- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2010

GAY MARRIAGE

Foes of D.C. bill want referendum

Opponents of a bill that would allow gay marriage in the District want to put a measure on the ballot to let voters weigh in.

Opponents filed paperwork with the Board of Elections and Ethics on Wednesday to try to put the referendum on the ballot. Previous similar attempts have been unsuccessful.

The District passed a bill in December that would let gay couples marry. Because the city is a federal district, the law is currently pending a period of review by Congress.

Also Wednesday, opponents of gay marriage were in court for a hearing in a lawsuit against the elections board. They are seeking to overturn the elections board’s refusal to allow a separate initiative on the ballot that would define marriage in the city as between a man and woman.

MARSHALS SERVICE

Courthouse security under review nationwide

A federal official says the government will conduct a nationwide review of courthouse security after a gunman killed a courthouse officer and wounded a deputy marshal in Las Vegas.

Michael Prout, a senior official with the U.S. Marshals Service, says his agency will scrutinize security measures at more than 400 federal facilities around the country.

Mr. Prout said many of those courthouses and other buildings are old and do not have the kind of modern security checkpoints in place at the Las Vegas building — meaning they could be more vulnerable.

Mr. Prout said the Las Vegas gunman, who never got past the security checkpoint on Monday, had not made any previous threats to judges and was not in the marshals’ database of those who had raised security concerns.

EEOC

Bias claims on the rise

The number of workers claiming job discrimination based on disability, religion or national origin surged to new highs last year, as federal job bias complaints overall stayed at near-record levels.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday that charges of disability discrimination rose by about 10 percent to 21,451 claims, the largest increase of any category.

The increase coincided with changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act last year that made it easier for people with epilepsy, diabetes and other treatable conditions to claim they are disabled.

Overall, the EEOC received more than 93,000 discrimination claims during the 2009 fiscal year, a 2 percent decrease from the record set in 2008, but still the second-highest level in the commission’s history.

As in previous years, claims based on race, sex and retaliation were the most frequent.

The commission’s acting chairman, Stuart Ishimaru, said equal employment opportunity “remains elusive for far too many workers.” He urged employers to step up efforts to end discrimination at work.

Since the ADA was enacted in 1990, a series of Supreme Court rulings have generally exempted from its protections those with partial physical disabilities or impairments that can be treated with medication or devices such as hearing aids.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama sets $250 million partnership for education

President Obama announced a $250 million public-private partnership Wednesday expanding a program to improve U.S. math and science education.

The fund, which nearly doubles a $260 million initiative announced in November, involves universities, large corporations, foundations, nonprofits and government agencies. It is intended to attract, develop and reward outstanding teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

One company, Intel Corp and the Intel Foundation, said it would launch a 10-year, $200 million cash and in-kind campaign to support math and science teaching.

The United States is the world’s biggest economy and its universities are considered world leaders, but it trails some Asian and European nations in educating children in math and science, fields considered essential for the U.S. competitiveness in the global economy.

INTERIOR

Chief announces oil, gas leasing reforms

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is announcing changes he says will bring more scrutiny and greater public participation in the way oil and gas leases are handled on public lands.

Mr. Salazar says the changes should ensure stricter environmental standards in oil and gas leasing while bringing more certainty for energy companies that hope to drill on public lands, mostly in Western states. Mr. Salazar is a former senator from Colorado. The Democrat criticized the Bush administration for what he called a “headlong rush” to lease public lands. Early last year, Mr. Salazar suspended 60 of 77 leases in Utah approved in the waning days of that administration.

Industry groups have accused Mr. Salazar of significantly reducing oil and gas leases on federal lands. He has disputed that.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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