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Coakley reshaping the race to the White House

Posted in: Courts   Election 2012
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With one move three years ago, Attorney General Martha Coakley set in motion events that now seem poised to position gay marriage as the new abortion. In 2009, she filed a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union of a man and woman. Two lower courts have now ruled DOMA unconstitutional in states that have recognized same-sex marriage, the most recent ruling coming last month from a federal appeals court.

On Tuesday, Coakley filed a 27-page petition with the US Supreme Court, arguing it should uphold that appeals court decision. If the high court takes up the petition, it would be the Supreme Court’s first ruling on gay marriage -- a decision would also bring a new dynamic to the presidential contest.

With four justices aged north of 70 (Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already been the focus of retirement speculation), the always volatile issue of Supreme Court appointments would come even more squarely into focus for the presidential candidates.

President Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage this spring. Some commentators called it a cynically-timed move designed to attract campaign funds from gay and liberal donors. Throughout his gubernatorial term, Mitt Romney criticized Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the landmark Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that made Massachusetts the first state legalize same-sex marriage.  

Obama has appointed two women to the high court, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, who have positioned themselves on the court’s liberal wing. He favors jurists who "[understand] law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people." A recent poll found that Americans believe that Obama would nominate better candidates to the high court than Romney. If elected, Romney has promised to appoint more conservative justices.

There’s no way around the issue for the candidates. Though Americans are almost evenly split on the issue, recent polling trends show that support for gay marriage is increasing.

Four states, including Maine, have same-sex marriage votes on the November ballot. Romney was raked over the coals by gay rights advocates for tweeting condolences on the death of astronaut Sally Ride, who had a longtime female partner.

This week, the House passed an amendment to a Defense Department spending plan that would ban same-sex weddings on military bases. Even fast foodies were confronted by the topic when the president of Chick-fil-A talked about his support of the traditional definition of marriage.

Coakley’s audacious move puts the debate in sharp relief. It won’t be enough for either man to merely articulate his support for or opposition to same-sex unions. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney will have to spell out what those views mean for their possible picks for the nation’s high court. Would they nominate candidates who are likely to uphold or strike down DOMA?

                                                                                                                                            --GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick seems poised to possibly sign the pending three-strikes sentencing bill -- even though he’s not totally happy with it.  If that sounds kind of conditional and unclear, it’s because it is. The Brockton Enterprise urges him to sign the bill. Greater Boston also takes a look at the legislation.

An earmark of $2 million for Gloucester sidewalks in the state’s transportation bond bill gets very positive coverage in the Gloucester Times.

A Boston Herald editorial knocks procrastination on Beacon Hill and argues health care cost control “has no business being shoved through the legislative sausage-grinder with only days or perhaps even hours to spare.”

Leaders of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy unveiled a budget plan that reduces the amount of state aid the organization relies on, but the group insists that some state support is necessary to woo private donors. The funding standoff was the subject of this in-depth look in the new summer issue of CommonWealth.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Lawrence City Council approves a $15.8 million upgrade of the city’s water system, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Lowell hires a private investigator to determine why a fire engine caught fire inside the fire station, the Sun reports.

Brockton cracks down on illegal pools after a two-year-old drowns in an above-ground pool with multiple code violations.

A Globe editorial says it isn’t very Freedom Trail-ish of Mayor Tom Menino to vow not to allow Chick-fil-A to open an outlet along the Freedom Trail because he disagrees with its president’s stance on gay marriage.  Jon Stewart gets in on the action, with a message to company president Dan Cathy that gives our capital city a smack at the same time: “You’re being such an a**hole, not even Boston will tolerate it,” he said on The Daily Show.

The New Bedford Standard-Times questions the wisdom of a recent New Bedford city council move to quietly give itself a 44 percent pay raise.

Casino companies look at four potential locations in Springfield.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A judge orders New Mexico to remove the names of rank-and-file state employees from a website that lists workers and their salaries, Governing reports.

The Affordable Care Act will cost $1.168 trillion over the next 10 years, but that’s down $84 billion from a previous Congressional Budget Office estimate because fewer states are expected to participate in the expansion of Medicaid, NPR reports (via WBUR).

Senators and constitutional experts say it will take a constitutional amendment to deal with the impact of Citizens United.

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pens an essay for The Atlantic on a topic with which he has some familiarity: The “Congressional culture of corruption.”

Baltimore is actively courting immigrants to move to the city.

ELECTION 2012

With months to go, the US Senate race in Massachusetts is already the state’s most expensive, with $46 million raised so far, NECN reports.

Jesse Singal examines Mitt Romney’s flip flop on gun control for The Daily Beast.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Apple reports nearly $9 billion in profit, but that was below Wall Street expectations, Time reports.

Curt Schilling talks to Boston magazine about the last days of 38 Studios.

EDUCATION

The Patriot Ledger has the story of a 22-year-old Marshfield man with learning disabilities who has failed the MCAS nine times, and has yet to receive a high school diploma. He would be among those affected by a bill providing MCAS exemptions pending in the Legislature.

A new report assessing New Bedford’s school turnaround plan finds significant progress being made, but plenty of room for improvement, the New Bedford Standard-Times reports.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst plans to establish an Agricultural Learning Center. Meanwhile, the University of North Dakota is the first in the nation to offer a four-year drone piloting degree, The Atlantic reports.

HEALTH CARE

Statistics indicate Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is good at keeping people alive but not so good at avoiding readmissions of patients, which could hurt it in hospital ratings, WBUR’s CommonHealth reports.

An estimated 6,000 people in New Hampshire will be tested for hepatitis C after a lab technician used needles to inject drugs that were infected and later used on patients, NECN reports.

A pilot program in Beverly is delivering fresh, free vegetables to low-income residents, the Salem News reports.

Salem’s board of health votes to prohibit the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products at pharmacies, the Salem News reports.

A new law that removes a written consent requirement for HIV testing goes into effect on Thursday, the Brockton Enterprise reports.

TRANSPORTATION

The Globe reports on how Kendall Square in Cambridge has drawn businesses that added thousands of new workers without clogging area roads and parking lots with more cars.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Sun, in an editorial, praises the city of Lowell for its money-saving energy strategy and says other communities should take note.

The nation’s first commercial tidal energy project was dedicated yesterday in Eastport, Maine.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Liz Carlston, a survivor of Columbine, offers advice to the survivors of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in The Daily Beast.

The New Bedford Standard-Times reports on an 80-year-old woman who threw fruit at a robber holding up a New Bedford grocery store, where she was shopping at the time. The Standard-Times also has the security camera footage.

MEDIA

The Knight Foundation funds transparency and fact-checking projects, including one that would trace the origin of food used in Concord school lunches, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

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