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Texas Gay Marriage Ban is Unconstitutional: Fed. Judge

A Texas law barring same-sex marriage has been struck down and ruled unconstitutional. But Judge Orlando Garcia's decision (attached below) doesn't mean gay marriages can be held in the Lone Star State.

In the latest ruling in the national fight for gay marriage, Judge Garcia placed a stay on the decision, anticipating an appeal by the state. While there is a preliminary injunction on the state's ban, the stay means the ban will remain in effect for now.

"Today's court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent," Garcia held. "Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution."

Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin was indeed subjected to racial slurs and vicious sexual taunts about his mother and sister by Richie Incognito and two other teammates, according to the long-awaited report released by prominent attorney Ted Wells' on Friday.

Incognito was the ringleader of three players who orchestrated "a pattern of harassment" not only on Martin, but also another unidentified young offensive lineman and a member of the team's athletic training staff. Be warned: Wells' 150-page report (attached below) contains some extremely vulgar language.

The harassment by Incognito and fellow offensive linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey contributed to Martin's departure from the team in October, according to Ted Wells' 150-page report (attached in full below).

"The Report finds that the assistant trainer repeatedly was the object of racial slurs and other racially derogatory language; that the other offensive lineman was subjected to homophobic name-calling and improper physical touching; and that Martin was taunted on a persistent basis with sexually explicit remarks about his sister and his mother and at times ridiculed with racial insults and other offensive comments," Ted Wells states in his summary.

Wells says his inquiry found Martin was taunted and ridiculed almost daily. After Martin left the team in October, Incognito boasted about "breaking Jmart" in a notebook the linemen used to tally fines and bonuses among themselves. When the investigation began, Incognito asked another player to destroy the book, but investigators obtained it.

"As all must surely recognize, the NFL is not an ordinary workplace," the report states. "Professional football is a rough, contact sport played by men of exceptional size, speed, strength and athleticism. But even the largest, strongest and fleetest person may be driven to despair by bullying, taunting and constant insults."

Woman Files Lawsuit to Prove She is Alive

A St. Louis woman has spent months trying to convince people that she's alive. Now she has filed suit to say reports of her death are greatly exaggerated.

In a peculiar federal lawsuit (attached below), Kimberly Haman has sued her local bank and a major credit reporting company to prove she is not among the deceased.

She has been turned down for a credit card and twice denied refinancing on her mortgage due to her "deceased" status, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Haman alleges the problem began when Heartland Bank reported her death to Equifax. She says she has repeatedly asked Heartland and Equifax to fix the error, to no avail.

The suit claims a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which allows recovery of compensatory and punitive damages, lawsuit costs and statutory penalties of up to $1,000 per violation.

Insane Clown Posse Sues FBI: 'Juggalo' Fans Not a Gang

Rap group Insane Clown Posse has sued the FBI for labeling fans of the band as criminal gang members, leading to their harassment by law enforcement.

FBI analysts, using law enforcement and media reports of crimes committed by people wearing “Juggalo” tattoos and clothing, concluded in the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment that they are a “loosely organized hybrid gang.”

The lawsuit was filed in federal District Court in Detroit by lawyers for the band and for the ACLU of Michigan. Plaintiffs include the Insane Clown Posse founders Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler, who perform as Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope.

Also listed as plaintiffs are four Juggalos (as fans of the band are called) from Nevada, California, North Carolina and Iowa. They offered details of incidents in which they said they had been subjected to police harassment or other punishments for identifying with Insane Clown Posse.

“Juggalos are a ‘family’ of people who love and help one another, enjoy one another’s company, and bond over the music and a philosophy of life,” the complaint, filed Wednesday, states. “Organized crime is by no means part of the Juggalo culture.”

The gang designation violates fans’ constitutional rights, including free speech, freedom of association and the right to due process, the complaint argues.

“Among the supporters of almost any group — whether it be a band, sports team, university, political organization or religion — there will be some people who violate the law,” the suit said. “However, it is wrong to designate the entire group of supporters as a criminal gang based on the acts of a few. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here.”

The FBI has yet to comment on the lawsuit.

LA Jail Abuse Indictment: Officials Abused Visitors, Beat Inmates

Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies beat jail inmates and visitors without justification, unjustly detained people and conspired to obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the jail, according to indictments unsealed Monday.

18 current or former deputies were arrested Monday by the FBI in a mass show of force, The Los Angeles Times reports. The most damning indictment (attached below) states that an official encouraged deputies to use excessive force and make unlawful arrests of visitors.

Visitors to the jails, uncharged and unsuspected of any crime, were reportedly abused and harassed over the past few years, according to the indictments.

Even an Austrian consulate official was improperly arrested and searched, according to the indictment.

That incident occurred in 2011 when the official and her husband were visiting an inmate who was an Austrian national accused of a crime.

An animal rights group has filed a writ of habeas corpus in New York state court, declaring that a caged chimpanzee is entitled to rights as a legal person.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. filed this legal petition on Tuesday, arguing that the court should grant Tommy, a captive chimpanzee in Gloversville, New York, legal personhood and the freedom that comes with it, reports the New York Times.

Although the petition (see below) does not request that Tommy to be set free to roam upstate New York, it does demand his “immediate release to a primate sanctuary” which can adequately provide for his needs.

Writs of habeas corpus are typically used by criminal defendants, as a way to legally challenge their imprisonment as unlawful. Tommy’s habeas petition would attempt to both obtain his release from his cage as well as have the law recognize him as a person.

Key to this legal strategy is a strange quirk in New York state law, which allows pets and other animals to be considered beneficiaries of trusts. The Nonhuman Rights Project believes this is evidence that New York state has and does consider animals as legal persons with property rights — and therefore Tommy has the same right to liberty as a human.

"Birther" publisher and founder of conservative website WorldNetDaily, Joseph Farah had his defamation suit against Esquire Magazine dismissed, with the Court upholding the publication's right to political satire.

The suit began in June 2011, when Farah and author Jerome Corsi sued Esquire for running a parody article regarding the release of Corsi's newest book entitled "Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to Be President."

Esquire's offending article, penned by journalist Mark Warren, lambasted Corsi and Farsi -- the book's publisher -- with a fake news story about Farsi pulling the book from shelves, denying its existence, and offering refunds.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed on Tuesday (see below) that Farah and Corsi had no case for defamation, based on the fact that the article was clearly satire and "satirical speech enjoys First Amendment protection."

Considering the article in context, the Court denied that a reasonable reader could have mistaken the article for "real news." In addition, commenting on Farah and Corsi's beliefs that President Obama is ineligible for the presidency (the "Birther" mindset) is also protected political speech.

Two Texas couples are fighting to prevent Texas' gay marriage ban from being enforced, and filed a motion to block the law in federal court on Friday.

In their motion for preliminary injunction (embedded below), the couples argue that Texas' constitutional amendment which bars same-sex marriages is unconstitutional and should not stop either couple from legal marriage recognition.

The ban has been in place since 2005. But with the recent swell of support for marriage equality and the U.S. Supreme Court striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the legal fight for gay marriage in Texas is closer than ever.

Cleopatra De Leon and Nicole Dimetman joined Victor Holmes and Mark Phariss in filing the federal suit challenging Texas' ban on gay marriage in late October. Both couples argue that the ban deprives them of equal protection and the fundamental right to marry.

In the plaintiffs' latest motion to block the marriage ban, they challenge that if the state of Texas is urging morality as a legal guide, the court should honor the moral ethos of the Constitution "which requires that treat all citizens with equal dignity and respect under the law."

Texas Abortion Law is Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

Key parts of Texas' new abortion law have been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. The stunning legal ruling (attached below) came Monday, a day before dozens of abortion clinics were set to halt operations.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel barred Texas from enforcing two key provisions of abortion restrictions contained in the controversial new law.

Judge Yeakel held that requiring abortion doctors to gain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was unconstitutional. The provision "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health."

Judge Yeakel also barred Texas from enforcing a provision regulating the dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs for "women for whom surgical abortion is, in the sound medical opinion of their treating physician, a significant health risk."

The judge did, however, allow other parts of the law to stand, including a requirement for one extra office visit.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry promptly announced that state officials will continue efforts to enact the abortion law.

"Today's decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life..." Perry said in a statement. "We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans."

All Same-Sex Spouses Have Employee Benefit Rights: Labor Dept.

Legally married gay couples are entitled to participate in employee benefit plans, even if the state they live in does not recognize gay marriage.

Same-sex spouses can now participate in private retirement and healthcare plans overseen by the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Department of Labor said in a landmark memo (full-text document attached below).

The terms “spouse” and “marriage” under employee-benefit rules now apply to gay married couples. The move comes after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision in United States v. Windsor, which extended federal benefits to those in same-sex marriages.

In effect, a gay couple that is legally married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage will be considered married regardless of where they live.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called the ruling a “historic step forward” and said the department would work to implement it in a way providing “maximum protection” for American workers.