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Nation/World

Ruling frees gay Chicago couples to marry early

– Jubilant same-sex couples began lining up for marriage licenses in Chicago on Friday after a federal judge ruled there was no reason for residents of Illinois’ largest county to wait until the state’s new gay marriage law takes effect, a decision that some hope will prompt county clerks statewide to begin issuing the documents.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that Illinois’ original ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. That means that even though a state law legalizing same-sex marriage takes effect June 1, nothing stops couples from marrying now.

The ruling applies only to Cook County, because the suit was filed against County Clerk David Orr. Orr, who supports gay marriage, said it was a “historical day” and performed the first wedding ceremony after the ruling – for one of the couples that sued him.

Tribal killing suspect was under suspicion

The woman who police say killed three family members and a worker at the headquarters building for an Indian tribe that was evicting her and her son from its land was the target of a federal investigation into at least $50,000 in missing tribal funds.

Investigators have been looking into whether Cherie Lash Rhoades took federal grant money meant for the Cedarville Rancheria tribe she once led, a person familiar with the tribe’s situation told The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Rhoades recently was ousted as chairwoman of the 35-member tribe that includes many of her relatives.

Obama welcomes Dalai Lama for visit

President Barack Obama granted an audience to Tibet’s Dalai Lama on Friday over the strong objections from China that the U.S. was meddling in its affairs. The White House took pains to ensure the meeting was not portrayed as a conference of two heads of state.

Obama played host to his fellow Nobel laureate in the White House’s Map Room rather than the Oval Office, where the president traditionally brings dignitaries for photos. Beijing decries the Dalai Lama as an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy. The White House calls him a respected cultural and religious figure who is committed to peace.

Despite media requests, the meeting was closed to journalists, and in a departure from previous visits, the Buddhist monk left the White House without speaking to reporters.

Railroads agree to oil safety plan

Railroads that haul volatile crude shipments have reached an agreement with U.S. transportation officials to adopt wide-ranging, voluntary safeguards after a string of explosive and deadly accidents.

The deal signed Friday calls for oil trains to be slowed from a maximum of 50 to 40 miles per hour through major cities; more frequent track inspections; and better emergency response planning along routes that carry trains hauling up to 3 million gallons of crude each.

The new safety steps would begin going into effect in late March and be fully in place by July 1.

Notre Dame gets no break in lawsuit

A federal appeals court has ruled against the University of Notre Dame in a lawsuit over parts of the federal health care law that forces it to provide health insurance for students and employees that covers contraceptives.

The U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on Friday upheld a judge’s earlier ruling that denied the Catholic school’s request for a suspension of the mandate as the lawsuit moves forward.

The lawsuit challenges a plan offered by the Obama administration to create a buffer for religiously affiliated universities and other groups that oppose birth control.

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