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Calif. gay-marriage ban creates legal uncertainty

Last week Californians passed a new ban on gay marriage, overturning a prior ruling by the California Supreme Court that allowed same-sex couples the right to wed.
Legal experts said it is unclear whether an attempt by gay-rights activists to overturn the prohibition had any chance of success, and whether the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed in California over the past four months are in any danger.
The amendment does not explicitly say whether it applies to those already married. Legal experts said unless there is explicit language, laws are not normally applied retroactively.
“Otherwise a Pandora’s Box of chaos is opened,” Stanford University law school professor Jane Schacter said. Still, Schacter cautioned that the question of retroactivity “is not a slam dunk.”
An employer, for instance, could deny medical benefits to an employee’s same-sex spouse. The worker could then sue the employer, giving rise to a case that could determine the validity of the 18,000 marriages.
Supporters of the ban said they will not seek to invalidate the marriages already performed and will leave any legal challenges to others.
A 2003 California law already gives gays registered as domestic partners nearly all the state rights and responsibilities of married couples when it comes to such things as taxes, estate planning and medical decisions. That law is still in effect.
The California amendment won a 52 percent approval rating.
Arizona and Florida passed similar bans this election season, even though just two years ago, Arizona rejected it.

Uncertain changes ahead for Calif. egg industry ?

Californians voted against gay-marriage last week, but voted for chicken rights. Proposition 2, passing with 63 percent of the vote, bans the use of cramped cages for hens.
Opponents of the ban, primarily farmers, said it was unknown how the proposition would be enforced or how much room must be provided to factory farm animals.
The farm-animal welfare measure requires that not only hens but also pregnant pigs and calves raised for veal be given enough room to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs.
The initiative language is vaguely written and it will be up to state regulators to draft new guidelines before Jan. 1, 2015 when the measure takes effect.

Fears of a Dem. crackdown lead to boom in gun sales

Last month, as an Obama win looked increasingly inevitable, there were more than 108,000 more background checks for gun purchases than in October 2007, a 15 percent increase. And they were up about 8 percent for the year as of Oct. 26, according to the FBI.
Gun shops from suburban Virginia to the Rockies report record sales since Tuesday’s election.
“They’re scared to death of losing their rights,” David Hancock said, manager of Bob Moates, where sales have nearly doubled in the past week and are up 15 percent for the year. On Election Day, salespeople were called in on their day off because of the crowd.
Obama has said he respects Americans’ Second Amendment right to bear arms, but that he favors “common sense” gun laws. Gun rights advocates interpret that as meaning he’ll at least enact curbs on ownership of assault and concealed weapons.
As a U.S. Senator, Obama voted to leave gun-makers and dealers open to lawsuits; and as an Illinois state legislator, he supported a ban on semiautomatic weapons and tighter restrictions on all firearms.
Mark Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor who has written a book about the gun debate, said new firearms regulations will be a low priority for an Obama administration and Democratic Congress facing a global economic crisis and two wars.
“Maybe the gun-show loophole will be closed, but not much else,” he said in an e-mail. “I’d be surprised, for example, if Congress enacted a new assault gun ban.”

The American auto industry is running on fumes

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General Motors, the nation’s largest automaker, warned last week that it may run out of money by the end of the year after piling up billions in third-quarter losses and burning through cash at an alarming rate. Ford sustained heavy losses too.
The situation is so severe, GM has suspended talks to acquire Chrysler and is appealing to the government for help as the slumping economy drags cars sales to their lowest level in a quarter century.
GM also planned more job cuts, including another 5,500 salaried and factory workers. But company officials cautioned that those measures alone would not be enough and that federal aid is essential.
Friday’s events called into question the future of Detroit’s three automakers and heightened pressure on the government to take action.
President-elect Barack Obama on Friday indicated that help might be on the way. At a Chicago news conference, he said Congress must pass an economic stimulus measure either before or just after he takes office in January, and he mentioned aid for the auto industry.