Created: 01/24/2013 4:57 PM KSTP.com By: Leslie Dyste
Democratic lawmakers on Thursday proposed commissioning a bust of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun for display in the state Capitol, reviving a previously unsuccessful effort to honor the Minnesota native who played a prominent role in the Roe v. Wade decision.
Blackmun wrote the majority opinion in the 1973 landmark decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion. An anti-abortion group was successful in 2000 in convincing like-minded lawmakers to block the honor to Blackmun.
The new push comes in the 40th anniversary week of the landmark decision, although Sen. Scott Dibble, of Minneapolis, said the timing of the bill is coincidental. Dibble said he hopes the legislation can steer clear of an abortion dispute.
"That is not the totality of Harry Blackman and the contribution he has made," Dibble said, adding, "It's a glaring gap that we have a first son of Minnesota who is not honored and recognized at the Capitol the way others are."
A leader of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, which was active in the last Blackmun debate, said the group hopes the bill is rejected.
"The newly elected leadership in the Legislature has stated they want to focus on jobs and education for the people of our state - not placing statues of extremists that divide Minnesotans in the Capitol alcoves," said executive director Scott Fischbach.
The bill would place the bust outside the old state Supreme Court chambers on the Capitol's second floor. It would be opposite one recognizing former Justice Warren Burger, the other half of the high court's famed "Minnesota twins."
Blackmun and Burger were childhood friends in St. Paul. Blackmun also served as an in-house attorney for Rochester's Mayo Clinic before his ascension on the federal bench. He served on the Supreme Court from 1970 to 1994.
Dibble said he didn't know the cost of the proposed bust, but the bill would authorize public money for it.
Unlike the last time the bust issue was before lawmakers, Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is an abortion rights supporter.
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