July 20, 2015

U.S., Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations, reopen embassies - Video

U.S., Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations, reopen embassies

U.S. Embassy in Cuba Reopens After More Than 50 Years

Hundreds of Cubans lined up outside the newly reopened American Embassy in Havana on Monday morning to apply for visas. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times 

HAVANA — After more than a half-century defined by mistrust and rancor, the United States officially reopened its six-story embassy in the Cuban capital on Monday, the culmination of many months of negotiations to overcome decades of historical enmity and to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations.
More than two years of effort went into restoring relations between Cuba and the United States, both public and private, yet most observers say they believe it will be many more years before mutual wariness fades.
A litany of questions have yet to be answered, including: Will the American trade embargo that has crippled Cuba’s economy be lifted, and if so, when? Will the Cuban government improve its human rights record and incorporate outsiders into the political spectrum? How much, and how fast, will the lives of ordinary Cubans, who earn $20 a month on average, improve?
But for now, the reopening of the embassy on the Malecón waterfront in Havana, previously used as an interests section, a limited diplomatic outpost, stands as the most concrete symbol yet of the thaw set in motion last year when President Obama ordered the full restoration of diplomatic ties between the countries.


Tourists on a bus tour in Havana. More than two years of effort went into restoring relations between the United States and Cuba. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times 

“It is sort of like a wedding,” said James Williams, the president of an advocacy group, Engage Cuba, which has been lobbying for improved relations. “You’ve spent all this time planning your wedding day, and finally you’re getting to see someone walk down the aisle.”
“Now,” he added, “you have the rest of your life together.”
If Cubans are expecting bells and canapés to celebrate the nuptials, they will be sorely disappointed. The official celebration to inaugurate the American Embassy will not take place until later in the summer, when Secretary of State John Kerryplans to visit, to formally raise the flag and install the new signage.
In Washington, however, shouts of “Viva Cuba” rang out on Monday as Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, raised his country’s flag outside the newly reopened Cuban embassy.
In Havana, a line had already formed at 6 a.m. along the side of the American Embassy, a large building. Families clutched sheaths of paper as they awaited interviews and appointments with officials now operating under the auspices of an embassy.
Beyond the edge of the tidy line, hundreds more gathered in a small park awaiting their turn, and dozens more formed a separate line beyond that. For the first time in decades, American Embassy personnel were managing the order of entrants, taking names, calling names, answering questions.
Those waiting were a medley of people. Many had relatives in America they planned to visit or live with. Almost all had made appointments months — some said years — earlier to facilitate their visas, and, they said, just happened to arrive on the building’s first day as an official embassy.

Continue reading the main story Video

Returning Stars and Stripes to Havana

Wayne S. Smith honeymooned in Cuba before taking a post at the United States Embassy in Havana. He is one of the last living American diplomats who witnessed the day the embassy closed in 1961.
By Erica Berenstein on  Publish Date June 30, 2015. Watch in Times Video »

“To be honest I’m a little a nervous,” said Ramon Castillo Perez, 59, who was waiting to visit America for the first time, a trip that would reunite him with his wife. The trip would be a permanent one if all went well — his wife was sponsoring his arrival in the United States.
For now, though, the change, was barely perceptible from the outside, arguably a metaphor for the state of Cuba itself.
Technically, there will be differences. Diplomats will be formally registered, and, for the first time since the embassy was closed, they will be allowed to travel freely in Cuba. They will be invited to functions, too, like members of other diplomatic corps.
The American government is supposed to ease access for Cubans entering the embassy and for the American Foreign Service officers inside, a State Department official said.
Mr. Obama, when announcing an end to the diplomatic freeze, eased travel restrictions, opened the door for more remittances to Cuba, and expanded the amount of goods that visiting Americans could take home, like Cuban cigars and rum. In May, he removed the country from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism.
President Raúl Castro has spent the past five years, before the thaw began with the Obama administration, trying to jump-start the nation’s economy, ordering that hundreds of thousands of government employees be laid offencouraging Cubansinto self-employment and entrepreneurship, and creating a special economic zonein the coastal city of Mariel to attract foreign investment.
But many of these changes have been confronted with bracing realities. A farm program to encourage crop cultivation struggled because of regulations and a lack of reliable transportation, and the mass public-sector layoffs Mr. Castro promised never really materialized. Real estate overhauls that now allow Cubans to sell their homes have run into a problem that vexes just about every segment of Cuban life: a lack of supplies.


A barber shop in central Havana. Some fear that Cuban culture will be lost with the opening of the island, but others think they will be able at last to earn more money. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times 

Often, these initiatives have been ensnared by the mentality that has both preserved and ossified Cuban life, one forged through years of anti-American sentiment that has defined the social, political and economic lives of Cubans. Letting go of that is not easy.
Mr. Castro has said that change will be slow, and that it will not come at the cost of stability or values. Again and again, what emerges is this: Cuba will change, yes, but at its own pace and with no apologies.
For many Cubans, that is reason enough for hope.
“The genie is out of the bottle,” said Carlos Alzugaray Treto, a former Cuban diplomat who is close to Mr. Castro and his brother Fidel, the country’s longtime president. “And once it’s out, you’re not going to be able to put it back in.”
Out of the bottle or not, life continues as usual in Havana. A number of Cubans know about the opening of the American Embassy and have formulated opinions about what it will mean for them.
Some fear that Cuban culture could be lost, devoured by American consumerism. But just as many, if not more, are fine with change if it means that they can earn enough to live on.
“For me, inequality is not a problem,” said Lázaro Borrero, 39, a journeyman worker who does a bit of construction, cooking and tobacco rolling to make ends meet. “If you earn $1 million a year, and I earn $1 a year, good for you.”


Oswaldo Alamo, 66, in the government-owned shop in Havana where he sells rationed food items. Mr. Alamo said he supported the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States. Credit Meridith Kohut for The New York Times 

Change that will have an effect on the wallets of normal Cubans is, by some estimates, many years away. It will require the lifting of the American embargo as well as what many Cubans refer to as the “internal embargo,” or the state impediments that exist in everyday life, from communications to buying groceries.
It will require change from within the Cuban system and adapting to economic norms that might require letting go of some of their control, experts say.
“Cuba has more of a challenge to change than does the United States,” said Ricardo Pascoe, a former Mexican ambassador to Cuba. “They’re going to have to open up one way or another.”
But it will not be only the Cubans who change. American tourists are expected to come in waves to discover a nation so long forbidden, and there will also be families who can reunite without having to cross political minefields.
Consider Lucía Nuñez, the director of the Civil Rights Department for the government of Madison, Wis. Her parents, born in Cuba, left the country a year before America severed diplomatic ties with it under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1961.
Ms. Nuñez drifted emotionally from Cuba over the years, growing up in the Virgin Islands and eventually moving to New England for high school and college. She was ashamed, she said, of having parents with accents and a cuisine that differed from her friends’.
She raised her children in the United States and has lived in Wisconsin for the past 17 years. Her mother, who has been back to Cuba only once since leaving, missed the deaths of her brothers on the island.
“I spent a lot of years denying I was Cuban,” Ms. Nuñez said from the home of a Cuban entrepreneur who has been licensed to rent to foreign visitors. “But there’s no denying it: I am Cuban. I am as much frijoles negros as I am Bruce Springsteen.”
So this summer, she, her 81-year-old mother and her 19-year-old daughter decided to take a trip to Havana and to the small town near Guantánamo where the family is from. They recently arrived in Cuba and plan to stay for about a month, and Ms. Nuñez’s mother will see her sister for the first time in years.
“I hope the normalcy of the relations — or whatever it is they are calling them — I hope it brings us closer to the family I used to have,” she said.

July 15, 2015

How to Get a Green Card Through Marriage

How to Get a Green Card Through Marriage

How to Get a Green Card Through Marriage

If you are married to an American citizen or permanent resident of the United States, you may be eligible for a green card, which allows a non-citizen to live and work permanently in the United States.

If you’re a foreign citizen married to a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States, your husband or wife can sponsor you to apply for a green card. If you’re the U.S. citizen or permanent resident married to a non-American citizen, your husband or wife is eligible for a green card but he or she will need you to initiate the process.
The process can be frustrating and navigating the red tape is always a hassle. But if your relationship qualifies for a green card, by following these steps with an immigration lawyer’s assistance you and your loved one will be able to live happily in the United States.

1. Petition for Alien Relative

The first step in applying for a marriage green card is for the U.S. citizen in the relationship to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
You (the America citizen) must fill out and sign the form, attach evidence of your citizenship and your relationship, and include the filing fee ($420 as of July 2015) with a check made out to Department of Homeland Security. This form and applicable evidence should then be mailed to the USCIS lockbox according to where the citizen or permanent resident lives.

2. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

If you (the green card applicant) are legally in the United States, as soon as the priority date in your visa category is current you can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
If the petitioner is a U.S. citizen then the immigrant spouse is an “immediate relative” under immigration law. This means the alien spouse does not need to wait for a priority date.
If however, you are married to a permanent resident, then your spouse will need to file the I-130 and you must wait for your priority date before filing for permanent residency or attempting consular processing.
Form I-485 includes a $985 filing fee and an $85 Biometric Services Fee for a total of $1,070. Checks should be made payable to Department of Homeland Security.
If you are living outside the United States, you will need to go through Consular Processing. If this is your situation, even if you are married to a U.S. citizen you won’t be able to file for a green card at the same time you file Form I-130 but instead you will need to wait for the U.S. Department of State to notify you of approval.
Once a visa is available, the consular office will contact you to set up an appointment for an interview. If your visa is granted, you will be given a “Visa Packet” which you should not open.
With your visa you will be allowed to travel to the United States and you should give your Visa Packet to the Customs and Border Patrol officer at the port of entry. If found admissible, you will be admitted to the United States as a permanent resident.

Evidence of U.S. Citizenship

The husband or wife who files Form 1-130 will need to provide proof of his or her status as an American citizen. Providing evidence that you (the spouse filing Form I-130) are a citizen of the United States is one of the many technical aspects of the application process which an attorney could help you with.
Documentation you can send as evidence of citizenship includes a copy of any one of the following:
  • Birth certificate
  • U.S. passport
  • Naturalization certificate
  • Certificate of citizenship
  • An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying that you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport
  • Form FS-240, Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States
If none of these are available, you can submit a statement from the appropriate authority certifying that documents are not available. If this applies to you, you must submit supporting evidence which may include:
  • Official church records showing the baptism, dedication, or comparable rite occurred within two months of birth
  • School records showing date of admission to the school and including your place of birth
  • State or Federal census records
  • Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by two people who were living at the time you became a citizen and have personal knowledge of the event you are trying to prove

Evidence of Your Marriage

In filing Form I-130 for a spouse’s green card application you will also need to provide proof that you are married to each other. You should send all of the following documentation available:
  • A copy of your marriage certificate
  • Documents showing that previous marriages were legally terminated (if you or your spouse were previously married)
  • Passport-style color photos of you and your spouse individually, taken within 30 days of the date of the petition. The photos should have a white background and the facial image should be about one inch from the chin to the top of the hair. Print the legal name of the person in each picture on the back of the photo.
  • Form G-325A, Biographic Information for you and your spouse
  • Documentation showing joint ownership or property
  • A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence
  • Documentation showing co-mingling of financial resources
  • Birth certificates of children born to you as a couple
  • Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of your marital relationship
  • Any other documentation relevant to establishing that you have a bona fide ongoing marital relationship
The U.S. government must be certain that your marriage is legitimate and not simply a deceptive strategy for obtaining a green card. The government needs evidence that you are in a real relationship before they can issue a green card. For this reason (and many others) you may need to contact an immigration attorney to help you with this process.

Where to File the Forms

Which address your forms and other documents should be mailed to depends on where you reside.
Instructions for which state’s residents should file Form I-130 in Chicago and which ones should file in Phoenix can be found on pages 4 and 5 of  the Form I-130 instructions.
Where to file Form I-485 may be different from Form I-130 and instructions can be found here on the USCIS website.
If you live outside the United States you can file your documents at the nearest U.S. Department of State consulate.

Consult an Immigration Lawyer

This article is only a simple snapshot of the application process for a marriage green card. If you’re a U.S. citizen married to a non-citizen or a foreign citizen married to a U.S. citizen, getting your or your spouse’s green card will be much simpler, easier, and safer if you consult with an attorney.


July 4, 2015

4th Of July Trivia Facts 2015: 15 Fun Things To Know About Independence Day

4th Of July Trivia Facts 2015: 15 Fun Things To Know About Independence Day

4th Of July Trivia Facts 2015: 15 Fun Things To Know About Independence Day

Happy birthday, America! Picnics, barbeques, cold drinks and fireworks: These are just some of the staples of the Fourth of July. But without America’s Founding Fathers -- George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe -- there wouldn’t be an Independence Day to celebrate.
While most Americans know that the U.S.’s birthday is celebrated on July 4, it’s a misconception that all the signers of the Declaration of Independence signed it on the Fourth of July. For more fun facts about America’s Independence Day, keep reading:
1. How many people signed the Declaration of Independence on July Fourth?
2. What day did most signers of the Declaration of Independence actually sign the document?
Aug. 2, 1776.
3. Did you know which president was born on July 4? 
It was Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president, in 1872.
4. Which three presidents died on the Fourth of July: 
They were three of the first five presidents: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. The second president, Adams, and the third, Jefferson, both died in 1826, the 50th anniversary.
5. Most of the Founding Fathers agreed that July Fourth is the correct day to celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain -- except one. Who is it and why? 
Adams thought July 2, the day the Second Continental Congress voted in Philadelphia to declare independence from Britain, would be the day patriots celebrated. “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America,” Adams wrote on July 3. “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
6. When did the Fourth of July become a legal federal holiday? 
1870. Then, in 1938, Congress reaffirmed the holiday to make sure all workers received full pay.
7. Is there something written on the back of the Declaration of Independence?  
Yes! It’s said the following is written upside down and backwards:  “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.” It’s not known who wrote it, or when. In Revolutionary War years, parchment was rolled up, so this probably served as a message.
8. The Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Contest has become an annual tradition. How did it start? 
It’s a pretty cute story: Legend has it that four immigrants got into an argument over who was most patriotic. To prove themselves, they ate as many hot dogs as they could handle -- because nothing says America like excess.
9. America isn’t the only nation that celebrates the Fourth of July. Which other countries do, and why? 
It might sound odd, but if you celebrate the Fourth of July outside the U.S., you still might see fireworks in Denmark, England, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. This is because thousands of people emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. Some European celebrations on the Fourth take place near tourist destinations -- to attract U.S. travelers -- or near American military bases.
10. When were fireworks first used to celebrate July Fourth? 
1777. Congress chose fireworks as a way to celebrate the first anniversary. They were ignited over Philadelphia. The celebration also included bonfires and bells.
11. How many people lived in the U.S. when the Declaration was signed?
2.5 million.
12. What baseball player threw a 4-0 no-hitter against the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983?
New York Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti. It was the first no-hitter in 27 years.
13. Which newspaper first printed the Declaration of Independence? 
The Pennsylvania Evening Post
14. Which president first held a Fourth of July celebration at the White House?
Thomas Jefferson
15. Which country gained independence from the United States on July Fourth? 
The Philippines did in 1946.

July 1, 2015

Fast-Track Green Card Program Swells With New Interest - THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Fast-Track Green Card Program Swells With New Interest

Wealthy investors from Brazil, Russia and Vietnam are eager to get a foothold in U.S.

Developer Jeff Berkowitz, who has tapped EB-5 funds for several projects, said he expects to raise 60% of the $270-million price tag for his new Skyrise Miami entertainment and observation tower, shown in rendering, from foreign investors. PHOTO: BERKOWITZ DEVELOPMENT

Developer Jeff Berkowitz, who has tapped EB-5 funds for several projects, said he expects to raise 60% of the $270-million price tag for his new Skyrise Miami entertainment and observation tower, shown in rendering, from foreign investors.Photo: Berkowitz Development


A sometimes controversial federal program that offers a fast track to green cards for foreigners who invest in the U.S. is attracting interest from new regions, including countries such as Brazil, Russia and Vietnam.
At the same time, soaring demand from China for the EB-5 immigrant investor program is delaying the processing of applications and the issuing of visas. 
Under the program, a foreigner and his or her immediate family are eligible for U.S. permanent residency if the individual invests $500,000 in a project in an area of high unemployment that generates at least 10 jobs. Participation offers a quick path to a green card, in less than a year for some applicants, which can take a decade to obtain through a U.S. employer or relative.
“We have seen markets growing that had not been EB-5 players in the past,” said Peter Joseph, executive director of Invest in the USA, an industry trade organization for the program. 
Foreigners in the program channeled nearly $2 billion into construction, the film industry and other sectors such as mining in fiscal 2013, the latest year with figures available. Construction accounts for the lion’s share, including residential building as well as hospitals, hotels and office development.
In all, 10,928 foreigners applied to invest in the U.S. through the program in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, up more than 70% from 6,346 a year earlier. The program, launched in 1990 to spur job growth, had just 486 applications in 2006, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that runs the program. Along with the growth, some critics say the program benefits richer areas instead of the intended rural and urban poor, and that it amounts to putting U.S. citizenship up for sale.
Carlo Barbieri, president of Oxford Group, a Boca Raton, Fla., consultancy, said there is a new appetite for the program in Brazil. “Three years ago, we’d get two inquiries per semester. Now we’re getting 30 a month.” 
Political scandals that have shaken Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and unsettled the country’s economy are spurring demand, he said.
Like the Chinese, EB-5 investors from other emerging countries tend to be wealthy individuals eager for a foothold in the U.S., often due to concerns about long-term economic and political stability at home.
Return on investment is secondary for many Chinese, who tend to focus on the opportunity to enroll their children in U.S. colleges that eventually can lead to jobs here, experts say, and choose to invest in large projects that are managed by others.
Many Brazilians, on the other hand, have started their own small EB-5 projects, such as assisted-living facilities, day-care centers and restaurant chains. “Brazilians want control over their investments,” said Mr. Barbieri.
From the Gulf region, investors are often Indians who have built lucrative careers or businesses in Dubai but aren’t entitled to citizenship there. The program enables them to settle in the U.S. when they retire. 
“They’re looking at EB-5 more as traditional investors,” said Laurie Newton, director of development for Mount Snow ski resort in Vermont, who is raising money in the Gulf region for an expansion project. “It’s not only for their children.” Ms. Newton just traveled to Vietnam to tap interest there. 
In Florida, developer Jeff Berkowitz, who has tapped EB-5 funds for several projects, said he expects to raise 60% of the $270-million price tag for his new Skyrise Miami tower from foreign investors.
“The Chinese market is obviously more organized and mature,” said Mr. Berkowitz. But, he said, “We are attracting investors from the [Persian] Gulf, Southeast Asia and Latin America.”
U.S. attorneys Shai Zamanian and Preeya Malik in 2013 set up STEP America, an EB-5 consultancy in Dubai, because “there was so much demand in the Gulf region, it made sense to move there,” said Mr. Zamanian.
Among their clients is Neha Shah, an Indian introduced to the program in January who applied the next month. “I will move to the U.S. when my visa comes through,” said Ms. Shah, who works in health care and the diamond business. 
STEP America has also begun to receive inquiries from Iranians, said Mr. Zamanian. 
China, the main driver of the program’s growth, represented about 80% of the entrepreneur petitions in 2014, and U.S. consultants continue to target that country. In March, a traveling exhibition entitled “Invest In America, Migrate To A New Life Abroad” showcased about 100 EB-5 projects and offered seminars to thousands of potential investors in several Chinese cities. 
Appetite among American developers for this alternative source of capital continues to be hefty. During the last recession, EB-5 investors became a coveted new source of low-interest financing. 
Because of the program’s popularity there, Chinese applicants for EB-5 visas now face a nearly two-year wait to obtain them and that wait is likely to grow. 
All told, the backlog of investor applications that the U.S. is yet to process, meanwhile, has reached nearly 13,700 for all nationalities, as the number of investors from other countries climbs quickly, too. 
“Many children of Chinese investors are graduating students who anticipated staying in the U.S. after completion of college and now face a two-year wait,” said Bernard Wolfsdorf, a lawyer who specializes in investor visas. “Many of them will have to leave and wait back home until they are eligible to immigrate.”


June 26, 2015

USA GREEN CARD : Zuckerberg donates $5M to scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants

Zuckerberg donates $5M to scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants

Facebook CEO calls the donation an "investment" in 400 undocumented students in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zuckerberg donates $5M to scholarship fund for undocumented immigrants

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donates $5 million to a scholarship fund for undocumented students. James Martin/CNET
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have made a $5 million donation to a scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrants attend college.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Zuckerberg called the donation to TheDream.US fund an "investment" toward creating scholarships for more than 400 undocumented students in the San Francisco Bay Area during the next five years. Noting that many young immigrants attend school legally in the US, Zuckerberg said a lack of documentation is often a stumbling block to a college education and federal aid.
"America was founded as a nation of immigrants," Zuckerberg wrote in his post announcing the donation. "We ought to welcome smart and hardworking young people from every nation, and to help everyone in our society achieve their full potential. If we help more young immigrants climb the ladder to new opportunities, then our country will make greater progress."
A longtime proponent of immigration reform, Zuckerberg argued in 2013 that changes to immigration and visa policy were necessary to boost the US economy and job market. In March of that year, he was part of a group of tech executives that sent a letter to President Barack Obama that said the system hampers hiring and R&D due to visa shortages, green card delays, and issues that arise when employees have family members who would also need to gain residency.
Founded in 2013 by former Washington Post publisher Don Graham and Bill Ackman, CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management, among others, The Dream provides $25,000 in scholarship aid to help undocumented students earn bachelor's degrees at national partner colleges.
In specifying the donation's focus, Zuckerberg said he and his wife "wanted to help extend their efforts in the Bay Area as part of our ongoing efforts to support social and economic programs in our local community."
While hefty, the donation pales in comparison to others made by Zuckerberg, who is part of a campaign led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett to get the richest people in the US to donate most of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Zuckerberg's first major project was giving $100 million in Facebook stock to public schools in Newark, N.J., in 2010. Two years later, Zuckerberg pledged 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, a donation that at the time was worth nearly $500 million.



Supreme Court rules states must allow same-sex marriage - CNNPolitics.com

Washington (CNN)In a landmark opinion, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, handing gay rights advocates their biggest victory yet.
The 5-4 ruling had Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority with the four liberal justices. Each of the four conservative justices wrote their own dissent.
The far-reaching decision settles one of the major civil rights fights of this era -- one that has rapidly evolved in the minds of the American pubic and its leaders, including President Barack Obama. He struggled publicly with the issue and ultimately embraced same-sex marriage in the months before his 2012 re-election.
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family," Kennedy wrote. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were."
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia blasted the Court's "threat to American democracy."
"The substance of today's decree is not of immense personal importance to me," he wrote. "But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today's judicial Putsch." 
The relevant cases were argued earlier this year. Attorney John Bursch, serving as Michigan's Special Assistant Attorney General, defended four states' bans on gay marriage before the Court, arguing that the case was not about how to define marriage, but rather about who gets to decide the question.
The case came before the Supreme Court after several lower courts overturned state bans on gay marriage. A federal appeals court had previously ruled in favor of the state bans, with Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals writing a majority opinion in line with the rationale that the issue should be decided through the political process, not the courts.
Fourteen couples and two widowers challenged the bans. Attorneys Mary Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier presented their case before the Court, arguing that the freedom to marry is a fundamental right for all people and should not be left to popular vote.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S.
Same-sex marriage in the U.S. 33 photos
Three years after President Barack Obama first voiced his support for gay couples' right to marry, his administration supported the same sex couples at the Supreme Court.
"Gay and lesbian people are equal," Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the justices at the oral arguments earlier this year. "It is simply untenable -- untenable -- to suggest that they can be denied the right of equal participation in an institution of marriage, or that they can be required to wait until the majority decides that it is ready to treat gay and lesbian people as equals. 
The same-sex couples who challenged gay marriage bans in Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio were just a few of the estimated 650,000 same-sex couples in the United States, 125,000 of whom are raising children. 
The challenges included same-sex couples who wanted to marry, those who sought to have their lawful out-of-state marriage recognized, as well as those who wanted to amend a birth or death certificate with their marriage status.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Jim Obergefell who married his spouse John Arthur in 2013 months before Arthur died.
The couple, who lived in Ohio, had to travel to Maryland aboard a medical jet to get married when Arthur became gravely ill. And when Arthur died, Obergefell began to fight to be recognized as Arthur's spouse on his death certificate. 
The plaintiffs from Michigan are April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two Detroit-area nurses who are also foster parents. They took to the courts after they took in four special-needs newborns who were either abandoned or surrendered at birth, but could not jointly adopt the children because Michigan's adoption code requires that couples be married to adopt.
Sgt. Ijpe Dekoe and Thomas Kostura became plaintiffs in the gay marriage case after they moved to Tennessee from New York. 
The pair had married in New York in 2011, but Dekoe's position in the Army took the couple to Tennessee, which banned gay marriage and refused to recognize gay marriages performed in other states.

June 13, 2015

Forbes Names Miami As America's Happiest City To Work In

Forbes Names Miami As America's Happiest City To Work In

The City of Miami As Seen From Brickell Avenue
Forbes Magazine just named Miami as the USA's happiest city to work in. Miami was ranked #1 because of factors such as enjoying a lifestyle outside of the work environment, and overall career happiness. Will this be a boon for Miami real estate?

According to the Forbes report, Miami is followed by Sacramento, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, Cleveland, Ohio, home of former Miami Heat star Lebron James, whose Miami house is still on the market for sale, came in as the worst and unhappiest place to work in America . 

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