Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Obama’s gay marriage balancing act gets awkward

    Gay rights advocates protest outside of a June LGBT fundraiser where Obama spoke. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    Ever since Vice President Joe Biden appeared on "Meet the Press" on Sunday and described his own journey to accepting gay marriage, President Barack Obama's campaign has been insisting that Biden's comments are "entirely consistent" with Obama's own position on the issue. The vice president's office also walked back the statements, clarifying that Biden was saying that gay married couples in states that allow it should have the same rights as straight married couples.

    The vice president's exact words to David Gregory were: "I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties. And quite frankly, I don't see much of a distinction—beyond that." (See his full comments here.)

    Some of the top gay rights advocacy leaders in the country are skeptical, however, that Biden wasn't advocating the legalization of gay marriage in full. Biden was endorsing the legal right for same-sex couples to marry, they say, something that Obama has stopped short of doing as president. And the effort to walk back Biden's comments could backfire.

    The president says he supports civil unions but not civil marriage for same-sex couples, although he has indicated that his views are "evolving." (As a state senator, he supported gay marriage.)

    Some advocates told Yahoo News that Obama surrogates endorsing gay marriage is a way for the campaign to "wink" at second-term support for the policy without taking the political risk of outright embracing gay marriage in an election year. Mitt Romney has said he would pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and appoint judges who oppose gay marriage, placing himself far to the right of Obama, who helped end the military's ban on openly gay service and abandoned the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. But despite this gulf, both candidates oppose gay marriage—an uncomfortable fact when it comes to rallying the Democratic base or fundraising from passionately pro-gay rights donors.

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  • Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng offered American fellowship

    Chen Guangcheng (AP Photo/Supporters of Chen Guangcheng)

    Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng has been offered a fellowship at an American university and can travel there with his family once he applies for visas, the BBC reports.

    New York University's law school announced later on Friday that it had offered the legal activist a visiting scholar position at the university or one of its global sites.

    The blind activist was jailed for four years for his work opposing forced abortions and sterilizations and then was placed under house arrest until he absconded to the U.S. Embassy in China last month. He is now under guard at a hospital in Beijing. The Chinese government has said he can apply to study at universities abroad, which could avert a standoff with the United States over the country's treatment of its political critics.

    "Progress has been made to help him have the future he wants," Hillary Clinton said at a news conference in Beijing, where she is holding talks with Chinese leaders.

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  • Only 115,000 jobs added in April; unemployment rate dips to 8.1 percent

    People wait in line at a jobs fair in Queens, N.Y., earlier this week. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

    Only 115,000 jobs were added to the economy in April, according to the Labor Department, while the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 8.1 percent.

    The slight drop in the unemployment rate is due to the nearly 350,000 unemployed people who gave up looking for work last month and dropped out of the labor force entirely. At least 200,000 jobs would have had to be added last month just to keep up with the growth in the labor market. April's report missed expectations—economists predicted 163,000 jobs would be added.

    While the private sector grew modestly, state, local and federal government jobs hit the chopping block: 15,000 public employees were laid off last month.

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  • Striking new tone, Chris Christie says education reform is led by GOP

    Christie counting down the days to the end of the legislative session in Garfield, N.J.,(Mel Evans/AP)

    Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, said Thursday that Republican politicians are leading the way for better educational opportunities for poor and minority children through voucher programs for private schools, while Democrats passively stand by or obstruct their efforts. The partisan framing of his education agenda is a bit of a departure from Christie's earlier praise of President Barack Obama's education reforms, and may hint at how the issue will play out in the presidential campaign. Mitt Romney said Wednesday that President Obama's lack of support for the voucher program in Washington, D.C., is "inexcusable."

    Christie made the remarks Thursday at the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice's annual policy summit in Jersey City. The groups advocate for the formation of more charter schools and for state-funded vouchers for low-income children in failing schools who want to attend private schools. Christie said it was "ironic" that he, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana—all Republicans—were the national political leaders vying to become leaders on school choice.

    Christie has pushed for a voucher bill since taking office in 2009 in New Jersey, where he faces strong opposition from the teachers union, which says the state should instead focus on improving struggling public schools. Daniels and Jindal have both passed sweeping voucher programs in their states; Jindal signed his into law just last month.

    "I"ll try as hard as I can not to be partisan, but how ironic is it that when Betsy [DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children] was talking about the people I'm competing with to get up on the stage of school choice, that we're competing with a Republican governor of Louisiana and a Republican governor of Indiana, all of whom are kind of the nephews of the Republican governor in Florida, who got all of this moving in the first place," he said, referring to Jeb Bush. "You know, I don't want to make this partisan, but let's face it—and I say this in urban communities all the time—you continue to vote for these folks, put them in office, and they continue to not address the needs of your families and your children."

    Each of the three Republican governors, along with other politicians, has been mentioned as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney on the Republican presidential ticket. If one of them is chosen, the topic of K-12 education might make it into the election spotlight in a cycle that has up to now been dominated by the economy.

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  • DEA agents apologize for forgetting college student in cell for four days

    The Drug Enforcement Administration extended an apology to a University of California engineering student who was locked in a holding cell for more than four days and forgotten about. The student drank his own urine in desperation and attempted to kill himself, before agents returned four days later and found him, he said in a news conference covered by NBC and other outlets.

    "I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here last week," DEA San Diego Acting Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman said in a statement provided to Yahoo News. "I extend my deepest apologies the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to. I have personally ordered an extensive review of our policies and procedures."

    An earlier statement from the San Diego DEA office was less contrite, with spokeswoman Amy Roderick saying that the student was caught in a drug raid because "he was at the house, by his own admission, to get high

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  • North Carolina gay marriage foes have a slight lead ahead of Tuesday vote

    Duke University sophomore Jacob Tobia encourages early voting on April 27, 2012, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Robert Willett)

    Supporters of gay marriage in North Carolina have out-raised and out-advertised their opponents ahead of a vote on May 8 over whether the state constitution should be amended to specifically bar same-sex couples from marrying or entering into domestic partnerships. Despite this effort, 55 percent of North Carolinians say they plan to vote for the amendment in the latest Public Policy Polling figures.

    The campaign against the amendment, led by a group called Protect All NC Families, has chipped away at support for the amendment by emphasizing that the change could roll back rights for unmarried heterosexual couples in addition to same-sex couples. They have outspent the pro-amendment side, running TV ads that feature legal experts saying the amendment could make it tougher to prosecute domestic violence cases among unmarried straight couples.

    The anti-amendment coalition has raised more than $2 million, according to campaign finance disclosures, most of which came from small and large

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  • L.A. riots: Good Samaritan remembers his scary truck-driver rescue

    Titus Murphy, left, with two other Good Samaritans who rescued Reginald Denny are honored in 1992. (Bob Galbraith/AP)

    In one of the most disturbing images from the Los Angeles riots, six black assailants dragged Reginald Denny, a 33-year-old truck driver, out of his truck in South Los Angeles and bashed his head in with a brick. A television chopper broadcast the violence live. The attack happened shortly after not-guilty verdicts were handed down in the racially charged trial of the police beating of Rodney King, which kicked off six days of rioting that left dozens dead and thousands injured.

    About a mile and a half away, Titus Murphy and his then-girlfriend Terri Barnett were watching the Denny attack on live television. Murphy, who was an unemployed engineer at the time, couldn't believe what he saw.

    "When this gentleman was getting beat something was just telling me this isn't right, this isn't what it's all about," he told Yahoo News 20 years later. "When he got hit in the head with the brick something told me to go down there. I just reacted."

    Murphy and Barnett drove about a block away from

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  • Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin family urge peace on 20th anniversary of L.A. race riots

    Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to the media with Trayvon Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

    To mark the 2oth anniversary of the deadly riots that engulfed Los Angeles following the 1992 Rodney King verdict, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and Trayvon Martin's parents are urging peace at events. Sharpton spoke to Yahoo News before he and Martin's family addressed a church on Thursday night.

    "Twenty years ago I came out here after that protest after the verdict and tried to discourage the violence, and 20 years later now I'm here with Trayvon's parents and we're saying we don't want violence," he said. After four white police officers were acquitted in the recorded beating of Rodney King on April 29, the city exploded into one of the deadliest riots in American history, leaving 54 dead and causing $1 billion in property damage.

    Sharpton, who now hosts a show on MSNBC, says much has changed since then, and he doesn't expect the racially charged debate over Martin's shooting to end in violence if George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, is acquitted.

    "I think even though people are

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  • In Arizona immigration case, Supreme Court justices cast doubt on government's argument

    Immigrant rights protesters outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday. (Goodwin/Yahoo News)

    It was a tough day for U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who argued on behalf of the government against Arizona's stringent anti-illegal immigration law at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The justices seemed deeply skeptical of the government's contention that Arizona cannot require police officers to ask about immigration status during routine stops. But, even though the justices were hard on Verrilli, oral arguments are difficult to interpret and tough questioning doesn't necessarily give any clues as to how the justices will rule.

    The Obama administration sued to block Arizona's law, called SB1070, shortly after it passed two years ago, saying it interfered with federal authority over immigration. The law makes it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work or fail to carry proper immigration papers. It also requires police officers to check immigration status and make warrantless arrests for immigration crimes in some cases.

    The justices asked Verrilli why the

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  • Hundreds of immigrants protesters on the one-year anniversary of SB1070. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    Erika Andiola still remembers the day Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration bill, known as SB1070, passed. She had been protesting outside the state capitol for days, sleeping on the ground and fasting, when the word spread through the crowd. She got a call from her mother, who, like Andiola, is undocumented. She told her daughter not to move because she was afraid she would get taken away by the police and deported.

    "There was a moment of panic where people heard on the news that it [passed] but didn't know what was going to happen," Andiola says. "My family didn't go to work the next two days because they thought there were going to be police outside the door."

    The law, which was blocked by a federal judge and which the Supreme Court will review in oral arguments Wednesday morning, required local police to ask about immigration status during stops in some cases. Over the next few months, about 10 of the 50 or so young undocumented activists with whom Andiola protested moved to

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