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Gay Marriage: The New Roe v. Wade?
Today's Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act is a milestone in the gay rights movement, as important as the Stonewall riots that started it all.
But landmark court decisions rarely mark the end of political fights, particularly on divisive social issues. Roe v. Wade was decided 40 years ago, but the fight over how to regulate abortion still rages today in Washington and state capitols across the country.
And just this week, the court ripped out the heart of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to prevent racial discrimination in the voting booth, essentially ruling that its protections were no longer necessary.
So while gay marriage opponents may view today's court ruling as the beginning of the end, it is really only the end of the beginning.
DUAL SCOTUS RULINGS BOLSTER SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. The Supreme Court handed down two 5-4 opinions Wednesday that are widely seen as major victories for the gay-rights movement, The New York Times reports. The Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, entitling married same-sex couples to federal benefits, and declined to rule on California's gay-marriage ban, which will now allow same-sex marriage to proceed in the state. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority in the DOMA case that "by seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment." Justice Antonin Scalia authored a scathing, 26-page dissent, in which he was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Read more
- Today's rulings are a liberal result wrapped in conservative values, National Journal's James Oliphant writes. Read more
SENATE CLOSES IMMIGRATION DEBATE, PASSES BORDER-SECURITY AMENDMENT. The Senate ended debate on the comprehensive immigration reform bill on Wednesday by a 67-31 vote, The Huffington Post reports. Fifteen Republicans voted in support of the Corker-Hoeven amendment, which allocates an additional $38 billion for border-security measures and was passed on a 69-29 vote. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Jeffrey Chiesa, R-N.J., voted for the amendment but voted against ending debate. Although Democrats came close to their 70-vote goal on the amendment, some Republicans have yet to say if they'll support the overall bill. Either way, Roll Call notes that House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans in a meeting Wednesday that he wouldn't bring the Senate's immigration bill up for a vote. Read more
- With the Senate poised to pass immigration reform this week, eyes are now turning to the House, but as The New York Times reports, those banking on Republicans acting quickly on the bill will likely be disappointed.
HOUSE CONSERVATIVES PUSH FOR MARRIAGE AMENDMENT AFTER COURT RULING. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, and other conservative members of Congress say they will attempt to introduce in the coming days a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros reports. Following the Supreme Court's ruling deeming the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, several Republicans expressed their disappointment with the decision and vowed to take action. Read more
ON HEELS OF SCOTUS DECISION, CALIFORNIA READY FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGES. The Supreme Court's decision to decline a ruling on California's Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, will allow same-sex marriages to take place in the state, The Washington Post reports. California Gov. Jerry Brown already directed county clerks to soon begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a task clerks tell the Los Angeles Times they are ready to begin. Gay-rights groups celebrated the Court's rulings Wednesday, and the president of the Human Rights Campaign pledged that "within five years, we will bring marriage equality to all 50 states." Read more
U.S. AND RUSSIA DON'T WANT TO RESTART THE COLD WAR OVER SNOWDEN. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he was powerless to extradite fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to the U.S. to face espionage charges, tensions between the two countries appeared to be cooling even as Snowden remained in a Moscow airport transit zone, The New York Times reports. U.S. officials remain incensed at China for allowing Snowden to leave Hong Kong, but Putin's efforts to distance Russia from the international controversy may be paying off, the paper writes. Meanwhile, Ecuador said Wednesday it may take months to decide whether the nation will grant Snowden asylum, and The Atlantic's Olga Khazan disputes Russia's claims that Snowden is a "free man." Read more
- Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the Pentagon Papers more than 40 years ago stands the test of time—and compares favorably to recent leaking scandals—because he was a respected insider, Michael Kazin writes in The New Republic. Read more
OBAMA HEADS TO AFRICA AS MANDELA CONDITION REPORTEDLY WORSENS. As former South African President Nelson Mandela's health remains in question, President Obama began an eight-day trip to Africa on Wednesday to renew U.S. engagement with the continent, Reuters reports. Obama is heading to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania on his second trip as president to the continent, but Obama's plans may change if Mandela's health deteriorates. Mandela, 94, has been hospitalized for more than two weeks, most recently in critical condition, due to a lung infection. CNN reported Wednesday that Mandela had been placed on life support. Read more
TAXPAYER ADVOCATE: IRS RESISTED OVERSIGHT IN TEA-PARTY CASES. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson told Congress on Wednesday that the Internal Revenue Service has a long history of resisting efforts by her office to help groups seeking tax-exempt status, which created a culture enabling agents to improperly target such groups with added scrutiny, the Associated Press reports. Olson, who leads the independent office within the IRS, said the culture continues today in the agencysaid the culture continues today in the IRS despite recent scandals. Olson also asked Congress to authorize her to make "apology payments" of up to $1,000 to groups that "the IRS has caused excessive expense or undue burden." Read more
DOES MARKEY'S ELECTION MEAN A RETURN TO MIDTERM NORMALCY? Massachusetts was the state that heralded the 2010 GOP wave with the election of Scott Brown to the Senate, but this time around, the status quo held with Democratic Rep. Edward Markey's elevation to the upper chamber, Politico reports. Markey's special-election victory, coupled with that of Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., last month, offers no indication that a wave will be coming for either party. A Republican strategist said that as opposed to previous wave elections in 2006 and 2010, "the weather is mild." Read more
- After 19 terms in the House, Markey starts his career in the Senate a 66-year-old junior senator, and he will join the chamber at the bottom of the seniority list, National Journal's Michael Catalini reports.
10-HOUR SPEECH HELPS DEFEAT ABORTION BILL IN TEXAS. A bill in Texas seeking to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy was defeated Wednesday, following a marathon speech by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, Reuters reports. Davis–who was not allowed to lean on a desk, drink water, or have anyone come to her aid—spoke for more than 10 hours, in an attempt to run out the clock on voting. Some votes came in after a midnight deadline, the end of the body's 30-day special session. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, could still call the Legislature into a new special section for another vote. Read more
OBAMA IN SENEGAL. President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall. Obama will meet with judicial leaders and tour historic sites, and attend an official dinner with Sall. Full schedule here
HOUSE COMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARING ON IRS. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing "on the Internal Revenue Service's 30-day report on the practice of discriminating against applicants for tax-exempt status based on their personal beliefs" at 10:00 a.m. in 1100 Longworth.
"It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race." –Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent on the Defense of Marriage Act case (National Journal)
VICTIMS OF JAPAN'S TSUNAMI SEEKING COMPENSATION FOR DEAD. Morihisa Kanouya, who lost his wife, is one of 315,000 still dislocated because of Japan's tsunami in March 2011, Intelligent Life's Henry Tricks reports. Those who had to leave their homes because of the Fukushima reactor meltdown are often isolated by the people who live around them, and there has yet to be a movement asking the government to speed up the recovery process; in fact, the country, as Tricks narrates, "treats the whole thing like a national embarrassment." But there are small groups—Kanouya is the leader of one—that try to bring people who experienced the disaster together. They are asking the Tokyo Electric Power Co. for payment for their dead family members, some of whom, they argue, could have been saved if it hadn't been for the nuclear accident. Read more
RUN, INTERNS, RUN! BuzzFeed chronicles the "running of the interns" with photos and video of the fleet-footed (and otherwise) ferrying Supreme Court opinions to on-air reporters. See it here
CHART OF THE DAY
THE STATE OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. In the wake of today's SCOTUS decisions, Bloomberg maps where same-sex marriage stands across the country. See it here