Editorial Roundup

BISMARCK, N.D., The Daily News, Wahpeton, June 29, 2015

Remember our forefathers who called for change

This week, Americans will raise their eyes to the sky as colorful flashes of color light up the night. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, it is important to remember why this is a holiday in the first place.

A brief history of the first stirrings for change began when our forefathers took up the battle cry among America’s 13 colonies, “Taxation without representation!” Colonists were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III without having representation on the British Parliament. The young country was filled with people who were becoming more and more dissatisfied with Great Britain and repeated attempts to resolve the crisis without military conflict didn’t work.

On June 11, 1775 the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee that would formally sever ties with Great Britain. Some famous and patriotic names were on this committee: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson drafted the original draft document that was officially adopted July 4, 1776.

The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed, a document that continues to serve as America’s symbol of liberty.

From the War of 1812 cherished stories continue to be told in our present time, from the midnight ride of Paul Revere to America’s final fight over British troops. Our history is as relevant as our future and something to remember as another symbol of the United States flashes through the night. Like the bombs bursting in air from our past, fireworks have become an acceptable representation of our independence.

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Star Tribune (Minn.), 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.