Nation roundup for March 23


Appeals court halts gay marriages in Mich.

MASON, Mich. (AP) — A federal appeals court issued an order Saturday preventing more same-sex couples from getting married in Michigan for at least several more days.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said it issued the stay because it needed more time to consider the state’s appeal of a judge’s ruling Friday overturning Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The court said its stay would last until at least Wednesday.

Earlier Saturday, dozens of same-sex couples in at least four Michigan counties wasted no time in getting hitched, uncertain of how the appeals court would act.

On Friday, federal Judge Bernard Friedman overturned Michigan’s gay marriage ban, the latest in a series of decisions overturning similar laws across the country.

Two Detroit-area nurses who’ve been partners for eight years claimed the ban violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Nearly 60 percent of state voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage only as between a man and a woman.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia issue licenses for same-sex marriage. Since December, bans on gay marriage have been overturned in Texas, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia, but appeals have put those cases on hold.

The case in Michigan involves two Detroit-area nurses, Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer. They want to get married, but the original purpose of their 2012 lawsuit was to overturn Michigan’s ban on joint adoptions by same-sex couples.

They are raising three adopted children with special needs at their Hazel Park home. But they can’t jointly adopt each other’s kids because joint adoption in the state is tied exclusively to marriage.

Rowse, 49, and DeBoer, 42, didn’t testify, and the trial had nothing to do with their relationship. In fact, attorneys for the state told the judge that they are great parents.

Instead, the state urged the judge to respect the results of a 2004 election in which 59 percent of voters said marriage in Michigan can only be between a man and a woman.

Conservative scholars also questioned the impact of same-sex parenting on children.

But experts testifying for Rowse and DeBoer said there were no differences between the kids of same-sex couples and the children raised by a man and woman. And the University of Texas took the extraordinary step of disavowing the testimony of sociology professor Mark Regnerus, who was a witness for Michigan.

Christie’s dissenters get more vocal, visible

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Critics of Republican Gov. Chris Christie are becoming more vocal — and more visible.

Opponents are showing up at his public and private events, hurling criticisms on a range of topics and questioning his knowledge of a plot orchestrated by his aides to tie up traffic near the world’s busiest bridge.

It may not seem unusual for a brash politician with a national following to attract dissenters when he’s out in public, but Christie’s opponents mostly stayed home until emails revealed in January that people loyal to him had stalled traffic in Fort Lee for four days, apparently to punish the town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election.

As his poll numbers slipped, his second-term agenda stalled and questions about his viability as a 2016 presidential candidate arose amid the scandal, people and groups who opposed his policies or his politics wanted to make their voices heard.

”Christie has done his best to project a sense of normalcy” amid investigations into the lane closings and allegations of misconduct over the distribution of storm-recovery aid, said Rob Duffy, a spokesman for New Jersey Working Families, one group that has organized protests. “But his playbook is no longer working.”

“There is a tremendously diverse group of activists with various interests who are united by concerns over transparency and accountability,” said Duffy, whose group includes organized labor, which has fought the governor in the past.

Christie has denied knowledge of his aides’ scheme to snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge, and his administration has also rejected claims by the mayor of Hoboken that it threatened to hold up a riverfront city’s storm recovery funds unless she approved a favored redevelopment project.

The governor has restricted his public appearances since the scandal broke open, holding no press briefings since early January and appearing only in Republican-friendly settings, whether to raise money for the Republican Governors Association, give a speech or hold a town hall event.

About 40 protesters gathered outside a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., country club on Wednesday while Christie attended a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land and Gov. Rick Snyder. One protester carried a sign that read, “Don’t Mess with Our Bridge,” referring to the bridge scandal.

Christie faced organized opposition in 2011 when he enacted changes to public workers’ retirement and health benefits that required greater employee contributions. Labor unions retaliated with protest rallies and attack ads, but they didn’t storm Christie’s events.

Now even Christie’s signature town halls — where the governor is known for holding the crowd’s attention with a mix of humor and personal stories — have become magnets for dissenters, though audiences remain mostly supportive.

Six college students who disrupted a town hall in Mount Laurel were ejected by police. At an event last week in South River, the number of protesters grew to more than a dozen, all of whom were shown the door by police as an undercover state trooper snapped photos. The attorney general has ordered the picture-taking stopped; Christie said he didn’t know his critics were being photographed.

Jim Miller, co-founder of the state Coalition for Medical Marijuana, has been outside the past three town halls holding 5-foot signs imploring the governor to allow patients easier access to marijuana.

Ten protesters sat together at a town hall in Flemington on Thursday to spell out the word “Bridgegate” with letters hand-painted on their T-shirts.

Christie has come to expect the dissenters. At his most recent town halls, amid beefed-up security, he has told audiences that his old union foes are responsible for the disruptions.

“This new and recent phenomenon is brought to you by the Communication Workers of America,” Christie has said. “When you begin to ask questions, they will stand up and start to scream and yell over you.”

CWA legislative and political director Seth Hahn said Christie should stop blaming others and answer constituents’ questions.

Business owner Fred Kanter on Thursday became the first resident to publicly address the bridge scandal at a town hall. He said Christie appeared more concerned that an aide had lied to him about her involvement in the traffic plot than in her order to divert traffic.

Christie said he would have fired the aide, Bridget Kelly, regardless of whether she’d told the truth because of what she did.

“There were lots of reasons for the firing,” Christie said. “I can’t have somebody work for me who lies to me.”

Christie’s next town hall is scheduled for Tuesday in Belmar.

 

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