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  Spitzer Introduces Gay Marriage Bill in NYApril 27, 2007 22:54 Governor Eliot Spitzer introduced a bill to legalize gay marriage Friday, making him the first governor in the country to propose equal marriage rights for gay partners.

The bill would establish equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for same-sex couples.

The bill also says that churches can be compelled to perform same-sex marriages.

"This is a historic day for gay and lesbian couples all throughout New York and with introducing this legislation Eliot Spitzer has cemented his position in the LGBT civil rights movement,” said Alan Van Capalle of Empire State Pride Agenda.

But the governor made the announcement on a Friday via press release and he barely mentioned it at an event upstate.

"I think, in fact, that may have been sent up today,” was all said when asked about it.

And while Spitzer is fulfilling a campaign promise by submitting the legislation, the topic didn't make it into his State of the State speech or on his list of legislative priorities for the rest of the session.
  Rice Deputy Quits After Query Over Escort ServiceApril 27, 2007 22:47 Randall L. Tobias, the deputy secretary of state responsible for U.S. foreign aid, abruptly resigned yesterday after he was asked about an upscale escort service allegedly involved in prostitution, U.S. government sources said.

Tobias resigned after ABC News contacted him with questions about the escort service, the sources said. ABC News released a statement last night saying Tobias acknowledged Thursday that he had used the service to provide massages, not sex.

Tobias has been Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's point man in an ambitious effort to overhaul how the U.S. government manages foreign aid, a key part of her "transformational diplomacy" agenda. Just two days ago, President Bush lauded Tobias for his work in the administration leading "America's monumental effort to confront and deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the continent of Africa."

In an unusual statement issued at 5 p.m., State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tobias informed Rice "today that he must step down as Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator effective immediately. He is returning to private life for personal reasons."

Contacted last night at his home in the District, Tobias, a former chief executive of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., declined to discuss the circumstances of his resignation, saying he would "stick with the statement the State Department released today."
  Conn. Judge: Post Offices Can't Promote ReligionApril 25, 2007 09:31 A federal judge has ruled that religion has no place in post offices across the country that are run by churches and other private contractors, citing the separation of church and state in the Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Dominic J. Squatrito, in a case involving a church-run post office in Manchester, ordered the U.S. Postal Service to notify the nearly 5,200 facilities run by contractors that they cannot promote religion through pamphlets, displays or any other materials.

He also told the agency to monitor those offices, which are distinguishable from government-run facilities and employ workers who are not Postal Service employees, to make sure they comply with his ruling.

Postal officials said they could not immediately comment on the ruling, which is dated April 18.

"We're carefully reviewing the decision and considering our options, including an appeal,'' said Gerry McKiernan, a Postal Service spokesman at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Squatrito sided with Jewish veteran Bertram Cooper, who in 2003 sued the Postal Service and the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, which operates the Sincerely Yours Inc. post office on Main Street in downtown Manchester.
  U.S. To Allow Wiccan Symbols On Military GravesApril 24, 2007 17:55 The Bush administration has agreed to allow Wiccan pentacles in military cemeteries in a court settlement announced yesterday by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The settlement was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin to settle a suit filed in November against the Department of Veterans Affairs on behalf of several families of Wiccan soldiers and Circle Sanctuary, a 200-acre Wiccan nature center 30 miles west of Madison, Wis. The sanctuary holds the remains of two soldiers, one who fought in Vietnam and the other in Korea.
Until now, the U.S. government had refused to issue grave markers, headstones or memorial plaques with the Wiccan symbol to join those of 38 other religions -- or those with none. In addition to the Christian cross, the Jewish six-pointed star and the Islamic crescent, atheists, Hindus, humanists, Sikhs and members of the Eckankar, Serbian Orthodox and United Moravian faiths also have symbols.
The star in Wicca, a nature-based religion, symbolizes earth, wind, fire, spirit and water. Although its followers say it is not related to the occult, they meet in small groups called "covens" that are usually headed a woman called a "high priestess."
  Supreme Court Upholds Late-Term Abortion BanApril 18, 2007 09:50 The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a law that banned a type of late-term abortion, a ruling that could portend enormous social, legal and political implications for the divisive issue.

The sharply divided 5-4 ruling could prove historic. It sends a possible signal of the court's willingness, under Chief Justice John Roberts, to someday revisit the basic right to abortion guaranteed in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

At issue is the constitutionality of a federal law banning a rarely performed type of abortion carried out in the middle-to-late second trimester.

The legal sticking point was that the law lacked a "health exception" for a woman who might suffer serious medical complications, something the justices have said in the past is necessary when considering abortion restrictions.

In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the key swing vote in these divided appeals, said the federal law "does not have the effect of imposing an unconstitutional burden on the abortion right." He was joined by his fellow conservatives, Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Roberts.

  Stem-Cell Debate Returning To Center StageApril 11, 2007 21:48 The Democratic-led Senate on Tuesday took up legislation that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, defying a White House veto threat.

Last year, that hot-button issue prompted President Bush to exercise his veto power for the first and only time in his administration. Congressional Democrats are hoping that this year, their expanded numbers and public pressure will give them a better shot at overriding a presidential veto.

The bipartisan bill would expand the number of embryonic stem-cell lines eligible for federal research funding, lifting restrictions that President Bush put in place in 2001. The bill is very much like one passed by the House in January, and nearly identical to the one which the president vetoed last year.

  Bilingual Education = "Ghetto Talk," Newt GingrichApril 01, 2007 09:12 Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich equated bilingual education Saturday with "the language of living in a ghetto" and mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.

"The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote, said Gingrich, who is considering seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. He made the comments in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women.

"The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. ... We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said to cheers from the crowd of more than 100.

"Citizenship requires passing a test on American history in English. If that's true, then we do not have to create ballots in any language except English," he said.

Peter Zamora, co-chair of the Washington-based Hispanic Education Coalition, which supports bilingual education, said, "The tone of his comments were very hateful. Spanish is spoken by many individuals who do not live in the ghetto."