- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Judge strikes down Kentucky’s gay marriage ban

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge in Kentucky struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage on Tuesday, though the ruling was temporarily put on hold and it was not immediately clear when same-sex couples could be issued marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in Louisville concluded that the state’s prohibition on same-sex couples being wed violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by treating gay couples differently than straight couples. The ruling was the latest in a string of victories for gay marriage advocates across the nation, and marked the most recent conservative state to have its ban overturned.

Heyburn previously struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing same-sex marriages from other states and countries, but he put the implementation of that ruling on hold. That decision did not deal with whether Kentucky would have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Instead, Tuesday’s ruling dealt directly with that question.

“Sometimes, by upholding equal rights for a few, courts necessarily must require others to forebear some prior conduct or restrain some personal instinct,” Heyburn wrote. “Here, that would not seem to be the case. Assuring equal protection for same-sex couples does not diminish the freedom of others to any degree.”

Heyburn noted that every federal court to consider a same-sex marriage ban has found it unconstitutional. Gay rights activists have won 18 cases in federal and state courts since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 overturned a key portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, allowing married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Only Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has argued for keeping a state ban on same-sex marriages.

A total of 13 gay marriage cases are pending in state and federal appeals courts. Those rulings all are on hold pending appellate court decisions.

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Long-running Baptist Homes lawsuit ends

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A federal judge’s order has ended a long-running lawsuit in Kentucky over public funding of faith-based organizations.

In a settlement agreement reached last year, Kentucky officials agreed to monitor state-funded child care agencies to ensure they’re not proselytizing or pushing religion on the children in their care.

U.S. District Judge Charles Simpson signed an order on Monday approving the settlement and dismissing the suit, which was filed in 2000.

The suit was filed by three citizens and a lesbian who claimed religious discrimination in her firing from her job with Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children. The Baptist-affiliated agency has since changed its name to Sunrise Children’s Services.

The worker’s claim against Sunrise was dismissed in 2009, but a challenge over public funding of religious groups was allowed to proceed.

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The South prescribes more painkillers, CDC says

NEW YORK (AP) - Powerful painkillers have been driving the nation’s rising rate of overdose deaths, and now the government is singling out the states where doctors write the most prescriptions.

A second report released Tuesday spotlights how a crackdown in Florida led to hundreds fewer overdose deaths from prescription painkillers in just a few years.

The reports are part of a campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat deaths from prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin. In 2011, drug overdose deaths reached 41,000 and 41 percent of them involved prescription painkillers.

The state account comes from a database of U.S. retail pharmacies that fill the bulk of prescriptions.

THE NATIONAL PICTURE:

Southern states had the most prescriptions in 2012. Alabama was in the lead with 143 prescriptions per 100 people, followed closely by Tennessee. The other leading states were - in ranking order - West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana. Doctors in the South have also topped prescription rate lists for other medications, including antibiotics and stimulants for children. Rates of chronic disease tend to be higher in the South, but past research has found that doesn’t explain away the difference. Hawaii had the least prescriptions, at 52 per 100 people.

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Park without fountain due to copper thieves

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A Lexington park will be without a fountain for a few days after thieves took 23 copper fountain heads.

The Lexington Herald Leader (http://bit.ly/1mQHYMX) reports the Division of Parks and Recreation shut off the water feature at Thoroughbred Park so repairs could be made.

Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said there are no suspects because no one saw the theft occur.

Roberts said there was at least $10,000 worth of damage, though the Parks and Recreation department was trying to determine an exact amount.

Phillip Bryant was working on the fountain Monday, and said he hoped to have it up and running in time for the Fourth of July.

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