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Kentucky lawmakers override governor’s veto of “religious freedom” bill

Kentucky lawmakers have voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill intended to better protect legal claims of religious freedom. The law will give stronger legal standing to people in court who claim the government burdened their ability to practice their religion. The legislation protects “sincerely held religious beliefs” from infringement unless there is “a compelling governmental interest.” The courts will still consider and rule on each matter. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the bill Friday over concerns that someone’s claim of religious freedom could undermine civil rights protections for gays and lesbians and lead to costly lawsuits for
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Supremes take a look at second gay rights issue

In the second of back-to-back gay marriage cases, the Supreme Court is turning to a constitutional challenge to the law that prevents legally married gay Americans from collecting federal benefits generally available to straight married couples. A section of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act says marriage may only be a relationship between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law, regardless of state laws that allow same-sex marriage. Lower federal courts have struck down the measure, and now the justices, in nearly two hours of scheduled argument Wednesday, will consider whether to follow suit. The DOMA argument
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Petraeus sorry he screwed around and had to quit CIA job

In his first public speech since resigning as head of the CIA, David Petraeus apologized for the extramarital affair that “caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.” The hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars struck a somber, apologetic tone as he spoke to about 600 people, including his wife and many uniformed and decorated veterans, at the University of Southern California’s annual ROTC dinner on Tuesday. “I know I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and a number of others,” Petraeus said. Petraeus has remained largely in seclusion since
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Ex-Presidents cost American taxpayers at least $3.7 million a year

Former President Bill Clinton’s 8,300-square-foot Harlem office near the Apollo Theater costs taxpayers nearly $450,000. George W. Bush spends $85,000 on telephone fees, and another $60,000 on travel. Jimmy Carter sends $15,000 worth of postage — all on the government’s dime. The most exclusive club in the world has a similarly exclusive price tag — nearly $3.7 million, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. That’s how much the federal government spent last year on the four living ex-presidents and one presidential widow. Topping the list in 2012 was George W. Bush, who got just over
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Will Sen. Tim Johnson’s retirement help GOP pick up a seat?

The anticipated retirement announcement from South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson gives Republicans one of their best chances of picking up a seat in their quest to regain control, as the veteran moderate Democrat steps aside. Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is expected to say Tuesday afternoon that he will not seek a fourth term in the Senate next year. The fifth Senate Democrat to call it quits, Johnson was facing a potentially difficult challenge from popular Republican Gov. Mike Rounds and still coping with the constraints of a 2006 brain hemorrhage that left his speech impaired and
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Gay marriage issue before Supreme Court Tuesday

The Supreme Court is wading into the fight over same-sex marriage at a time when public opinion is shifting rapidly in favor of permitting gay and lesbian couples to wed, but 40 states don’t allow it. The court’s first major examination of gay rights in 10 years begins Tuesday with a hearing on California’s ban on same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, the justices will consider the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of benefits afforded straight married Americans. People have been waiting in line — even through light snow — since Thursday for coveted seats
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Punxsutawney Phil’s handler takes blame for blown call on Spring

An Ohio prosecutor who light-heartedly filed a criminal indictment against the famous Pennsylvania groundhog who fraudulently “predicted” an early spring said he may consider a pardon now that the animal’s handler is taking the blame. Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, told The Associated Press on Monday that the animal rightly predicted six more weeks of winter last month, but he mistakenly announced an early spring because he failed to correctly interpret Phil’s “groundhog-ese.” “I’m the guy that did it; I’ll be the fall guy. It’s not Phil’s fault,” Deeley said. Butler County, Ohio, prosecutor Mike
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The couple in the middle of the Supreme Court fight on gay marriage

Big change is coming to the lives of the lesbian couple at the center of the fight for same-sex marriage in California no matter how the Supreme Court decides their case. After 13 years of raising four boys together, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier are about to be empty nesters. Their youngest two children, 18-year-old twins, will graduate from high school in June and head off to college a couple of months later. “We’ll see all the movies, get theater season tickets because you can actually go,” Stier said in the living room of their bungalow in Berkeley. Life will
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Both sides of gun debate get loud and demanding

Two of the loudest voices in the gun debate say it’s up to voters now to make their position known to Congress. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and National Rifle Associate Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claim their opposing views on guns have the support of the overwhelming number of Americans. They are looking at the next two weeks as critical to the debate, when lawmakers head home to hear from constituents ahead of next month’s anticipated Senate vote on gun control. Bloomberg, a former Republican-turned-independent, has just sunk $12 million for Mayors Against Illegal Guns to run television ads
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Employment of disabled in America continues to lag

Whether it means opening school track meets to deaf children or developing a new lunch menu with safe alternatives for students with food allergies, recent Obama administration decisions could significantly affect Americans with disabilities. But there’s been little progress in one of the most stubborn challenges: employing the disabled. According to government labor data, of the 29 million working-age Americans with a disability — those who are 16 years and older — 5.2 million are employed. That’s 18 percent of the disabled population and is down from 20 percent four years ago. The employment rate for people without a disability
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