The Iowa Federation of Labor’s President, Ken Sager, spoke against HJR 6 (which passed in the Iowa House today) at the public hearing on the resolution (listen below) in the Iowa House chamber last night. He “took liberty” with German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous statement, “First they came.”
Sagar “paraphrased” the pastor who endured Nazi persecution when he said:
When they came for the minorities I did not speak out because I was not a minority.
When they locked up the immigrants, I said nothing as I wasn’t an immigrant.
When they came for the gays I did not speak out because I was a gay.
While there are several variations to Niemoller’s statement the most often quoted is this:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Some versions also mention Catholics. I can understand speaking passionately about this issue. It is an incredibly important discussion for Iowans to have. I do have a huge problem with Mr. Sagar’s reference to this statement. Linking persecution at the hands of Nazis in concentration camps to merely wanting to vote on the definition of marriage is vilifying the opposition. It is inappropriate, and I’ve been consistent with this position when it was directed at those with whom I disagree. Also what immigrants are getting “locked up”? Illegal immigrants? Who is coming for the gays?
Nobody. Nobody. Those of us who don’t believe that the Iowa Supreme Court had the authority to change the definition of marriage want a public discussion and debate. We want to be allowed to decide this matter for ourselves (and we understand we could lose the vote). We don’t want to see homosexuals mistreated. Comparing those who are in favor of this bill to Nazis is out of line. This rhetoric contributes nothing to a civil debate.