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Justices could take up same-sex marriage
The justices could decide to hear a constitutional challenge to a law denying benefits to same-sex couples.
September 25th, 2012
09:25 AM ET

Justices could take up same-sex marriage

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) The divisive issue of same-sex marriage was expected to be discussed privately by the Supreme Court on Monday, and the justices could soon announce if they will hear a constitutional challenge to a federal law denying financial benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

An order from the court announcing whether it will take up either or both of two separate issues could come as early as Tuesday morning. If so, oral arguments and an eventual ruling would not happen until next year, but the current appeals are sure to reignite the hot-button social debate in a presidential election.

At issue is whether guarantees of "equal protection" in the U.S. Constitution should invalidate a California law - and the separate 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which for federal purposes defines marriage as the legal union only between one man and one woman.

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Filed under: Family • How we live • Relationships • Sexual orientation • Who we are
Judge says Arizona can enforce most contentious part of immigration law
Protesters gathered at the Arizona state capitol to demonstrate against the controversial immigration law on July 29, 2010.
September 18th, 2012
11:56 PM ET

Judge says Arizona can enforce most contentious part of immigration law

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

(CNN) - A federal judge has allowed Arizona to enforce the most controversial part of its politically charged immigration law, the so-called "show me your papers" provision.

In an order on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton upheld the section allowing authorities, while enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of people who may be in the United States illegally.

The Supreme Court in June tossed out most other aspects of the tough new law, but said the part known by critics as the "show me your papers" provision could go into effect, at least for now.

The hot-button immigration issue is a major attack line in this year's presidential campaign with Republicans, led by Mitt Romney, accusing President Barack Obama of failing to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with illegal immigration.

Arizona is the nation's most heavily traveled corridor for illegal immigration and smuggling. The Justice Department said Arizona's population of two million Latinos includes an estimated 400,000 there illegally, and 60% to 70% of deportations or "removals" involve Mexican nationals.

The Pew Hispanic Center recently issued a report that found that Mexican immigration to the United States has come to a standstill. However, the debate continues as more than 10 million unauthorized immigrants - from Mexico and other countries - continue to live in the United States.

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Filed under: How we look • Immigration • Where we live
August 27th, 2012
08:08 AM ET

Court to hear challenge to voter ID law in South Carolina

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) - South Carolina officials head to federal court on Monday to defend a controversial new voter identification law, dismissing suggestions the requirement would deny tens of thousands of people, many of them minorities, access to the ballot.

A weeklong trial will kick off in Washington before a panel of three judges who will decide whether the law should take effect. It is one of several legal challenges to voter identification laws nationwide.

A key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and communities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in those areas must be "pre-cleared" with Washington.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has defended the law, saying it will not harm any potential voter.

"The changes have neither the purpose nor will they have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority," Wilson said.

The Justice Department blocked the measure from taking effect last year, concluding it was discriminatory.

Federal officials cited figures that registered minority voters were about 20 percent more likely than white voters to lack state-issued photo identification.

The Justice Department estimated that more than 80,000 people in South Carolina could be adversely impacted by the planned requirements.

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Filed under: Politics • Where we live
July 9th, 2012
06:04 PM ET

Texas voter ID law goes to court

By Bill Mears, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Texas state officials went to federal court Monday to defend a controversial new voter identification law, dismissing suggestions the requirement would deny hundreds of thousands of people - many of them minorities - access to the ballot.

A weeklong trial kicked off in Washington before a special panel of three federal judges who will decide whether the law, known as SB 14, should be allowed to go into effect. It is one of several legal challenges to voter ID laws around the country.

A key enforcement provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 - known as Section 5 - gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered areas must be "pre-cleared" with Washington. That provision was reauthorized in 2006 for another quarter-century.

The Justice Department in March rejected the Texas law, passed in 2011, using the state's own statistics to show about 600,000 registered voters there lack a state-issued driver's license or identification card. SB 14 amended an earlier voter identification law.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • History • Politics • Where we live
June 25th, 2012
01:58 PM ET

Supreme Court mostly rejects Arizona immigration law; gov says 'heart' remains

By Tom Cohen and Bill Mears, CNN

Washington (CNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Monday key parts of an Arizona law that sought to deter illegal immigration, but let stand a controversial provision that lets police check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

In a decision sure to ripple across the political landscape in a presidential election year, the court's 5-3 ruling upheld the authority of the federal government to set immigration policy and laws.

"The national government has significant power to regulate immigration," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. "Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not pursue policies that undermined federal law."

The Supreme Court concluded that the federal government has the power to block the law - known as SB1070. Yet the court let stand one of the most controversial parts of the bill - a provision that lets police check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws if "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person is in the United States illegally.

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Supreme Court sides with U.S. in Arizona immigration case
The Supreme Court struck down key parts of the Arizona law, and upheld one in a 5-3 decision.
June 25th, 2012
10:51 AM ET

Supreme Court sides with U.S. in Arizona immigration case

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled largely in favor of the U.S. government Monday in a controversial case involving an Arizona law that sought to crack down on illegal immigration.

The court struck down key parts of the Arizona law in a 5-3 ruling sure to ripple across the political landscape in a presidential election year.

"Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the state may not puruse policies that undermined federal law," the majority opinion said.

The majority concluded the federal government had the power to block SB1070, though the court upheld one of the most controversial parts of the bill - a provision that lets police check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws if "reasonable suspicion" exists that the person is in the United States illegally.

Live blog: Supreme Court strikes down three parts of immigration law, upholds one

The Obama administration had argued immigration matters were strictly a federal function.

The ruling is likely to have widespread implications for other states that have or are considering similar laws.

Fed up with illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico - and what they say is the federal government's inability to stop it - legislators in Arizona passed a tough immigration law. The federal government sued, saying that Arizona overreached.
At issue is whether states have any authority to step in to regulate immigration matters or whether that is the exclusive role of the federal government. In dry legal terms, this constitutional issue is known as pre-emption.

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Filed under: History • Immigration • Where we live
High court appears to lean toward Arizona in immigration law dispute
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Arizona's controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants.
April 25th, 2012
12:58 PM ET

High court appears to lean toward Arizona in immigration law dispute

From Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

Washington (CNN) - Parts of Arizona's sweeping immigration law received a surprising amount of support from a short-handed Supreme Court Wednesday.

States throughout the country considering their own tough immigration laws are closely following the proceedings over what has become a thorny issue.

Fed up with illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico - and what they say is the federal government's inability to stop it - legislators in Arizona passed a tough immigration law. The federal government sued, saying that Arizona overreached.

While intense oral arguments took place among the justices, outside there were competing demonstrations on the courthouse plaza, with the law's opponents saying it promotes discrimination and racial profiling. Backers say illegal immigration has created public safety and economic crises.

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Filed under: Immigration • Latino in America • Politics • Social justice • Where we live • Who we are
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