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DeSantis Promotes Judge Who Blocked Teen’s Abortion Over Bad Grades
In November, Florida voters kicked out a judge who issued a controversial ruling denying an abortion to a 17-year-old girl because she had C-average grades in school.
Now, Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed him to an even higher court, the Sixth District Court of Appeals.
In January, Judge Jared Smith ruled that the unnamed teen couldn’t get an abortion because he doubted her “overall intelligence.” Florida law requires minors to get parental consent before getting an abortion, and the teen sought an exemption for that requirement.
“(While) she claimed that her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony,” Smith wrote in his ruling, “her GPA is currently 2.0. Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA.”
He denied her request, and an appeals court later overturned his ruling, finding that he abused his judicial discretion. In response to his ruling, several local conservatives retracted their endorsements of him. Then, in June, local voters kicked him off of the bench, preferring lawyer Nancy Jacobs by a 3.7-point margin.
However, DeSantis just appointed him to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. Now, he and eight other judges will hear appeals cases from several central Florida counties.
Smith and three other candidates for the court had their appointments challenged because they don’t live in the 6th District’s jurisdiction. However, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled last week that a residency requirement “attaches at the time of appointment,” meaning that judges can simply relocate to be in the jurisdiction whenever DeSantis appoints them.
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West Virginia Republicans Vote to Keep Child Marriage Legal
Republicans in the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9-8 to kill a law that would’ve ended child marriage in the state.
Right now the state, and six others, have no minimum age requirement for marriage. The law allows children as young as age 16 to be married off to adults, as long as the children have their parents’ permission. (Anyone younger than 16 requires a judge’s waiver to marry.) However, West Virginia has the highest rate of child marriage in the nation, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center report.
A proposed bill, introduced by Democratic state Delegate Kayla Young, would’ve raised West Virginia’s minimum age for marriage to 18 and above — only 4 other U.S. states.
After her bill’s defeat, Young wrote, “I want to make it very clear that no one spoke against the bill. They just made the clearly pre-determined motions and killed the bill. No one admitted why they think children as young as infants should be legally allowed to be married off.”
I want to make it very clear that no one spoke against the bill. They just made the clearly pre-determined motions and killed the bill. No one admitted why they think children as young as infants should be legally allowed to be married off.
— Kayla Young (@kaylayoungforwv) March 9, 2023
Republican Sen. Mike Stuart defended not raising the minimum marrying age by noting that his own mother had married at age 16. “Six months later, I came along. I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Stuart said, not mentioning the effects the marriage or pregnancy had on his mother’s mental state or well-being.
Republican Del. Jim Butler, who voted against the bill, told Newsweek, “West Virginia is a socially conservative and traditional state, in my observation. Many middle age and elderly people that I know were married when younger than 18 and are still married many years later.”
The Associated Press noted that 86% of underage children who get married are girls, meaning that West Virginia’s laws primarily allow adult men to marry girls who have barely entered high school and aren’t old enough to vote.
Right now, seven states have no minimum age requirement for marriage, according to Unchained at Last, an organization that opposes child marriage. These states include California, Washington, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
Kansas allows children to marry at the age of 15. All other U.S. states set the ages for marriage at 16 and above.
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Pentagon Blocks Evidence of Russia’s War Crimes from International Criminal Court
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, is blocking the administration of President Joe Biden (D) from sharing evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, collected by U.S. intelligence agencies, with the International Criminal Court (ICC), the tribunal that prosecutes heinous human rights violations, The New York Times has reported.
The Pentagon is doing this because U.S. military leaders fear that it might help the ICC and other nations prosecute the U.S. in the future over its own past war crimes.
The evidence being withheld reportedly includes proof that Russian officials deliberately targeted civilian dwellings and infrastructure while also kidnapping thousands of Ukrainian children from occupied territories, the Times wrote.
In December 2022, Congress changed rules to enable the U.S. to assist the ICC’s investigations. But even though the rule changes passed on a large bipartisan vote, the Pentagon opposed the rule change and is “now trying to undermine the letter and spirit of the law,” according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
In 2000, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton originally signed the Rome Statute that created the ICC. But the United States’ involvement wasn’t ratified by the Senate. In 2002, then-U.S. President George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from ICC, primarily over concerns that the U.S. could be prosecuted for war crimes after its then-coming 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The U.S. has acknowledged the ICC’s existence and even assisted with its investigation against African warlords under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. However, in 2017, when the ICC tried to investigate the U.S. torture of detainees during Bush’s so-called “War on Terror,” then-President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on ICC personnel and his Secretary of State denounced the ICC as “immoral.”
Biden revoked Trump’s sanctions, but the U.S. remained prohibited from funding and issuing other sorts of aid to the court. The December 2022 legislative vote changed it so that the U.S. could help the ICC investigate Russian war crimes.
However, the Pentagon has said that the U.S. shouldn’t help the ICC investigate Russia, because Russia (like the U.S.) also withdrew its participation from the ICC and shouldn’t be subject to its investigations. If Russia is, and the U.S. assists, then it also means that the ICC could one day investigate the United States, the Pentagon reasons, according to unnamed sources cited by the Times.
Russia has allegedly committed more than 65,000 war crimes in Ukraine, according to watchdog groups.
The progressive news site Common Dreams noted that author and war correspondent Megan K. Stack wrote on Twitter, that the Pentagon and U.S. approach to the ICC can be summed up thus: “Basically, [the U.S.] want others punished, but not ourselves.”
A year of war in Ukraine. A year of Russian forces' atrocities. A year of civilian suffering.
In the year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, here is a glimpse at some of the war crimes and attacks HRW has documented:https://t.co/j1R39K4uXF pic.twitter.com/c5L4glr2iz
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) February 24, 2023
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Louisiana Adults Must Now Show Drivers’ Licenses to Access Porn Online
Louisiana residents who want to access adult web content and pornography online must now enter information from a valid driver’s license or state ID into a program called LA Wallet in order to prove they are 18 or older, according to Mashable.
This is thanks to House Bill 142, a new law that went into effect on January 1. The law says that any commercial website that contains 33.3 percent or more pornographic material must “perform reasonable age verification methods to verify the age of individuals attempting to access the material.”
While porn websites claim that they won’t collect any users’ personal information while conducting the age check, the bill requiring the check is a disturbing view of similar legislation to come.
“Pornography is creating a public health crisis and having a corroding influence on minors,” the bill states, blaming adult content for “the hypersexualization of teens and prepubescent children… low self-esteem, body image disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and increased desire among adolescents to engage in risky sexual behavior.”
“Pornography may also impact brain development and functioning, contribute to emotional and medical illnesses, shape deviant sexual arousal, and lead to difficulty in forming or maintaining positive, intimate relationships, as well as promoting problematic or harmful sexual behaviors and addiction,” the bill states.
The bill was introduced by anti-LGBTQ+ state Rep. Laurie Schlegel, a woman who has introduced legislation banning transgender youth from playing on school sports teams matching their gender identity. She also opposed legislation that would have banned so-called conversion therapy, a widely disavowed form of psychological torture that purports to change people’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
Louisiana’s law bears resemblance to similar legislation introduced last month by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). Lee’s bill would essentially criminalize any web users who view or share “obscene” images online.
While Lee’s bill has little chance of clearing the Democratically-controlled Senate, it’s just one of numerous bills seeking to restrict adult content and online sex work in the name of protecting children from porn and “sex trafficking.”
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