Excerpts from recent Minnesota editorials

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Star Tribune, July 1

Defying SCOTUS on gay marriage licensing is not a legal option

When the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision mandated school desegregation in 1954, some states just said no or came up with ways to defy the new law of the land. Nearly a decade after the high court ruling, then-Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace infamously stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama and declared "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" — even as he faced federal court officials and National Guard troops sent to protect black students.

In a strikingly similar vein, some officials in Southern states said they would not comply with last week's landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Fortunately, some of that resistance is fading as officials come to terms with the potential consequences of their defiance.

Still, some individual holdouts remain. A handful of public officials in Bible Belt states object so strongly to same-sex marriage that they are refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone, gay or straight.

Although clerks and judges are entitled to their own religious beliefs, none is above the law. In fact, issuing licenses is a condition of employment or election. If they refuse to do their public-service, taxpayer-supported jobs, they should either resign, be fired or go to jail.

A few clerks in Arkansas and Mississippi resigned on Tuesday rather than be forced to sign the licenses for same-sex couples, but one county clerk in Kentucky simply closed her doors, refused to issue any marriage licenses and told a gay couple to "go to another county." University of Louisville constitutional law expert Sam Marcosson said that action disqualifies her from the position. "That applies to a judge ... to a senator ... to anyone who holds public office," Marcosson said.

Clerks and probate judges are granted authority by states to issue marriage licenses. In many rural areas, there are few alternatives for hundreds of miles. Couples turned away in such areas could seek a court order, and a clerk who still refuses to issue a license could be jailed for contempt.

Brown vs. Board of Education didn't change hearts and minds overnight. Neither did last week's marriage ruling. Sometimes deeply ingrained prejudices never change. But laws do change, and in a civilized society, they must be followed and enforced.

St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 1

A strong voice for Minnesota business

In the pull and tug of formulating public policy, a strong voice for those who create jobs and fuel the economy is essential. A thriving Minnesota depends on it.

This week, we welcome Douglas B. Loon as president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, an essential voice for the state's business community.

Loon — a longtime U.S. Chamber of Commerce official based in Minnesota who assumes his new role in early September — was selected after a nationwide search. He succeeds David Olson, who died last July.

"The Minnesota Chamber, much like the U.S. Chamber, stands at the crossroads of economic opportunity, government engagement and the private marketplace," Loon said in the statement. "It is the one organization that can bring together the various interests of the business community behind a common agenda aimed at the development and growth of Minnesota's economy."

The organization, he told us, works to assure that Minnesotans understand the importance of the free enterprise system and the key role that businesses, and their employees, play in our communities.

"Minnesota's a great place to start a business, grow a business and hire employees," Loon said, noting that the state's network of local chamber organizations is an "important part of that formula."

The state's business climate, he told us, is reasonably strong, with recent reports demonstrating how Minnesota is doing better than many states across the country, "and that speaks to the resiliency of the business community, the hard-working nature of its citizens and the ability of our companies — small, medium and large — to compete in the global marketplace."

It's those things together that "demonstrate that Minnesota is a very competitive state business-wise," he said, "and it's the role of the Minnesota Chamber to make sure it continues to be competitive and growing in the coming years."

Loon, with the U.S. Chamber since the mid-'90s, has served as its vice president for regional affairs and advocacy for the Midwest Region, which includes Minnesota.

The chamber's announcement notes that the new president worked closely with Olson, the "friend, colleague and mentor," Loon told us, who led the organization for more than two decades. Olson died at age 57 after an 18-month battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"David created a highly respected and collaborative organization," Loon's statement said. "He and his team offered solid advice and solutions on state issues of consequence to Minnesota businesses. They established productive relationships with our state's policy-makers, local chambers and trade associations, and I plan to build on that legacy."

Loon, who lives in Eden Prairie, also has managed seven regional U.S. Chamber offices that provide political and grassroots outreach across the nation. His spouse is Minnesota Rep. Jenifer Loon, a visible Republican leader and chair of the education finance committee.

As the organization makes an important transition, Minnesota owes its thanks to Bill Blazar, who has served for the last year as the chamber's interim president. Blazar, who did not apply to serve as president, will guide Loon through the transition, the organization says, while returning to his previous role as senior vice president of public affairs and business development.

Blazar is a keen observer who travels the state, bringing back an "on-the-ground" perspective and insights that make clear the challenges and priorities of the organization's 2,300 member companies.

We recognize Blazar for his deep knowledge and insightful leadership, and welcome Loon to a critical leadership post. Business in Minnesota needs his strong voice.

The Free Press of Mankato, June 29

You're not alone on the road

As soon as the Minnesota Department of Public Safety put out the information, it was outdated. Another motorcycle fatality occurred as safety officials were distributing data about the uptick of fatalities.

As of June 19, the department reported that 25 riders had died on Minnesota roads so far in 2015. That's 56 percent more than this time last year when 16 motorcycle fatalities occurred. As soon as the data came out, there was another fatality, and at least one more after that.

Motorcycle crash statistics, of course, are going to climb in the spring, summer and fall when there are more riders out and about. The same can be said for bicycle fatalities, such as the one in Mankato last week (as well as another struck bicyclist who suffered an injury).

The more rural the area, the higher the chances of serious crashes when it comes to motorcycles. Seventeen of the 25 fatal cycle crashes happened in rural areas. Rider error is often a contributing factor the department said, citing that 11 of the fatalities involved cyclists negotiating curves.

Although motorcycle incidents often involve cyclists striking deer, which are so abundant in the state, motorists also hit cyclists more than they should. A second vehicle failing to yield was cited in three of the fatal crashes in 2015.

The chance of motorists hitting motorcycles and bicyclists climbs as the number of distracted drivers increases. Is returning a text or phone call worth a life? One driver with firsthand experience says no. A South Dakota motorist was calling his bank when he struck and killed a mom pulling a bike trailer near Luverne in southwestern Minnesota last year. He spoke out at a news conference in June: "Now, every time I see somebody on their phone, it makes me sick. It makes me think, I hope you don't do what I did."

He has to live with his poor decision. But other motorists can take notice and learn from his tragic mistake.

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