February 20, 2004

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NM County Grants Same Gendered Marriage Licenses
20 marriage licenses have been issued to same sex couples in Sandoval County, New Mexico, just north of Albuquerque, according to a county clerk. After asking for an opinion from the county’s attorney, County Court Clerk Victoria Dunlop said there is no legal reason to withhold them. State law in New Mexico defines marriage as a civil contract between parties without making mention of gender. Clerks in Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties cited a 1961 statute creating the marriage license form, which specifically asks for information from “male” and “female” applicants, as reason to deny same gendered couples licenses to marry. The Sandoval County Clerk said they would continue to issue marriage licenses until the State Attorney says otherwise.

SF Sues CA Over Marriage
San Francisco city officials are suing the state of California on the ground that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. More from Kellia Ramares at KPFA in Berkeley.

EPA Officials Say Administration Ignoring Toxic Sites
Bush administration officials are ignoring dangerous toxic sites in the United States, as the Superfund bank account dwindles according to Environmental Protection Agency internal documents. Mitch Jeserich reports from D.C.

Few Cast Ballots in Iran
Iranian citizens refuse to cast their ballots today in pivotal elections. Mahdis Keshavaraz has the story.

Russia’s Next Generation Missile System
Russian officials said they are prepared to move ahead with their next generation of intercontinental missiles. Meganne Briton reports from D.C.

Supreme Court to Hear Padilla and Hamdi Cases
The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear from US citizens who say the government cannot to strip them of their rights. Lawyers for Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi say the men are being held indefinitely without charge or access to proper legal council in violation of the constitution. The Bush administration says they are “enemy combatants” a term with no legal precedent in either U.S. courts or international law. The US Supreme Court will weigh the rights of these individuals with the power of the executive branch in April.

Haitians in Support of Aristide?
The associated press is reporting that diplomats from the US and other countries have presented a plan for political reform and a return to the rule of law to Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. This follows a spate of anti-government attacks in Haiti that have left some 50 people dead. But many poor Haitians in the capital of Port-au-Prince say they still support President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, despite the worsening political conflict and unabated poverty. Reed Lindsay reports from Port-au-Prince.

Recall Referendum in Venezuela?
The Recall Referendum that Venezuela’s opposition is trying to organize against President Hugo Chavez is running into problems. The elections commission that is verifying the signatures of the recall petition is calling into question a large proportion of the signatures and both sides in the country’s political conflict are saying that fraud is involved. Meanwhile, yesterday, the opposition announced that it will hold primaries to choose a presidential candidate, should Chavez lose an eventual recall referendum. Greg Wilpert has the story from Caracas, Venezuela.

Sharpton Challenges Democratic Candidates
In response to the failure of the Grand Jury to return with an indictment of New York City policeman Richard Neri who was charged with wrongfully killing Brooklyn teenager Timothy Stansbury Jr., democratic presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday challenged his fellow Democratic Primary candidates to address the issue in their New York campaigns leading up to Super Tuesday, March 2nd. In Brooklyn NY, Ian Forrest has the story.

Right to Self Govern Violated in Mexico
This week marks eight years since the signing of the San Andres Accords between the Zapatista Army and the Mexican Federal government. Although the San Andres Accords permit autonomous and traditional forms of government in Mexico’s indigenous communities, recent and ongoing violations of the right to self-government prompted a meeting of hundreds of members of indigenous groups to discuss the current situation of political and cultural autonomy in Mexico. Shannon Young and Vladimir Flores file this report.

Australian Race Relations
This week, Australia was rocked by riots that took place in Sydney’s notorious Redfern district, after the death of a 17-year-old aboriginal teen Thomas Hickey, in a bike accident. Several eye-witnesses reported that Hickey was being chased by police, moments before his death, leading many to blame them for the death. The incident is being viewed against a backdrop of race relations in Australia – a country where many indigenous people remain severely disadvantaged, with no formal treaty processes in place. Erica Vowles has this report.


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