Russian constitution change ends hopes for same-sex marriage

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — At the Lagutenko wedding in 2017, the couple exchanged vows, rings and kisses in front of friends and relatives, then took a traditional drive in a limousine, stopping at landmarks for photos.

But because they were both women, the wedding wasn’t legal in Russia.

If Irina and Anastasia Lagutenko had any hopes they could someday officially be married in their homeland, the possibility vanished on July 1 when voters approved a package of constitutional amendments, one of them stipulating that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Unlike many LGBT people in Russia who keep low profiles because of pervasive enmity against nontraditional sexuality, they live openly as a same-sex couple with a 21-month-old boy, named Dorian, who was born to Irina.

They lack, and probably never will receive, those rights accorded to heterosexual couples. They won’t be allowed to refuse to testify against their partner in court, they won’t automatically inherit from each other, and they can’t see each other in hospitals that only allow visits by family members. Anastasia is not a legal guardian for Dorian and can’t become one.

“I want to have the same legal rights for the child,” Anastasia told The Associated Press as Dorian played in her lap in their apartment.

“I planned this child. We went all the way of the pregnancy and the childbirth together, and now, I am 100%, 200% involved in the process of upbringing, and I consider him mine,” she said.

Although Russia decriminalized homosexuality decades ago, animosity against gays remains high. In 2012, the Moscow city government ordered that gay pride parades be banned for the next 100 years. The following year, the parliament unanimously passed a law forbidding “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships” among minors.

Attacks on the gay community persist. Last summer, the murder of Yelena Grigoryeva, an LGBT activist in St. Petersburg, made national headlines. Dozens of other activists received death threats from an obscure anti-gay group that claimed responsibility for the killing of Grigoryeva, who was stabbed repeatedly and showed signs of strangulation.

In 2017, reports of extrajudicial arrests, torture and killings of gay men in the republic of Chechnya drew international condemnation.

Last year, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, a couple raising two adopted children, had to flee Russia after a doctor reported them to police and authorities opened a criminal case. Adoption by same-sex couples is banned in Russia, but Vaganov had applied as a single father.

Max Olenichev, a lawyer with the Coming Out gay rights group, said there are instances of tolerance by some courts. He said he has worked on seven custody cases in which judges refused to take away custody, saying that sexual orientation doesn’t play a role in a child’s upbringing.

But he is concerned that the constitutional changes will encourage anti-gay views.

Previously, “the state had to create equal opportunities for all people that live in Russia, both for LGBT people and non-LGBT people. When these amendments come into effect, then in fact the state will only support conservative values and promote them. LGBT people will be left behind,” he said.

“Our society really looks up to what the government does, so any kinds of public actions promoting homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, many people may perceive as a call for action. And we believe that there will be more hate speech and hate crimes, and that LGBT people will suffer more violence,” Olenichev said.

Pyotr Tolstoy, a parliament member who supported the changes to the constitution, says Russia is “a stronghold of traditionalism,” reflecting the widespread view that the country is under siege from decadent foreign influences.

The amendments will allow Russia “not to repeat the mistakes that exist in the West,” he told the AP. “These mistakes, in my opinion, are fundamental, when certain people — the LGBT community or certain race groups — are being given additional, special rights. More rights than the majority.”

President Vladimir Putin has rejected criticism of the constitutional amendments and the gay propaganda law.

He said that in some countries, “criminal law provisions still exist under which people of nontraditional sexual orientation can be persecuted criminally, as it was in the Soviet Union. We don’t have anything similar to that.” Putin’s remarks came after passage of the amendments package, which also allows him to seek two more terms in office.

Tolstoy, who is a deputy speaker in the lower house of parliament and heads the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, rejects the idea that the provision outlawing same-sex marriages in the constitution promotes intolerance.

“In our country, people are tolerant to all communities, as long they don’t demand any special rights,” he said.

For Irina and Anastasia Lagutenko, it is not about any kind of special rights. Anastasia says she just wants basic rights given to every parent — the “reassurance” that she is “a lawful parent, like parents in a traditional family.”

“When you have a legal right for a child, you feel safe,” she said.

“I want people who think that families like ours don’t exist to see us — (to see) that our family is complete, we have an excellent child, and to accept this fact.” Irina said. “We don’t have a fear of living in the open and we won’t hide, because we are the same people and we have the same rights.”

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law July 13, 2020 Off

Lawyers seek to halt Purdue Pharma political contributions

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma should not be able to make any more political contributions without a judge’s permission, lawyers for its creditors said in a court filing.

The issue came up this week after it was reported that the company, which has a long history of influencing policymakers, made contributions to national associations representing state attorneys general and governors.

The money was sent after Purdue entered bankruptcy protection last year in an effort to settle thousands of lawsuits accusing it of helping spark an opioid addiction and overdose epidemic that has contributed to more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S.. State attorneys general are among those trying to negotiate a nationwide settlement.

The committee of creditors that asked for recipients to return the money to Purdue said the contributions represent a conflict.

“The Political Contributions — $185,000 in donations to associations whose members include the very public servants with whom the Debtors are attempting to negotiate a consensual resolution of these cases — are precisely the sort of transaction that demand close scrutiny,” they said in a filing.

Parts of the legal skirmish had been resolved by the time lawyers filed a motion Friday night. The filing asked a federal bankruptcy court judge to require Purdue to seek permission before making more contributions.

Purdue said it would stop giving money to the Democratic and Republican attorney general associations, and both of those groups agreed to return contributions made since late last year. The Republican group said it would send back $60,000, while the Democratic organization said a check was already in the mail to return the $25,000 it received.

The donation to the Democratic Attorneys General Association, along with $50,000 each to the associations representing Democratic and Republican governors, were first reported by The Intercept, an online investigative news outlet. The Associated Press subsequently found the Purdue contribution to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The Republicans Governors Association said Saturday that it was returning the money. The DGA did not respond to messages from the AP Friday or Saturday.

Ed Neiger, a lawyer who represents people with opioid addictions and their families in the case, said the contributions are a big problem.

“I’m not sure that can be interpreted as anything other than a bribe,” he said in an interview.

Purdue defended the payments, describing them as “memberships,” although the only members of the organizations are the elected attorneys general and governors.

“We have maintained long-standing membership in organizations that allow us to follow key industry-related issues that are relevant to our wide range of products and pipeline,” the company said in a statement. “These memberships are completely proper and in line with payments Purdue and hundreds of other companies have made for years.”

The company noted that when it filed for bankruptcy, it stopped making contributions to individual candidates and closed its political action committee.

In 2016, an investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that Purdue and other companies in the opioid industry, along with the advocacy groups largely funded by the industry, spent more than $880 million from 2006 through 2015 to influence state and local governments. Those efforts helped fight off restrictions on drug prescriptions, although many states later adopted limits.

Purdue contributed $260,000 to party election committees in 2018, according to an Associated Press analysis of data gathered by Political MoneyLine.

At least 430,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000 have been connected to overdoses from opioids, a category of drug that includes prescription pills such as Oxycontin and Vicodin along with illicit drugs such as heroin and illegally made fentanyl.

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Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press


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By The Wall of Law July 12, 2020 Off

Mother to be charged after allegedly stabbing her two young children in Toronto

A mother is in custody and will be charged with attempted murder after her two young children were found with stab wounds inside a Toronto apartment.

Authorities were called to a North York apartment building, in the Weston Road and Finch Avenue area, just after 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Police said when they arrived they located two children, a six-month-old girl and a four-year-old boy, suffering from stab wounds inside an apartment unit.

A video sent to CTV News Toronto by a viewer shows a woman being led into the back of a police cruiser in handcuffs. It also shows what appears to be the children being carried into an ambulance.

The children were rushed to SickKids Hospital with serious injuries, police said. Their injuries were initially deemed life-threatening but police later said their condition improved and are expected to survive.

Toronto north york

Const. Alex Li said the 36-year-old mother, who was arrested at the scene, will be charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

“This is a very serious stabbing and we’re taking this very seriously,” Li said. “We have deployed our available resources to look into the matter… You can expect an active crime scene.”

“Having young children myself, I couldn’t imagine that type of trauma and injury,” Li said.

Anyone with information is being urged to contact police or Crime Stoppers. 

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By The Wall of Law July 11, 2020 Off

Two children rushed to hospital after reported stabbing in Toronto

A boy and a girl have been rushed to hospital with serious injuries after paramedics were called to a Toronto property for a stabbing.

Authorities were called to a North York home, in the Jane Street and Finch Avenue, just after 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Paramedics said a boy and girl were transported to hospital, one with potentially life-threatening injuries. Paramedics would not confirm if the children had been stabbed. 

The ages of the children have not been released. 

Toronto police said a woman is in custody in connection with the incident. 

This is a developing news story. More information to come.

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By The Wall of Law July 11, 2020 Off

The Latest: India cases pass 800,000 with record daily jump

NEW DELHI: India’s coronavirus cases have passed 800,000 with the biggest spike of 27,114 cases in the past 24 hours, causing nearly a dozen states to impose a partial lockdown in high-risk areas.

The new confirmed cases took the national total to 820,916. The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported another 519 deaths for a total of 22,123.

A surge in infections saw the cases jumping from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. The ministry said the recovery rate was continuing to improve at more than 62%.

Eight of India’s 28 states, including the worst-hit Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi, account for nearly 90% of all infections.

The most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, with nearly 230 million people, imposed a weekend lockdown while several others announced restrictions in districts reporting major spikes.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Trump undercuts health experts — again — in schools debate

— US bets on untested company to deliver COVID-19 vaccine

— COVID hits dozens of Latin leaders, including presidents

— Some pastors are ignoring a new California ban on singing or chanting in church to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The American Center for Law and Justice, which has ties to President Donald Trump, is encouraging church leaders to defy the order and says it will sue the state.

— In his push to get schools and colleges to reopen this fall, President Donald Trump is again taking aim at their finances, this time threatening their tax-exempt status.

— The coronavirus storm has arrived in South Africa and COVID-19 wards are overflowing. Medical oxygen is already low in hospitals at the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, Gauteng province, home to the power centres of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://ift.tt/2xPjH8c and https://ift.tt/2wrCaXK

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

BEIJING — New coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in China, and authorities are turning their attention to concerns that the virus could spread through imported food.

Those worries have risen since a June outbreak in Beijing that was linked to the city’s largest wholesale market.

Testing has been stepped up on incoming food shipments, and on Friday customs officials said they are halting imports from three Ecuadorian shrimp producers after tests showed the virus present in recent shipments.

Authorities say the coronavirus was detected on the outer packaging of the shipments July 3. The inner packaging and the shrimp themselves tested negative. Products from the three companies received after March 12 have been ordered to be returned or destroyed.

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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its caseload to 13,373 infections and 288 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday that 13 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May.

Infections were also reported in other major cities such Daejeon and Gwangju, where patients have been tied to various places, including churches, a Buddhist temple, churches, nursing homes and a sauna.

Fifteen of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the virus continues to spread in Asia, North America and elsewhere.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor says a new requirement for people to wear face masks in public took effect at 5 p.m. Friday despite a judge’s restraining order related to pandemic restrictions though not specifically on the face covering rule.

Gov. Andy Beshear says the mask mandate is “mandatory, regardless of anything else that’s out there.”

The Scott County court judge issued an order Thursday blocking the governor from issuing executive orders related to the pandemic unless he first meets a list of requirements.

Beshear calls the restraining order “bizarre” and “not legal.” He says the ruling will be appealed and likely end up before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Newly reported cases of COVID-19 have increased in recent days in Kentucky, prompting Beshear to issue the 30-day order requiring masks in public places.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has given provisional approval to the drug remdesivir, an experimental medicine that has shown promise in the recovery time of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

The approval comes as Australia is seeing a sharp increase in coronavirus infections in the state of Victoria, which reported a record 288 new confirmed cases Friday.

Authorities say remdesivir will be available only to patients who are severely ill, require oxygen or high-level support to breathe, and are in hospital care. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for people with severe illness from the coronavirus.

With a population of 26 million, Australia has recorded more than 9,000 coronavirus cases, with 107 deaths.

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says “things will get worse” in the state as more than 10,000 patients are now hospitalized with the coronavirus.

The deadliest week of the pandemic yet in Texas continued Friday with 95 new deaths.

On the Texas-Mexico border, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says his rural community is trying to get a refrigerated trailer because the local funeral home can’t keep up with more than two bodies a day.

Texas members of Congress are asking the Trump administration for a field hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. They warn in a letter sent Friday to the health and human services secretary Azar that there is “no indication that case counts will level out soon.”

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregon health officials are urging people to limit indoor social gatherings to fewer than 10 people during the next three weeks amid a “troubling” surge in coronavirus cases.

New projections by the Oregon Health Authority predict that if transmission of the virus continues at the current pace, the estimated number of new daily, confirmed infections could reach anywhere from 1,100 to 3,600.

The director of the Oregon Health Authority says that “we are calling on Oregonians to take action, to help us bring down the spread of COVID-19 and get it under control so we can again bend the curve back down.”

Oregon officials reported 275 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total statewide to 11,454. There have been at least 232 deaths.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Confirmed coronavirus infections in Pennsylvania hit over 1,000 on Friday in the state’s highest one-day mark since May, with state health officials blaming the rising numbers on crowded bars and out-of-state travel to virus hot spots.

Pennsylvania reported more than 1,000 new confirmed infections for the first time since May 10. About 175 of the newly reported cases arose from a batch of private lab results, according to the state Health Department.

Health officials reported another 32 virus-related deaths, raising the statewide toll to 6,880.

State health officials warned in an alert to hospitals, doctors offices and other heath care providers that increasing numbers of young people are contracting the virus. The Health Department also said that local outbreaks are being traced to out-of-state travel and to parties, restaurants, bars and other social gatherings.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina state senator has tested positive for COVID-19, the first known case to involve a General Assembly member.

The senator wasn’t named in a statement from Senate leader Phil Berger, who says it’s a Republican male.

Berger says the senator had already taken a test that came back negative before returning to Raleigh this week. He took a second test Thursday because his spouse was scheduled for a medical procedure. That test came back positive Friday, according to Berger.

The senator hasn’t had any symptoms during this period. Berger says: “He is staying home and feels well.”

Legislators, especially Democrats, have sought more restrictions and criticized legislators — mostly Republicans — who have declined to wear face coverings indoors.

The full legislature isn’t expected to return to work until September.

The Associated Press


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By The Wall of Law July 11, 2020 Off