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Legal news from Saturday, October 23, 2010

Florida AG declines to appeal decision striking down gay adoption ban
Sarah Paulsworth on October 23, 2010 2:59 PM ET

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[JURIST] Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum [official profile] announced [press release] Friday that his office will not appeal a decision [text, PDF] by Florida Third District Court of Appeals [official website] striking down the state's prohibition [text] against adoption by gay men and women. In September, the district court ruled that the prohibition was unlawful because it failed rational basis review [JURIST report] and violated the state constitution's equal protection clause. The case was originally brought by Martin Gill, a gay man who was denied adoption of two boys he and his partner had fostered for five years. Despite McCollum's reluctance to appeal the recent court decision, his statement suggested that future litigation seeking to reinstate the ban remains a possibility:
After reviewing the merits of independently seeking Supreme Court review, following the decision of our client the Department of Children and Families not to appeal the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal, it is clear that this is not the right case to take to the Supreme Court for its determination. No doubt someday a more suitable case will give the Supreme Court the opportunity to uphold the constitutionality of this law.
Earlier this month, Florida Department of Children and Families [official website] also announced [CNN report] that they will not appeal the decision. Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] had ordered the department to stop enforcing the law immediately after the court's ruling. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [official website] reacted [press release] to the attorney general's announcement stating that the group was thankful that the battle over this "cruel policy" had come to an end. Florida was the only remaining state to prohibit gay adoption.

Gay adoption rights have become an issue of international significance. In September, New York Governor David Paterson [official website] signed a bill [JURIST report] allowing unmarried partners, including gay couples, to jointly adopt a child. In August, the UK Charity Commission [official website] ruled that a Catholic social services agency could not restrict its adoption services [JURIST report] to married heterosexual couples and that the discrimination violated Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. Also in August, the Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] upheld a Mexico City law [JURIST report] allowing adoptions by same-sex couples, determining that a ban would discriminate against same-sex couples and would violate the Mexican Constitution [text, PDF]. Last year, the Uruguayan Senate [official website, in Spanish] voted to approve a law [JURIST report] legalizing adoption by same sex couples.

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France senate approves retirement reform amid protests
Daniel Makosky on October 23, 2010 12:34 PM ET

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[JURIST] The French Senate [official website, in French] on Friday approved [press release, in French] retirement reform legislation designed to keep the country's pension system viable. The bill [text, in French; materials, in French], which passed by a 177-153 vote, increases the age at which individuals can retire from 60 to 62 while also raising the age of eligibility for full pension benefits from 65 to 67. Lawmakers contend that the legislation is necessary in order to maintain the system's solvency. Debate over the bill has led to multiple strikes and protests across France, and, in the wake of its passage, union leaders have stated that additional strikes are forthcoming [AFP report] while legal challenges are pursued. The bill must now be reconciled with a draft adopted by the National Assembly [official website, in French], and officials expect final approval by Wednesday.

France has undertaken a series of controversial legislative initiatives in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the National Assembly adopted an immigration bill [JURIST report] that would strip criminals born in other countries of their French nationality if they have been convicted of violent crimes against police officers. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has criticized the bill, urging the French government to reject the proposal because it targets minority populations, particularly the Roma [JURIST news archive]. The Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] last month that would make it illegal to wear the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other full face veils in public, punishable by mandatory citizenship classes or a USD $185 fine. Opponents of the legislation may challenge the law [BBC report] in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg [official website], which has the ability to render a binding opinion on France.

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UN investigator calls for inquiry into Iraq rights abuses
Daniel Makosky on October 23, 2010 11:44 AM ET

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[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official website] called Saturday for the Obama administration to launch an inquiry into the role of the US in human rights violations allegedly committed in Iraq [JURIST news archive]. Nowak's comments follow the release of government information on WikiLeaks [website] that included thousands of previously classified documents. Many of the documents purportedly illustrate instances of abuse, torture and murder carried out by US and Iraqi forces. He stated that the US is party to UN human rights treaties that compel the investigation of such allegations and the criminalization of any form of torture. He also claimed that the incidents documented in the release may constitute violations [Guardian report] of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [texts and materials]. In addition to abuses allegedly committed by coalition forces, Nowak stressed that the US must investigate instances where transferring detainees into the custody of other countries exposed them to an increased risk of facing torture [JURIST news archive]. Absent a full investigation, Nowak claims that the US would be in breach of its international obligations.

Last month, Nowak's predecessor called for a similar investigation regarding an additional WikiLeaks release [JURIST reports]. The request involved war crimes allegedly committed by Taliban [CFR backgrounder], US and British forces in Afghanistan. Unlike the US, Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], giving the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Afghan territory. Earlier this week, Chairperson of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) [official website] Claudio Grossman [official profile] urged nations to "reconnect with the values" of the Convention Against Torture and increase efforts to combat torture [JURIST report]. Grossman stated that the need for heightened measures is particularly important in emergency situations where interrogators have little time to gain information from captives. The UN claimed that reports of rights abuse were found worldwide and that countries have grown increasingly apathetic to the use of torture as an interrogation technique.

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