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Feb. 28, 2013 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

U.S. to court: Prop 8 unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The Obama administration Thursday told the U.S. Supreme Court California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

The administration said the ban in California's Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

The government's brief said private individuals, "committed gay and lesbian couples, seek the full benefits, obligations, and social recognition conferred by the institution of marriage. California law provides to same-sex couples registered as domestic partners all the legal incidents of marriage, but it nonetheless denies them the designation of marriage allowed to their opposite-sex counterparts.

"Particularly in those circumstances, the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage does not substantially further any important governmental interest," the brief said. "Proposition 8 thus violates equal protection."

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said: "In our filing today in Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law. Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination. The issues before the Supreme Court in this case and the [separate] Defense of Marriage Act case are not just important to the tens of thousands Americans who are being denied equal benefits and rights under our laws, but to our Nation as a whole."

California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in 2008 with slightly more than 52 percent for, nearly 48 percent against. Prop 8 says in part, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

A federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed 2-1.

Argument in the U.S. Supreme Court in Hollingsworth vs. Perry is scheduled for March 26. The DOMA challenge is scheduled to be heard the next day.


Report: Vegas Strip shooting suspect found

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The suspect in a shooting that claimed three lives on the Las Vegas Strip last week was in custody in Los Angeles Thursday, sources told KLAS-TV, Las Vegas.

Ammar Harris was picked up Thursday without incident and jailed, Las Vegas police sources told KLAS.

Harris is believed to be the gunman who opened fire on a Maserati driven by Kenneth Cherry, 27, of Oakland, Calif., following a disturbance at a nearby nightclub. Cherry's car struck a taxi, causing both vehicles to catch fire.

Cherry was dead at the scene along with cab driver Michael Boldon and taxi passenger Sandra Sutton-Wasmund of Washington state.

Metro announced a news conference later Thursday to discuss the details of Harris' arrest. It was not immediately revealed where in the Los Angeles area he was captured or what led police to his location.


Show dog's death leaves handler unsettled

NEW YORK, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- The death of a prize winning show dog after a competition in New York has left its handler suspicious of foul play.

Cruz, a Samoyed, died on Feb. 16 in Colorado, days after the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Although a necropsy was not performed, Molly Comiskey, the Colorado veterinarian who treated Cruz, said the dog showed symptoms that strongly resembled those of dogs that had ingested rodent poison, adding that she felt it was unlikely that Cruz had been deliberately poisoned.

"Dogs are dogs. It's not anyone's fault. They eat stuff; they get into things; they make bad decisions," Comiskey said.

Robert Chaffin, Cruz's handler, said he believed that extreme animal rights activists, might have been responsible. Animal rights activists have called dog shows and purebred competitions inhumane

"Unfortunately, dog shows have been plagued by some of these people for years," Chaffin said. "I've heard horror stories about other people's dogs having their setups tampered with, being poisoned, but I never thought it would come to me."

"It would have been easy for someone to throw something in [Cruz's] cage," Chaffin said.

However, Chaffin added that he had uncovered no evidence that Cruz had been deliberately poisoned, and he acknowledged that it was possible that the dog had accidentally swallowed poison.

The founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newkirk, said that her organization has sent members to the Westminster dog show in protest and to distribute leaflets near the venue. She also said that her organization had nothing to do with Cruz's death.

"PETA does not sanction that," she said. "It's so scurrilous; it's so low to even suggest it."


Report: C. Kennedy top pick for Japan post

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, is being considered by President Obama for U.S. ambassador to Japan, Bloomberg reported.

Sources familiar with the situation said Obama signed off on Kennedy's nomination but her vetting has yet to be completed, Bloomberg first reported Wednesday.

Kennedy, 55, would replace Ambassador John Roos.

Kennedy is one of several Obama political supporters and donors being reviewed for ambassadorships to top U.S. allies, Bloomberg said.

Obama also is considering John Emerson, president of Capital Guardian Trust Co., as U.S. ambassador to Germany, and Marc Lasry, chief executive officer for Avenue Capital Group LLC, as the U.S. envoy to France, the sources said. Obama also reportedly was favoring Matthew Barzun, finance chairman of Obama's presidential campaign, for the ambassadorship to Britain.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment, as did Lasry. Bloomberg said Kennedy and Emerson did not respond to a request for comment.


Duke, lacrosse players settle out of court

DURHAM, N.C., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Duke University and 38 former members of its lacrosse team notified a federal judge they settled a players' lawsuit out of court, both sides announced.

The settlement Wednesday, confirmed by players' attorney Bill Thomas and Duke chief spokesman Michael Schoenfeld, leaves only one case against the school outstanding from the aftermath of a controversy after a stripper, Crystal Mangum, falsely claimed to have been raped at a team party in 2006.

The settlement ended all claims of the 38 players against the school and its police and health systems, the (Durham, N.C.) Herald Sun reported.

In 2007 Duke settled a case out of court brought by three players, David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, who were indicted and then exonerated of charges of raping Mangum, but the court allowed the three to continue a malicious prosecution charge against two detectives who investigated the case, the newspaper said.


Kids of same-sex parents fare as well

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Sociological Association said children fare as well with same-sex parents as traditional parents.

Cecilia Ridgeway, president of the American Sociological Association, said the friend-of-the-court brief outlined social science research that showed children fare just as well when raised by same-sex or heterosexual parents.

"The results of our review are clear," Ridgeway said in a statement. "There is no evidence children with parents in stable same-sex or opposite-sex relationships differ in terms of well-being. Indeed, the greater stability offered by marriage for same-sex as well as opposite-sex parents may be an asset for child well-being."

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages already legalized under the law of several states, and Proposition 8, which revoked the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.

"An issue at the heart of these cases is whether family composition, per se, affects the well-being of children and thus, provides a justification for limiting the right to marry," said Ridgeway, a professor of social sciences in the Sociology Department at Stanford University, said in a statement.

"This core question is an empirical one and is the subject of a broad range of social science research. As a scientific body, ASA has a duty to provide the court with a systematic and balanced review of the evidence to assess what the consensus of scholarly research has shown."

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