“This status is a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship deemed by the State worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. It reflects both the community’s considered perspective on the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.” Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his majority opinion on the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA on Wednesday, June 26, 2013
WEEK OF JUNE 24, 2013
Nation: SCOTUS has spoken; Equality wins.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court went further than the federal government ever has in extending equal rights to same-sex couples. The court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): the federal government must now recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples married in the 12 states that allow same-sex marriage, plus the District of Columbia, and give them the same benefits as heterosexual couples (which had been previously denied). The plaintiff at the center of the ruling is 84-year-old widow Edith Windsor who will be repaid $363,000 in estate taxes she was charged upon the death of her wife in 2009. Windsor famously noted that had her spouse been named “Theo,” rather than “Thea,” everything would be different. This is a big moment for Edie, and an even bigger moment for every married person who won’t have to fight the same battle.
World: Nelson Mandela’s health fades as Obama visits Africa.
Famous anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was admitted to the hospital on June 8 and remains in critical condition as President Barack Obama travels on a previously-scheduled trip to the country. Mandela has long been an inspiration for Obama, and the president hoped to meet with him on this trip, but time will tell whether the possibility still remains. Obama is scheduled to travel to South Africa today to hold talks with President Jacob Zuma and to visit Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned. Zuma said Thursday that the former president’s condition had improved and was critical but stable. As supporters around the world pray for his healthy recovery, Obama said on his first day in Africa that Mandela is and will remain, “a hero for the world.”
Politics: Immigration reform passes in the Senate.
A long debate in the Senate has ended in the successful passage of a bill that would grant 11 million undocumented immigrants immediate legal status and a path to citizenship. “We’re poised to pass a historic immigration bill. It’s landmark legislation that will secure our borders and help 11 million people get right with the law,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In addition to its benefits, the bill would also send $30 billion to the southern border to increase security, but opponents say that even under a bipartisan compromise deemed acceptable to a supermajority of Senators, the legislation won’t survive in the house. This debate is clearly not over.
Business: Mortgage rates soar.
Rising interest rates have now turned the tide on mortgage rates. Rates on 30-year, fixed-rate home loans spiked 0.53 percentage points to an average of 4.46% this week, the largest weekly increase in more than 26 years, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday. Despite this recent spike, rates are still well under historic norms and home-buying is still on it’s way up; home prices have risen 12% but are still about 28% under their 2006 peak. Now just might be the time to buy.
Science: Retirement time for chimpanzees.
The National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday that it would begin the process of retiring most of its chimps to sanctuaries, though it will leave some for possible future research. This is another step in ending biomedical research on chimpanzees, sending them to sanctuaries where they cannot be recalled for research. Additionally, new guidelines will be in place for any future research and for chimpanzee housing.
Women: A marathon filibuster.
On Tuesday, Texas state Senator Wendy Davis stood and spoke for 13 consecutive hours as a one-woman filibuster to block a GOP-led effort to impose stringent new abortion restrictions across the state. The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would require all clinics to be graded as surgical centers, with all doctors required to have admitting privileges at hospitals. Ultimately the bill failed to pass, missing the voting deadline by minutes. In her opening remarks, Davis said she was “rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans.” That she did.