WBEZ | SCOTUS http://www.wbez.org/tags/scotus Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Afternoon Shift: SCOTUS rules on DOMA, Prop 8 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-06-26/afternoon-shift-scotus-rules-doma-prop-8-107858 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rings.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SCOTUS rules on Prop 8 and DOMA. What will the impact be on marriage rights across the states? <script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-there-wheat-in-that-is-it-process.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-is-there-wheat-in-that-is-it-process" target="_blank">View the story "WBEZ: SCOTUS rules on Prop 8 and DOMA " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 13:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2013-06-26/afternoon-shift-scotus-rules-doma-prop-8-107858 Obama's statement on court's gay marriage ruling http://www.wbez.org/news/obamas-statement-courts-gay-marriage-ruling-107856 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP290984811016_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Obama&#39;s statement on court&#39;s gay marriage ruling<br />The Associated Press</p><p><br />WASHINGTON&nbsp; &mdash; President Barack Obama issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the Supreme Court&#39;s finding that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional:</p><p>___</p><p>I applaud the Supreme Court&#39;s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal - and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.</p><p>This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents&#39; marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.</p><p>So we welcome today&#39;s decision, and I&#39;ve directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.</p><p>On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation&#39;s commitment to religious freedom is also vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision - which applies only to civil marriages - changes that.</p><p>The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.</p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 11:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/obamas-statement-courts-gay-marriage-ruling-107856 Supreme Court clears way for gay marriage in California http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-clears-way-gay-marriage-california-107852 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP209256454344.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; The Supreme Court has cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California&#39;s gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban.</p><p>The court&#39;s 5-4 vote Wednesday leaves in place the initial trial court declaration that the ban is unconstitutional. California officials probably will rely on that ruling to allow the resumption of same-sex unions in about a month&#39;s time.</p><p>The high court itself said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states.</p><p>The outcome was not along ideological lines.</p><p>Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.</p><p>&quot;We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit,&quot; Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.</p><p>Four justices, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, said the court should have decided the constitutional question that was before it.</p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 09:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-clears-way-gay-marriage-california-107852 Supreme Court strikes down federal provision denying benefits to legally married gay couples http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-strikes-down-federal-provision-denying-benefits-legally-married-gay-couples <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP656060618509_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.</p><p>The justices issued two 5-4 rulings in their final session of the term. One decision wiped away part of a federal anti-gay marriage law that has kept legally married same-sex couples from receiving tax, health and pension benefits.</p><p>The other was a technical ruling that said nothing at all about same-sex marriage, but left in place a trial court&#39;s declaration that California&#39;s Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. That outcome probably will allow state officials to order the resumption of same-sex weddings in the nation&#39;s most populous state in about a month.</p><p>In neither case did the court make a sweeping statement, either in favor of or against same-sex marriage. And in a sign that neither victory was complete for gay rights, the high court said nothing about the validity of gay marriage bans in California and roughly three dozen other states. A separate provision of the federal marriage law that allows a state to not recognize a same-sex union from elsewhere remains in place.</p><p>President Barack Obama praised the court&#39;s ruling on the federal marriage act, which he labeled &quot;discrimination enshrined in law.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people,&quot; Obama said in a statement. &quot;The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.&quot;</p><p>House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he was disappointed in the outcome of the federal marriage case and hoped states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.</p><p>The ruling in the California case was not along ideological lines. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.</p><p>&quot;We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit,&quot; Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8.</p><p>In the case involving the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court&#39;s liberal justices.</p><p>&quot;Under DOMA, same-sex married couples have their lives burdened, by reason of government decree, in visible and public ways,&quot; Kennedy said.</p><p>&quot;DOMA&#39;s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal,&quot; he said.</p><p>Some in the crowd outside the court hugged and others jumped up and down just after 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday when the DOMA decision was announced. Many people were on their cell phones monitoring Twitter, news sites and blogs for word of the decision. And there were cheers as runners came down the steps with the decision in hand and turned them over to reporters who quickly flipped through the decisions.</p><p>Chants of &quot;Thank you&quot; and &quot;USA&quot; came from the crowd as plaintiffs in the cases descended the court&#39;s marbled steps. Most of those in the crowd appeared to support gay marriage, although there was at least one man who held a sign promoting marriage as between a man and a woman.</p><p>Kennedy was joined in the DOMA decision by the court&#39;s four liberal justices.</p><p>Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and Scalia dissented.</p><p>Same-sex marriage has been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia. Another 18,000 couples were married in California during a brief period when same-sex unions were legal there.</p><p>The outcome is clear for people who were married and live in states that allow same-sex marriage. They now are eligible for federal benefits.</p><p>The picture is more complicated for same-sex couples who traveled to another state to get married, or who have moved from a gay marriage state since being wed.</p><p>Their eligibility depends on the benefits they are seeking. For instance, immigration law focuses on where people were married, not where they live. But eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits basically depends on where a couple is living when a spouse dies.</p><p>The rulings came 10 years to the day after the court&#39;s Lawrence v. Texas decision that struck down state bans on gay sex. In his dissent at the time, Scalia predicted the ruling would lead to same-sex marriage.</p><p>Massachusetts was the first state to allow gay couples to marry, in 2004. When same-sex unions resume in California, there will be 13 states representing 30 percent of the U.S. population where gay marriage is legal.</p><p>The other 11 are Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.</p><p>Outside the court, gay marriage proponents celebrated both wins.</p><p>May the marriages begin,&quot; said the Human Rights Campaign&#39;s Chad Griffin, who helped spearhead the lawsuit challenging Proposition 8. The two same-sex couples who sued for the right to marry also were at the court Wednesday.</p><p>In New York City&#39;s Greenwich Village, the Stonewall Inn, where a riot in 1969 sparked the gay rights movement, erupted in cheers and whooping.</p><p>Mary Jo Kennedy, 58 was there with her wife Jo-Ann Shain, 60, and their daughter Aliya Shain, 25.</p><p>She came with a sign that could be flipped either way and was holding up the side that says &quot;SCOTUS made our family legal&quot;.</p><p>They have been together 31 years and got married day it became legal in New York.</p><p>The broadest possible ruling would have given gay Americans the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals. The justices said nothing on that topic in either case.</p><p>The decisions Wednesday have no effect on the roughly three dozen states that do not allow same-sex marriage, including 29 that have enshrined the bans in their constitutions.</p><p>The federal marriage law, known by its acronym DOMA, had been struck down by several federal courts.</p><p>The justices chose for their review the case of 83-year-old Edith Windsor of New York, who sued to challenge a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her partner of 44 years died in 2009.</p><p>Windsor, who goes by Edie, married Thea Spyer in 2007 after doctors told them Spyer would not live much longer. She suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years. Spyer left everything she had to Windsor.</p><p>Windsor would have paid nothing in inheritance taxes if she had been married to a man. And now she is eligible for a refund.</p><h2><strong>Listen: Stories and conversations on the road to today&#39;s SCOTUS decision</strong></h2><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F7148059&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 26 Jun 2013 08:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/supreme-court-strikes-down-federal-provision-denying-benefits-legally-married-gay-couples Cook County will collect DNA swabs at jail http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-will-collect-dna-swabs-jail-107519 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/scotus_flickr_markFischer.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says his department will start collecting DNA swabs from suspects in jail for serious crimes, including murder and sexual assault, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for police to take the samples.</p><p>Dart says swabs from people indicted for murder, home invasion and various sex crimes will start being collected July 1. They&#39;ll be submitted to the state police&#39;s crime labs for inclusion in a database. The department says at least 1,000 swabs will be collected from inmates now in the Chicago jail.</p><p>He says a state law passed last year allows the collection of DNA swabs from jail inmates, but he waited until the high court ruled on the issue.</p><p>That ruling was handed down Monday.</p><p>The sharply divided Supreme Court cleared the way for police to take a DNA swab from anyone they arrest for a serious crime, endorsing a practice now followed by more than half the states as well as the federal government.</p><p>The justices differed strikingly on how big a step that was.</p><p>&quot;Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,&quot; Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court&#39;s five-justice majority. The ruling backed a Maryland law allowing DNA swabbing of people arrested for serious crimes.</p><p>But the four dissenting justices said the court was allowing a major change in police powers, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia predicting the limitation to &quot;serious&quot; crimes would not last.</p><p>&quot;Make no mistake about it: Because of today&#39;s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,&quot; Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom. &quot;This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA when you fly on an airplane &mdash; surely the TSA must know the &#39;identity&#39; of the flying public. For that matter, so would taking your children&#39;s DNA when they start public school.&quot;</p><p>Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler agreed that there&#39;s nothing stopping his state from expanding DNA collection from those arrested for serious crimes to those arrested for lesser ones like shoplifting.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t advocate expanding the crimes for which you take DNA, but the legal analysis would be the same,&quot; Gansler said. &quot;The reason why Maryland chooses to only take DNA of violent criminals is that you&#39;re more likely to get a hit on a previous case. Shoplifters don&#39;t leave DNA behind, rapists do, and so you&#39;re much more likely to get the hit in a rape case.&quot;</p><p>Twenty-eight states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests. But a Maryland court said it was illegal for that state to take Alonzo King&#39;s DNA without approval from a judge, ruling that King had &quot;a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicionless searches&quot; under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.</p><p>The high court&#39;s decision reverses that ruling and reinstates King&#39;s rape conviction, which came after police took his DNA during an unrelated arrest.</p><p>Kennedy, who is often considered the court&#39;s swing vote, wrote the decision along with conservative-leaning Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. They were joined by liberal-leaning Justice Stephen Breyer, while the dissenters were the conservative-leaning Scalia and liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.</p><p>Kennedy called collecting DNA useful for police in identifying individuals.</p><p>&quot;The use of DNA for identification is no different than matching an arrestee&#39;s face to a wanted poster of a previously unidentified suspect, or matching tattoos to known gang symbols to reveal a criminal affiliation, or matching the arrestee&#39;s fingerprints to those recovered from a crime scene,&quot; Kennedy said. &quot;DNA is another metric of identification used to connect the arrestee with his or her public persona, as reflected in records of his or her actions that are available to police.&quot;</p><p>But the American Civil Liberties Union said the court&#39;s ruling created &quot;a gaping new exception to the Fourth Amendment.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The Fourth Amendment has long been understood to mean that the police cannot search for evidence of a crime &mdash; and all nine justices agreed that DNA testing is a search &mdash; without individualized suspicion,&quot; said Steven R. Shapiro, the group&#39;s legal director. &quot;Today&#39;s decision eliminates that crucial safeguard. At the same time, it&#39;s important to recognize that other state laws on DNA testing are even broader than Maryland&#39;s and may present issues that were not resolved by today&#39;s ruling.&quot;</p><p>Maryland&#39;s DNA collection law only allows police to take DNA from those arrested for serious offenses such as murder, rape, assault, burglary and other crimes of violence. In his ruling, Kennedy did not say whether the court&#39;s decision was limited to those crimes, but he did note that other states&#39; DNA collection laws differ from Maryland&#39;s.</p><p>Scalia saw that as a crucial flaw. &quot;If you believe that a DNA search will identify someone arrested for bank robbery, you must believe that it will identify someone arrested for running a red light,&quot; he said.</p><p>Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, cheered the decision and called DNA collection &quot;a detective&#39;s most valuable tool in solving rape cases.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re very pleased that the court recognized the importance of DNA and decided that, like fingerprints, it can be collected from arrestees without violating any privacy rights,&quot; he said. &quot;Out of every 100 rapes in this country, only three rapists will spend a day behind bars. To make matters worse, rapists tend to be serial criminals, so every one left on the streets is likely to commit still more attacks. DNA is a tool we could not afford to lose.&quot;</p><p>Getting DNA swabs from criminals is common. All 50 states and the federal government take cheek swabs from convicted criminals to check against federal and state databanks, with the court&#39;s blessing. The fight at the Supreme Court was over whether that DNA collection could come before conviction and without a judge issuing a warrant.</p><p>According to court documents, the FBI&#39;s Combined DNA Index System or CODIS &mdash; a coordinated system of federal, state and local databases of DNA profiles &mdash; already contains more than 10 million criminal profiles and 1.1 million profiles of those arrested. According to the FBI, the DNA samples from people whose charges have been dismissed, who have been acquitted or against whom no charges have been brought are to be expunged from the federal system. But states and other municipalities that collect DNA make their own rules about what happens to their collections.</p><p>In the case before the court, a 53-year-old woman was raped and robbed but no one was arrested. Almost six years later, Alonzo King was arrested and charged with felony second-degree assault in a separate case. Relying on the Maryland law that allows warrantless DNA tests following some felony arrests, police took a cheek swab of King&#39;s DNA, which matched a sample from the 2003 Salisbury rape. King was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.</p><p>King eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault from his arrest, a crime for which Maryland cannot take warrantless DNA samples. The state court said King&#39;s rights therefore had been violated when the state took his DNA based on that arrest alone.</p><p>Maryland stopped collecting DNA after that decision, but Roberts allowed police to keep collecting DNA samples pending the high court&#39;s review.</p><p>The case is Maryland v. King, 12-207.</p></p> Tue, 04 Jun 2013 10:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-will-collect-dna-swabs-jail-107519 Prop 8 lawyer's Supreme Court argument: Babies and timing http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/prop-8-lawyers-supreme-court-argument-babies-and-timing-106291 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7163_AP080613018219-scr_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="File: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is considered the swing vote in the Prop 8 case. (AP/File)" />The weirdest part of this morning&rsquo;s arguments on Prop 8 before the Supreme Court is that everybody -- including the lawyer representing Prop 8 backers -- seems to think same sex marriage is an inevitability, but that the court&rsquo;s duty is not to hurry it along.</p><p>&ldquo;<a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/03/26/law-blog-doc-dump-transcript-of-proposition-8-arguments/?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">Consider the California voter</a>, in 2008,&rdquo; said Charles Cooper, the attorney for Prop 8&rsquo;s backers, &ldquo;in the ballot booth, with the question before her whether or not this age-old bedrock social institution should be fundamentally redefined, and knowing that there&rsquo;s no way that she or anyone else could possibly know what the long-term implications of -- of profound redefinition of a bedrock social institution would be. That is reason enough, Your Honor, that would hardly be irrational for the voter to say, I believe that this experiment, which is now only fairly four years old, even in Massachusetts, the oldest state that is conducting it, to say, I think it better for California to hit the pause button and await additional information from the jurisdictions where this experiment is still maturing.&rdquo;</p><p>The pause button! Not the stop or off button, but the pause button!</p><p>And what&rsquo;s the rationale for the slowdown? To see if same-sex marriage is working?</p><p>Here&rsquo;s my question: How in heaven&rsquo;s name would that be measured?</p><p>The arguments put forth by Cooper were, frankly, stunning to me. They center mostly on procreation.</p><p>&ldquo;The concern is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historic traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus, refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples,&rdquo; Cooper said.</p><p>But doesn&rsquo;t that actually sound like what modern marriage already is? Hasn&rsquo;t that redefinition already taken place among heterosexuals without any influence from the debate about same sex marriage? Hasn&rsquo;t industrialization and feminism already made &ldquo;the emotional needs and desires of adults&rdquo; the focus of modern marriage?</p><p>And because the case is based in California, where adoption is permitted to same-sex couples and where both partners in same-sex couples appear on the birth certificate of biological children, how does same sex marriage affect procreation and, specifically, procreation in traditional heterosexual families?</p><p>It&rsquo;s obvious it doesn&rsquo;t.</p><p>Still, this morning&rsquo;s proceedings suggest that the decision -- if there is a decision -- will likely be split and narrow. While it&rsquo;s fair to say that Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer seem ready to toss the totality Prop 8, Justice Anthony Kennedy, possibly the most anguished of the justices and the necessary vote in either direction, seemed a bit reluctant. (Kennedy is also the author of the only two Supreme Court decisions to affirm rights for gays.)</p><p>It was Kennedy, in fact, who today specifically brought up the ruling by the 9th District Court, which determined that Prop 8 improperly denied a right granted to same sex couples by the California Supreme Court. If the justices choose to uphold that verdict, the dismissal of Prop 8 would apply only to California and have no bearing on any other state. In other words, it would be a way of avoiding affirming a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.</p><p>But there is also a chance -- slim but present -- that the case might be dismissed based on standing. That is, that the backers of Prop 8 do not have right to defend it before the court because the state of California itself -- meaning the governor and the attorney general -- have chosen not to defend it.</p><p>This last scenario would have multiple effects: One, it would toss out Prop 8 but without setting precedent. And it would hurl California&rsquo;s ballot initiative process into chaos.</p></p> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 13:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-03/prop-8-lawyers-supreme-court-argument-babies-and-timing-106291 Court won't hear appeal from ex-Illinois governor George Ryan http://www.wbez.org/news/court-wont-hear-appeal-ex-illinois-governor-george-ryan-105604 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3030_AP060417021403-ryan Charles Rex Arbogast-scr(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Supreme Court won&#39;t hear an appeal from ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan over his corruption conviction.</p><p>The justices on Tuesday turned away Ryan&#39;s appeal without comment.</p><p>The former governor wanted them to reconsider his conviction based on a 2010 decision saying honest service fraud requires bribery and kickbacks. Ryan said the jury instructions at his trial were wrong, and that it was never proven that he took bribes. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to overturn his conviction, and the high court refused to reconsider that decision.</p><p>A jury convicted Ryan in 2006 of racketeering, conspiracy, tax fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Ryan was released from prison earlier this year and is serving the rest of his sentence on home confinement.</p></p> Tue, 19 Feb 2013 12:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/court-wont-hear-appeal-ex-illinois-governor-george-ryan-105604 Judge won't delay lawsuit over gay marriage ban http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-wont-delay-lawsuit-over-gay-marriage-ban-105507 <p><p>Attorneys for the Thomas More Society say they&#39;re not displeased that a Cook County judge ruled against them in a gay marriage case.</p><p>Chicago-based Thomas More Society attorney Tom Brejcha says instead they&#39;re looking forward to briefings on their motion to dismiss the case. A Cook County judge on Wednesday denied the law firm&#39;s request to delay the case pending U.S. Supreme Court action on gay marriage.</p><p>The lawsuits were filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and New York-based Lambda Legal. They are seeking legal gay marriage in Illinois. Lambda Legal says it&#39;s pleased the case will move forward. The ACLU called the delay request &quot;a distraction.&quot;</p><p>The suit represents 25 couples who were denied marriage licenses in Cook County.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 13:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-wont-delay-lawsuit-over-gay-marriage-ban-105507 Supreme Court rejects Chicago-area atheist's appeal over cross http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/supreme-court-rejects-chicago-area-atheists-appeal-over-cross-105096 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/800px-Supreme_Court_USDA_Ken HAmmond.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>ALTO PASS, Ill. &mdash; The U.S. Supreme Court has dashed a Chicago-area atheist&#39;s final legal bid to challenge the use of state funds to renovate a towering southern Illinois cross.</p><p>The nation&#39;s high court without comment Tuesday turned back Robert Sherman&#39;s request to hear his case involving the $20,000 Illinois grant given in 2008 to the 111-foot-high Bald Knob Cross of Peace near Alto Pass.</p><p>Lower courts already had ruled that Sherman lacked standing to sue over the grant.</p><p>Sherman calls the Supreme Court snub &quot;a joke.&quot; He&#39;d said he considered it a long shot that the court would agree to hear his case.</p><p>Sherman sued in August 2010. He argues that using the grant to repair the cross &quot;has the primary effect of advancing a particular religious sect, namely Christianity.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 23 Jan 2013 08:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/supreme-court-rejects-chicago-area-atheists-appeal-over-cross-105096 Floating home not covered under maritime law http://www.wbez.org/news/floating-home-not-covered-under-maritime-law-104931 <p><p>WASHINGTON&nbsp; &mdash; The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Florida man&#39;s floating home was a house, not a boat, and not covered under maritime law, in a case that could affect thousands of people around the country who make their home on floating structures in marinas, bays and coves.</p><p>The high court ruled 7-2 for Fane Lozman, who argued that the gray, two-story craft approximately 60 feet in length that he towed to the marina in Riviera Beach, Fla., should not have been affected by maritime law.</p><p>Justice Stephen Breyer, who included a picture of Lozman&#39;s craft in the opinion, said maritime law affects vessels which are &quot;watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.&quot; The key words, Breyer said, were &quot;capable of being used&quot; and the court was concerned with practical possibilities, not merely theoretical.</p><p>&quot;We believe that a reasonable observer, looking to the home&#39;s physical characteristics and activities, would not consider it to be designed to any practical degree for carrying people or things on water,&quot; Breyer said. &quot;And we consequently conclude that the floating home is not a vessel.&quot;</p><p>Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy dissented, with Sotomayor saying Breyer&#39;s opinion creates a new and unnecessary test.</p><p>&quot;An objective assessment of a watercraft&#39;s purpose or function governs whether that structure is a vessel,&quot; she said. &quot;The court, however, creates a novel and unnecessary &#39;reasonable observer&#39; reformulation of these principles and errs in its determination, under this new standard, that the craft before us is not a vessel.&quot;</p><p>Lozman, a former Chicago financial trader, cheered the decision, and said he and his legal team were celebrating the victory. &quot;It leaves you speechless,&quot; he said during a phone interview. &quot;It&#39;s been a long fight.&quot;</p><p>Lozman bought the 60-by-12 foot floating home with French doors, a sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and office space in 2002. In 2006, he had it towed to a marina in Riviera Beach, where he kept it docked. After several disputes with the city, and unsuccessful attempts to evict him, city officials used U.S. maritime law to impose a lien on Lozman&#39;s property for dockage fees and damages for trespass.</p><p>Lozman argued that it was a house, which would have given it some protection from seizure under state law. But federal judges sided with the city, and the property was seized and destroyed. The city, however, was forced to post a $25,000 bond, which Lozman now says he will pursue in district court to reimburse him for the cost of his property, including the furniture and personal possessions that were destroyed after the impoundment of his property.</p><p>The lower courts were too broad in their descriptions of vessels, Breyer said.</p><p>&quot;Not every floating structure is a vessel,&quot; Breyer said. &quot;To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons, a large fishing net, a door taken off its hinges or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not &#39;vessels,&#39; even if they are &#39;artificial contrivance(s)&#39; capable of floating, moving under tow and incidentally carrying even a fair-sized item or two when they do so.&quot;</p><p>A structure would not fall under the definition of vessel &quot;unless a reasonable observer, looking to the home&#39;s physical characteristics and activities, would consider it designed to a practical degree for carrying people or things over water,&quot; he said.</p><p>Two states with floating home populations, Washington state and California, have laws that are consistent with the justices&#39; opinion, Breyer said. &quot;These states, we are told, treat structures that meet their &#39;floating home&#39; definitions like ordinary land-based homes rather than like vessels,&quot; Breyer said. &quot;Consistency of interpretation of related state and federal laws is a virtue.&quot;</p><p>More than 5,000 Americans own floating homes, and there are more than 60 floating casinos in the United States.</p></p> Tue, 15 Jan 2013 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/floating-home-not-covered-under-maritime-law-104931