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August 30th, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, LGBT Issues, Welfare, Privacy

Morning News and Stuff

Gay marriages recognized, facial recognition panel appointed, drug testing for welfare fails

evolution of equalityIllustration: Julie Hill

The federal government announced yesterday that same-sex marriages will be recognized for federal tax and Medicare purposes even if the marriage is considered illegal in the state where the couple resides. That means gay Ohioans could get married in a state where it’s legal, such as Massachusetts or California, and have their marriages recognized by the federal government even if the couple lives in Ohio. The change does not apply to Social Security, which will continue basing benefits on where couples live, not where they got married. The changes also won’t apply to taxes at the local and state level until those governments legalize same-sex marriage for themselves. Freedom Ohio is currently working to get same-sex marriage on Ohio’s ballot in 2014, as CityBeat covered in further detail here.

Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday appointed the panel that will review the state’s facial recognition program. It includes Democrats, Republicans, judges, law enforcement and prosecutors, but not civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, that asked to be involved. Shortly after the program was formally unveiled on Monday, the ACLU asked DeWine to shut it down until proper protocols are put in place to protect Ohioans’ rights to privacy. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information. Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.

A Republican state senator is introducing legislation that would attach drug testing to welfare benefits in Ohio, but similar measures have failed in other states. Under the proposal, welfare recipients in three counties would be required to take a drug test if they admit in a questionnaire to using drugs in the past six months. In Utah, the state government spent more than $30,000 screening welfare applicants, but only 12 people tested positive, according to Deseret News. The policy has also faced legal troubles, particularly in Florida, but since the Ohio proposal only requires drug testing after information is solicited through a questionnaire, it’s unclear whether privacy concerns will hold up in court.

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, a Republican, is speaking out against a $300 million light rail project that would run from downtown Cincinnati to Milford, Ohio.

Hartmann says he’s concerned ridership numbers will be low and costs will be too high. County commissioners are involved with the project through the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District.

Ex-Councilman John Cranley continues to outraise and outspend Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls in the mayoral race. But money rarely matters in political campaigns, according to research and Cincinnati’s mayoral history.

The conservative Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) is asking the city solicitor to force Councilman Chris Seelbach to repay the city for his trip to Washington, D.C., where Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay council member, received the White House’s Champion of Change Award. Seelbach says the trip served a public purpose; mainly, the trip allowed him and his staff to spend time with other award recipients to learn how to better deal with LGBT issues.

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble announced it backs legislation that would prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ohio currently has no such law.

Ohio’s prison population is growing again, which has spurred further calls from state officials to continue pursuing sentencing reform. The state government in 2012 passed some reform that weakened sentences and made it easier for convicts to have their records expunged, but Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr says more needs to be done.

Ohio gun owners are gathering in Columbus today to call on Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to support comprehensive background checks for firearms, according to a press release from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Polling data released by the group found 83 percent of Ohioans support comprehensive background checks.

A Democratic state representative is asking Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to explain why he’s accused of forcing the Ohio EPA’s top water watchdog to resign, but Kasich’s people don’t seem to be taking the concern too seriously. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded to the demands by telling The Columbus Dispatch, “If she had her way, we’d all be living on a collective farm cooking organic quinoa over a dung fire. So I think we’ll take her views in context.” George Elmaraghy, chief of the Ohio EPA’s surface-water division, was allegedly asked to step down by Kasich after Elmaraghy claimed Ohio coal companies want water-pollution permits “that may have a negative impact on Ohio’s streams and wetlands and violate state and federal laws.” Republican lawmakers are notoriously friendly with oil, gas and coal companies.

Two more are being investigated by the Hamilton County Board of Elections for illegally voting in Ohio while living in other states.

Gas prices are rising in time for Labor Day weekend, but they should be cheaper than last year.

The famous “47 percent” is now down to 43 percent. The Tax Policy Center says the change is driven by the recovering economy, rising incomes and cuts to federal assistance programs.

Antarctica appears to be bleeding in a phenomenon that shows life can exist without sunlight or oxygen.

Popular Science has an explainer for cruise missiles, the weapon that soon may be deployed against Syria.

 
 
 
 
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