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DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional; SCOTUS Declines Ruling on Prop 8

The Supreme Court this morning struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, 5-4, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states.

From the opinion

"DOMA violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. The Constitution’s guarantee of equality 'must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot' justify disparate treatment of that group."

Read the full opinion here.

Following the court's announcement, President Barack Obama Tweeted his support. 


 

The Washington Post reports:

“The federal statute is invalid,” wrote Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion, “for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

Read more here.

Also on Wednesday, in another 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the appeal to the lower court's decision overturning California's Proposiion 8 — the state ballot measure that ruled that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized — had no standing, in effect, allowing same-sex marriage to continue on the state. 

Read the opinion here.

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What the Supreme Court Didn't Strike Down Yesterday

Voters in Arizona celebrated yesterday after the Supreme Court dismissed parts of Proposition 200 — the requirement that made people of Arizona provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. Although parts of Prop 200 remain intact, yesterday’s ruling was considered a step in the right direction for voters and immigrants across our nation. The Nation reports:

The Supreme Court defended voting rights yesterday when it struck down Arizona’s requirement to present proof of citizenship when registering to vote. But while the decision relieves registrants of an unnecessary burden, the rest of the proposition that brought it into being remains intact. Arizona’s Proposition 200 attacks not only voters but immigrants as well. Despite a win for voting rights yesterday, undocumented immigrants will remain especially vulnerable under the law.

Read more here.

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Report: Slowdown in Health Care Costs to Continue

"Obamacare" continues to be at the forefront of our nation’s health care epidemic. A recent report from PwC shows falling numbers within the system that are due to affect the overall cost of health care policies next year. Despite PwC’s report that the costs of health care are lower than years prior, critics claim that costs still aren’t where they need to be. The Associated Press reports:

For years U.S. health care spending has grown much faster than the overall economy and workers' wages, but since the recession those annual increases have slowed dramatically. The debate now is whether that's a continuing trend. The answer will be vitally important, not only for companies and their employees, but for taxpayers who foot the bill for government programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Obama's coverage expansion

Read more here.

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4 Reasons Why Republicans are Rekindling Evangelical Outreach

Republican's recently hired its former South Carolina chairman to lead engagement with evangelicals, even though 79 percent of evangelicals voted for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. The Washington Post lists four reasons why the GOP is continuning to reach out to evangelicals.

1. They need to - A lot of the faith community did not vote in the last election. This hurt the Republican party because 65 percent of evangelical voters identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party in 2008.

2. Mending fences - Republicans will have to communicate to the religious community a bit differently as the culture changes around hot button issues like same sex marriage and immigration.

3. New alliances - Republicans must unite economic conservatives, pro-defense hawks, anti-Washington libertarians and religious (mostly evangelical) conservatives to win elections.

4. Competition from Democrats - Democrats have put more effort into their faith outreach in the last two elections.

Read more here.

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Christian leaders seek to overcome polarization

Twenty-five religious leaders gathered to commit themselves to civil discourse. The meeting brought together conservative and liberal leaders. They agreed to "move politicians, congregants and Americans in general to understand that mean-spirited debate makes it all the harder to solve the nation’s problems." The Washington Post reports:

“You need some voice to say,’OK, we get that it can win elections, but maybe that’s not the best course of action.’ Typically, we think of religious leaders as voices of conscience, calling people to a better way. So therein is the hope,” said Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay Christian Resources.

Read more here.

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Rand Paul Courting Evangelicals

Rand Paul has used the last few months to aggressively court evangelicals through a CBN special, a trip to Israel, and appearances with pastors. This is a shift to take Paul from a tea-party hero to a mainstream political player. Paul refers to himself as a "“libertarian Republican” to distant himself from his father's strong libertarian beliefs. The Washington Post reports:

As he openly considers a run for president in 2016, Paul’s rebranding effort is a test of his political skills as well as the state of the Republican Party. For the senator, the question is whether he can win over the establishment without upsetting his tea party base.

Read more here.

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Arms Trade Treaty: Global Victory for Women and Girls

On April 2, the United Nations passed an innovative Arms Trade Treaty aimed at regulating the massive global trade in conventional weapons, for the first time linking arms sales to the human rights records of the buyers. For the first time arms manufacturers and dealers will have to consider the end use of their product — how will their customers use the weapons and to make that information public. The May-June 2013 issue of Maryknoll's NewsNotes explains the potential positive impact the treat could have on women and girls:

A particular element of the Treaty that is cause for much celebration is the inclusion of language that protects women and girls from armed gender-based violence (GBV). In the Preamble of the ATT, it states "that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict and armed violence."
 
In the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence against women and girls is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women [or girls], including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
 
Under Article 7.4 of the Arms Trade Treaty, GBV is included as a binding criterion for considering whether or not to export arms. The exporting party must consider the overriding risk of potential violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), international human rights law (IHRL) and must take into account the risk that the transfer will be "used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children."

Read the rest here: http://www.maryknollogc.org/article/arms-trade-treaty-global-victory-women-girls

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The Secret Faith of Washington

President Obama’s former religious adviser Joshua Dubois challenges the notion that Washington is a godless city. In a recent Newsweek article he writes:

Everyone knows about the politicians and interest groups—mainly conservative—who wear their faith on their sleeve. Yet across the ideological spectrum, Washington is filled with people at the height of political power who are practicing their faith seriously and profoundly, but largely out of public view.

Read more here.

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'Good Choice, Mr. President:' Jim Wallis on New Faith-Based Office Director

The White House announced today the appointment of Melissa Rogers as new director of its Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In a statement, former director Joshua DuBois called Rogers a "leader on religion and public life" and a "stalwart advocate for religious freedom." He added:

Melissa is also a committed Christian and lifelong Baptist.  She is active in her local church – I know that Melissa has taught youth Bible study, she and her family volunteer with the church food pantry, and she takes care of infants in the church nursery – and she truly cherishes the role of people of all faiths and belief in American public life.

Sojourners president and CEO Jim Wallis released the following statement: 

I’m privileged to know Melissa Rogers as both a valued colleague and a friend. Over the course of her career she has distinguished herself by her ability to thoughtfully and knowledgeably bring her faith and her understanding of the law to bear on important questions of public policy. Her genuine spirit and concern for others has earned her the trust of people on different sides of issues. Her deep competence on legal and policy matters will be very helpful in her new role. She will serve both the White House, the country, and the faith community well in this new position. I can't think of anyone who would have been a better choice for this key job at this critical time. Melissa is widely respected and trusted in the faith community, and many of us will support and assist her in any ways we can. Good choice, Mr. President!

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Are Women the Secret Weapon in Battle for Food Security?

On Monday, Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, submitted his report Gender and Food Security to the U.N. Human Rights Council, adding to the mountains of evidence that if you empower women with education and independent rights, they can substantially, cost-effectively, and generationally reduce hunger and malnutrition. The Guardian's Poverty Matters Blog reported: 

The notion that gender equality can play an important role in reducing hunger and malnutrition has gained increasing traction in development circles. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation claimed in its 2010-11 State of Food and Agriculture report that equal access to agricultural resources could reduce world hunger by 12-17%. Gender and food security also came under the spotlight in the 2012 edition of the World Bank's flagship annual report, where it was argued that parity in areas including landrights, employment and political representation could improve development outcomes.

These ideas are not new. Obliged to raise children, care for sick and elderly people, and run households – work that, valued in monetary terms, would be equivalent to 15% of GDP in low-income countries, rising to 35% in middle-income countries – it has long been argued that women are being denied education opportunities, marginalising them both economically and politically. The challenge lies in convincing policymakers to do something about these multiple challenges.

Says De Schutter:

"We must address how gender roles are being defined within the family and who makes the decisions in government. ...We must refuse to take existing gender roles as givens, and instead allow women to shift the burden to men;where possible, giving women access to more opportunities and better training and education, and exposure to something other than the traditional responsibilities they have been assuming."

"If local NGOs and women's organisations and unions mobilise, using the report to put pressure on the government from below, that will be even more effective than international pressure."

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Did You Watch It? "Makers: Women Who Make America"

Last night, PBS aired Makers: Women Who Make America a joint effort documentary by PBS and AOL, which chronicles the last 50 years of the women’s liberation movement in the United States. If you missed it, here’s your chance to watch it all online.

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LATEST ON VAWA: House Backing Down

Tuesday night, the Rules Commission added a caveat in the House bill that if it isn’t passed, a vote for the Senate bill will take place in the House. Democrats expect that the House will finish debating the GOP version of the bill on Wednesday or Thursday and fail to get enough votes; then will vote and receive the necessary votes on the Senate-passed bill and send it to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

To read more, go here.

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Women To See Higher Prices For Long-Term Care Insurance

Genworth Financial, the country’s largest long-term care insurer, has announced that starting this spring it will take gender into account when setting premiums on new policies. The reason is because for every three dollars, two is spent on claims by women. This will have detrimental ramifications because:

“The change will mean that rates for female applicants could be up to 40% higher under the new pricing policy” says Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care.

Furthermore, on top of the raise in cost, new applicants will be required to undergo a medical exam. To read more, visit NPR

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House Introduces Own VAWA Bill

On Friday, House GOP leaders released their own Violence Against Women Act bill that strips protection for the LGBT community by removing all mention of sexual orientation and gender identity from the bill and also adding a loophole for Native American victims. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) a chief advocate for VAWA in the Senate blasted the House bill, saying: 

“It’s not a compromise, it’s an unfortunate effort to exclude specific groups of women from receiving basic protections under the law… The protections included in the Senate for new communities of women are not bargaining chips that can be played with in order to appease the far right in their party. These are badly needed new tools to give women an escape from a life stunted by abuse… It’s time for moderate Republicans in the House to step up and finally force their leadership to stop ignoring the calls of women across the country.” 

To read more, click here.

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Negative Impact of the Sequester on Women and Families

According to a new state-by-state analysis released today by the Center for American Progress, if Congress fails to act by March 1, millions of women and children across the United States could lose the critical support and services they need. 

“By refusing to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts, conservative members of Congress are continuing their track record of sacrificing the lives and livelihood of millions women and their children to protect millionaires and special interests. Congressional inaction would prevent women from accessing health care programs and childcare assistance... If Congress leaves the sequester un-checked millions of women, in every state in the nation, will pay for the inaction of a few members of Congress” said Tara McGuinness, Senior Vice President for Communications at the Center for American Progress.

The sequester will have devastating ramifications by slashing about $725 million from Title I funding which would affect 2,700 schools and place 9,880 teachers at risk of losing their jobs. Furthermore, the sequester would cut federal programs that help women access critical health care programs and endanger the health of children by cutting Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). To have a complete look at the effects of the sequester click here

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