A Boston Federal Judge Joseph D. Tauro ruled July 8 that a federal law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, according to combined press accounts. Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts attorney general, brought the case on behalf of gay couples legally married within the state.
Tauro, a Nixon appointee, wrote in his decision: "This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status."
The Bush-era federal law denies gay couples (even if a state recognizes their marriages) any of the 1,000-plus federal marriage rights – such as Social Security benefits, immigration or joint tax returns. The decision may also have implications for challenges to the California law, called Prop 8, that bars same -sex marriage.
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- Malaysia’s Islamic Sharia courts have appointed their first female judges, reported The Associated Press July 8. Suraya Ramli and Rafidah Abdul Razak were named Sharia court judges for Kuala Lumpur and the administrative capital of Putrajaya in May, but the announcement was made only this past week by Prime Minister Najib Razak. The appointments were made to improve justice in cases involving families and women’s rights and to meet current needs, reported One India July 8. The appointments were praised by women’s rights activists as an improvement for a judicial system often accused of favoring men. Female judges are common in Malaysia’s secular courts, though most top posts are held by men.
- Ramon Luis Valcarcel, president of a region in Spain, has threatened to not apply the new abortion law, which came into effect this week, until the nation’s Constitutional Court resolves the appeal challenging it, reported Euro Weekly News July 7. The law would now permit abortions during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. In addition, the new law permits abortion at any time during pregnancy if the fetus is deformed. It also allows 16 and 17-year-old women to abort without parental consent, although the teens are required to fulfill certain conditions. Under the current 1985 law, women could go to jail for having an abortion outside certain strict limits–up to week 12 in case of rape and week 22 if the fetus is malformed.
- The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee approved the allocation of $735 million to family planning and reproductive health programs, $20 million above the President’s budget request, reported Ms. Magazine July 2. The $735 proposal for FY 2011 is a 13 percent increase from FY 2010 and a 58 percent increase over the last three fiscal years. The markup appropriates $675 million to family planning and reproductive programs of the United States Agency for International Development and $60 million to the United Nations Population Fund. The Bush administration refused to send funds to the UN Population Fund for eight years.
- South African track star Caster Semenya is now free to compete after being sidelined for 11 months because of a debate over her gender, reported NY Daily News July 6. The 19-year-old’s deep voice and dramatic improvement in speed and muscle sparked the speculation about her gender. She has not run competitively since she won the 800-meters in last August’s world championships, the article reported. The International Association of Athletics Federations, after hearing from a panel of medical experts, cleared Semenya to immediately resume competition as a woman. It added that medical details of her case will be kept confidential and the sports organization will not comment further on the controversy.
- Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti married her longtime partner Jonina Leosdottir on June 27, making her the first known head of government to marry a same-sex partner, reported Ms. Magazine July 2. The couple married the day a new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Iceland came into effect. The law was passed without a dissenting vote in Iceland’s parliament June 11. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six other European countries – Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Portugal.
- A Swedish feminist party burned 100,000 Swedish kronor ($13,000) in a protest against unequal pay, reported BBC July 6. Called The Feminist Initiative party, they said the money represented the sum Sweden’s women miss out on every minute in comparison to men. The money was donated by an advertising agency. The Feminist Initiative party hopes to win its first seat in parliament in elections on September 19.
The United Kingdom government is to push ahead with plans to grant anonymity to accused rapists despite anger from women members of parliament reported Telegraph.Co.Uk., July 8. Female conservative parliamentarians threatened to vote against the move. The proposed law would mean that men accused of rape could not be publically named unless they formally charged. Anna Soubry, a member of parliament and former criminal defense lawyer, told Telegraph.Co.Uk that she had defended many men accused of rape and that it was "without a doubt" the case that when an accused person’s name was made public, other victims often came forward.
More News to Jeer This Week:
- Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, an Iranian woman accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning will no longer be stoned as a result of public outcry, Newsweek reported July 9. The Iranian Embassy in London, however, confirmed that she may still be sentenced to death by other means. Mohammadi-Ashtiani has been in prison since May 2006 and received 99 lashes for her alleged elicit relationship, the existence of which she has denied.
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed three bills on July 6 tightening restrictions on abortions, reported Ms. Magazine July 7. The first bill requires women, including rape or incest victims, to receive an ultrasound prior to an abortion. Abortion facility employees must also follow a script offering pregnant mothers the opportunity to see, hear and receive a printout of the ultrasound image, reported Life Site News July 7. The second new law excludes providers from medical malpractice coverage for elective abortion procedures, while the third bill bars insurance providers in the new federal health insurance exchange from covering abortions.
- Hawaii’s Republican Governor, Linda Lingle, vetoed legislation on July 6 that would have permitted same-sex civil unions, reported the The Associated Press. Had Lingle not vetoed it, the measure would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples. It also would have made Hawaii one of six states that essentially grants the rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself, reported the article. The state leaders have said they will not override any of Lingle’s vetoes.
- Trafficking of women into China is on the rise. Women from neighboring countries can be bought for as little as $700 in rural villages, reported Voice of America July 6. The shortage of young women in China is pushing some families turn to human traffickers to find wives for their sons. The traffickers often go to Burma, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea to buy or kidnap women. "People [in Burma] are so poor, and they will always rush to any place if they hear there is a job opportunity. So many people get cheated like this," said Dr. Tu Lum, head of operations at Health Unlimited.
- The Pentagon began sending 400,000 surveys to members of the armed forces – 200,000 active duty troops and 200,000 reserve troops – on July 7 to gauge their opinions on the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," reported Ms. Magazine July 8. Results of the survey will be presented to President Obama in December, as part of a final report and implementation plan. The Service members Legal Defense Network, however, is wary that the survey may lead to potential discharge of soldiers if their identity is revealed. Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis said in a statement. "If a service member still wishes to participate, he or she should only do so in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation," reported the Washington Post.
- A government task force says routine screening for osteoporosis should include all younger postmenopausal women who have at least the same chance of breaking a bone as an older woman does, reported the Associated Press July 6. A bone-density test is one of the most frequently used tests to check for bone loss; many women start receiving these scans when they reach menopause. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s guidelines broaden its 2002 advice that women over 65 receive the test. The group weighed whether men should be checked for osteoporosis, but it decided there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend for or against the screening.
- Women between 40 and 60 years old who have trouble falling or staying asleep may gain more pounds than their well-rested contemporaries, reported Reuters July 2. The study found that roughly one-third of women with frequent sleep problems gained at least 11 pounds, versus about a fifth of women with no sleep difficulties at the outset. The study strengthens the evidence that sleep problems are related to weight gain. Men’s sleep problems were not found to be related to weight gain.