Boy Scouts of America board members are expected to vote on Wednesday on whether to end a longstanding and controversial ban on gay membership. The century-old youth organization upheld the ban just last year but faced sharp criticism from gay rights groups. The Boy Scouts touched off fierce lobbying by groups both for and against changing the policy when it said late last month that it was considering removing the national restriction based on sexual orientation and leaving the decision to local chapters. The national executive board, which lists more than 70 members, has been meeting privately since Monday at a hotel near Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts released no details about the deliberations on Tuesday. Many local chapters have said they were waiting for the board to render a verdict before weighing in, and a coalition of 33 councils that represent about one-fifth of all youth members has asked the board to delay the vote for more study.
The military is poised to extend some benefits to the same-sex partners of service members, U.S. officials said late Tuesday, about 16 months after the Pentagon repealed its ban on openly gay service. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not made a final decision on which benefits will be included, the officials said, but the Pentagon is likely to allow same-sex partners to have access to the on-base commissary and other military subsidized stores, as well as some health and welfare programs. Panetta must walk a fine, legal line. While there has been increased pressure on the Pentagon to extend some benefits to same-sex partners, defense officials must be careful not to violate the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The federal law forbids the federal government from recognizing any marriage other than those between a man and a woman. An announcement is expected to come in the next several days. Officials made it clear that there are still last-minute legal discussions going on to determine the details.
Firearm background checks dipped in January amid tight supplies of guns after a buying surge followed the Connecticut school massacre in December and lawmakers’ subsequent attempts to ban some weapons, according to FBI figures released Tuesday. Last month, 2,495,440 reviews of gun sales and permits to carry were conducted under the National Instant Criminal Background Checks, which began in 1998. That’s a 10% dip from the 2,783,765 checks conducted in December, the FBI numbers show. The Associated Press found steeper declines in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The biggest drops — nearly 33% — came in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, which had registered some of the biggest increases in November when President Obama was re-elected. The FBI set a one-week record after the killings of 20 students and six educators Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The week after, Obama and lawmakers proposed expanding checks and banning military-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines.
House Republicans on Tuesday staked out what they cast as a middle-ground option in the debate over immigration, pushing an approach that could include legal residency but not a path to citizenship — as their Democratic counterparts favor — for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Republicans also signaled that they are open to the idea of breaking immigration legislation into several smaller bills, which would allow them to deal with the question of highly skilled workers, as well as a farmworker program, without addressing what Democrats and immigration advocates say is the larger issue of potential citizenship. Immigration advocates favor a comprehensive measure to enable them to use elements that have bipartisan backing to build support for broader legislation.
Nasdaq OMX Group Inc is in preliminary talks with U.S. securities regulators over a possible settlement for the glitch-ridden stock market debut of social networking site Facebook Inc, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people with knowledge of the discussions. A settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission would likely include a $5 million penalty for Nasdaq, the newspaper said. Major market makers and broker dealers say they lost upward of $500 million because of technical glitches during Facebook’s May 18 stock market debut. Nasdaq offered a compensation plan in September of $62 million for firms harmed in the debut, but the proposition received mixed reviews with UBS AG, Citigroup Inc and other parties speaking out against it. The SEC could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular business hours.