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Headlines for Saturday, June 27, 2015

Kansas Religious Freedom Laws to be Examined

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —It appears the Kansas attorney general's office is happy that tomorrow is the start of the weekend in the wake of two new major court decisions. First, the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that gay couples have a right to marry anywhere in the country in a ruling that does not bode well for the state's arguments in a similar case now playing out in federal court over the Kansas same-sex marriage ban. Then hours later, a district court panel in Kansas declared that key parts of a new state law for funding public schools violate the state constitution. Attorney General Derek Schmidt has issued a statement saying his office is reviewing the two opinions internally and with its various clients to assess next steps.


GOP Leader: Lawmakers to Consider Religious Freedom Laws

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage will require legislators to examine state laws protecting religious freedom. The Wichita Republican said yesterday (FRI) that legislators need to make sure that Kansas residents who personally oppose gay marriage are not required to perform same-sex weddings or participate in them. Lawmakers considered such a measure last year, but it drew strong protests from gay rights advocates and some business leaders and stalled in the Senate. Supporters of last year's measure said it would have protected individuals and businesses that oppose gay marriage. But critics said the measure was written so broadly that it would have allowed widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians.


ACLU Plaintiffs: Kansas Leaders Need to Drop "Private Agendas"

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —Some of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the Kansas ban on same sex marriages say it is time for the governor and state attorney general to stop pushing their "private agendas." The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in October on behalf of Kerry Wilks, her partner Donna DiTrani and others. Wilks says that today (SAT)  they are celebrating and tomorrow they will go back to work. She notes it is still legal in the state to fire somebody for getting married.DiTrani says it is important to her that people recognize Wilks as her wife, and not just as her partner.Jackie Carter, the pastor at First Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita, says the U.S. Supreme Court decision is about more than the one event of marriage. She says it means there is a ruling about people being more equal, and she likens it to the civil rights movement as they move forward.


Top GOP Officials Condemn Ruling on School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP legislative leaders are condemning a court ruling that declares key parts of the state's new school funding law unconstitutional. Brownback said yesterday (FRI) that the state would appeal the decision from a three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court. He said the panel overstepped its authority. The law took effect in April and scrapped a per-student formula for distributing aid to the state's 286 school districts. Top Republicans said the judicial panel is ordering the state to restore parts of the old formula and immediately provide millions of extra dollars. Senate Majority Leader and Nickerson Republican Terry Bruce called the ruling "utter nonsense." House Speaker and Stilwell Republican Ray Merrick said it is "87 pages of judicial activism." But Democratic legislative leaders praised the decision.


Court Rails against Judge who Didn't Show for Jury Duty

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge won't punish a Kansas judge who didn't show up for jury duty in federal court. Sedgwick County District Judge Michael Hoelscher failed to appear for jury duty June 15th. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren wrote in an order yesterday (FRI) that he believes judges and other public officials should comply with laws with which they expect others to comply. He noted federal judges in Kansas have shown up for jury service in state courts. But Melgren withdrew his earlier order requiring Hoelscher to show cause for not appearing. The turnabout came after Hoelscher's attorney argued that sitting state judges are barred by U.S. law from serving on federal juries. An email with the court filing also documented Hoelscher's efforts to comply with directions from the court's automated system.


Wichita Man Convicted of Trying to Kill Family

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been found guilty of trying to kill his wife and two sons. The Wichita Eagle reports Pettix McMillan was convicted Thursday of three counts of attempted first-degree murder. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office says McMillan could be ordered to serve 12 1/2 years to more than 54 years in prison when he's sentenced later this year. Prosecutors said McMillan shot his wife in her arm and neck during an argument in the garage of their home on March 24th, 2014, and then turned the gun on their 5- and 13-year-old boys. All three survived. The prosecutor's office says he was convicted after a four-day trial. Officers testified there had been several domestic violence calls to the home, including one six weeks before the shooting.


McPherson Police Officer Cleared in Shooting

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A McPherson police officer has been cleared of wrongdoing in the deadly shooting of a hit-and-run suspect. McPherson County Attorney David Page said yesterday (FRI) in a statement that the June 2014 shooting of 56-year-old Timothy Ronald Lloyd was "lawful and justified." The statement said the shooting happened after police were called to investigate a hit-and-run accident in the central Kansas community. Officers quickly located an abandoned vehicle that was damaged. The search for the man seen running away from it ended when he was spotted in a ditch. The statement said Lloyd refused to put up his hands and charged at an officer while twice yelling "shoot me."The officer told investigators he opened fire after Lloyd pulled an object from his waistband. Lloyd died at a McPherson hospital.

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