Judges question attorneys at gay marriage hearing
DENVER (AP) - A judge in Colorado who will play a pivotal role deciding whether gays should be allowed to wed in the United States sharply questioned whether Oklahoma can legally prevent the marriages.
Jerome Holmes is one of three judges on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals who is hearing arguments from attorneys Thursday about the state's gay marriage ban. A lower court overturned the ban.
Holmes indicated during the hearing that states cannot define marriage in a way that would "trample constitutional rights."
His line of questioning could be good news for gay marriage advocates because Holmes is viewed as the swing vote on the panel.
Whatever the 10th Circuit panel rules will inevitably be appealed. Attorneys expect the U.S. Supreme Court to have the final word on gay marriage.
Oklahoma school associations oppose Barresi
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The leaders of two groups representing Oklahoma school administrators and suburban school districts are voicing their opposition to Republican state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi.
The directors of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the United Suburban Schools Association released a joint statement Thursday declaring "no confidence" in Barresi.
A Barresi spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Barresi was elected during a Republican sweep of state offices in 2010, but has had a rocky first term that included highly publicized clashes with the state school board and resistance from local superintendents over several GOP-led education initiatives.
She is facing two Republican primary opponents in her re-election campaign this year, and four Democrats also have filed for the seat.
INCOME TAX CUT
Oklahoma House's top Democrat: No time for tax cut
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House's top Democrat says critical state education and transportation needs coupled with declining tax revenue means the timing is not right to pass an income tax cut this year.
Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Oklahoma City made the comments shortly after the House adjourned on Thursday. Proposals to reduce the state's 5.25 percent top income tax rate by a quarter of a percentage point once revenues improve are expected to be considered by the Legislature next week.
Inman says educators have asked lawmakers to restore budget cuts that have trimmed $200 million from public school budgets in recent years. And lawmakers want to increase funding for road and bridge repairs.
Inman says those goals cannot be achieved as long as lawmakers continue to cut back on revenue.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING BILLS
Oklahoma House passes human trafficking measures
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Three bills intended to toughen Oklahoma's human trafficking laws have been approved by the state House.
House members voted without opposition for a bill by Republican Representative Pam Peterson of Tulsa that ensures provisions of the Sex Offender Registration Act apply to people convicted of human trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Another bill by Peterson adds human trafficking to the list of crimes requiring those convicted to serve 85 percent of their time before being eligible for parole.
The third bill, by Republican Representative Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, provides that a lawsuit can be filed in a human trafficking case in the county where the defendant lives or committed an act that subjected the person to potential liability.
The bills now return to the Senate for consideration of House amendments.
ST GREGORY'S-EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY
Restoration of historic building steps completed
SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) - St. Gregory's University in Shawnee says it has completed restoration work on the front steps of its historic Benedictine Hall, which was damaged by an earthquake in 2011.
The magnitude 5.6 temblor rocked the tiny campus in central Oklahoma, damaging the building that opened in 1915 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since then, the campus community has embarked on a multi-year construction project to reconstruct the damaged areas.
The front steps of Benedictine Hall were reconstructed down to the foundation.
Harley Lingerfelt is vice president of Operations for St. Gregory's. He says campus officials are pleased the project was completed before May's convocation so graduating students can stand on the steps with their classmates to celebrate.
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