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It’s going to happen: Senate OKs anti-gay marriage vote

MORNING EDITION ALSO: More stadium frenzy over roads and Hennepin County; medical research with a sci-fi twist; redistricting; presidential campaign fundraising; and Saints unveil idol-ized pig mascot.
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MORNING EDITION

Well, the scent of inevitability on the gay-marriage “issue” is pretty thick now that the Senate passed it on an all-but straight-party vote (one DFLer). The AP story says: “Despite the perception of changing opinion, the 31 states that have voted on constitutional gay marriage bans have all passed them. [Openly gay DFL Sen. Scott] Dibble and his allies said they believed Minnesota had the potential to be the first to vote one down. But most said they did not relish what Sen. Linda Higgins predicted would be a ‘long, divisive and bitter debate’ — one likely to attract attention and a steady stream of political spending from national groups on both sides of the issue. The ballot measure has the potential to drive up voter turnout, but that could cut both ways — bringing out both conservatives and liberals with strong feelings on the issue. A single Democrat, Sen. LeRoy Stumpf of Plummer, joined every Senate Republican in supporting the amendment.”

On the Strib’s “Hot Dish Politics” blog, Bob von Sternberg writes: “Dozens of activists on both sides of the debate filled the Senate gallery and opponents of the amendment conceded that they had little hope of preventing its passage. ‘I’m not hopeful at this point,’ said St. Paul resident Paul Fleege, who hung a banner outside the Senate chamber that declared, ‘To Be Lesbian or Gay is a Gift from God.’ ‘After last November, I knew right away it was going to pass.’ ‘Yes, it’s going to pass, but we had to show up and show our opposition,’ said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest advocacy group for gays and lesbians. ‘This isn’t going to help a single family in Minnesota, but will discriminate against a lot of them.’ The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the amendment is needed to prevent ‘a small group of politicians or judges to define marriage’ and cited a recent poll sponsored by the Minnesota Family Council that showed that three fourths of the state’s residents want the opportunity to vote on the issue.”

With the stadium frenzy of the last 48 hours, someone had to go back to Mike Opat, Hennepin County Board chairman, to ask him if he was really, really saying “no.” Kevin Duchschere of the Strib drew that duty: “[Nothing] has caused Opat to think twice about getting Hennepin County back into the fray, he said. Nor has he been badgered to change his mind by other supporters of the Farmers Market site, the downtown Minneapolis location near Target Field preferred by Opat and influential members of the downtown business community. ‘The business folks I talked to, I was clear with them why it wasn’t the time for us and they understood that,’ he said. Opat said that the county also won’t get involved with the Minneapolis proposal. ‘They haven’t asked and I’m not exploring it,’ he said. ‘I wish them well, as I do the folks in Arden Hills, but I’m not a fan of the Metrodome site and I wouldn’t be interested in working on it.’ Opat said he had sought backing for the Farmers Market site from city leaders, but that they had insisted on the less-expensive Dome site. He believes the Farmers Market area offers better transit and entertainment options.”

Tim Nelson, over at MPR, delivers (another) sobering assessment of how far the Ramsey County deal has to go: “[T]alk keeps coming back to roads. ‘You know 694 goes right through the city of Arden Hills,’ noted David Grant, the mayor of Arden Hills. ‘And of course 35W borders us on the west. We also have Highway 96, we have Highway 51, and we have Highway 10. I guess you could say there are a lot of roads that lead to Arden Hills.’ That’s part of the reason the Vikings are looking at the site. But those roads are already clogged. Traffic lines up at Highway 96 and Highway 10 for more a half mile or more in each direction at rush hour. And there’s no ramp from northbound Interstate 35W to County Road H at all. That’s one of the key access points to the proposed stadium site.Critics say accommodating NFL fans would require at least $175 million dollars in upgrades, particularly to the state-funded interstates. Ramsey County and the Vikings basically punted on the issue Tuesday, saying the roads don’t need to be done before the stadium opens. County officials did offer to borrow for the road work, but state officials reacted coolly to the idea.”

It’s too bad author Michael (“Prey”) Crichton isn’t around anymore. He could do something with this story. Says MPR’s Dan Gunderson: “North Dakota State University scientist Kalpana Katti, who studies materials at the molecular level, hopes to solve a significant challenge of bone engineering by creating a three-dimensional mesh for bone cells to be grown on. ‘Your body cannot create new bone,’ said Katti, a distinguished professor of civil engineering. ‘But what if we could teach the body to make a new bone? That’s the holy grail.’ Such research is important, given the more than 750,000 hip and knee replacements every year in the United States. That number is expected to grow with an aging population. Though Katti faces many challenges, her research could lead to significant advancements in such surgery. A key ingredient will be molecular, or nano-sized, clays. A thousand nano-clay particles stacked up would be as thick as a single sheet of paper. “  

Tom Dennis, editorializing for The Grand Forks Herald on the congressional re-districting plan writes, “[T]he GOP had a chance to build bridges by leading a genuine bipartisan effort. A redistricting plan that could have won Democrats’ support as well as the governor’s signature would have been a tremendous accomplishment, marking the first successful legislative redistricting in Minnesota in decades. It would have built good relations between the parties and goodwill among Minnesotans, traits that would have been invaluable going into the budget debate. Alas, it’s not to be, judging by the raw politics on display in the House Republicans’ plan. It’s a missed opportunity by the GOP’s legislative leaders, and a sign that they’re governing in the party’s, not Minnesota’s, best interests.”

Today in Bachmannia: Columbia University professor Lincoln Mitchell posts on The Huffington Post about GOP presidential money-raising problems, including our favorite congresswoman: “The weakness of the Republican fundraising to date also suggests a larger problem, or even crisis, within that party. For two and a half years the right wing has attacked President Obama as a socialist, suggested that he is anti-American, questioned his legal right to be president, doubted his commitment to keeping America safe from terrorism and otherwise portrayed his as weak, dangerous and wrong-headed. During this time the Republican Party has scored some significant political victories including watering down the health care reform bill, electing a Republican to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts and taking control of the House of Representatives last November. However, the political leaders of the Republican Party have failed to convince the financial, and to a large extent real, leaders of the Party that they are capable of either defeating Obama or serving as president. These political leaders from Michele Bachmann to Mike Huckabee have had two years to sell themselves and their viability to Republican moneyed interests and have mostly failed. This lack of confidence on the part of the Republican Party’s contributors demonstrates that the Republicans are weaker than they seem. Conservative donors have contributed to numerous right wing causes and congressional campaigns during the past two and a half years, but have been hesitant to make commitments of a similar kind to any of the Republicans seeking the presidency.” May I suggest they re-commit themselves to banning gay marriage. The big-money guys are always interested in that stuff. Not.

Congratulations, Mary Bock. You named the St. Paul Saints pig mascot of the year. The PiPress says: “The St. Paul Saints have revealed their pig mascot for the 2011 season: Justin Bieboar. The name was chosen from 600 entries in the Name the Pig contest. It was submitted by Mary Bock of Minneapolis, the first of two to suggest the name. It was revealed at the World’s Largest Game of Catch on Wednesday in downtown St. Paul. The Saints say while the pig shares idol status with teen pop singer Justin Bieber, the two will not share the same hairstyle. Other noteworthy entries included Oprah Pigfrey, Conan O’Briham, Shaquille O’Squeal and Piggyleaks.”

Finally, back to the Senate’s gay marriage vote. Zack Stephenson, blogging at MnPublius, recounts his attempt to register his displeasure with his elected representative: “I called my State Senator, Benjamin Kruse, to let him know that I disagreed with his vote. Now friends, I’ve been on the other side of this call. I’ve worked at the legislature and on a few campaigns, and I know what it’s like to get a call from an angry constituent. With that in mind, I tried my best to be civil while speaking to Sen. Kruse’s assistant. I calmly told her (at least I think I was calm) that I thought the Senator’s vote was disgusting and hateful, and that I would actively work for his opponent in 2012 as a consequence. She seemed a little startled. I asked to be put into his voicemail, so I could leave the same message for him to hear. She said she’d put me through, but then she disconnected me. I called right back.  The phone rang twice and then a generic voicemail message came on asking me to enter the extension I wanted or stay on the line for the operator. Not knowing Sen. Kruse’s extension, I stayed on the line. Then the message told me an operator was unavailable and the call was terminated. I called back a third time. I told the assistant that I had asked to be put into Sen. Kruse’s voicemail and that she had disconnected me. She said she would try again, but also interjected that she thought I had been ‘rude’ to call the amendment hateful. Funny, I think it’s rude to enshrine bigotry in the constitution, but maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree. She then promptly disconnected me for the second time.