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Appeals court halts gay marriages in Michigan
Legal World News | 2014/03/24 22:34
Same-sex couples rushed to Michigan county clerk's offices Saturday to get hitched a day after a judge overturned the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage, and several hundred managed to do so before an appeals court reinstituted the ban, at least temporarily.

The order by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati came after Glenna DeJong, 53, and Marsha Caspar, 51, of Lansing, were the first to arrive at the Ingham County Courthouse in the central Michigan city of Mason. DeJong and Caspar, who have been together for 27 years, received their license and were married by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.

"I figured in my lifetime it would happen," Caspar said. "But now, when it happens now, it's just overwhelming. I still can't believe it. I don't think it's hit me yet."

Similar nuptials followed one after another, at times en masse, in at least four of Michigan's 83 counties. Those four - Oakland, Muskegon, Ingham and Washtenaw counties - issued more than 300 marriage licenses to same-sex couples Saturday.

DeJong said the threat of a stay was all the encouragement they needed.

"Come Monday, we might not be able to do it, so we knew we had a short window of time," she said.

She was right. Later Saturday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals froze until at least Wednesday a decision by a lower court judge to overturn Michigan's ban. The appeals court said the time-out will "allow a more reasoned consideration" of the state's request to stop same-sex marriages.

The court's order was posted just a few hours after it told the winning side to respond to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's request for a stay by noon Tuesday.

In his appeal, Schuette noted the U.S. Supreme Court in January suspended a similar decision that struck down Utah's gay-marriage ban.


Ky. high court to hear death penalty appeal
Legal World News | 2014/02/14 00:12
The Kentucky Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case of a death row inmate who has twice won a new trial.

The justices on Thursday will take up the case of 57-year-old Michael Dale St. Clair, who was convicted in the 1991 slaying of distillery worker Frank Brady in Bullitt County.

St. Clair has won three trials in the case, which has lingered for years in appeals.

St. Clair and another inmate escaped from an Oklahoma prison before going on a multistate spree that ended in Kentucky with Brady's death. St. Clair also faces a murder charge in New Mexico for the 1991 kidnapping and slaying of paramedic Timothy Keeling.

St. Clair also received a second death sentence for capital kidnapping from the Hardin County Circuit Court.


Chile's top court rules against coal-fired complex
Legal World News | 2014/01/13 23:17
Chile's Supreme Court sided with local fishermen who contend a coal-fired power complex harms ocean life and pollutes their community, but the judges stopped short of ordering a suspension and left it to environmental authorities to decide if operations can continue.

The ruling on the Bocamina complex released Friday was another in a series of blows to big power projects in energy-strapped Chile, where concerns over environmental issues have been rising.

In December, an appeals court halted the 350-megawatt Bocamina II part of the complex owned by Endesa Chile in the southern Bio Bio region, citing harm to fishermen's livelihood.

The 128-megawatt Bocamina I plant was allowed to keep running. But the Supreme Court said the whole complex should shut down unless officials determine the water-cooling system doesn't threaten or hurt marine life.

The company can only operate the Bocamina I and II thermoelectric plants if they don't put harm marine life or put it at risk, the high court said in a ruling made Thursday.

The court ordered Chile's environmental authorities to take all measures required, including "a halt of operations" if needed, until the problem is fixed.

Environmental groups and fishermen say the complex's use of huge amounts of seawater to cool its equipment damages the area.


California appeals court upholds plastic bag ban
Legal World News | 2014/01/06 19:52
A California appeals court has upheld San Francisco's ban on single-use plastic bags that can serve as a precedent for other cases.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the 1st District Court of Appeal issued its ruling last month and published it Friday as precedent binding on lower courts. The ordinance was passed in February 2012 and prohibits plastic bags that can be used only once and requires stores to charge 10 cents for recyclable plastic or paper bags.

A lawsuit by Save the Plastic Bag Coalition said plastic bags took more energy to produce than plastic and take up more space in landfills.

Similar measures have been adopted in about 50 cities and counties in California and have survived legal challenges. The state Supreme Court upheld a plastic-bag ban in 2011.


Indian gay activists protest top court's ruling
Legal World News | 2013/12/16 19:24
Hundreds of gay rights activists gathered in India's capital and other cities across the country on Sunday to protest a decision by India's top court to uphold a law that criminalizes gay sex.

India's Supreme Court last week reversed a landmark 2009 lower court order that had decriminalized gay sex. The country's gay community is demanding that the government take immediate action to remove the colonial-era law banning same-sex relations.

About 800 protesters in New Delhi, the capital, wore black arm bands Sunday and waved rainbow-colored flags and banners. Some people wore masks and wigs to protect their identity. They said the Supreme Court's ruling had evoked anger and dismay across the country.

The activists said that they were in the process of taking legal steps to undo the court's decision and that Sunday's protest was to make their voices heard.

"It's my fundamental right to decide who I should love," said Rohan Mehta, a New Delhi-based businessman who was among the demonstrators. "I will not let the court deprive me of my rights."

The court ruled Wednesday that only lawmakers could change the law that bans gay sex and makes it punishable by up to a decade in prison.

The ruling dealt a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India's deeply conservative society.


Supreme Court Will Take up New Health Law Dispute
Legal World News | 2013/11/29 18:41
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to referee another dispute over President Barack Obama's health care law, whether businesses can use religious objections to escape a requirement to cover birth control for employees.

The justices said they will take up an issue that has divided the lower courts in the face of roughly 40 lawsuits from for-profit companies asking to be spared from having to cover some or all forms of contraception.

The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company's claims.

The court said the cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June.

The cases center on a provision of the health care law that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide a range of preventive health benefits, including contraception.

In both instances, the Christian families that own the companies say that insuring some forms of contraception violates their religious beliefs.

The key issue is whether profit-making corporations can assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. Nearly four years ago, the justices expanded the concept of corporate "personhood," saying in the Citizens United case that corporations have the right to participate in the political process the same way that individuals do.

"The government has no business forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free," said David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Christian public interest law firm that is representing Conestoga Wood at the Supreme Court.


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