In a landmark move, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up two cases that could either lead to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide or affirm the rights of legislators and voters to protect traditional marriage, reports Baptist Press. The court’s action Dec. 7 means that sometime next year—perhaps in March—the court will hear oral arguments in the cases and hand down a decision by the end of June. The justices will consider the constitutionality of two laws. One is the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as being between a man and a woman. The other is California Proposition 8, a voter-approved constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Together, the cases pose a question at the core of the marriage debate: Under the U.S. Constitution can the federal government and the various states define marriage in the traditional sense, thus prohibiting the recognition of gay marriage and other non-traditional unions? Supporters of gay marriage say DOMA and Prop 8 violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Nine states recognize gay marriage, but 30 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The other 11 states define marriage in statutes as between a man and a woman. If the Supreme Court strikes down California Prop 8, then the 41 states that don’t recognize gay marriage could be forced to do so. If it overturns DOMA, then the federal government will be forced to recognize the gay marriages of the nine states where it’s legal, something it currently does not. Lower courts struck down DOMA and Prop 8 in the cases at issue. California voters passed Prop 8 in 2008 by a margin of 52-48. The amendment reads, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” It reversed a California Supreme Court ruling that had legalized gay marriage. “Every one of the numerous legal steps we have taken for the past four years has been in anticipation of this moment,” Andy Pugno, general counsel for California’s ProtectMarriage.com, said in a statement. ProtectMarriage.com is the organization behind Prop 8. “Arguing this case before the Supreme Court finally gives us a chance at a fair hearing, something that hasn’t been afforded to the people since we began this fight. We are delighted that the nation’s highest court will decide whether to uphold the will of more than seven million Californians who voted to preserve the unique definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman.” The Defense of Marriage Act was passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by President Clinton. “Marriage between a man and a woman is a universal good that diverse cultures and faiths have honored throughout the history of Western Civilization,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jim Campbell said in a statement. ADF supports DOMA and Prop 8. “Marriage expresses the truth that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life. The ProtectMarriage.com legal team looks forward to advocating before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the people’s right to preserve this fundamental building block of civilization.”
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reportedly returned to Cuba on Sunday for more surgery after a recurrence of cancer led him to name a successor for the first time in case the disease ends his 14-year dominance of the OPEC nation, said newsmax.com. In his first public acknowledgement that he might have to step down, the socialist leader said his vice president and foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, would take over if he were incapacitated. He urged supporters to back Maduro if there was a new vote. “I have absolute confidence in the bright future that lies ahead for our beloved fatherland and the Bolivarian revolution,” Chavez said in a short letter read to an emotional session of the National Assembly that approved his return to Havana. His departure from office, either before or after the scheduled Jan. 10 start of his new term, would trigger an election within 30 days. It would also mark the end of an era for the Latin American left, depriving it of one of its most acerbic voices and the region’s loudest critic of Washington.
- Officials in Virginia and Ohio, once reliably red states that have gone for President Obama in the past two elections, have discussed the idea of apportioning their electoral votes by congressional district—a system some say would more accurately reflect the will of the states’ voters but one that others dismiss as an unnecessary political ploy, reports minutemennews.com. The talks come as demographic shifts have pushed the GOP’s reliable bastions to more exurban and rural areas, allowing Democrats to win such states by sufficiently running up their margins in a comparatively small number of densely populated cities and counties. To that end, Virginia state Sen. Charles W. Carrico Sr., Grayson Republican, has introduced a bill that would award one electoral vote to the winner of each of the state’s 11 congressional districts, and the state’s two at-large votes to the candidate that wins the majority of the districts. Carrico cited the results in the southwestern 9th Congressional District—where Mitt Romney won 63 percent of the vote—as part of the reason he introduced the bill. “People in my district—they feel discouraged by coming out because their votes don’t mean anything if they’re outvoted in metropolitan districts,” Carrico said. “It can go either way—it doesn’t necessarily mean that one political party is going to be favored over another. When they come out to vote, they know their vote counts instead of a winner-take-all. I’d love to see other states to do this because I don’t feel the Electoral College right now is a fair system.”
- Should Christmas be more about Jesus Christ or Santa Claus? It may seem hard to tell looking at the popular culture, but Americans overwhelmingly think the emphasis should be on Jesus, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey that finds that 76 percent of American Adults believe Christmas should be more about Jesus. Only 14 percent think it should be more about Santa, but another 10 percent are not sure.
- One side wants to rein in entitlements to deal with the budget deficit; the other side insists that any such moves be accompanied by higher taxes on the wealthy. That may sound like the ongoing fiscal battle in Washington, but actually describes the situation in Britain, reports newsmax.com. The difference is that Britain has already raised taxes on the wealthy, with a telling result: The government actually lost revenue. In the 2009–2010 tax year in Britain, more than 16,000 people reported annual income of more than 1 million pounds (equal to about $1.6 million today). Then in 2010, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a member of the Labour Party, introduced a new 50 percent top income tax rate for high-income earners. After that, the number of people reporting income of at least 1 million pounds fell to 6,000. “It is believed that rich Britons moved abroad or took steps to avoid paying the new levy by reducing their taxable incomes,” The Telegraph reported. Harriet Baldwin, a Conservative member of Parliament, said, “Labour’s ideological tax hike led to a tax cull of millionaires.” Instead of raising revenue, the tax hike cost the U.K. 7 billion pounds ($11.2 billion) in lost revenue—and that in an economy one-quarter the size of America’s. Now the government of Conservative Party Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that it will lower the top rate from 50 percent to 45 percent, a move the Labour Party officials have called a “tax cut for millionaires.” In ongoing budget talks, Conservatives want to freeze out-of-work benefits, which are set to rise with inflation, while liberals in the government “will only allow the benefits freeze if taxes on the rich are increased,” according to The Telegraph. Democrats in the United States might note, said the report, that since Cameron’s government announced the lower top rate, the number of Britons reporting income of at least 1 million pounds has risen to 10,000. In other news, cowboybyte.com reports that 73 percent of the new civilian jobs created in the United States over the last five months are in government, according to official data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And townhall.com reports that taxpayers are no longer simply helping the poor, they’re subsidizing the lives of welfare recipients at a better rate than their own. The Senate Budget Committee has released a report showing households living below the poverty line and receiving welfare payments are raking in the equivalent of $168 per day in benefits which come in the form of food stamps, housing, childcare, healthcare and more. The median household income in 2011 was $50,054, totaling $137.13 per day. The worst part? Welfare payments are equivalent to making $30 per hour for 40 hours a week. The median wage for non-welfare recipients is $25 per hour but because they pay taxes, unlike welfare recipients, the wage is bumped down to $21 per hour.
- The federal government has already racked up a $292 billion budget deficit just two months into the 2013 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office, reports Breitbart.com. The CBO is predicting that for the fifth straight year under President Barack Obama, the country will have a deficit of more than $1 trillion, but the the federal government is off to a faster start in reaching the $1 trillion mark this fiscal year. For the first two months of fiscal year 2013, the “deficit is $57 billion more than the deficit for the first two months of fiscal .” In addition, the CBO estimated that spending is also 4 percent higher, with Social Security spending up 8 percent, Medicare up 8 percent, Medicaid up 9 percent while unemployment benefits are down 22 percent and defense spending is down 2 percent.
- A group founded by followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, just announced that they had decided to hold their 12 Annual Convention at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. The choice was made in their attempt to “cross interfaith lines.” Muslim Public Affairs Council was spawned by the Islamic Center of Southern California, which has been involved in an interfaith outreach program for several years now. They claim that their goal is to educate other religions, Christians and Jews, that they have nothing to fear from their Muslim neighbors. ICSC has been holding weekly prayers at the First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica. MPAC was started by a pair of Egyptian brothers who were involved with the Muslim Brotherhood while still quite young. One of the brothers, Maher Hathout, spent three years in an Egyptian prison for his involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood back in the 1960s. Several years after his release, his family moved to Buffalo, N.Y., and eventually to California. Writer Dave Jolly, in lastresistance.com, remarked, “Every church that I have belonged to, had strict standards for anyone wishing to use the church facilities for any type of function. The person or organization had to be Christian and believe in the Bible and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. At one church, I served as chairman of the board of deacons and we turned down several requests from outside groups because their religious views were not in keeping with our church’s standards. However, many churches are not that caring about their standards and in fact many liberal churches these days don’t even have any standards.”
- Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) latest report on spending by the Department of Defense shows, among other things, defense spending used for lecture series involving fictional alien species, reports breitbart.com. “Did Jesus Die for Klingons too?” was just one session at a recent workshop funded by the Defense Advances Research Projects Agency Further. DARPA paid nearly $100,000 for a strategy-planning workshop on the 100 Year Starship project last year, which included an interesting discussion involving the Klingons, a fictional alien species who were villains and then later allies of humanity in the Star Trek series. The session titled “Did Jesus Die for Klingons too?” featured philosophy professor Christian Weidemann of Germany’s Ruhr-University Bochum, who pondered the theological conflict to Christianity if intelligent life was found on other planets.
- Residents of a senior adult apartment complex staged a protest after the management of their building announced a ban on Christmas trees and menorahs in communal areas, reports Fox News. “We’re all angry,” resident Fern Scheel told the Los Angeles Daily News. “We want that tree. Where’s our freedom? This is ridiculous.” JB Partners Group sent a memorandum to The Willows in Newhall, Calif., ordering them to remove the Christmas tree from the community room because they deemed it a religious symbol, the newspaper reported.