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Judge OKs gay marriage in Florida Keys

Florida judge okays gay marriageA judge ruled that gays can marry in Florida's most gay-friendly county, siding Thursday with same-sex couples in the Florida Keys who challenged a voter-approved ban as discriminatory. But an immediate state appeal quickly silenced their wedding bells.

Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia said same-sex couples could get marriage licenses as early as Tuesday in Monroe County, but Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi said the voters' will must be respected. An overwhelming majority approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 that defines marriage as a union solely between one man and one woman. Her notice of appeal creates an automatic stay that prevents any same-sex marriage licenses from being issued, her office said.


Elaine Stritch, inimitable stage star, dead at 89

Elaine StritchBroadway lost one of its strongest, saltiest and most enduring voices Monday, when Elaine Stritch – actress, singer, long-legged and sharp-tongued force of nature – shook off her mortal coil Thursday, at 89.

Stritch's career on Broadway stretched back to 1946, when she made her debut in a comedy called Loco. For many decades after that, she delivered memorable performances in works by masters ranging from Rodgers and Hart to Edward Albee. She was a particularly perceptive purveyor of the songs of Stephen Sondheim; appearing in the original cast of his Company in 1970, she introduced The Ladies Who Lunch, an acid-and-alcohol-soaked manifesto that became one of her signature songs and one of the most inimitable recordings in the history of musical theater.


MTA chairman, LIRR union leader sign contract to avert strike; workers get 17% raises

LIRR strike averterdA catastrophic Long Island Rail Road strike was averted Thursday for 300,000 commuters as MTA officials and union leaders reached agreement on a new contract.

The deal, signed shortly after 1:30 p.m., came three days before Sunday’s 12:01 a.m. deadline. The contract provides workers with 17% raises over six-and-a-half years, and includes first-ever LIRR worker contributions toward health care costs, officials said. The cost of the contract was not immediately disclosed.


U.S. judge rules California death penalty system unconstitutional

Death penalty CaliforniaCalifornia's system for imposing and carrying out the death penalty is so long and drawn-out that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and thus is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

Ruling in the case of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was condemned to death in 1995 and has yet to be executed, Judge Cormac J. Carney of the U.S. Central District of California said that to take "nearly a generation" to decide on Jones' appeals was unconstitutional.

As part of the ruling, Carney vacated the death penalty sentence in Jones' case.


Report: More cities pass laws that hurt the homeless

Homeless in AmericaMore cities are passing laws that make it illegal to camp in public, sleep in vehicles on city streets, or sit or lie down in public, a new report shows.

The laws are meant to curb the problems associated with homelessness, such as public drunkenness and sleeping on the sidewalk. But the report, released Wednesday by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, says the laws criminalize people just for being homeless.

Maria Foscarinis, the center's executive director, says there has been a striking increase in city laws prohibiting camping on any park, sidewalk or public space.


University of Texas may use race as a factor in admissions, court rules

U of Texas may use raceA federal appeals court panel ruled Tuesday that the University of Texas can continue using race in its undergraduate admissions, a year after the US supreme court sent the case back to a lower court.

A 5th US circuit court of appeals panel ruled 2-1 that barring the university from using race would hurt diversity on campus. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2008 by Abigail Fisher, who is white and was denied admission.


Two Former Utah AGs Busted for Bribery

Utah AG'sIn the culmination of the most sweeping political scandal in Utah history, former Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested early Tuesday and charged with a combined 23 counts that could total 30 years each in prison.

The two men were taken into custody at their homes without incident Tuesday morning and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. Bail was set at $250,000 each. Shurtleff was released about 11:45 a.m. Swallow was released about 12:15 p.m.


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