Justice watch: Keeping an eye on the law

Affirmative action denied

SAN FRANCISCO - A Superior Court judge has ruled that a two-decade-old affirmative action program in San Francisco violates a ban on race and gender preferences approved by voters in 1996.

Judge James L. Warren said the city's public-contracting rules, which include giving minority and women-owned businesses special notice of application opportunities and a 10 percent deduction from their bids, is an unconstitutional breach of Proposition 209, the 1996 state ballot measure that eliminated race- and gender-based government programs.

San Francisco is one of only a handful of cities that still apply affirmative action in contracting.

A spokesman for the city attorney says the city will appeal the decision.

Home-school oversight challenged

PITTSBURGH - In cases being closely watched by home-schooling advocates, two Pennsylvania families have filed lawsuits under the state Religious Freedom Protection Act challenging the state's home-school reporting requirements.

The act allows people to challenge any laws they believe impose "substantial burdens upon the free exercise of religion without compelling justification."

The two families home-school for religious reasons and object to the need to provide detailed information to the state about their children's learning programs.

Gay spouse can't get passport

SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - A man who married his partner of 23 years after gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts is having trouble getting a new passport.

Donald Henneberger, formerly Donald Smith, recently received a letter from the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, N.H., denying his request for a name change on his passport. The center said it would not recognize a marriage license for a same-sex couple as proof of a name change.

The letter from the National Passport Center cites the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states a marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and a spouse can refer only to a person of the opposite sex.

Donald Henneberger said he had no trouble with the Social Security Administration, another federal agency, when he requested a card in his new name.

- From the wire services

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