by Dan Sewell, AP
(Cincinnatti) (AP) – With the mayor of Dayton declaring “you are now husband and husband,” the wait for Ohio to allow same-sex marriage ended for a gay couple in the city just as it is ending for couples across the last states with bans on such unions – even if the opposition isn’t over.
Some couples rushed to marriage license bureaus and even wed Friday within hours of the Supreme Court ruling that said gay couples can marry anywhere in the country including in the 14 remaining states with bans. Steadfast activists who say traditional marriage is defined as a man and a woman vowed to defend rights of religious objectors and to try to battle back politically.
There were also scattered holdouts, with some officials in those states contending they needed more time and legal direction before complying with the 5-4 ruling.
“Texans’ fundamental right to religious liberty remains protected,” Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said. “No Texan is required by the Supreme Court’s decision to act contrary to his or her religious beliefs regarding marriage.”
His office later clarified a directive to state agencies telling them to preserve religious liberties, saying the order didn’t allow them to discriminate against employees in same-sex couples. Same-sex couples got marriage licenses Friday in Dallas, Austin and the state’s other big cities, but many counties were holding off after the Texas attorney general urged them not to rush. A couple counties claimed technical glitches prevented them from processing licenses for gay couples.
Governors in Louisiana and Mississippi also railed against the ruling.
“This has always been about our religious freedoms and the persecution of those who believe same-sex unions are wrong,” said Phil Burress, longtime leader of the Citizens for Community Values in suburban Cincinnati. “Now the persecutions will begin.”
The Roman Catholic archbishop of Cincinnati said the high court disregarded the will of voters in Ohio and other states, besides disregarding an understanding of marriage shared by virtually all cultures until recently.
“Every nation has laws limiting who and under what circumstances people can be married,” Archbishop Dennis Schnurr said in a statement.
Religious organizations are exempt from the ruling, and churches including Southern Baptists, Mormons and others that oppose same-sex marriages can still make their own decisions about whether clergy will conduct gay marriages in their places of worship.
The high court gave the losing side some three weeks to ask for reconsideration. The 14 states that had banned gay marriage are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Meanwhile, in Kansas, where some counties have continued to refuse to comply with federal rulings that gay couples could marry, the attorney general and Gov. Sam Brownback said they would study the Supreme Court ruling further before making any moves in a lawsuit over the state’s voter-passed ban. An ACLU official said the state leaders should “admit defeat.”
Officials at the county courthouse in Toledo, Ohio, called in another minister to perform same-sex marriages Friday because the rotating minister on duty wouldn’t marry gay couples, said the Rev. Sandra Frost, who married the first couple around noon.
Some county clerks in other states refused gay couples, citing a three-week grace period allowed by the Supreme Court or forms now out of date that specify “bride” and “groom.”
Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond (Virginia) law professor, said political opponents of same-sex marriage will likely push legislation to expand religious freedom and to aim at protecting those who don’t want to participate in actions that facilitate same-sex marriage.
Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert said lawmakers should push for a U.S. constitutional amendment on marriage under a provision that would trigger a constitutional convention if 34 states apply for it. The Republican said the Supreme Court “has brought us to the brink of real crisis in our country” by ruling against the will of the people.
Burress pledged to go after politicians who have supported same-sex marriage, predicting outrage over the decision will bring out a wave of new voters.
Among those who have drawn his ire is Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, who switched his position to support same-sex marriage after his son Will came out to him and his wife Jane as gay.
Portman, who is seeking re-election in 2016, said Friday he welcomed the ruling “as a father,” although he would have preferred that the issue be resolved by the democratic process because that builds a lasting consensus. He said he hopes the ruling means “we can move past the division and polarization the issue has caused.”
Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty, a couple who sued Tennessee to gain recognition for their out-of-state marriage, were jubilant.
“I just feel free, like a burden or a weight has been lifted,” Jesty said.
The couple were married in New York before moving to Tennessee for work.
Jesty and Tanco said they are especially happy that their 15-month-old daughter won’t have to grow up feeling that her parents are different from anyone else’s.
“Her family is legally recognized, and both moms are on the birth certificate, so no one can take that away from her, or from her family,” Tanco said.
Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati, Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee; Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee; Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, and Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report.
by Heather Hollingsworth, AP
(Kansas City) (AP) – As teachers lament seeing toddlers too large to fit in playground swings, a federal program that feeds millions of low-income children may be overhauled for the first time in almost 50 years, aiming to make the meals at day cares healthier and reduce obesity.
About 3.8 million young children are fed daily through the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which primarily reimburses day-care providers, and also provides food for children in emergency shelters and pays for after-school meals or snacks in areas where at least half the students qualify for free- or reduced-price lunches.
Millions of more affluent children also are affected because at least 30 states – including North Carolina, Michigan, Oregon, and Virginia – require day cares to use the program’s nutrition guidelines to receive licenses. And beyond children, about 120,000 elderly or disabled adults are fed each day in programs designed to spell caregivers.
More vegetables and less sugar lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposals, developed with guidance from experts. Grain-based desserts, such as cookies and cakes, would no longer be reimbursable, and children younger than 1 would no longer be offered juice. Facilities wouldn’t be reimbursed when food is deep-fried on site, although prepackaged fried foods, such as chicken nuggets, could still be served, though recommendations urge that they be offered infrequently.
About one in eight low-income preschoolers is obese, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of 12.1 million children enrolled in federally funded nutrition programs from 2008 to 2011, the latest data available.
The changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which started in 1968, were called for by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, passed in 2010 at the urging of First Lady Michelle Obama. The act’s more well-known requirement boosted the quantity of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in school meals.
The program has an annual budget of about $3 billion, and the USDA focused on proposed requirements that wouldn’t boost costs because providers won’t be paid more.
“The USDA should get tremendous credit for attempting to make the changes cost-neutral,” said Kati Wagner, the president of the Wildwood Child and Adult Care Food Program Inc., which helps home-based child care providers in Colorado receive reimbursements.
The school meals changes have been met with mixed results, with some school officials complaining kids are throwing away fruits and vegetables. The solution, some experts say, is starting earlier, when children are more willing to try new things. Mary Beth Testa, a lobbyist for the Salt Lake City-based National Association for Family Child Care, said food choices people make in early childhood are “the building blocks for the healthy habits of their lifetime.”
The obesity numbers worry Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy for the Washington-based Food Research and Action Center nonprofit. Research shows obese children are more likely to become obese adults, she said.
“Something has got to happen” she said, citing teachers who tell her about children who are too chubby for swings. “That is bad from a predictive point of view, but it’s also not good from a getting around point of view.”
The USDA sought public comments until May 27 on the proposed changes, which also includes reimbursing day cares when mothers nurse babies at their children’s day cares. It’s unclear when a final decision will be made on the new guidelines, although the agency has started distributing handbooks to day cares about nutrition, with many of the tips aligned to the proposals.
Some day cares, including a YMCA-run one in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe, Kansas, are implementing the suggestions already.
“Children should have access to healthy foods while they are here because the more they have them at a younger age, the more they will chose them at a later age,” program director Erica Ritter said.
Christy Birt’s 15-month-old daughter attends the YMCA day care.
“It put my mind at ease,” the 31-year-old human resources worker from Kansas City, Kansas, said about the proposals being implemented. “So, if we are running around at night having to feed her something not as nutritious, then I know she received something nutritious while she was at day care. It was one of the things that made us want to go to the Y.”
(Springfield) (AP) – A decade after being rebranded Missouri State University, the new moniker is widely credited with raising the profile of Springfield’s largest higher education institution.
It also has been credited with fueling the university’s ongoing push to grow and diversify enrollment, expand academic offerings, and increase private giving – which, in turn, helps pay for better buildings, the Springfield News-Leader ( http://sgfnow.co/1GvjM8t ) reported.
“I don’t think you can overestimate how important this was,” said MSU President Clif Smart. “This was the catalyst that has changed the profile of the university. It would be hard for you to pick a factor that the name change didn’t impact.” The old name, Southwest Missouri State University, focused on the region while the new name emphasizes statewide reach.
Smart said the hard-fought battle to change the name 10 years ago has paid off with greater prominence – the ability to develop more partnerships, lobby for legislative change and attract more talented students and faculty.
“Students now view us differently, not as a regional university anymore,” Smart said. “The interest from St. Charles County, from the greater St. Louis area, from Kansas City – all over the state – is different. It is also different in recruiting international students.”
The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce has long recognized the role MSU, and other higher education institutions, play in attracting businesses and families to the city. Matt Morrow, president and CEO of the chamber, has described the university as a critical part of the economic engine and contends the institution’s leverage has only grown with the new name.
“It has meant a lot to the city and to this whole part of the state,” he said.
The largest higher education institution headquartered in Springfield traces its roots to 1905 but has only been known as Missouri State University since 2005. In recent months, the campus has celebrated the milestone and reflected on what the change has meant.
“One of my themes the last four years has been `Let’s act out our name,'” Smart said. “We’re not a regional campus anymore. Let’s think bigger, let’s be bolder.”
Jim Baker, vice president for research and economic development and international programs, said the university boasted a “significant” number of students, graduate programs and private donations as Southwest Missouri State University but has grown in each of those areas more rapidly after dropping the regional “southwest” from the name.
“There is a status attached to the name. There is a pride that goes with it,” Baker said. “I don’t think we’d have 24,000 students now if we didn’t change the name.”
Pressed to say how much impact the new name has made, Baker said: “I’d say we’re 50 percent better off than we would have been, but it’s hard to judge.”
Baker said he believes there is more pride among students, supporters and alumni but that is harder to quantify. He contends “Bear Wear” – maroon clothing carrying the MSU name or logo – appears to be “everywhere,” which wasn’t the case when he joined the university’s staff in 1995.
“The changing of the name created more buzz than anything,” he said.
One of the biggest changes is MSU’s strong, collaborative relationship with the University of Missouri system. In the years before the name change, the two were more adversarial and Mizzou supporters, in the General Assembly and beyond, were vocal about opposing the new name.
In fact, the proposed legislation to change the name at MSU – and a few other higher education institutions – was only approved after MSU agreed to a series of concessions aimed at protecting Mizzou’s dominance in key areas.
“Now we are closer to a partner,” Smart said. “We are a statewide university and they’re much more comfortable interacting with us.”
That collaboration was on display during recent legislative sessions, when MSU and Mizzou jointly lobbied lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon. United, they were successful in securing funding for MSU’s new occupational therapy program and Mizzou’s new Springfield clinical campus, which will train doctors at Mercy Springfield and CoxHealth.
Morrow recalled a time, at the height of the debate over MSU’s name change, when the two institutions working together seemed impossible. “Today it is a different environment and a lot of that has to do with the leadership,” he said.
He said had the two not tied the proposals together and fought for each other’s projects, “they would have been competitive and there would have been a winner and a loser. Instead, we have a win-win and it’s all here in Springfield.”
Smart said he’s proud of the progress and the new identity of the university.
“We are a different university now than we were 10 years ago,” he said. “The result of that is the state is better, we’re better, our relationship with the University of Missouri is better.”
(Sunrise Beach) (AP) – A 27-year-old man has drowned while swimming at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol identified the victim as Torrance Chatman of Osage Beach. He was in a boat Friday when he got out and began swimming toward a dock at the Welcher Hollow Cove. The patrol says he began experiencing difficulty and went under water.
His body was taken from the lake to a funeral home.
(Jonesboro) (AP) – The family, friends and colleagues of a former Arkansas State University journalism instructor have endowed a memorial scholarship in her honor following her death.
The university this week announced the Bonnie Thrasher Memorial Scholarship. Thrasher was a longtime multimedia journalism instructor who died suddenly in March. She also served as adviser to the university’s student newspaper.
Thrasher joined the A-State faculty in 1993 and taught news reporting, editing and design.
The annual award is based off of earnings from the endowment and will go to a full-time journalism student who has completed at least 30 hours at the university.
by Jim Salter, AP
(St. Louis) (AP) – Vandals have targeted monuments dedicated to the leaders and soldiers of the Confederacy, painting the slogan “Black lives matter” on memorials in a half-dozen states where the landmarks stand tall in parks and outside government buildings.
The graffiti reflects the racial tension that permeates post-Ferguson America, more than a week after a white man was accused of shooting and killing nine black congregants at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.
Michael Allen, a lecturer in American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, compared the vandalism to the toppling of statues in Russia at the end of the Soviet empire.
“If the monuments are strong statements of past values, defacing them is the easiest and loudest way to rebuke those statements,” Allen said.
Confederate symbols including the rebel battle flag have been the subject of resentment for years. The anger boiled over after last week’s massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The suspect, Dylann Roof, posed in photos with the Confederate flag.
Politicians throughout the South are taking steps to remove the flag from public places. Black activists say the monuments should meet the same fate.
One of the defaced monuments was the Confederate Memorial in St. Louis’ Forest Park, 10 miles from Ferguson. The same graffiti was reported on memorials in Charleston; Baltimore; Austin, Texas; Asheville, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. No arrests have been made.
Racial wounds in the U.S. were torn open last August, when a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed. Officer Darren Wilson was cleared of any wrongdoing, but the shooting raised new awareness about the treatment of blacks.
“Black lives matter” became a rallying call in protests that followed police shootings of black men in other cities, too. With the Charleston shooting refocusing attention on Confederate symbolism, experts said, it isn’t surprising that some people would take out their anger on monuments to those who fought on the side of slavery.
Elizabeth Brondolo, a psychology professor at St. John’s University in New York who studies the effects of race on mental and physical health, said the defacing of memorials reflects a “consensus that there’s been a very serious failure of empathy, a failure to understand what these symbols might mean to people who suffered from slavery and ongoing aggression.”
Defaced monuments at the University of Texas in Austin and in Richmond honor Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Asheville monument pays homage to Zebulon Vance, a Confederate officer and later a governor and senator. Others, like the St. Louis memorial, are more generic tributes to those who fought for the South.
The future of the 32-foot-tall, 101-year-old statue in St. Louis was already in doubt. In April, Mayor Francis Slay ordered a study of what to do with it and asked for the review to be complete by the end of the summer. Options include altering the wording of the plaque, moving the monument out of Forest Park or removing it entirely.
The University of Texas in Austin is weighing options for its statues of Davis and other Confederate war heroes, with a decision expected by Aug. 1. Three of those statutes were damaged this week.
In Kentucky, both candidates for governor, along with other prominent political leaders, are calling for the Jefferson Davis statue to be removed from its prominent place in the statehouse rotunda and placed in a museum.
Efforts have also begun to seek removal of Confederate monuments in Nashville, Tennessee; Shreveport, Louisiana; Orlando, Florida; Portsmouth, Virginia; and Birmingham, Alabama.
Darrell Maples, commander of the Missouri chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the “citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America.”
He said altering or removing monuments is “divisive and unnecessary.”
Brandi Collins of the civil rights group ColorOfChange.org said the effort isn’t about revising history.
“It’s about saying that if we are truly about equity, about moving forward, we have to respect everybody who lives in and built this country,” she said.
(West Plains) – Oz-Con 2015, a gaming, cosplay and anime convention, is taking place June 26-28 at the West Plains Civic Center.
Proceeds benefit the West Plains Bridges program, which provides for children in need in the West Plains and surrounding rural school districts.
Admission for adults is $20 per day, or $35 for the weekend; and $20 for kids 8-12 for the weekend, or $15 per day.
(Jefferson City) (AP) – Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision Friday to legalize gay marriage – upending Missouri’s constitutional ban on the practice – same-sex couples in the state applied and were granted marriage licenses.
The decision marks a sweeping end to the constitutional amendment enacted in 2004 to ban the practice, which was approved by about 70 percent of voters at the time. The state was the first to adopt a constitutional ban following a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court permitting gay marriage.
Despite that history, state and local leaders moved swiftly to ensure Missouri complied with the high court’s decision. The Supreme Court gave the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for a rehearing, but University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor David Achtenberg said it’s unlikely the justices will change their minds.
Attorney General Chris Koster on Friday dropped appeals of two cases fighting the state’s ban on gay marriage, eliminating legal questions and further clearing the path for marriages for same-sex couples. Gov. Jay Nixon also pledged to take “all necessary and appropriate actions” to ensure the ruling is implemented in Missouri.
“No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love,” Nixon said in a statement.
Some Republican lawmakers decried the ruling. Springfield Republican Rep. Sonya Anderson said the decision “should be left in the hands of the states and the people.”
“This decision stands in stark contrast to the will of the people of Missouri, who overwhelmingly support the traditional definition of marriage that is enshrined in our state Constitution,” Anderson said in a statement.
While Jan Jones – the president of an association of officials charged with issuing marriage licenses – said the issue might make some officials “uncomfortable,” she directed all counties to comply quickly with the decision.
Recorders’ Association of Missouri President Jones said some might experience technical delays because some software counties use might not have options for marrying two men or two women. But she hasn’t heard of any county recorders deciding to wait until the decision is final.
Some same-sex couples received marriage licenses within hours.
Laura Zinszer, 58, and her partner of about 20 years, Angela Boyle, 52, of Columbia, were watching online when the decision came down and were overwhelmed.
“We were crying,” Boyle said. “We were ecstatic. We were just out of this world.”
They immediately rushed to the Boone County Recorder of Deed’s Office, where they had submitted their marriage application a year ago. The office had placed it on hold while the courts battled the legality of same-sex marriage, and after attorneys reviewed the Supreme Court decision, they quickly received a license. Three out-of-town children surprised them and announced plans to fly in over the weekend so they, along with a child who lives in Columbia, can attend the couple’s wedding Monday.
“I am a little numb,” Zinszer said. “We are really emotional about this. For me, I’ve been holding my breath hoping that this would be a positive outcome, but there were no guarantees.”
Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel said the office phone “blew up once the ruling came through.” She said she has friends who will be affected, and she’s excited to be directly involved.
During a news conference at the American Civil Liberties Union office in St. Louis, ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said the ruling is clear, so county recorders of deeds and clerks must issue marriage licenses immediately.
Otherwise, he said, the ACLU will sue.
“Denying someone a marriage license today is a violation of the law,” Rothert said.
(St. Louis) (AP) – The effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in St. Louis hit a potentially fatal snag Friday when the chairman of the committee that would consider the idea canceled all future hearings on it.
A measure filed earlier this month with support of Democratic Mayor Francis Slay would have potentially raised the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour by 2020.
But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Alderman Joe Vaccaro, acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, canceled all hearings on the proposal, calling it disingenuous to push the bill on such short notice.
The bill would have to pass before Aug. 28. That’s when a state law takes effect that forbids cities from raising the minimum wage higher than the state level, unless Gov. Jay Nixon vetoes it. Missouri’s minimum wage is $7.65 per hour.
Slay said a single alderman shouldn’t be able to end debate.
“Marriage equality, justice, access to quality education and a living wage-these are family issues that hold communities together,” Slay said. “The city has led the region and state on all of them. We want to be that different place.”
Two-thirds majority of aldermen would be needed to pull the bill out of committee, a tall task for a bill on such a hotly-debated topic. Meanwhile, aldermen go on summer break starting July 10.
“Without enough time to get all the facts it would be impossible to come up with what is fair and equitable for everyone,” said Vaccaro. He took over leadership of the committee after chairman Steve Conway recused himself over a conflict of interest. Conway is the chief financial officer of St. Louis-based pizza chain Imo’s, which would be affected by the rate increase.
(Ferguson) (AP) – Another effort to recall the mayor of Ferguson in the wake of last summer’s shooting death of Michael Brown has fallen short.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the St. Louis County Board of Elections says Ground Level Support was 27 votes short of the required 1,814 valid signatures needed to force an election to recall Mayor James Knowles III.
Ground Level Support says the recall election should move forward because the city missed a deadline in certifying the signatures. The group’s recall push also fell short in May.
Knowles, who’s white, was criticized for comments he made after last August’s shooting death of Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. In a statement Friday, Knowles says there’s still work to do “if one person signed the recall petition.”