The week at a glance ... United States
San FranciscoJudge restores gay marriage: Denying gay couples the right to marry violates the U.S. Constitution, a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled, in a decision that’s almost certain to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Following a lengthy trial, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled this week that California’s gay-marriage ban, passed as a state constitutional amendment in 2008, violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection and due process clauses and “does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.” Two gay couples sued to overturn the ballot result, which in turn nullified an earlier ruling by the California Supreme Court that allowed same-sex marriage. Gay-marriage opponents immediately requested a stay, pending appeals.
Jefferson City, Mo. No to Obama-care: Missouri voters this week delivered a thumbs down on the new national health-insurance program, easily approving a ballot measure that invalidates a key provision of the law. The largely symbolic ballot proposition would nullify the mandate that requires citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The controversial provision is likely to be the subject of multiple court tests before it goes into effect in 2014. Republican leaders hailed the Missouri vote as a repudiation of Obama-care. But it’s unclear if the vote reflects mainstream sentiment: Turnout was sparse, and most of those who did vote were Republicans, because the most competitive primary races on the ballot were between GOP candidates.
Iowa CityCrowded campus: Officials at the University of Iowa are hustling to find additional housing, after they admitted 400 more students for the fall semester than they have room for. Like other colleges and universities, Iowa admits more students than it can accommodate, on the assumption that a certain number will choose to attend other schools. This year, though, admissions officials miscalculated, leaving the school to cope with a freshman class that, at 4,500 students, is 10 percent larger than last year’s. Many of the extra students are from Asia, where the university aggressively recruits; foreign students typically pay three times the tuition of in-state students. School officials are feverishly negotiating with local landlords and converting student lounges to try to handle the overflow.
New York CityPlotters convicted: Two would-be terrorists who had planned an attack on New York’s Kennedy International Airport that one said would “dwarf 9/11” were convicted on terrorism and conspiracy charges this week. A federal jury found Russell Defreitas, a former cargo handler at the airport, and Abdul Kadir, a former member of the Guyanese parliament, guilty of planning to blow up jet-fuel storage tanks at the airport. Had they succeeded with their plan, the explosions could have killed tens of thousands of people. The case hinged on an informant’s tape recordings of Defreitas and Kadir discussing the plot. Both men could face life in prison when they’re sentenced in December.
Manchester, Conn.Workplace rampage: A driver for a Connecticut beer wholesaler went on a shooting rampage with racial overtones, killing eight people and wounding two at the company’s headquarters this week before killing himself. The horrific attack occurred at Hartford Distributors, where Omar Thornton, 34, had just been dismissed for allegedly stealing beer. As he was being escorted out of the building following a disciplinary hearing, witnesses said, Thornton pulled out a pistol and shot at co-workers and a union representative who was on hand for the hearing. Witnesses said he gunned down his victims “cold as ice.’’ Family members said Thornton had been complaining of racial harassment by white co-workers. After the shootings, he called his mother to say he had killed “the racists.’’
Newport, R.I. Kerry’s yacht flap: Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said this week he would pay some $500,000 in state taxes on his new yacht, after taking heat for registering his yacht in Rhode Island. By berthing the $7 million, 76-foot sloop in Newport, and not in his home state, said the Boston Herald, Kerry dodged about $430,000 in Massachusetts sales taxes, as well as an annual excise tax of about $70,000. Republicans said Kerry, who favors eliminating the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, was a hypocrite for trying to cut his own tax bill. Kerry said he never intended to avoid Massachusetts taxes, and was writing a check to the state for the full amount, “whether owed or not.’’ He blamed himself for not seeing how registering the yacht in Rhode Island would play “politically’’ and “in terms of the perception.’’