Saturday, June 03, 2006

Two new Spottys awarded

There are two new Spotty awardees today, both from the op-ed pages of the Star Tribune on Saturday. A Spotty is awarded to the writer of an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, a blog post or a comment on a blog that Spot wishes he had written. Cash value 1/20th of a cent.

Glen Howatt, a Strib staffer, wins a Spotty for this counterpoint:
Katherine Kersten proclaims (May 21) that "Mocking and maligning the Catholic Church is the last safe harbor of bigots in this multicultural world." I disagree.

Catholics (at least the heterosexual ones) are not threatened with the sanctioned discrimination of a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent them from marrying or forming civil unions. Catholics are not being forced to defend their worth at the ballot box. They are not so detested that a fringe group finds it necessary to picket the funerals of dead soldiers to spread a message of hate. And I'm not aware that schoolyard taunts now include things like "Pope lover" along with "fag" and "homo."

It's not surprising that those who oppose the right of two men or two women to form legal relationships bristle when they are called bigots by those whose rights they would take away. Apparently, only other people are bigots.

The state constitutions that prohibited interracial marriage were based on prejudice and discrimination, most people would agree today. But somehow this new version of constitutional discrimination is different. It is spoken loudly from a safe harbor where lesbians and gay men are maligned through the use of arguments that are grounded not on facts but on fear.

Look no further than Canada, we are told, where an Iron Curtain has descended on free speech and thought since the legalization of gay marriage. But Canada has a constitution that is very different from ours, and its various human rights battles, no matter what you think of them, began decades before any Canadian court declared gay marriage to be a guaranteed right of its citizens.

We are told that research shows that children are best raised by one man and one woman. While that has truth, the anti-gay forces fail to mention that the research primarily compares two-parent heterosexual households to one-parent heterosexual households.

Are Catholics discriminated against? Probably. Does "The DaVinci Code" contribute to disrimination against Catholics? I have to take Kersten's word for it, since I have no interest in reading the book or watching the movie.

But pop culture is one thing. Constitutional law is another.

And former Governor Arne Carlson wins a Spotty with an oak leaf collar for this insightful letter to the editor:
The recent series of attacks on Minnesota's judiciary should give us pause. While seeking to impugn the integrity of the state's highly respected bench, certain partisan critics have shown us precisely the kind of court system they seek to create -- one marked by shrill political assaults and fevered campaign rhetoric.

Before we allow Minnesota's judicial system to become totally enmeshed in politics, we should ponder the ramifications. We need only glance around the country to see Minnesota's future.

In 2004, one Supreme Court race in Illinois drew a record $9.3 million in contributions from political parties and special interests. Nationwide, spending on TV ads for judicial candidates in 2004 was four times the amount spent in 2000. In these ads, candidates vowed to tackle tort reform from the bench, crack down on certain types of crime and uphold a particular set of values.

The reality is that judicial candidates are being marketed in the same manner as those running for highly partisan offices.

None of us wants to have our case tried in a courtroom where justice is meted out based on campaign promises or contributions.

Imagine that your personal injury case is before a judge who received hundreds of thousands of dollars from insurance companies. Imagine a father embroiled in a child support dispute in the courtroom of a judge who campaigned on a platform of attacking "deadbeat dads." Or a mother seeking custody of a child in the courtroom of a judge who sought office based on a platform of supporting fathers' rights. Imagine having to hire an attorney aligned with the political background of a particular judge or one who has contributed to a campaign.

This is the direction Minnesota is headed unless we take action now.

A commission led by former Gov. Al Quie is studying a variety of solutions that will help minimize political interference with the third branch of government. The Quie Commission is expected to present recommendations to the Legislature in time for the next session.

In the meantime, judges facing election this fall would be well advised to forgo the new freedoms made possible by the recent federal court decisions. Instead of announcing their views and seeking partisan endorsement, they should pledge to uphold their oath of office by basing decisions only upon the law and the facts of each case.

Voters should likewise support only the candidates who vow to set aside their personal views in the interest of fair and impartial justice.

Special interests and political parties that are poised to make their mark on the new judicial landscape should refrain. Once one entity jumps into the judicial election fray, the opposing side will be forced to respond and an endless "arms race" of fundraising, attack ads and character assassinations will ensue.

If these groups can hold their fire while reforms are considered, Minnesota will continue to be spared the costly and ugly judicial campaigns that have plagued other states.

Our judicial system in Minnesota has long been regarded as a national model, and prudence on our part can allow that excellence to continue. It is imperative that the best in our system be preserved.



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