By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether states can ban gay marriage, delving into a contentious social issue in what will be one of the most anticipated rulings of the year. The court, in a brief order, said it would hear cases concerning marriage restrictions in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. The plaintiffs include two nurses from Michigan, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, and Louisville. "We are excited obviously for our clients and for the many thousands of couples like them in Michigan, but we are also excited for the entire nation," added Dana Nessel, a lawyer for the Michigan plaintiffs.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, saying it's the best way for the church to get as many resources as possible to victims of clergy sexual abuse while continuing its daily ministry.
By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida prosecutors on Friday announced the filing of misdemeanor battery charges against two Orlando police officers in unrelated 2014 incidents involving the arrests of black men. Officers Chase Fugate and William Escobar were suspended with pay pending the outcome of separate internal investigations to determine whether their actions violated department policy, according to a police press release. The investigations come as scrutiny on police has been heightened in recent months by the killing of unarmed blacks by white officers, raising questions about police treatment of racial minorities. Fugate faces two misdemeanor charges of battery for his June 14 arrest of a 22-year-old black man who fled as Fugate attempted to stop him from driving a car reported as stolen, according to the police report of the arrest.
(Reuters) - Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $48.83 million to settle U.S. government claims it violated federal law by providing benefits to ineligible aliens under Medicaid and two other federal programs from 2004 to 2010. In a statement on Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice said the commonwealth provided improper benefits under Medicaid, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. The Justice Department said Pennsylvania violated a 1996 law that authorizes non-emergency benefits only for documented aliens who fall below specified income thresholds and have been in the country for more than five years, and that requires states to verify recipients' eligibility.
By Richard Weizel HARTFORD, Conn. (Reuters) - A Connecticut panel charged with coming up with ways to reduce school violence after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School plans to urge the state to strengthen its already strict gun laws. While the state adopted some of the toughest rules on gun ownership in the United States following the attack at a Newtown school that left 20 children and six educators dead, the panel voted on Friday to ask Governor Dannel Malloy to restrict gun ownership further in its final report next month. The panel dropped a recommendation that would have allowed Connecticut gunmakers to continue manufacturing such weapons for sale out of state. The Newtown gunman, Adam Lanza, used high-capacity clips to fire off 154 rounds in less than five minutes in his Dec. 14, 2012 attack.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque's mayor took to the airwaves to answer questions about officer-involved shootings after a trying week for the city's police force, calling on lawmakers to take up legislation that could help reduce police encounters with dangerous mentally ill residents.
Police in Delaware County say a mother who allegedly locked her mentally impaired son outside in freezing temperatures has surrendered.
Four St. Louis-area activists are seeking a court-ordered investigation of the prosecutor who oversaw the grand jury that declined to indict a white police officer who killed black teenager Michael Brown last August. The group filed a petition late Thursday asking the Missouri State Circuit Court to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch's conduct and possibly seek his ouster. McCulloch has come under fire since his Nov. 24 announcement that a grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9.
By Joan Biskupic WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For nearly two decades, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has been building toward this moment in the history of gay legal rights in America. In decisions since 1996, Kennedy has broadened the court's view of equality for gays. Now, as the court said on Friday it would consider a constitutional right to gay marriage, Kennedy is likely to be the justice who tips the balance on the nine-member court. Yet the 78-year-old Californian has already laid the foundation for a possible decision extending gay marriage to all 50 states.
The Justice Department said on Friday the Obama administration will urge the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage nationwide. "We expect to file (a) friend-of-the-court brief that will urge (the) Supreme Court to make marriage equality a reality for all Americans," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a tweet posted by a department spokesman.
By Camilo Smith HOUSTON (Reuters) - With the help of an informant who had a run-in with the law and a DNA database, Houston police said on Friday they believe they have cracked a three-decade-old cold case involving the murders of two sisters who were fatally shot in their home. Police said that Edmond Beauregard Degan, 57, has been charged with the 1984 murders of sisters Yleen and Lillie Kennedy. "He tells his attorney, 'I want to get this out' and just started telling us the story," said Sergeant Paul Motard with the department's Homicide Division Cold Case Unit.
A body found on the grounds of a California desert resort hotel has been identified as that of a missing AIG executive who failed to turn up for meetings last week, the sheriff's office said on Friday. The Riverside County Sheriff's Department in a brief statement said the remains found in a small pond at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, about 120 miles (193 km) east of Los Angeles, were those of 33-year-old Omar Arce Meza. A cause of death had not been established for Meza, who lived in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Diane, sheriff's officials said. "We are with heavy hearts tonight as we announce the passing of Omar Meza.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — A teenager charged with shooting a classmate in the chest at his central California high school two years ago accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors Friday for a 27-year sentence in state prison.
(Reuters) - Firefighters in Hawaii backed by water-dropping helicopters and earth-moving equipment contained two brushfires ignited by molten lava that continues to threaten a Big Island village, officials said on Friday. Firefighters toiled late into the evening on Thursday to contain the blazes, which burned about 350 acres of brush about a mile from two subdivisions in the Pahoa Village vicinity, Hawaii County Fire Department said in a statement. "The fires that occurred yesterday are contained with the fire break perimeters, and additional work is being done to improve fire break conditions," the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in statement. The leading edge of lava from the Kilauea Volcano's June 27 eruption has not moved forward in recent days and is stalled about a half mile upslope of the main intersection of Pahoa Village's two roads.
SITKA, Alaska (AP) — A seafood processor based in Alaska has sold a 12 percent ownership stake to the parent company of StarKist Co., giving the South Korea tuna producer greater access to salmon.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators: Power not shut off on smoky DC subway for 44 minutes in fatal accident.
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont could reap hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue if it were to legalize marijuana, but only if nearby states didn't also jump on the bandwagon, according to a study released Friday.
By John Shiffman WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has halted a secret, nearly 15-year program that collected virtually all data on international calls between the United States and certain countries, according to documents and officials familiar with the matter. The sweeping bulk DEA database program was stopped in September 2013, shortly after elements were revealed by Reuters and then The New York Times, according to a redacted court filing made public on Thursday and U.S. officials. The program, run by DEA’s Special Operations Division, collected international U.S. phone records to create a database primarily used for domestic criminal cases – not national security investigations, according to records and sources involved. DEA shared this information with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, IRS, Homeland Security, and intelligence agencies, according to records reviewed by Reuters.
Police in Delaware County are looking for a mother who allegedly locked her mentally impaired son outside in freezing temperatures.
By Keith Coffman DENVER (Reuters) - A policeman charged with murder in the shooting death of a man last year in a rural Colorado community shot the victim in the back when he posed no threat to the officer, court papers unsealed on Friday showed. James Ashby, 31, is charged with second-degree murder in the October slaying of Jack Jacquez, 27, in the small farming town of Rocky Ford, about 135 miles southeast of Denver.