Archive for May 8, 2012
North Carolina voters felt so strongly about opposing same-sex marriage that they passed an amendment to their state’s constitution. With more than 1.5 million votes counted from Tuesday’s referendum, supporters of the ban led opponents by a margin of 61% to 39%, according to figures from the State Board of Elections. Its backers prepared to celebrate by serving wedding cake to their supporters in a Raleigh ballroom. Tami Fitzgerald, the head of Vote for Marriage NC, said she had been confident that “the people of North Carolina would rise up and vote to keep the opposition from redefining traditional marriage. “We are not anti-gay, we are pro-marriage,” she said. “And the point — the whole point — is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for one of the groups opposing the amendment told CNN, “The numbers are not looking the way we hope they would look.” “We have been down in the polls, and this certainly is not coming as a surprise,” said Paul Guequierre, of the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families. “But it is certainly not what we had hoped for.” The amendment would alter North Carolina’s constitution to say that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” Supporters argued that the amendment was needed to stop those trying to redefine marriage and ward off possible future actions of “activist judges.”
Opponents called the measure redundant and warned it could result in jeopardizing domestic violence protections for women and affect couples’ health benefits. The amendment was trailing in Charlotte, in the Triangle counties around Raleigh and Chapel Hill, as well as the Winston-Salem-Greensboro area, according to figures from the State Board of Elections. But it was winning by wide margins in rural counties and in the suburbs of Charlotte — the home of famous evangelist Billy Graham, who endorsed the ballot measure last week. Graham’s endorsement was a rare move for a preacher who has typically avoided political fights. He took out full-page ads in 14 North Carolina newspapers touting his support for the measure, saying “the Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.”
On the other side, former President Bill Clinton opposed the amendment in a recording sent by phone to hundreds of thousands of North Carolina homes. “So the real effect of the law is not to keep the traditional definition of marriage, you’ve already done that,” Clinton says in the recording. “The real effect of the law will be to hurt families and drive away jobs.” The amendment also would strengthen the state’s position against same-sex civil unions, often considered a precursor to the marriage issue. Several municipalities in North Carolina provide benefits to same-sex couples, and Duke University law professor Kathryn Bradley said those rights could be lost with passage of the amendment.
Concerns over the measure also honed in on the potential for unintended consequences, she said, affecting issues such as child custody and the prosecution of domestic violence among unmarried couples because of the narrow definition of the new statute. “Before domestic violence laws, we relied on criminal assault laws, which don’t always protect against things like stalking,” added Bradley, who says the measure could also affect heterosexual couples. The state House and Senate voted in 2011 to put the amendment before state voters. Both chambers are Republican-controlled for the first time in the past 140 years. “This bill’s been 12 years in the making,” said Maxine Eichner, a law professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But it’s now made possible because Republicans control the legislature.”
Should the constitutional amendment gain approval, it would largely prevent the state’s judiciary from overturning it. Some 500,000 people had cast ballots on the measure before Tuesday through early voting or absentee ballots. The only recent public opinion polling on the issue, from a group that does work for Democratic candidates and causes, indicates that a majority of North Carolina voters support the amendment. Nationally, according to a new Gallup survey, 50% of Americans believe same-sex couples should be allowed to wed, a markedly different position than those polled in past years, suggesting growing acceptance of same-sex marriages.
Some 48% say such marriages should not be legal. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden said he was “absolutely comfortable” with the idea of same-sex marriage. “I just think that the good news is that as more and more Americans come to understand what this is all about, it is a simple proposition: Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person who love?” Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Biden did not mention the North Carolina initiative and added that President Barack Obama has the final word on the administration’s policy. Obama has taken the official position that his views on the issue are “evolving.”
Before Tuesday, 30 states had voted in favor of constitutional amendments that seek to defend traditional definitions of marriage as a heterosexual union. “Of states without constitutional amendments on marriage, 45% (nine of 20) eventually recognize same-sex marriage, either by direct judicial decree, by legislative action, or by a ruling requiring that same-sex marriages from other states be treated as valid,” the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriages, said in a statement. “Among the 30 states with marriage amendments, none have been repealed.”
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In February, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage beginning in June, but opponents there have pledged to block the bill and called for voters to decide the issue. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill that permits same-sex couples to wed in that state as of January 1, 2013.
U.S. Senate nominee Richard Lugar and his wife Charlene appear with their four sons at his campaign headquarters after it became apparent he had defeated former Gov. Edgar Whitcomb. The boys are (from left) John, Robert, Mark and David. Joe Young/The News May 5, 1976
At the end of the day, one thing was apparent. As Senator Richard Lugar forgot about the people of Indiana, they, in turn, forgot about him. In interview after interview today by national correspondents in Indiana, one thing struck me. Lots of people voted against Indiana’s six-term Senator but no one was happy about it. Lugar is an Indiana icon who has influenced everything from the political makeup of Indianapolis to global nuclear proliferation. As mayor of Indianapolis, he led the effort to create Unigov, combining city and county government. But over the years, Lugar was in Indiana less and less. Party insiders noted that Lugar had been a distant figure, not bothering to come to party events in Indiana until this year, when it was too late to kindle the relationships that could help him win.
This was a nasty primary. Perhaps one of the nastiest in Indiana political history. Matt Tully observes in The Indianapolis Star, and I agree, that Super PACs have changed everything — and in a very bad way. The airwaves and mailboxes were flooded this spring with pathetic negative ads and dishonest mailings from out-of-state super PACs. With little accountability and ridiculous-sounding names, these big-money groups gave an early glimpse into a new era of politics — one in which donors can quietly give huge amounts of money to influence both races and behavior. These PACs — whether liberal or conservative — are not a welcome addition to the political landscape.
Democrats were smart. Party leaders worked hard to avoid primaries for governor, Senate and other key races. At the time, it seemed cynical. And it could have backfired, as there is a case to be made that primary contests improve candidates — building their names and campaign operations. But after watching the bloodbath on the other side of the aisle this spring, it’s hard to imagine the primary season has helped Republicans. Moderates need not apply. This has been a rough season for Republican candidates who could be portrayed in any way as less than fully conservative. Sen. Richard Lugar, of course, took the worst beating over this. But in other cases, super PACs and others used minor issues to portray some Republicans as liberals. A frequently used tactic: Create an ad that showed a picture of the targeted Republican next to one of President Obama.
The nomination of Mourdock is bad news for moderates, independents and President Obama. It is highly unlikely that Indiana will elect a Democrat United States Senator this election cycle in November so this makes Mourdock’s win huge for the Tea Party and “take no prisoners” conservatives. One thing is apparent tonight in Indiana and it’s perhaps the story under the story…six terms is too long in the Senate. Term limits anyone?
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN) – 6-term United States Senator Richard Lugar (R) has been defeated by Indiana State Treasurer and Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock. Mourdock will face Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly and Libertarian Andy Horning in the November election. Lugar is an Indiana icon who has influenced everything from the political makeup of Indianapolis to global nuclear proliferation. As mayor of Indianapolis, he led the effort to create Unigov, combining city and county government. And as the GOP leaderin the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he’s played a lead role in combatting the spread of nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. But while voters may have appreciated those things, in the end he was seen as a figure from the past who didn’t have a place in the Republican Party’s future.
Voters cited his age, 80; his Virginia address where he’d lived since 1977; his votes for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees and his support for keeping earmarks in the hands of the legislative branch rather than surrender that power to the White House. And party insiders noted that Lugar had been a distant figure, not bothering to come to party events in Indiana until this year, when it was too late to kindle the relationships that could help him win. Mourdock, over and over, pounded home the message that it was time for a change. And a drive through Indiana’s countryside would find as many, if not more, “Retire Lugar” yard signs than signs calling for him to be re-elected.
People in both parties said this election was a referendum on Lugar, and not even the backing of Gov. Mitch Daniels, who got his start in politics working for Lugar, could save him. Mourdock originally was seen as an upstart candidate with little chance of winning. But he came out of the gate with the backing of a majority of state party leadersaround the state, plus tea party activists who coalesced around his candidacy. With no other challenger to Lugar, and with the help of outside groups who targeted Lugar with millions of dollars in negative ads and mailings, it became clear in the final days of the campaign that Lugar would lose.
Indiana Democrats thanked Lugar for his service in a statement following Tuesday’s results.”Like all Hoosiers, we owe Sen. Lugar a debt of gratitude for his long and storied career. From his service as a Naval Officer to the United States Senate, Sen. Lugar has spent over half a century doing difficult work on behalf of Hoosiers,” said Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker.
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana — (DMN) – Tea Party activists tonight are amassing in the Hoosier state, where they hope a victory by challenger Richard Mourdock over incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary propels their candidates to wins in several other races. “Indiana is ground zero,” said Ryan Hecker, chief operations officer for FreedomWorks of America, a national Tea Party organization, “If the results turn out the way we expect them to tonight, it will provide massive momentum for the Tea Party in races all across the country.”
Hecker will be at Mourdock’s campaign night headquarters, Indy West Conference Center, 400 N. High School Rd., as will representatives from the Tea Part Express. Mourdock has the backing of myriad Tea Party groups and had a comfortable lead over Lugar in the most recent poll. Hecker said a Mourdock win would provide boosts in senate races in Texas, Utah, Arizona and Ohio, where Tea Party candidates are on the ballot.
Hecker was effusive in his praise of Indiana Tea Party activists backing Mourdock, specifically Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, which spurred the Retire Lugar movement. “From day one they knew how important it was to unite and put together a network and a shadow campaign,” he said. “They reached out to us for help and together we found a candidate in Mourdock with the best chance of success.” “It was a very sophisticated operation.” Greg Fettig, co-leader of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, said beating Lugar would be “one of the biggest upsets in American political history.” “It will also revitalize the tea Party nationwide,” Fettig said.
Fettig said this afternoon that he was optimistic. “Based on what I’ve heard on the ground in the last four to five weeks I like our chances a lot,” he said. “Most people had made up their minds by then. Some will decide at the polls but not that many.” Hecker said reports about the Tea Party’s demise since 2010 were greatly exaggerated – and he said Lugar suffered for it. “He listened to all the journalists in Washington, D.C. that have been saying that instead of looking at what was happening on the ground in his backyard,” Hecker said. The national media has also converged on Indiana. CBS News, CNN, ABC and NBC all have reporters on the ground in Indianapolis for coverage tonight.
Houston, Texas this afternoon.
Houston’s police chief said Tuesday that the four officers charged in the beating of a high school sophomore should have been indicted for felonies instead of misdemeanors. “I just think that what they did was felony conduct,” said Chief Charles McClelland. He blamed state law that makes it difficult to file felony charges in police brutality cases. “The specific statute, the way it reads, makes it very difficult.” He also said he would like to see the law changed. “In my opinion, do I want them charged with a higher penalty? Of course.”
McClelland was the final witness for the prosecution in the trial of former officer Andrew Blomberg, the first of four officers charged with official oppression in a March 24, 2010 beating that was caught on video. Blomberg faces a year in jail if he is convicted of the class A misdemeanor. Defense lawyers for Blomberg have said he acted “reasonably” while tying to arrest Holley, then 15, as he fled from police after a mid-afternoon burglary. Attorney Dick DeGuerinsaid the officers believed Holley and other young men were armed. Testimony showed they believed the crew had stolen a gun the day before.
DeGuerin is expected to argue that Blomberg is not guilty because he acted as a “reasonable officer.” McClelland told jurors he did not think Blomberg’s actions were reasonable. “Former officer Blomberg acted inappropriately and against policy, training and in violation of state law,” he said after leaving court. “I have more experience than Blomberg -I’ve been on the streets longer than Blomberg – so I think I am in a good position to make a judgment call on the reasonable officer standard.” Trials are pending for Phil Bryan, Raad Hassan and Drew Ryser, all of whom were fired. Bryan and Hassan also were charged with violation of the civil rights of a prisoner, a misdemeanor.
The arrest and beating was caught on tape by two cameras mounted at a nearby business. The recording shows Blomberg was the first to get to Holley as he fell to the ground and laid prone with his hands on his head. Blomberg can be seen apparently stomping on the teen’s head. He is next to Holley for about four seconds before running off as other officers kick and punch the teen. The trial, in state District Judge Ruben Guerrero’s court, is expected to last through the week.
HARDEMAN COUNTY, Tennessee — (DMN) – Police in Tennessee have arrested the wife and mother of the man suspected of kidnapping Jo Ann Bain and her three daughters, a county official said Tuesday. Mary Frances Mayes, 65, and Teresa Ann Mayes, 30, were arrested Monday and charged with especially aggravated kidnapping, according to Hardeman County, Tennessee, Deputy Clerk Pat Kirk. They appeared before a judge Tuesday morning and were being held in the Hardeman County jail, Kirk said.
According to an arrest warrant, Teresa Mayes admitted driving a vehicle containing Jo Ann Bain and her three daughters from Hardeman County to Union County, Mississippi. Bain and her oldest daughter, Adrienne, suffered “serious bodily injury as a result of their removal or confinement,” according to the warrant. The bodies Jo Ann Bain and Adrienne Bain were found Friday at a home in Guntown, Mississippi. Police say that home is linked to the suspect, Adam Mayes. Police say they are still searching for Mayes and Bain’s two younger daughters, Alexandria Bain, 12, and Kyliyah Bain, 8.
In Mississippi, authorities continued to stop and search cars at checkpoints set up to look for them, state Highway Patrol Master Sgt. Johnny Poulos said. Mayes, 35, is considered armed and dangerous, and authorities have asked for the public’s help in tracking down him and the two girls. Authorities established contact with and tried to interview Mayes soon after the mother and her three daughters were reported missing on April 27 by Jo Ann’s husband in Whiteville, a western Tennessee town of 4,600 people, but he fled, Joel Siskovic, the spokesman for the FBI bureau in Memphis, Tennessee, told WPTY-TV.
He was last seen May 1 in Guntown, the same northern Mississippi town where the bodies were found. Details haven’t been released as to how or exactly when they died. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation late last week issued an Amber Alert asking for the public’s help in finding the Bain sisters and for information leading to Mayes’ arrest. Aaron T. Ford, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Memphis, Tennessee, bureau, told CNN on Sunday that investigators believe all the kidnapping victims “were transported across state lines into Mississippi.” Local, state and federal law enforcement’s focus is now in Union County, Mississippi, where Guntown is located, the FBI agent said. Authorities have also pointed out, however, that Mayes has connections to Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida and could be en route to Arizona.
Mayes may be using the alias of Christopher Zachery Wylde or Paco Rodrigass, his Facebook profile name, the FBI said Monday. Rick Foster, whose wife was a lifelong friend of Jo Ann Bain and whose daughter was a classmate of Adrienne Bain, recently told CNN that Mayes had been a friend of the Bain family for years. Mayes lived about 90 miles away in Mississippi, Foster said, but would stay with the Bains when he was in the Whiteville area. He described Mayes as “a big kid in a grown man’s body.” Mary Patterson, Mayes’ landlord in Alpine, Mississippi, told WPTY that she thought he was a “kind” and “fun guy.” “If somebody told me this, I would have never believed it,” she said.
Authorities describe Mayes as a white man who has blue eyes and brown hair, weighs about 175 pounds and stands 6-foot-3. He recently cut his own hair and may have done the same to the missing children, according to the Amber Alert. As for the Bains, Foster described the marriage between Jo Ann and her husband, Gary, as “perfect” and said the family had planned to move to Arizona once the school year ended. The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to Mayes’ arrest and to the missing girls.
CNN, WSMV and CBS News contributed to this report.
FORT WAYNE, Indiana — (DMN) – Police in Fort Wayne, Indiana have arrested two people who strapped their kids on the hood of the car with a tow strap before leaving a liquor store. WPTA-TV reports that 29-year-old Aaron Stefanski of Fort Wayne is preliminarily charged with Operating While Intoxicated and Neglect of a Dependent. 29-year-old Jessica Clark of Fort Wayne is preliminarily charged with Neglect of a Dependent. Police say that four children, ages 4, 5, 6, and 7, were strapped to the hood of a moving car.
The kids told a Fort Wayne television station that they “wanted to ride on the hood of the car” because it sounded “like fun.” Witnesses say they saw the couple inside the car pull out of the liquor store parking with four kids strapped to the hood. “With one of those straps you crank on a semi to hold down lumber, they were strapped with that thing, wiggling and wobbling down the street,” said Tom Nowak, a witness to the incident. The man driving the car is the father to three of the children. He was arrested. The female passenger is the mother to the fourth child. Witnesses say after they were pulled over, the woman began to leave and disposed of a cup she had in her hand.
“Everyone said, ‘No! She watched it all, sat in the passenger seat and let it all happen. Take her too!’ So they called her back and handcuffed her,” Nowak said. The woman was later taken to the police station for questioning. Nowak says he couldn’t believe his eyes. Keith Kennedy, another witness, says after police arrested the man, the man said, “It was only 20 feet,” and acted as if it was a joke. “I thought, come on, you know? Those kids’ lives were at risk. If he would’ve turned and one of the kids would’ve fell, he would’ve run right over them,” said Kennedy. Police have charged the driver (father of three) for DWI. Both the father and female passenger (mother of one) could face additional charges. Police say they’re exploring possible child neglect and endangerment charges.
Television station KHOU photographed the boy on Tuesday morning after he was found at a Fort Bend County church. (KHOU photo)
FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas — (DMN) – A missing 9-year old boy was found safe this morning at an Islamic center in Stafford, Texas according to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. Amsal Dhuka was found at the center on Corporate Drive at Dairy Ashford around 6:05 a.m. Amsal was reported missing around 4:14 p.m from the Landmark Apartments, located in the 14200 block of FM 1464, Monday afternoon. His father said his son never came home from Lakeview Elementary School in Sugar Land. Fort Bend ISD Police confirmed Amsal attended class Monday.
A person of interest in the case remains at large. Authorities believe 34-year-old Kismat Momim took the boy. Authorities say she lives in the same apartment complex as Amsal and neighbors describe her as “weird.” It was not clear if she is related to the family. Momim was last seen in a red Toyota Corolla LE, license plate number CC5X097. Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office at 281-341-4665. Witnesses said the child was last seen between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m. getting off the school bus near his apartment complex. He was wearing blue jeans, a blue and white striped shirt and gray Skechers shoes at the time of his disappearance. Hundreds of volunteers combed the area throughout the night in hopes of finding the child alive. They searched the woods and officers knocked on every door in the child’s apartments.