February 04, 2004

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The Massachusetts high court ruled today that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples – rather than civil unions – would be constitutional, erasing any doubts that the nation’s first same-sex marriages could take place in the state beginning in mid-May. The court issued the opinion in response to a request from the state Senate about whether Vermont-style civil unions, which convey the state benefits of marriage – but not the title – would meet constitutional muster.
The four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage wrote in the advisory opinion that “The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal,” and that a bill that would allow for civil unions, but falls short of marriage, makes for “unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples.” The much-anticipated opinion sets the stage for next Wednesday’s constitutional convention, where the Legislature will consider an amendment that would legally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The soonest a constitutional amendment could end up on the ballot would be 2006, meaning that until then, the high court’s decision will be Massachusetts law no matter what is decided at the constitutional convention.

Republican Congressman Billy Tauzin stepped down from his position as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after allegations of conflicts of interest with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Stephen Lacey has more from Washington, DC.

After proposing bigger budgets for defense and homeland security, the White House released a list of the 128 programs facing the axe. Tom Gomez reports from Washington.

Main minority community in the northeastern parts of Sri Lanka observed Independece Day today as a day of mourning today to protest and urge Sinhalese political leaders to kick start the stalled peace process. Ponniah Manikavasagam reportsf rom Sri Lanka.

Rumsfeld Defending on all Fronts
Today Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld defended President Bush’s 2005 Budget proposal to spend 401 billion dollars on the military that, without including spending on Afghanistan and Iraq, makes up 20% on national spending.  But what was suppose to be a budget hearing in the Senate Arms Service Committee quickly became an impromptu hearing on weapons of mass destruction which saw Rumsfeld field questions from skeptical Democrats. Mitch Jeserich reports from Capitol Hill.

Primary Results: Focus on New Mexico
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry was the big winner in yesterday’s 7 state Primaries and Caucuses to select a Democractic challenger to President Bush. One of the two states that Kerry did not win was South Carolina which Senator John Edwards won comfortably. New Mexico and Arizona both went to Kerry and notably they were the first largely Hispanic states to cast their ballots for the democratic presidential nominee. FSRN’s Jeremiah Luria Johnson reports from Albuquerque on the results and the implications of Tuesday’s vote.

Hope for peace in the Sudan?
Amnesty International reported today that there are massive human rights abuses still occurring in the Sudan despite the fact that a peace deal to end Africa’s longest war is close to being signed between the Sudan government and the SPLA rebels of Colonel John Garang. The meeting between the government and rebels in the Kenyan town of Naivasha has lead to agreements on some of the sticky issues like the sharing of the countries oil wealth found in the south, and the granting of some limited autonomy to southern Sudan for a period of 6 years before a referendum may create an independent state for black Christians. If the current deal is closed, the rebel leader Colonel John Garang could become the vice president of the country he has fought for years to save. FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa has visited southern Sudan and reports about the hopes and fears of the people there.

Homeland Security Gone Wild: ABQ Airport Shut for Hours
The luggage of a Russian theater troupe touring in New Mexico caused the closure and evacuation of Albuquerque International Airport last week. From Albuquerque, Joe Gardner Wessely reports.

Report from Baghdad: Situation Worsens for Iraqi’s
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan met with President Bush yesterday and the two agreed on an interim plan for UN involvement in Iraq. Annan said the U.S.-led occupying forces and the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council indicated they would accept the conditions under which the U.N. team would work. The conditions in Iraq have far from stabilized, the death toll from the weekend’s suicide attacks on Kurdish offices in northern Iraq rose to 101 yesterday. Many Iraqi’s are growing impatient as the security problems in Iraq are worse by the day and foreigners, especially from neighboring countries, are being linked with various political and religious parties that are capitalizing on the continued state of lawlessness. Ahmed Al-Rawi, Free Speech Radio News correspondent, reports from Baghdad.


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