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March 26, 2013 at 5:08 PM   |   Comments

Supreme Court hears Prop 8 case

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) -- Supporters of California's Proposition 8, which limits marriage to a man and a woman, expressed confidence after Tuesday's argument in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many observers reported the justices appeared divided and somewhat skeptical about the law, but ProtectMarriage, which defended the proposition since state officials have elected not to do so, said it is confident "that the nine justices will resist the political pressure."

"There is simply no denying that 41 states define marriage as between a man and woman," Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage, said in a statement after the argument. "There is no denying that every other appellate court to hear arguments such as ours have sided in favor of traditional marriage. And there is no denying that nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court's precedents in this area support the existence of a constitutional right to same-sex 'marriage.'

"We have every confidence that the nine justices will resist the political pressure to prematurely end the national debate about the definition of marriage," he said. "We believe they will respect the freedom of people to affirm the institution of marriage that has stood the test of time in every culture throughout the world."

Any constitutional decision in the case likely would be applied nationwide, but at least one justice on the bench suggested the case should be dismissed.

The Supreme Court is closely divided between four liberals and conservatives, making Justice Anthony Kennedy a key swing vote, though even some conservatives expressed skepticism of Prop 8 from the bench Tuesday.

In the Prop 8 argument, Kennedy expressed sympathy for the children of same-sex couples while questioning attorney Charles Cooper, who represented the private proponents of Prop 8, The Huffington Post reported.

"They want their parents to have full recognition and legal status. The voice of those children is considerable in this case, don't you think?" Kennedy asked.

Theodore Olson, a former Bush administration solicitor general, and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration's top courtroom lawyer, argued on behalf of the challengers.

California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in a 2008 vote with slightly more than 52 percent for and 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.


GOP sens. to filibuster gun control bill

WASHINGTON, March 26 (UPI) -- Three Republican senators threatened to hold up gun control legislation they said infringes on Americans' Second Amendment rights.

Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote a three paragraph letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed saying they will filibuster any new gun restrictions.

"The Second Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens' right to self-defense. It speaks to history's lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history's warning about the oppression of a government that tries," they wrote.

The pledged to "oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions," The Hill said Tuesday.

The Obama administration had initially hoped to include an assault weapons ban in the gun legislation by Reed dropped it from the bill, acknowledging it doesn't have the support to pass the Senate.

The legislation proposes universal background checks and limits the number of bullets that can be held by a single clip of ammunition, among other changes.


Texas senator target of death threat

AUSTIN, Texas, March 26 (UPI) -- Authorities confirmed they are investigating a prison plot to kill Texas state Sen. John Whitmire, who heads a committee to oversee the state's prison system.

No charges have been filed in a case, opened last week, in which an informant in a Texas prison alerted authorities the "Mexican Mafia" gang targeted Whitmire, D-Houston, to be killed at a restaurant where he often has lunch, the Austin (Texas) Statesman-American reported Tuesday.

"I was told a hit had been ordered on me because of poor conditions on death row at the Polunsky Unit, like I have anything to do with that. Did I take it seriously? Hell, yeah," Whitmore said, a reference to the Allan B. Polunsky Unit, a prison in West Livingston, Texas.

Whitmire and investigators familiar with the case said Monday the threat seemed credible.

Whitmire has been put under protection as a result, the newspaper said.


Female teacher gunned down in Pakistan

JAMRUD, Pakistan, March 26 (UPI) -- A woman who taught at a community school in the Khyber Agency in Pakistan was shot and mortally wounded Tuesday morning as she walked to work.

Asmatullah Wazir, an administrator in Jamrud, said the killing was carried out at about 9 a.m. by two men on a motorbike, The Express Tribune reported. The teacher was on her way to the Girls Communal School, an elementary school established by Malik Khanwali.

Khanwali rushed the woman to the Hayatabad Medical Center and notified authorities of the shooting.

"The teacher was rushed to the operating theater for surgery," Wazir said. "However, after three hours of struggle she died."

The Khyber Agency, one of Pakistan's tribal areas on the Afghanistan border, has been the site of several killings targeting female teachers, students and medical workers.

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