5 Things To Know Today

Supreme Court Considers Same-Sex Marriage 

At their private conference Friday, the Supreme Court justices will consider ten petitions for review, involving three separate issues relating to same-sex marriages, The Wall Street Journal reports.  On the table for discussion is the constitutionality of Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Proposition 8, and a challenge to  health insurance benefits for Arizona state employees spouses that omits same-sex relationships because they cannot get married in the state.  Public opinion seems to be shifting towards acceptance of same-sex marriage. In 2011, Gallup found for the first time that a majority of Americans supported it. And on Election Day this year, three states passed ballot initiatives allowing same-sex couples to marry — making this year the first ever in which voters passed initiatives in favor, rather than against, same-sex marriage. The issue, however, is far from resolved. While nine states plus the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage, many more — 39 states — prohibit it.

Cuomo Issues Executive Order On Sandy Insurance Claims

New York state has shredded some bureaucracy to speed the payment of insurance claims to 360,000 victims of Superstorm Sandy, while creating an online system to grade insurers whose state licenses are on the line as they respond to New Yorkers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he met with top insurance companies about the changes that should cut by more than half the time New Yorkers will have to wait for insurance adjusters. That new deadline is six days, from 15 days. The adjusters must inspect homes and businesses before claims can be paid to policyholders, unless there is a health and safety issue. Sandy victims can make those repairs and make claims using receipts and other paper work. The governor is allowing some insurance adjusters from outside the state to obtain temporary state licenses to help address New York mountain of claims more quickly. He also approved adding “public adjusters” who help consumers through the process.

Marketers Win Important FCC Text Message Ruling

Companies can safely get back into text messaging marketing programs, now that the Federal Communications Commission has clarified a 90s-era communications law, according to The FCC’s declaratory ruling released Thursday confirmed that companies and organizations may legally follow industry best practices and send a final, one-time text to confirm receipt of a consumer’s opt-out request of a text messaging program. SoundBite Communications, a company that manages text message programs for more than 450 companies, filed the petition last March in response to a growing number of class action lawsuits that alleged receipt text messages were in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Passed in 1991 before text messaging grew into a robust marketing strategy, the law restricts the use of autodialers to make non-emergency calls without prior express consent to any telephone number assigned to mobile telephone services.

House Set To Pass STEM Jobs Act

The House is  expected to prevail Friday in passing the STEM Jobs Act, which would provide up to 55,000 green cards a year to those earning masters and doctoral degrees from U.S. schools in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But the bill is unlikely to go anywhere this year in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Obama White House has come out against it, saying it “does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the president’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.” A major point of contention is that the bill offsets the increase in visas for the highly educated by eliminating the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This year the program made 50,000 visas available to people from countries with traditionally low rates of immigration. About half of those visas go to African nations. The STEM Act visas would be in addition to about 140,000 employment-based visas for those ranging from lower-skilled workers to college graduates and people in the arts, education and athletics.

California’s Gay Therapy Ban Faces Legal Test

A California law prohibiting mental health providers from counseling gay minors on how to become straight faces its first legal test Friday, when lawyers for counselors endorsing “reparative therapy” and parents who claim their sons have benefited from it, plan to ask a judge to block the first-of-its-kind measure, CBS News reports. U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller will hear arguments on whether she should grant an injunction that would prevent the law, which was passed by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown as SB1172 in October, from taking effect on Jan. 1. The temporary delay would allow underage clients to continue receiving the therapy while its supporters seek to overturn the law on grounds that it violates their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. If it’s not blocked, the therapists and families “will be immediately and irreparably harmed by being forced to discontinue ongoing therapy in violation of their constitutional rights, by being denied the ability to direct the upbringing of their children, and by being compelled to violate their ethical obligations in order to obey the law,” lawyers from Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group, wrote in their petition.

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