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NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — In a federal court ruling echoing decisions reached elsewhere in the U.S., Virginia on Thursday became the first state in the South to overturn a voter-approved prohibition of same-sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen issued a stay of her order while it is appealed, meaning that gay couples in Virginia still will not be able to marry until the case is ultimately resolved. Both sides believe the case won’t be settled until the Supreme Court decides to hear it or one like it. Allen’s decision makes Virginia the second state in the South to issue a ruling recognizing the legality of gay marriages. A judge in Kentucky ruled Wednesday that the state must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. But that judge did not rule on the constitutionality of same-sex marriages inside the state. Decisions similar to that of the Virginia judge have been issued in in Utah and Oklahoma federal courts. The office of newly elected Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring took the unusual step of not defending the law because it believes the ban violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. In her ruling, Wright Allen agreed. “The court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry. Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family,” Wright Allen wrote. The plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel, Theodore B. Olson, said in a statement: “Through its decision today, the court has upheld the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded.” Wright Allen’s stay was requested by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office to avoid a situation similar to what happened in Utah after that state’s ban on gay marriages was declared unconstitutional. More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples were married in the days after the ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state an emergency stay, halting the weddings and creating a cloud of uncertainty for the status of the married couples. Soon after, a federal judge also declared Oklahoma’s ban unconstitutional. That ruling also is on hold while it is appealed.
“The legal process will continue to play out in the months to come, but this decision shows that Virginia, like America, is coming to a better place in recognizing that every Virginian deserves to be treated equally and fairly,” Herring, a Democrat, said in a statement. Supporters of the state ban on same-sex marriages issued statements decrying Wright Allen’s ruling. “It appears that we have yet another example of an arrogant judge substituting her personal preferences for the judgment of the General Assembly and 57 percent of Virginia voters,” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council. “Our nation’s judicial system has been infected by activist judges, which threaten the stability of our nation and the rule of law.” Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, called the ruling “another example of an Obama-appointed judge twisting the constitution and the rule of law to impose her own views of marriage in defiance of the people of Virginia.” “There is no right to same-sex ‘marriage’ in the United States constitution,” Brown said. “In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that states have the pre-eminent duty of defining marriage. The people of Virginia did just that in voting overwhelmingly to affirm marriage as the union of one man and woman. That decision should be respected by federal judges and we hope that the U.S. Supreme Court ends up reversing this terrible decision.” In a movement that began with Massachusetts in 2004, 17 states and the District of Columbia now allow gay marriage, most of them clustered in the Northeast. None of them is in the old Confederacy. The Virginia case centered on a gay Norfolk couple, Timothy Bostic and Tony London, who were denied a marriage license by the Norfolk Circuit Court on July 1, shortly after the Supreme Court struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Since then, a Chesterfield County couple, Carol Schall and Mary Townley, have joined the case. The couple married in California in 2008. They have a teenage daughter and want Virginia to recognize their marriage. In her ruling, Wright Allen said the lesbian couple “suffer humiliation and discriminatory treatment on the basis of their sexual orientation.”
A strange ribbon of energy and particles at the edge of the solar system first spotted by a NASA spacecraft appears to serve as a sort of “roadmap in the sky” for the interstellar magnetic field, scientists say. By comparing ground-based studies and in-space observations of solar system’s mysterious energy ribbon, which was first discovered by NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) in 2009, scientists are learning more details about the conditions at the solar system’s edge. The study also sheds light into the sun’s environment protects the solar system from high-energy cosmic rays. [Photos and Images from NASA’s IBEX Spacecraft] “What I always have been trying to do was to establish a clear connection between the very high-energy cosmic rays we’re seeing [from the ground] and what IBEX is seeing,” study leader Nathan Schwadron, a physicist at the University of New Hampshire, told Space.com. Previously, maps from ground-based observatories showed researchers that clusters of cosmic rays — extremely high-energy particles that originate from supernovas — are correlated with the IBEX ribbon. The ribbon is roughly perpendicular to the interstellar magnetic field while cosmic rays stream, on average, along the interstellar magnetic field. (The particles themselves are created from interactions between the solar wind and interstellar matter.) In the longer term, Schwadron said work like this will help scientists better understand more about the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space. This is a region that only one mission — NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft — has reached so far, and scientists know little about what that environment is like. More
Religious liberty law firm Thomas More Society has filed a federal lawsuit in Tennessee on behalf of former Walgreens pharmacist Philip Hall, alleging Hall was unfairly fired because his faith would not permit him to sell the Plan B morning-after pill over the counter. Hall worked for the Jamestown, Tenn., location for six years prior to his August 2013 termination. His attorneys say the store permitted him to opt out of filling prescriptions for abortifacients Ella or Plan B when they were prescription drugs. Hall, a Baptist, said he couldn’t fill those prescriptions because, “they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.” That arrangement apparently changed last year when the Food and Drug Administration allowed Plan B to be sold over the counter. Hall’s attorneys say that at an employee meeting on the change, his supervisors asked him what he would do if he was asked about the drug. Believing the previous procedures applied, Hall said he would refer the sale to another cashier. As a result, he was fired. Walgreens spokesman James Graham says he cannot comment on pending litigation, but, “We can tell you that Walgreens company policy allows pharmacists and other employees to step away from completing a transaction to which they have a moral objection. Our policy also requires the employee to refer the transaction to another employee or manager on duty who will complete the customer’s request.” More