US Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage for first time

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court stepped into the gay marriage debate for the first time yesterday by agreeing to review two challenges to federal and state laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The high court agreed to review a case against a federal law that denies married same-sex couples the federal benefits heterosexual couples receive. It also unexpectedly took up a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, known as Proposition 8, which voters narrowly approved in 2008.

Same-sex marriage is a politically charged issue in a country where 31 of the 50 states have passed constitutional amendments banning it, while Washington, D.C., and nine states have legalized it, three of them on Election Day last month.

The tide of public opinion has been shifting in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. In May, President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to say he believed same-sex couples should be allowed to get married. A Pew Research Center survey from October found 49 percent of Americans favored allowing gay marriage, with 40 percent opposed.

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Money laundering probe exposes Australian banks’ compliance frailties

HONG KONG/SYDNEY,  (Reuters) – A money laundering probe at Commonwealth Bank of Australia is the latest in a slew of scandals denting the reputation of Australian banks as simple, reliable lenders at the forefront in the battle against financial crime.

Grace Mugabe returns to Zimbabwe after assault allegation in South Africa

HARARE,  (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe returned from South Africa early yesterday, state media reported, after a 20-year-old model accused her of assault in an upmarket Johannesburg hotel room.

Ten sailors missing after U.S. warship collides with tanker near Singapore

  SINGAPORE/WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – Ten sailors are missing after a U.S. warship collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore yesterday, the U.S.

Jerry Lewis, king of low-brow comedy and charity fundraiser, dies at 91

LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Jerry Lewis, the high prince of low-brow comedy on stage and in film as well as a fund-raising powerhouse with his annual Labor Day telethon, died on Sunday at the age of 91, his family said.

Boston march against hate speech avoids Charlottesville chaos

BOSTON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Boston yesterday to protest a “free speech” rally featuring far-right speakers a week after a woman was killed at a Virginia white-supremacist demonstration.

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