A federal judge has granted a temporary six-day stay of his ruling striking down California’s gay marriage ban, known as Proposition 8. On Thursday, US District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker said gay marriage opponents have until next Wednesday to seek an appeals court ruling on whether to block gay marriages while his initial decision is appealed. In Los Angeles, West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore John Duran announced the decision to a crowd of gay marriage supporters.
John Duran: "We’ve just received information from the federal court in San Francisco that Judge Walker has said the marriages cannot begin until August the 18th at 5:00 p.m. So, those couples who are in lines at county offices, it looks like you’re going to have to wait another week. Some of you have waited five, ten, twenty years. You’re going to have to wait another week. We cannot start performing marriages until August the 18th at 5:00 in the evening."
Although several gay rights groups called Walker’s ruling a victory, some same-sex couples criticized the delay. Los Angeles residents Robin Tyler and Diane Olsen said they’re disappointed that the wait will continue.
Robin Tyler: "Sad. You know, sad. It’s an emotional roller coaster. I’m sorry that they stayed the marriages for a week, because I’m sure that the opposition is going to go to a higher court and try to stop it. And, you know, for what reason? It’s very disappointing."
Diane Olsen: "I’m not mad. I am thoroughly disgusted."
In issuing the temporary stay, Judge Walker said he doubts gay marriage opponents will prevail in their appeal of his ruling because they haven’t shown how they’d be affected by its implementation. By contrast, Walker said same-sex couples are being denied their constitutional rights every day the ban’s in place. Jeff Zarrillo, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Proposition 8, said he remains hopeful that the appeal will be denied.
Jeff Zarrillo: "I totally understand that, and I can certainly understand people’s emotions, but we have to keep the endgame in sight. And the endgame is a full federal equality for all gay and lesbian Americans. And we’re confident we’ll get there."
A CNN poll released this week shows a majority of Americans support same-sex weddings, with 52 percent saying they think gay and lesbians have a constitutional right to marriage.
The number of claims for first-time unemployment benefits has reached its highest level in six months. On Thursday, the Labor Department said over 484,000 initial jobless claims were filed last month, the highest number since the week ending February 20th. New figures meanwhile show foreclosures increased nine percent last month to 93,000. That’s also a six percent increase over the same period a year ago.
Amidst some of the worst economic news in weeks, a new report predicts Wall Street bonuses will likely increase for the second straight year. The compensation consultant Johnson Associates says firms will see bonus hikes of up to 15 percent, surpassing 2009 levels.
The oil giant BP has been fined $50.6 million for ongoing safety hazards stemming from a deadly 2005 explosion that killed fifteen workers and injured 180 others at its Texas City, Texas refinery. The penalty comes on top of an $87 million fine against BP last year for failing to make safety improvements. Earlier this year, the refinery accidentally released an estimated 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals over the course of forty days.
Alabama’s Attorney General has filed two lawsuits accusing BP and other companies of neglecting their responsibility for the Gulf Coast oil disaster. The separate lawsuits allege that BP, as well as other firms including Transocean and Halliburton, have damaged Alabama’s economy and environment through "negligent or wanton failure to adhere to recognized industry standards." The suits seek unspecified economic and punitive damages. Over 300 federal lawsuits have been filed in twelve states against BP and the other main companies involved in the disaster.
Congress has given final approval to a $600 million measure to increase militarization of the US-Mexico border. On Thursday, the Senate approved the measure with just two members present, Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland. Schumer and Cardin interrupted their summer recess to advance the bill after a congressional procedure held it up. Schumer said the measure would help fight violence and drug trafficking.
Sen. Charles Schumer: "Today I come to the floor to seek unanimous consent to pass a smart, tough and effective $600 million bill that will significantly enhance the security and integrity of our nation’s border, which currently lacks the resources needed to fully combat the drug smugglers, gun runners, human traffickers, money launderers and other organized criminals that seek to do harm to innocent Americans along our border."
The spending will fund around 1,500 new border agents and law enforcement officials as well as two aerial surveillance drones. The bill now goes to President Obama, who’s expected to sign it into law.
The vote comes on the heels of a poll this week showing the majority of residents in US towns bordering Mexico feel their communities are safe. The group that commissioned the poll, the Border Network for Human Rights, says it’s the first independent survey of border-town residents. Over 86 percent of respondents said they feel safe in their daily activities and nearly 70 percent said they feel they’re as safe as in any community in the United States. In a statement, Fernando García of the Border Network for Human Rights said, "It is time to rethink our border policy by increasing the quality and accountability of border enforcement, not the quantity of armed agents and soldiers."
Israel has rejected a new Palestinian offer to base peace talks on establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. The proposal was based on a statement from the Middle East Quartet of the US, UN, the European Union and Russia earlier this year that also called for a freeze on West Bank settlements and on home demolitions in East Jerusalem. But Israel has refused to accept any preconditions that could scale back its control of the West Bank. Palestinian Authority adviser Mohammad Shtayyeh criticized Israel’s stance.
Mohammad Shtayyeh: "It is a pity that such a pressure is directed to the Palestinian Authority rather than it should be directed fully and totally against and towards the Israeli government. The Palestinian Authority president Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] has actually made everything possible for successful peace talks. Israel has not offered anything, neither a good environment for peace — i.e. to totally freeze all the Jewish settlements — and, on top of all, Israel has not accepted a clear terms of reference for the peace talks."
Despite promises to engage more forcefully in peace efforts, the Obama administration reportedly rejected two Palestinian requests to take a key role in the talks. Palestinians say the US turned down their proposals to host a meeting between them and Israel on establishing a framework for talks and a separate proposal for President Obama to issue a statement outlining the US stance on what the framework should be, as President Bill Clinton did in late 2000.
The Pentagon is continuing to warn WikiLeaks about releasing more classified Afghan war records on top of the initial 76,000 it published last month. On Thursday, WikiLeaks said it’s about halfway through preparing the remaining 15,000 documents for release. In response, Pentagon spokesperson Geoff Morrell said publishing the new documents would be the "height of irresponsibility" and would harm US forces, US allies and Afghan civilians.
A group of US Congress members has asked the State Department to explore ways to end US responsibility and financing for a program to compensate Iraqi victims of US attacks. USAID director Christopher Crowley said the US has already asked Iraq to make a larger contribution to the fund.
Iraq’s top military commander meanwhile continues to warn that his troops won’t be ready for a planned US withdrawal next year. Speaking at a military conference in Baghdad, Lieutenant General Babakir Zebari repeated his contention that the Iraqi armed forces will need US backing until 2020.
Lt. Gen. Babakir Zebari: "The US military will be here for advice and backing, but in very special cases they will be ready to defend the Iraqi army, because they control the Iraqi spaces as our air force is not complete yet. The US has 50,000 actual combat troops, but the problem will be after 2011. So, we have to work with the Americans, the West or the regional countries, because the Iraqi army will be ready in 2020."
Pakistani officials are warning the province of Sindh is facing floods that could be as destructive as the first round that displaced millions of people. Rising waters in a nearby river could overrun the surrounding embankments and flood the area. More than 1,600 people have died since the floods began over two weeks ago.
A group of British-based Pakistani journalists held a protest in London Thursday to call attention to what they say is a media crackdown by the Pakistani government. At least two news outlets have faced recent attacks after running criticism of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to continue with a foreign trip as the floods hit.
Pakistani journalist and attorney Abid Hussain: "They’ve clamped down on a number of media outlets and shut them down so we can’t expose the bad governance and all these issues that are happening with regards to the lack of governance and the lack of help for these flood victims, and, of course, trying to portray what’s actually the true sentiment and feelings of the overseas Pakistanis and the Pakistanis at home. So this protest is actually against the government, against Zardari, against civilian dictatorship, in order to ensure that we have a free and democratic media in Pakistan and overseas."
Burma’s military junta has announced it will hold the country’s first elections in two decades on November 7th. The main Burmese opposition party, the National League for Democracy, has already said it will boycott the elections because the junta has barred the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other current or former political prisoners from running.
In Haiti, dozens of protesters held a sit-in at the National Palace Thursday to oppose the forced evictions of thousands of displaced residents from makeshift camps. The Haitian government has been urged to issue a moratorium on all forced evictions until alternative shelter options can be provided.
And a New York woman has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the New York Police Department over a beating at a lesbian party last year. Tiffany Jimenez says officers yelling homophobic slurs assaulted her and another lesbian of color outside a Brooklyn bar in May 2009. In a statement, Jimenez said, "This lawsuit can’t take away the violence I suffered, and it won’t give me back the months that it’s taken to recover. Yet I hope it will help make the NYPD think twice before violating the rights of LGBT people of color."