TIME

Oregon Sues Oracle Over Failed Health Care Website

Attorney general candidate Ellen Rosenblum makes remarks during a debate with Dwight Holton at the City Club Friday, April 27, 2012, in Portland, Ore.
Attorney general candidate Ellen Rosenblum makes remarks during a debate with Dwight Holton at the City Club Friday, April 27, 2012, in Portland, Ore. Rick Bowmer—AP

(SALEM, Ore.) — The state of Oregon filed a lawsuit Friday against Oracle Corp. and several of its executives over the technology company’s role in creating the troubled website for the state’s online health insurance exchange.

The lawsuit, filed in Marion County Circuit Court in Salem, seeks more than $200 million in damages and alleges that Oracle officials made false statements and submitted false claims.

Oracle was the largest technology contractor working on Oregon’s health insurance enrollment website, known as Cover Oregon. The public website was never launched and became a political problem to Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is running for re-election.

“Today’s lawsuit clearly explains how egregiously Oracle has disserved Oregonians and our state agencies,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Over the course of our investigation, it became abundantly clear that Oracle repeatedly lied and defrauded the state.”

Oracle filed its own lawsuit Aug. 8 alleging breach of contract and seeking payment of more than $23 million in disputed bills. The Redwood City, California, company blames Oregon for the website’s failure, saying the state had incompetent and indecisive staff.

Oracle officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Instead of signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in one sitting, Oregonians had to use a hybrid paper-online process that was costly and slow, and the state had to hire more than 400 workers to help them. Altogether, about $250 million in federal funds has been spent on Oregon’s exchange, including technology development, salaries, advertising and rent.

Despite the exchange’s technology woes, about 454,500 Oregonians have enrolled in coverage through Cover Oregon using the hybrid process. An estimated 97,000 of those enrolled in private health plans, while about 357,500 enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s version of Medicaid.

The state decided to stop building the Oracle website earlier this year and transitioned to the federally run enrollment website.

The FBI and the federal Government Accountability Office are also investigating Oregon’s exchange problems.

TIME #Asktime

#AskTIME Q & A: Alex Altman

Welcome to TIME’s weekly Q&A series #AskTIME. This week, we’re chatting with Alex Altman, who co-authored this week’s cover story on Ferguson and spent the week there reporting on the ground.

We will start posting questions and responses at 1 p.m. EST and stay online for about 30 minutes. We have been gathering reader questions all week on Whisper, Twitter and Facebook but will also take questions in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #askTIME.

If you’d like to follow along with #AskTIME going forward, sign up here.

Outsider asks: What do you think the chances are of the officer involved being charged in this case, and the police chief coming under investigation for lack of management (or a stated policy) regarding minorities in his city – given the other death that occurred by Police 4 miles away from where Brown was shot? Have you heard of any legal action coming down?

I don’t want to speculate about whether the officer will be charged. The county prosecutor has begun presenting evidence to a grand jury, but that process will take months. Gov. Jay Nixon has promised a “vigorous prosecution,” which is an unusual statement that gives you a sense of the political pressure at play. DOJ has opened a parallel investigation into federal (criminal) civil rights violations. They are probing allegations that the Ferguson police force has a pattern of racial profiling, borne out in both residents’ anecdotes and statistics collected by the state.

Whisper: ‘What are the protesters hoping to accomplish by destroying the things around them. It takes all respect away from their cause.’

It’s important to distinguish between the small faction of people who are there to fight cops or break stuff, and the vast majority, which is there to peacefully call attention to a deeply felt grievance. The protesters are not “destroying things.” That’s being done by other folks, who are there for reasons that have little to do with the death of Michael Brown. A week ago, when there was significant looting, a lot of protesters put themselves at personal risk by standing guard at storefronts to stop it. There are more volunteers spending hours a day actively policing the crowd than there are folks intent on doing damage. People are doing some pretty heroic stuff in an attempt to keep the peace.

Whisper: how do we shift the focus from a race issue to an issue where we see our police are out of control?

I think this question underscores why the story has gotten such traction. So much is screwed-up about what’s happened in Ferguson that it touches different nerves for different people. I agree that the “militarization” of police is a big issue. But so are the racial divisions that led to this point, and which have been deepened by the shooting. Focus on whatever aspect of the story you want, but there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed.

deconstructiva asks: Alex, we know that journalists normally try to cover the story instead of being the story, but the Ferguson police’s arrest of journalists have changed that, especially the initial two arrests in the McDonald’s. Has that made your coverage there any harder, or not really? Why did the police raid that McDonald’s in the first place? No doubt many view their food as a health hazard, but that’s no excuse to storm the place to clear it out and arrest journalists. Did anyone arrest or otherwise discipline those officers who made the arrests? I wonder how events and coverage would’ve played out if the police had left the media alone, but then again, given their brutality against local residents, their behavior would’ve been exposed anyway. And if the large media presence wasn’t there, how much worse would events be? Sunil Dutta’s recent op-ed defending fellow police shows a potentially dangerous mindset that obviously is not strictly his alone.

I have thought about this a lot. The arrest of journalists is obviously unfortunate, and for a bunch of reasons. One is it created a storyline which diverts attention from the bigger issues at the core of the case: the death of a 18-year-old kid; the systemic issues that led to it; the question of what transpired in the Brown-Wilson encounter; the protests that have ensued; the challenge of preventing a repeat occurrence. As you say, when at all possible, reporters should try to cover the story without inserting themselves into it. It’s not always possible.

There’s no question that the media have affected the trajectory of events. I suspect the press horde has probably made police more cautious about how they deploy force, since they know their actions are liable to be splashed across the national news. Nearly everyone I met was happy to talk to me—which is a rarity—because they hope the reporting calls attention to problems in the community. I also think the media presence eggs on some agitators who want to mug for the cameras.

Some of this stuff is unavoidable. And the majority of media in Ferguson are doing a very good job covering an important story under difficult circumstances. But the swarm has grown to unwieldy proportions and there are some folks who seem to be courting controversy rather than trying to avoid it. The last day or so that I was in Ferguson (I was there for a week before leaving yesterday morning), the press pack began outnumbering protesters at time. Reporting started to feel like rubbernecking. We have to be conscious of when our presence becomes a hindrance. (And yes, I recognize the hypocrisy in saying the press shouldn’t be the story, then giving a windy first-person response.)

yogi1 asks: Alex what are the chances a lame duck Congress passes anything substantial on immigration reform after the midterms?

Pretty much zero. House Republicans have blocked efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill for more than a year, despite strong public support and pressure from business lobbies and evangelicals. The right’s resistance will only intensify if President Obama issues executive orders on immigration policy this fall, as he has suggested. I have written about what moves he may be considering, such as expanding DACA to grant relief from deportation for potentially millions.

Whisper: ‘has the officer responsible been arrested, detained, placed on probation or faced any repercussions? if not, why?

The officer who shot Brown is on paid administrative leave. He’s left the area, and is in an undisclosed location because of threats to his safety. The Ferguson police hasn’t addressed your question specifically, and the St. Louis County police tells me they will not release the investigative component of the incident report, which deals with what happened. It’s possible that Wilson will face criminal charges. But we won’t know for months; the prosecuting attorney is hoping to finish presenting evidence by mid-October.

DonQuixotic asks: Alex, given your past coverage on the House vote to try and help Marijuana businesses gain access to financial systems, what do you think the likelihood of legalization is? Is it only a matter of time? How much support is the move seeing on the Hill?

There has been very little progress on legalization at a federal level. There’s not even much progress on giving legitimate, tax-paying businesses in states that have legalized pot access to banks, which is an urgent and obvious problem. Lawmakers want to see how the experiments unfolding in Colorado and Washington play out. But I think there’s no question the legalization movement is gaining momentum at the state level. Oregon and Alaska may follow this year. California is the big one, and industry folks believe it will pass a legalization measure in 2016.

deconstructiva asks: Alex, in a change of pace from Ferguson coverage, as you travel all over the country to cover politics, what do you think is the biggest difference in political coverage all over the US – elected officials at highest levels (President, Congress, governors, state legislators) vs. everyday people in your interviews, or different areas of the country, like East Coast vs. Midwest vs. South, or even DC / Beltway vs. outside DC (everywhere else)? Do DC politicians and the media really have its own collective mindset about politics apart from the rest of country, thus the “Beltway media” term mentioned a lot, or is this more of an urban myth and Beltway coverage really isn’t that much different as say, reporting from Ohio or California?

(My best guess – if “Beltway media” reporting is unique among national reporting, I suspect it comes from DC’s sole existence as our nation’s capital and thus politics is a daily livelihood for nearly everyone there …so politics might be seen as a game to be played (and manipulated) instead of a daily job of tackling everyday issues and keeping things running, though of course, Congress is failing to do even this bare minimum, but I digress.)

If I understand your question, the biggest difference is the stakes, both political and monetary. Read coverage in, say, mid-sized metro newspapers around the U.S., and you will see the same focus on incremental inside-baseball news, fleeting “scoops,” partisan bickering. “Beltway” reporting heightens these tendencies, because the characters are bigger, there’s more competition, and there’s an entire industry that wants this kind of coverage and is willing to underwrite it. Believe me when I tell you that a lot of reporters are even more frustrated with some of the industry trends than you seem to be.

@AprilHollowayJD asks: Did you hear any police officers disagree with the actions of the other police or is it mob/protect your own mentality?

There’s definitely a protect-your-own mentality. However, it’s just as dangerous to generalize about the behavior of police in Ferguson as it is to generalize about the protesters. Is some of the criticism of police behavior valid? Absolutely. But I also saw and spoke to a lot of police officers who were respectful of the protesters’ right to assemble, who were doing their best to lower the temperature, and who are caught in a very difficult situation not of their own making.

TIME Religion

Oklahoma Catholics Drop Lawsuit After Satanists Return Wafer

Satanic Mass Lawsuit
In this Feb. 11, 2011 file photo, Archbishop Paul Coakley, center, holds a communion wafer as he is installed as the fourth archbishop of the Oklahoma City Archdiocese in a ceremony at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, in Edmond, Okla. Jim Beckel—AP

A Satanic group had planned to use the communion wafer in a ritual scheduled for next month

The Catholic Archbishop of Oklahoma City has dropped a lawsuit against a Satanic group after it agreed to turn over a communion wafer it hoped to use in a “Black Mass” scheduled to take place in September.

“I am relieved that we have been able to secure the return of the sacred Host, and that we have prevented its desecration as part of a planned satanic ritual,” Coakley said in a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

Coakley sued the Satanic group, the Church of Ahriman, on the grounds that it stole the communion wafer, which Catholics hold to be a sacred part of the Mass ritual.

“I remain concerned about the dark powers that this satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly,” Coakley said in a statement.

Adam Daniel, the Satan worshipper set to lead next month’s Black Mass, said fighting the lawsuit wasn’t worth the trouble.

“I don’t feel like wasting thousands of dollars over a nasty cookie,” he said.

TIME justice

California to Fight Ruling Against Death Penalty

California Attorney General Kamala Harris Announces Lawsuit
California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference on October 10, 2013 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

State Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal

California is appealing last month’s federal court ruling that declared the state’s enforcement of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that she would appeal the ruling by Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. Central District of California, who said that the state’s death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Last month, Carney, a Republican-appointed judge in Orange County, vacated the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother but is still on death row. In a lengthy decision, Carney ruled that uncertainties and delays over executions in the state violated inmates’ constitutional rights.

“The dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote. “As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

The case will now move to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am appealing the court’s decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants,” Harris said in a statement. “This flawed ruling requires appellate review.”

Only 13 people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, and no inmate has been executed since 2006. More than 900 are currently on death row in the state.

TIME Crime

There’s Very Little in the Michael Brown Shooting Incident Report

Ferguson reacts to shooting of Michael Brown
Theo Murphy (left) of Florissant and his brother Jordan Marshall light candles, at a memorial on Canfield Drive where unarmed teen Michael Brown was fatally shot, Aug. 21, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Christian Gooden—St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Polaris

Police waited 10 days to approve It

Updated 1:45 p.m. ET

Nearly two weeks after Michael Brown’s death, a police report on the shooting has finally been made public. But the glaring lack of detail is likely to increase widespread criticism that the law-enforcement community is closing ranks around Darren Wilson, the officer who fatally shot Brown on Aug. 9.

The incident report, filed by the St. Louis County police department, contains no new information on the encounter between Brown and Wilson. There are no written details about the event. As a result, the officer’s account of what transpired when the two men met just after noon on Aug. 9 remains a mystery.

And it will be for some time, according to Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police department. Schellman told TIME that the department does not intend to release the “investigative” component of the incident report, the part that details Wilson’s version of events.

Schellman said that under the Missouri State “Sunshine” Law, the department was not required to release the information during a pending investigation. As a result, Wilson’s account of what happens will remain confidential unless it is presented by a prosecutor, Schellman said.

“We will not release it,” said Schellman, who noted that this is the county’s normal procedure. “This isn’t any different than a typical larceny from a local convenience store.”

Wilson never filed a report on the incident, according to the office of the St. Louis County prosecutor. The case was quickly turned over to the county at the request of local police. According to the document, the St. Louis County police entered the incident report on Aug. 19, 10 days after the shooting. It was approved for release the following morning.

(Read More: TIME’s cover story Inside the Tragedy of Ferguson)

The bare facts of the incident report were made public after the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit demanding the public documents, as pursuant to Missouri’s Sunshine Law. Why it took so long for the department to comply, considering the lack of information contained in the documented, is unclear. The ACLU could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report classifies the potential offense as a “homicide.” Schellman said that is the standard classification for an investigation into an incident that leaves someone dead.

Read the full report below.

This story has been updated to reflect new information.

CARE Incident Report

TIME justice

Oklahoma Cop Charged With Raping 6 Women While on Patrol

Some of the alleged assaults took place during traffic stops

An Oklahoma City police officer was arrested Thursday and charged sexually assaulting at least six women while he was on patrol, though police expect more alleged victims to come forward.

Daniel Holtzclaw is charged with rape, oral sodomy and sexual battery. The three-year veteran of the force is being held on a $5 million bond, Reuters reports.

Police said the assaults took place while Holtzclaw was on the job, in some cases as a result of traffic stops.

[Reuters]

TIME justice

Chelsea Manning Says Military Still Denying Gender Treatment

Motion Hearing Held In Bradley Manning Case
U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves a military court at the end of the first of a three-day motion hearing June 6, 2012 in Fort Meade, Maryland. Alex Wong—Getty Images

A year after requesting gender-reassignment treatment, convicted national-security leaker Chelsea Manning says the military has given her nothing but “lip service.” In an exclusive statement to NBC News, the former Army private once known as Bradley Manning said life in the military lockup at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has restricted her ability to express her gender identity.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

 

TIME Crime

What Anonymous Is Doing in Ferguson

Ferguson Anonymous
Ron Johnson of Missouri State Highway Patrol speaks to a protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask while he walks through a peaceful demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 14, 2014 Lucas Jackson—Reuters

What the "hacktavist" group does, how it dealt with the affiliated member who misidentified Michael Brown's killer and how many members are involved in Operation Ferguson

On Aug. 12, Ferguson City Hall’s website went black, its phone lines died and officials had to communicate by text, according to the St. Louis Dispatch and the New York Times. Self-identified members of the amorphous, hard-to-define hacker community Anonymous had struck again, according to the papers, this time in response to the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer. A Twitter account allegedly associated with Anonymous — @TheAnonMessage — threatened Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, with publicly releasing his daughter’s information “in one hour” unless he released the name of the officer who killed Brown. While Belmar didn’t give in, and @TheAnonMessage dropped the ultimatum, the account and other self-identified Anonymous members would post two days later the home address, Social Security number and phone number of Belmar, telling him to “run, Jon, run.” While that practice, known as doxing, is a common Anonymous cyberattack, @TheAnonMessage would go on to wrongly accuse a citizen of killing Brown. Twitter subsequently shut down the Twitter account @TheAnonMessage without much uproar from the Anonymous community, which prides itself on fighting censorship.

A week later, Anonymous is still at work, marking Thursday as a nationwide “day of rage” to protest police brutality. To better understand why Anonymous, whose targets have been varied (including MasterCard, a Tunisian dictator and Kiss singer Gene Simmons), is interested in the Brown shooting, TIME spoke with Jay Leiderman, an attorney who includes among his clients Anonymous hackers, and Gabriella Coleman, a McGill University anthropology professor who is writing a book on the loose-knit community. We also spoke about how many people were involved in Operation Ferguson and how the organization dealt with one of its own after falsely accusing someone of murder.

Why is Anonymous involved in the Ferguson protests?
Anonymous’ “main demand” is “justice” for Brown and his family, Leiderman says. They can grab the attention of the Ferguson police and “let them know that they’re serious,” he says. Operation Ferguson falls in line with previous Anonymous efforts to unmask alleged perpetrators, like the 2012 Operation Red Roll, which released private information about people allegedly complicit in the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.

The “whole reason why” Anonymous got involved was a local rap artist — Tef Po — who called out for help on Twitter, according to Coleman, and the affiliated members responded. A day after the Brown shooting, Anonymous, through Operation Ferguson, released a statement asking Congress to pass a bill to set “strict national standards for police conduct.” It also warned the Ferguson government and police department of cyber-counterattacks if the protesters were abused, harassed or otherwise harmed.

“If you attack the protesters, we will attack every server and computer you have,” wrote the Operation Ferguson author. “We will dox [document trace] and release the personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department, as well as any other jurisdiction that participates in the abuse. We will seize all your databases and e-mail spools and dump them on the Internet. This is your only warning.”

Coleman says that there isn’t unanimous support within the hacker community nor Anonymous on shutting down websites. “It’s a big contentious debate between hackers who have a purist, free-speech view, and others who have a more contextual one,” says Coleman. “There’s also a debate within Anonymous itself where a lot of hackers who really do the work of intrusion are not fans of doxing for two reasons: a) it’s technically uninteresting and b) sometimes they’re actually trying to gain access to those sites to hack them.”

“Really the main point is to gain media attention,” she says. “That’s kind of why that’s done more than anything else.”

How many Anonymous members are involved in Ferguson?
Anonymous is by definition a secretive group, one without leaders, an agenda or a set list of members. “No one has any idea” how many people are involved in Operation Ferguson, according to Leiderman, who called Anonymous a “nebulous and decentralized collective.”

“It’s impossible to say who is and who isn’t a member of Anonymous,” says Leiderman. “There is now way to disprove it.”

But Coleman says you can see which causes are more popular than others.

After the arrest of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange in 2010, and Anonymous disrupted the websites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal for declining to serve WikiLeaks, around 7,000 people logged onto the Anonymous chat channel and downloaded hacking tools, according to Coleman. That ad hoc association was “probably the largest ever,” Coleman says, and by her estimates, much more than the current Operation in Ferguson. (Anonymous distanced itself from Assange in October 2012 after he asked supporters to pay money for access to documents.) The Ferguson channel is used by up to 160 people, she says, although “thousands and thousands” are “within the orbit” supporting the cause through Twitter.

“It is really hard to tell in terms of the numbers,” says Coleman. “You do get a sense of which ones are bigger and smaller and I would probably put this in the definitely not small, [but] definitely not as big as something like WikiLeaks. Probably in between.”

How is the Anonymous community dealing with the member who misidentified the officer who shot Michael Brown?
The Twitter account @TheAnonMessage was not a very well-respected one within the Anonymous community, according to Coleman and Leiderman, despite the fact that it had been around for awhile.

“People had suspicions, but because he was being really active and contributing a lot to the operation,” says Coleman, “they kind of put their skepticism aside in some ways until it was too late … This is something that in some ways is perennially a problem and just has to do with the kind of architecture of Anonymous where you can’t really control what people are doing. There are norms and rules and ethics that definitely push behavior towards certain areas and not others, but by no means [are they] foolproof.”

After Twitter took down the account, an Anonymous member wrote a post to show a detailed ticktock “that this was the work of an Anon who was acting against the advice of others.” Other Twitter accounts associated with the group, like Operation Ferguson’s account, declined to name the Brown shooter as it looked for additional sources.

Coleman says that with the exception of a few cases, Anonymous has “generally been correct” in uncovering the right information. She calls @TheAnonMessage a “loose cannon” that had earned “skepticism” because of erratic actions in the past. Coleman says there “was no outcry” when Twitter shut down @TheAnonMessage despite Anonymous being “so famous for hating censorship.”

“Anonymous attracts people who are willing to push the envelope,” she says. “But there is always a hope that people who are doing it are getting the right names and information … I think that there was this expectation that people are doing that work carefully so when they’re not, people in Anonymous get really pissed off.”

When asked if Anonymous’ reputation was hurt after @TheAnonMessage released inaccurate information, Leiderman first blamed the media for going with an untrusted source before saying that Anonymous usually does a better job of establishing a correct verdict.

“Really you can’t pin that all on Anonymous,” he says. “The media that ran with it [failed] to confirm or deny the veracity of the statement … If the older and larger accounts run with something, it usually has a better chance of being more accurate.”

“You really want to see more consensus in the collective before you run with something like that,” he adds. “People that identify with Anonymous are really good at asking, ‘Are you sure?’, ‘How do you know?’, ‘Can you share the data with us in a secure way?’… and I’m not sure that happened in this case.”

TIME LGBT

U.S. Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Gay Marriage Ban

Gay male wedding figurines
Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

(MIAMI) — A federal judge on Thursday declared Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, joining judges across the country who have sided with gay couples wishing to tie the knot.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled that the ban added to Florida’s constitution by voters in 2008 violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Hinkle issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, meaning no marriage licenses will be immediately issued for gay couples. That also means gay couples legally married in other states will not immediately have their marriages recognized in Florida.

Hinkle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, compared bans on gay marriage to the long-abandoned prohibitions on interracial marriage and predicted both would be viewed by history the same way.

“When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination,” Hinkle wrote in his ruling. “To paraphrase a civil rights leader from the age when interracial marriage was struck down, the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Gay rights have long been a contentious issue in Florida, a politically complex swing state where the northern counties tend to lean Republican like their Deep South neighbors and parts of South Florida are reliably Democratic. In the 1970s, singer and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant lobbied to overturn a Dade County ordinance banning discrimination against gays, though the protections were later reinstated.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, has appealed previous rulings striking down the ban, which were issued earlier this year in Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Hinkle’s ruling allows time for appeals in the federal case. Bondi wants the Florida cases to remain on hold pending a definitive national ruling on gay marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The U.S. Supreme Court, they need to decide this case, they are going to decide this case, hopefully sooner than later so we will have finality,” Bondi said earlier this week. “There are good people on both sides of this issue and we need to have finality for everyone involved.”

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions against state same-sex marriage restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court delayed an appeals court decision that would end Virginia’s gay marriage ban and, in January, the justices did the same thing in a same-sex marriage case in Utah. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati recently heard arguments in six same-sex marriage cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

The latest Florida ruling came in a pair of lawsuits brought by gay couples seeking to marry in Florida and others who want to force Florida to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which represented some of the gay couples, said the tide of rulings makes legal same-sex marriage in Florida appear inevitable.

“We’re very pleased to see the ban held unconstitutional in such unequivocal terms so that all Florida families will soon finally have the same protections,” said ACLU staff attorney Daniel Tilley.

Hinkle did add one wrinkle in his decision: he said the delay on marriages should have no effect on a proposed change to the death certificate of Carol Goldwasser, who was legally married in New York in 2011 to Arlene Goldberg before Goldwasser died earlier this year.

Goldberg, according to the ruling, has been unable to obtain Social Security survivor benefits because of Florida’s refusal to recognize their marriage, which could force her to sell her house. Hinkle said the amended death certificate showing the couple as spouses should be issued by Sept. 22, or 14 days after officials receive all the required information.

“There is no good reason to further deny Ms. Goldberg the simple human dignity of being listed on her spouse’s death certificate.” Hinkle said in his ruling. “Indeed, the state’s refusal to let that happen is a poignant illustration of the controversy that brings us here.”

___

Associated Press writer Gary Fineout in Tallahassee contributed to this story.

TIME justice

Guilty Plea From Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Friend

(BOSTON) — A college friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded guilty Thursday to impeding the investigation into the deadly attack.

Dias Kadyrbayev, 20, is accused of removing a backpack containing emptied-out fireworks from Tsarnaev’s dorm room after realizing he was suspected of carrying out the 2013 attack with his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Kadyrbayev was scheduled to go on trial next month on obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

Prosecutors said Kadyrbayev and another friend, Azamat Tazhayakov, decided to take the items from Tsarnaev’s room at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth several days after two bombs exploded near the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260. The items, along with Tsarnaev’s laptop computer, were removed hours after the FBI publicly released photographs of Tsarnaev and his brother as suspects in the bombing.

Tazhayakov was convicted last month of agreeing with the plan to remove the items.

During Tazhayakov’s trial, witnesses said Kadyrbayev took the backpack and threw it in the trash.

Prosecutors said the items were removed from Tsarnaev’s room hours after Kadyrbayev received a text message from Tsarnaev saying he could go to his dorm room and “take what’s there.”

The backpack and fireworks were recovered later in a New Bedford landfill. Prosecutors said the fireworks had been emptied of explosive powder that can be used to make bombs.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police several days after the bombings. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted. His trial is scheduled to begin in November.

A third college friend, Robel Phillipos, of Cambridge, is charged with lying to federal investigators. He is scheduled to go on trial next month.

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