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Man Executed in Texas for Crime Committed at Age 17

This news from Huntsville, Texas, the death penalty capital of the Western world. Last night a man was put to death for a fatal shooting he committed at the age of seventeen. Glen Alan McGinnis was executed by lethal injection. The Vatican, the European Union, the American Bar Association and death penalty opponents had pleaded for the life of the twenty-seven-year-old . They raised objections to the execution because McGinnis was a juvenile at the time of the crime. He also came from a troubled background. His mother was drug-dependent. He was raped and beaten as a child. The execution is the sixth this year in Texas, which leads the nation in capital punishment. Once again, another execution carried out, as George W. Bush campaigns in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez Lobby Members of Congress

After a day of lobbying lawmakers, the grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez are eager for their planned reunion with their grandson today in Miami. The women met yesterday in Washington with members of Congress who support their desire to return Elian to his father in Cuba. Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, is among those who want to block legislation that would give the six-year-old boy US citizenship. Dodd says Congress shouldn’t be interfering in the boy’s fate, and Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee of Houston, Texas, says meeting with the grandmothers reinforced her view that Congress shouldn’t be involved in the case.

Editors and Reporters Protest Florida Editorial Belittling Slavery

Editors and reporters at the Florida Times-Union have written a letter of protest about an editorial in the newspaper that said slavery had “existed briefly in America" and that "its effects are not permanent." The January 10th editorial ran under the headline, “The Lingering Issue,” and questioned the need to continue affirmative action in Florida, mentioning Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s plan to eliminate racial preferences in state university admissions and state contracting decisions. The editorial said Congress justified affirmative action thirty-five years ago to make up for past wrongs. Among the wrongs was slavery, which existed briefly in America but ended more then a century ago, the editorial said. It went on to say, however, while it’s unfortunate that people from Africa were slaves in eighteenth century America, it was not unique.

Foreign Concern Over Far-Right Politics in Austria

This news from Vienna, Austria. The leaders of Israel and Sweden joined today in the chorus of foreign concern about the possibility that Joerg Haider’s far-right party will participate in Austria’s next government. Late yesterday, Viktor Klima, Austria’s caretaker chancellor, announced that his social democrats were abandoning efforts to form a minority government, increasing chances that Haider’s party will be part of the next government coalition.

Public Hearing in Vermont State House on Gay Marriage Recognition

And despite a snowstorm, more than 1,500 people crammed inside Vermont’s State House last night to offer their opinions on whether gay marriages should be recognized in a state that has grabbed the spotlight on the issue. My brother David Goodman was there.

    David Goodman: Vermonters braved a major snowstorm last night to fill the State House in Montpelier for the first major public hearing on a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Vermont. The public hearing followed by one month a decision by the Vermont Supreme Court which ruled that gay and lesbian couples were entitled to all the legal protections and benefits that heterosexuals enjoy in marriage. They then ordered the state legislature to come up with a solution by rewriting the marriage laws.

    This would make Vermont the first state in the nation if it does legalize marriage to have allowed gay couples to be legally recognized. There are presently two bills pending in the Vermont state legislature: one to legalize marriage and essentially put it on the same footing as heterosexual marriage, the other is to create a domestic partnership law which will provide gay couples with legal status but will not allow them to be married. Last night’s hearing, virtually all advocates of same-sex marriage rejected the domestic partnership as a form of “separate but equal” status, and they spoke in favor of legalizing marriage outright.

    Many of the advocates of gay marriage recalled Vermont’s history, in which it was the first state in the nation to outlaw slavery. Indeed, the Supreme Court in Vermont has written that this is one of the most important legal decisions in its history. There was a conscious and palpable sense of history in the State House chamber, as one person after another, many of them gay couples themselves or gay people who had been living in the closet for many years, spoke of their frustration and pain at not being able to marry their partners.

    Opponents, many of them from churches, a number of them read from the Bible to explain their opposition to gay marriage. There was a rally called by the Catholic Bishop of Vermont to go on concurrently with the hearings inside. It was to take place outside the State House. Because of the major snowstorm, the rally was cancelled. Instead, however, a number of clergy representing eighty-two clergy people came, wrote and appeared and spoke in favor of same-sex marriage. That included the Episcopal Bishop of Vermont and the Methodist Bishop, who have publicly disagreed and broken with the Catholic Bishop of the state.

    One gay clergyman in particular spoke of his frustration at being able to perform civil marriages for his parishioners but being unable to marry his own partner of many years. There is another hearing scheduled for about a month from now. The date has not been set. And a decision by the legislature on whether to legalize same-sex marriage in Vermont is expected probably in April. This is David Goodman in Montpelier for Pacifica Radio.

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