, I decry the attempt itself and will call it for what it is.
Our nation has maintained a long and steady course in recognizing, granting, and enforcing civil liberties protection to its citizenry. It took 89 years from the inception of our nation which declared that "all men are created equal" to pass the 13th amendment to end slavery. It took 94 years to grant voting rights to all races (15th amendment). For women's vote, it took 144 years (19th amendment). The fact that these timelines seem long to 21st Century eyes, suggests the seriousness of the issues in the context of a slowly evolving political and cultural ethos. Yet the direction of our nation's history has always been liberty. Although I am not an expert in Constitutional Law, I know of no successful legislative attempts to deprive Americans of their civil liberties once these liberties were codified into law.
If we look at an attempt by a government to abridge the rights of its citizens, we need not look far. The year was 1935 and the place Neuremberg, Germany. The Neuremberg Laws were established to create a new class of people under the law--there were to be both German (Reich) citizens and Reich subjects who were denied the rights and protections of citizenship. The Neurenberg Laws strictly regulated marriage and sexual relations between Reich citizens and Reich subjects. Reich subjects were deprived of employment, housing, possessions, and eventually life itself. Reich subjects were Jews. The Neuremberg Laws eventually led to Germany's ongoing slaughter of 11 million people, 6 million of whom were Jews, from 1933 until the Nazis were defeated in April 1945.
My soon to be 80 year old dad, was on a troop transport ship, along with thousands of other soldiers, headed for Europe in the spring of 1945 when the war ended. He became a different kind of war hero--his role, along with many others, was to de-Nazify Germany. I learned from him that our "American" position was to free Europe and the Germans from the Nazis. De-Nazification meant collecting arms and destroying weapons and munitions, removing all public symbols and emblems of the Nazi party, and holding war criminals accountable for their actions. My dad served his country with honor and helped paved the way to rebuilding a war torn continent.
The lessons from the past, though painful, remain lessons for us today. I deeply regret the pain inflicted, so intensely, and so hatefully, during that period. I also am extremely reluctant to call anyone a Nazi in this day and age. I will, instead, implore our legislators to act more like Americans and less like Nazis. Please preserve and protect our new civil liberties, please don't strip us of protections of employment, housing, and yes, even marriage.
Do I need to send my dad over to the statehouse to de-Nazify our state legislature?