Headlines for Wednesday, February 23, 2011
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Obama Administration won’t defend DOMA in court
The Obama Administration today announced it will stop defending part of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Administration believes applying DOMA to couples legally married under state law violates their 5th Amendment rights to equal protection. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Administration acted to meet a court deadline.
“We will no longer defend DOMA going forward. We will however continue to enforce it, and we will continue to be participants in those cases to allow those cases to continue, be resolved, and also so that Congress, or members of Congress can pursue the defense if they so desire.”
The Attorney General said the decision will stand unless Congress amends the law to remove the unconstitutional language or the courts make a definitive decision.
Rahm Emanuel elected new mayor of Chicago
After overcoming legal battles challenging his residency, former Obama Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel has won the election for Mayor of Chicago.
“We must make sure that ever community in Chicago is heard and included and has a chance to participate in that future.”
Emanuel will take over for Richard Daley, who had governed the city for more than 20 years.
New Zealand quake deaths rise
The death toll from a devastating earthquake in New Zealand has now reached 75, and officials estimate that another 300 are still missing. The quake hit the south island city of Christchurch. New Zealand’s News 3 reports that 20% of city residents don’t have running water, and that repairs could take days.
Pro-government gunmen open fire on Yemeni student protesters
Last night in Yemen, pro-government gunmen broke through a police line and sprayed gunfire into a group of students staging an anti-government sit-in. The Guardian reports two people died and more than 20 people were injured, mostly teenagers. In response several members of Yemen’s parliament resigned.
Philly fights to ban criminal history box on job applications
And finally, in Philadelphia, activists are mobilizing outside City Hall in support of a bill that aims to make the hiring process less discriminatory for former convicts. From Philadelphia, FSRN’s Matthew Petrillo reports.
The City of Philadelphia is considering a “Ban the Box” bill that would remove questions about criminal history from job applications. Advocacy groups say such questions create employment barriers for the formerly incarcerated.
One of the men leading today’s rally is local prison-reform activist Jonathan Lloyd.
Lloyd says he was never convicted on assault charges, but served 6 months in prison awaiting trial because he couldn’t afford bail.
“I want to be able to get into my interview without being prejudged, and I want to be able to sit there and talk to you. I want to be able to be judged on an individual basis, like you want to be treated fairly.”
Lloyd and more than two-dozen other men clad in orange jumpsuits and caps that read “prisoner” are part of the rally and march. The men have been protesting prison policies all month from a mock-prison called “The Wall” in the northern part of the city. Matthew Petrillo, FSRN, Philadelphia.