Human rights and amendments

Rob’s story on the Mille Lacs Area Human Rights Commission forum was interesting. I posted a comment at the end of the story, and I’m copying a revised version of it here.
I’m on the Human Rights Commission’s side on these issues (as I’ve written in columns here and here, but I can sympathize with those who aren’t. No one wants to be “anti” human rights, yet that’s the feeling people get when being “pro” human rights is rigidly defined by one group or party. The reaction is similar when labels like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” get thrown around. No one considers himself or herself “anti-life” or “anti-choice.”
On the other hand, opponents of Civil Rights in the 50s and 60s would also have been offended by being labeled as racist or prejudiced, yet today, few people would say those people weren’t “anti” civil/human rights.
The state Human Rights Commission is a state agency, so we have some expectations of nonpartisanship, but the commissioner is a political appointment by the governor. The commissioner, Kevin Lindsey, has opposed the Voter ID amendment and marriage amendment in public appearances, but I’m not seeing any official statement regarding either amendment on their website. Good article in Winona Daily News about Lindsey’s opposition. I can’t link to it here, but you can google it.
Rep. Sondra Erickson said the HRC, because it’s a state agency funded by taxpayer dollars, should be “balanced.”
By Erickson’s reasoning, a Human Rights Commission during the Jim Crow era should’ve had a “balance” and not taken a position on poll taxes, literacy tests or separate drinking fountains.
The HRC was created by the state Human Rights Act of 1967 to protect individuals’ rights, not to be politically neutral.
Erickson stressed that these amendments were crafted to “let the people decide.” It’s a disingenuous argument. If that’s how she feels on these issues, then let’s bring all proposed laws to referendum or amendment. “Let the people decide” on everything, and see what happens.
Fact is, Republicans know they have a better chance of getting these partisan amendments passed because the majority of voters are prejudiced, ill informed or unaware of the motivations or ramifications.
Attempts at passing these laws in the Legislature have failed for good reasons. Amendments are an end-run around the legislative process, and they’re almost always a bad idea because they appeal to the ignorance of voters.
I’ve voted against every amendment that’s come up since I could vote, from the state lottery to “right to hunt and fish” to the “Legacy Amendment.” And I’ll vote against these, too.


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