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   WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S Solicitor General Donald Verrilli says employer challenges to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act will likely be decided in the Supreme Court term that begins next month.

   Dozens of employers have said that providing contraceptive coverage would violate their religious beliefs.

   In a panel discussion Thursday, Verrilli predicted that the case could hinge on the justices' interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He said the federal law declares that "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest, and the burden imposed is the least restrictive means of achieving that interest."

   Verilli says at issue is whether corporations have religious rights, whether the burden on them is substantial, whether government has a compelling interest in making contraceptives available, and whether the mandate is the least restrictive means of doing so.

   Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings, with some blocking enforcement of the mandate until the issues are decided.

Published in National News

   A St. Louis judge will be honored by the U.S. Supreme Court for his work in juvenile justice.  Judge Jimmie Edwards will be the 2013 recipient of the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence.  Chief Justice John Roberts will present the award in Washington on November 21st.  

   Judge Edward has been the driving force behind the Innovative Concept Academy.  The five year old school is credited with turning troubled youths into academic successes and productive members of the community.  

   Edwards has been on the St. Louis Circuit Court bench since 1992, serving as Chief Juvenile Court Judge for five years. 

 
Published in Local News

The Supreme Court invalidated parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, but the Archdiocese of St. Louis is standing firm on its opposition of gay marriage.

The Archdiocese says in a statement that "marriage predates both the U.S. government and Western civilization". The statement also states the ruling does not change the Archdiocese "responsiblity to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman".

Wednesday's ruling allows same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

The full statement from the Archdiocese is below:

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and to dismiss the California Proposition 8 appeal does not change the reality of marriage, nor does it change the Archdiocese of St. Louis's responsibility to defend marriage as being between one man and one woman. It is important to note that marriage predates both the U.S. government and Western civilization.

 

 From a Catholic perspective, it is not enough to offer the Church’s position on same-sex union without also saying how it fits into a broader understanding of the sacrament of marriage, human sexuality, and the Gospel of Life as taught by Blessed John Paul II. The vocation to serve God and society through married life is a sacred union in which man and woman become one flesh. The Catholic Church does not condemn individuals for having same-sex attraction. She teaches that all people are called to responsibility regarding sexuality. The sexual union of a man and woman, when not obstructed by contraceptives, is the kind that is open to life even if new life is not the result.

 

 We understand that married persons imitate the way Christ offers His body completely and permanently to the Church so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. This truth is written into our bodies as well as on the pages of the Old and New Testaments. While the law can allow other things to be called marriage, it cannot make them into the kind of union that is marriage. 

 

Published in Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is asking the U.S. Supreme Court for more time to decide whether to appeal a lower court's order saying citizens should be allowed to publicly carry concealed guns.

Madigan already got one extension - until June 24 - to challenge the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said a ban on concealed firearms is unconstitutional. Now she wants until July 24.

The request was filed late Friday, but The Associated Press obtained a copy Monday before it was posted electronically.

The appellate court ordered the ban be lifted by July 9. Lawmakers complied by sending Gov. Pat Quinn a plan on permitting concealed carry.

A spokeswoman says one reason Madigan's seeking another delay is because of uncertainty over Quinn's plans for the measure.

 

Published in Local News

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court has ruled that police must usually try to obtain a search warrant from a judge before ordering blood tests for drunken-driving suspects.

The justices on Wednesday sided with a Missouri man who was subjected to a blood test without a warrant and found to have nearly twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said for the court that the natural dissipation of alcohol in the blood is generally not sufficient reason to jettison the requirement that police get a judge's approval before drawing a blood sample.

Missouri and the Obama administration were asking the court to endorse a blanket rule that would have allowed the tests without a warrant.

Published in Local News

By DAVID CRARY

NEW YORK (AP) - However the Supreme Court rules on same-sex marriage, the issue seems certain to divide Americans and the states for years to come.

     After considering two cases involving gay couples' rights this week, the justices left open multiple options for rulings expected in June. But they signaled there was no prospect of imposing a 50-state solution at this stage.

     With nine states allowing same-sex marriages and other states banning them, that means a longer spell with a patchwork marriage-rights map - and no early end to bruising battles in the courts, legislatures and at the ballot box.

     Opponents of same-sex marriage seem resigned to a divided nation where the debate will continue to splinter families, communities, churches.

     Supporters of same-sex marriage believe a nationwide victory is inevitable, though perhaps not imminent.

 
Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court is raising the prospect that it will find a way out of the case over California's ban on same-sex marriage without issuing a substantial ruling on whether gays have a right to marry.

Several justices, including some liberals who seem open to gay marriage, raised doubts Tuesday that the case is properly before them. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the potentially decisive vote on a closely divided court, suggested that the court could dismiss the case with no ruling at all.
Published in National News
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Big change is coming to the lives of the lesbian couple at the center of the fight for same-sex marriage in California no matter how the Supreme Court decides their case.

After 13 years of raising four boys together, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier are about to be empty nesters. Their youngest two children will graduate from high school in June and head off to college.

Perry and Stier might also get married, if the high court case goes their way.

They recently talked to The Associated Press about their Supreme Court case. On Tuesday, they plan to be in the courtroom when their lawyer tries to persuade the justices to strike down California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages and to declare that gay couples can marry nationwide.
Published in National News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has rescheduled oral arguments in a case stemming from a state law that allows students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts.

The case was scheduled to be heard Wednesday. But the court agreed to move it to March 5 because of this week's snowstorm.

The school transfer case was filed by families who were paying to send their children to public schools in suburban Clayton when St. Louis lost accreditation in 2007. They argued St. Louis should pick up the tab.

But the St. Louis district is no longer subject to the law after regaining provisional accreditation last year. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has argued that the change in St. Louis' accreditation status makes the case largely moot.
Published in Local News
WASHINGTON, DC (ABC) - The issue of same sex marriage is dividing the Republican Party as a group of more than 80 prominent members of the GOP ranging from Dick Cheney's daughter to four former governors have signed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court advocating for the legalization of gay marriage.

One of the signers confirmed for ABC News the existence of the brief signed by the Republicans and said it would be submitted to the United States Supreme Court this week. The deadline to submit briefs is Thursday.

The document, known as an amicus or "friend of the court" brief, is being submitted in support of a lawsuit aiming to strike down Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that passed in 2008 banning same sex marriage. The existence of the brief was first reported by the New York Times.

Republican elected leadership, like House Speaker John Boehner, as well as the platform, are staunchly against same sex marriage.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), the group who brought the California lawsuit challenging Prop 8, released a list of the signers today including Cheney's daughter Mary Cheney.

Signers included former congresswoman Mary Bono Mack of California, former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and Meg Whitman, who supported Prop 8 when she ran for governor of California in 2010. Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Richard Hanna of New York and former GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman also signed. In addition, three former Massachusetts governors -- William Weld, Jane Swift, and Paul Cellucci -- along with former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman are signers. The list also includes Republican attorney and Romney senior adviser Ben Ginsberg and other high profile GOP leaders, strategists, consultants, and staffers.

Some big name supporters of same sex marriage who have not signed the brief include former vice president Dick Cheney, former first lady Laura Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The fight against Prop 8 already had a big name conservative supporter in Theodore Olson, former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, who is one of the suit's two lead attorneys along with David Boies.

The court will hear arguments next month in the case and another important gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

One of the signers is Nicolle Wallace, Republican strategist and former George W. Bush aide and John McCain campaign adviser. Wallace said the beginning of the group took place in 2010 when Republicans supportive of same sex marriage came together to fundraise for the legal effort. But even in 2004 during Bush's re-election campaign working alongside Mary Cheney everyone on the campaign was aware there were disagreeing opinions on the ticket.

"For a long time those of us who sort of have always been on the pro-gay marriage side were quietly aware of others who had this view, but what's tremendous now is I can't think of any issue that has moved with greater speed than this one," said Wallace, who is an ABC News contributor.

She said the "power of the legal argument had a lot more to do with persuading the majority of Republicans on the brief than any political pressure."

Wallace stressed that she believes this issue, unlike others, will not "ignite a civil war in the party" because so many people have gay friends, co-workers, and family members even those who don't agree with their stance have a lot of "respect" for the disagreement.

In the latest ABC News-Washington Post polll on the topic from November a slim majority of Americans support gay marriage 51-47 percent, but amongst Republicans it is only 31-67 percent.

One of the signers, former Utah governor and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr. voiced his support of same sex marriage last week, after opposing it during his presidential bid, in an article in the American Conservative titled "Marriage Equality Is a Conservative Cause."

"Conservatives should start to lead again and push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry," Huntsman writes. "I've been married for 29 years. My marriage has been the greatest joy of my life. There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love. All Americans should be treated equally by the law, whether they marry in a church, another religious institution, or a town hall...Civil equality is compatible with, and indeed promotes, freedom of conscience."

Brian Donahue, a Republican strategist who did not sign the brief, believes that because the list includes so many prominent Republicans it represents a "significant step" for the party.

"It's a sign that there is a growing interest in the party to take steps to broaden its reach in defining what's acceptable to be part of this party," Donahue said. "It's healthy for members of the party to express their beliefs and opinions even when they may not be favorable by party leadership. It's healthy for the party to examine how it affects the lives of all Americans and it's a healthy discussion that's taking place within the party to say, 'What do we stand for?'"

Some Republicans fear the amicus brief could badly split the Republican Party. Hogan Gidley, a GOP strategist who has worked on the presidential campaigns of both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, says the Republican tent should be "very broad," but this move by the group of Republicans will widen the schism in the party.

"I don't want Republicans to be lazy and say, well Latinos are flocking to Democrats in droves so we should do amnesty,'" Gidley said. "The homosexual community is flocking to Democrats in droves so we should legalize gay marriage. The marijuana advocates are flocking to Democrats in droves, we should legalize drugs. To me that is a little bit reactionary, but also a little bit lazy."

Gidley said that he would "hate for anybody to sell their convictions in the hopes they get more votes."

Constitutional law experts say that while amicus briefs do not traditionally decide cases, they can be very influential.

Stanford constitutional law professor Jane Schacter says in this case she believes it could be an "influential brief" because it "telegraphs to the court that there is an increasing number of people who support same sex marriage and that it is no longer a partisan issue to the extent that it was."

"When this number of Republicans are saying it's an issue where there should be equality it changes the way it looks to the justices," Schacter said.

Yale constitutional law professor William Eskridge agreed, but said he believes the brief will not affect "the final vote, the likely affect is the way the opinion looks. Not just the majority opinion, but the dissenting opinion as well."

"It discourages a barnburning hysterical dissent," Eskridge said, noting Chief Justice John Roberts is less likely to sign on to a "barnburning" dissent after this brief.
Published in National News
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