WASHINGTON (AP) — Same-sex couples in 11 more states would win the right to marry, but the issue would remain unsettled nationwide if the Supreme Court were to surprise everyone and decline to take up gay marriage right now.
A decision by the justices to reject calls from all quarters to take up same-sex marriage would lead to gay and lesbian unions in 30 states and the District of Columbia, up from 19 states.
Couples in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin could begin getting married almost immediately. Rulings in their favor have been put on hold while the Supreme Court considers their cases.
And if the high court leaves those rulings in place, same-sex couples almost certainly would win the right to marry in six other states in short order because those states — Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming — would be bound by the same appeals court decisions.
But rejection of pending appeals by the Supreme Court would leave untouched the laws in the other 20 states that still enforce same-sex marriage bans.
"This affects people's lives. Literally, people are dying before they can get married," said James Esseks, a gay rights expert with the American Civil Liberties Union.
That is one reason that almost everyone who follows the issue for a living or otherwise thinks the Supreme Court will step in and decide gay marriage cases this term. The cases were on the agenda when the justices met in private Monday to decide new cases to hear this term. The court could announce a decision as early as this week.
Both sides in the dispute also say the justices have an obligation to settle an issue of such national importance, not abdicate that responsibility to lower court judges. Opting out of hearing the cases would leave those lower court rulings in place.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared to be addressing that concern when she said in July that the court would not duck the issue, as it did for years with bans on interracial marriage.
Yet more recently, at a forum in Minnesota, Ginsburg suggested the court might refrain from taking any action unless an appeals court were to uphold a same-sex marriage ban, which would create a split among appeals courts that typically triggers Supreme Court review.
Two other appeals courts, in Cincinnati and San Francisco, could issue decisions any time in same-sex marriage cases. Judges in the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit who are weighing pro-gay marriage rulings in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, appeared more likely to rule in favor of state bans than did the 9th Circuit judges in San Francisco who are considering Idaho and Nevada restrictions on marriage.
If it doesn't take one of the cases immediately, the court could still set them for argument in time for a decision in June 2015. It takes just four of the nine justices to vote to hear a case, but it takes a majority of at least five for an eventual ruling.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A federal appeals court panel is ordering parts of North Carolina's strict new voting law set aside for next month's elections because it is likely to disenfranchise black voters.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split 2-1 on Wednesday. The court says same-day registration should be allowed and ballots cast outside a voter's assigned precinct should be considered. It says plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm if the number of early voting days are reduced by a week.
The voter ID part of the law is not set to take effect until 2016.
The Republican-backed law was challenged by civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department. It is considered one of the toughest in the nation.
North Carolina has one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A 911 caller who reported a man carrying a gun in an Ohio Wal-Mart told state investigators he heard an officer repeatedly say "put it down" just before police shot the man, killing him, according to a summary of the interview released by the state.
The 24-year-old caller, Ronald Ritchie, was interviewed the day after the Aug. 5 shooting at the Beavercreek store in suburban Dayton that killed John Crawford III. The 22-year-old Crawford had been talking on a cellphone and carrying an air rifle he picked up from a shelf as he walked through the store.
Ritchie's account, released Tuesday, provides some support for written statements made by the two officers involved, who said Crawford appeared to be carrying a black assault rifle, didn't respond to repeated commands to drop it and turned toward them aggressively.
Crawford's relatives and their attorneys have questioned that version of events, contending he was "shot on sight" with no chance to respond and that the shooting was unreasonable.
Store surveillance video captured the shooting from a distance but doesn't include audio and therefore doesn't document any comments by the officers or the time between such comments and when Crawford drops to the floor.
Ritchie had called 911 to report a man was waving a gun and pointing it at people. In the next-day interview, Ritchie said the man actually didn't point the gun at people but swung it around and flashed the muzzle at children.
Ritchie told investigators the gun looked like an assault rifle he personally owned, and he believed it was a real weapon because he didn't see an orange tip indicating it was an air rifle. He said he heard police say "Put it down, put it down," and he said it appeared the man "checked them" or pulled the gun toward the officers. He said the officer's shots came about two seconds after the police commands.
"If you're dumb enough to point any kind of weapon at a police officer you get what's coming to you," Ritchie said, according to the interview summary.
Crawford's relatives and their attorneys say he posed no threat and have disputed Ritchie's description of Crawford's actions.
A grand jury concluded the shooting was justified, and the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the case.
One aspect the family wants reviewed is whether race was a factor. Crawford was black, and the officers are white.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil's rapid religious transformation is reverberating through the country's tight presidential race, where abortion and gay marriage have emerged as hot-button issues and Pentecostal televangelists are political power brokers.
The socially conservative Pentecostal population now includes more than one-fifth of the electorate, just three decades after barely registering any presence at all. That change has the secular-minded incumbent quoting Psalms while her Bible-reading rival has repeatedly stressed her belief in a secular state to avoid alienating liberal voters ahead of Sunday's first-round vote.
During a recent service at his 6,000-seat Assemblies of God church in a gritty Rio de Janeiro neighborhood, Brazil's most influential Pentecostal pastor spent half of the service talking about the election, nudging voters to support top opposition candidate Marina Silva, who is also a member of the Assemblies of God, by far Brazil's largest Pentecostal denomination.
If Silva makes it to the second round and defeats incumbent Dilma Rousseff in an expected Oct. 26 runoff, she would become the first Pentecostal leader of a country with more Catholics than any other.
"A pastor isn't the owner of anybody's ballot. I don't have a band of angels who can peek over your shoulder in the voting booth," said Silas Malafaia, his face looming on two jumbo TV screens bookending the enormous stage where he paced. "But you've got to vote your conscience. Don't just give your vote away. Vote against the corrupt and those who want to destroy the family!"
Malafaia alone has 800,000 followers on Twitter, books that have sold in the millions and sermons beamed around the globe. He is part of a rapidly swelling movement that is strongly rooted among poorer Brazilians, a group that otherwise heavily favors Rousseff's Workers Party, which has lifted millions from poverty with expansive social welfare programs and the creation of millions of new jobs.
In a survey released Friday, the Datafolha polling group found that 54 percent of Pentecostal voters would support Silva in an expected second-round vote, while Rousseff was favored by 38 percent. Among the population as a whole, the two were in a statistical tie. Datafolha polled 11,474 people across Brazil on Sept. 25-26 and the margin of error was 2 percentage points.
But in a Datafolha poll released Tuesday night, Rousseff had pulled ahead of Silva in a second-round vote, leading 49-to-41. A breakdown of a second-round vote by religion was not yet available.
Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who was imprisoned and tortured during Brazil's military dictatorship, rarely spoke of religion before this campaign, but she has been making the rounds of Pentecostal churches and invoking God's name of late.
In August she spoke to hundreds of Pentecostals in Sao Paulo at an Assemblies of God church, by far the biggest Protestant denomination in the country.
"I'm opening my remarks by saying that the Brazilian state is secular," Rousseff said to a silent crowd.
"But, citing the Psalm of David, I'd like to say that 'Joyful is the nation whose God is the Lord,'" she immediately added, to loud applause.
By contrast, the deeply religious Silva has made no campaign stops in churches and has kept Pentecostal leaders at arm's length in public, hoping to combat suspicions among non-religious voters that conservative pastors could shape the stance a Silva government would have on social issues.
Those worries intensified when her official platform reversed support for gay marriage less than 24 hours after its release last month, following blistering attacks on the proposal from Malafaia and other Pentecostal leaders. Silva supports Brazil's current law allowing same-sex civil unions, which gives gay partners the same rights as heterosexual couples, but stops short of supporting religious weddings for gays.
As an impoverished daughter of a rubber tapper deep in the Amazon, Silva wanted to become a nun and as a teenager moved into a convent, where she first learned to read and write at age 16. There, she came into contact with priests adhering to liberation theology, a Latin American-inspired movement that advocates for the poor.
But in 1997, facing extreme health problems after five bouts with malaria as a girl and hepatitis as a teenager, Silva converted to the Pentecostal faith upon being told by a doctor that only a miracle could help her. The doctor himself phoned his pastor to speak with the then-senator.
For some, Silva's mixed religious background could be a political asset.
"Marina is in a really nice position where she got Malafaia, the rock star pastor of the Assemblies of God, to back her, so she probably feels like a lot of her evangelical support is solidified," said Andrew Chesnut, a professor and expert on Latin American religions at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has focused on Brazil's Pentecostals. "And the fact she was involved with liberationist Catholicism ... means more progressive Catholics will sympathize with her."
But when it comes time to cast their ballot, Brazilian Pentecostals, who are overwhelmingly poor, will face a dilemma in choosing between Silva, a woman who shares their faith, and their gratitude to Rousseff's Workers Party for the country's socio-economic advances in the last 12 years.
Michelle Jeronimo, a 22-year-old heading into Malafaia's service last week, said Silva would get the backing of Pentecostals because she would maintain "God's posture" in the face of widely perceived government dishonesty.
"Pentecostals are so disappointed with the corruption, with the broken promises, so they're looking to this Pentecostal side of her," Jeronimo said, adding that Silva will "fulfill what she said, what she promised, what she said she intends to do."
But Silre Noguiera, handing out campaign fliers for Pentecostal congressional candidates outside Malafaia's church, looked over her shoulders before whispering where her political allegiance lay.
"The Workers Party governments are the only ones that ever did anything for the poor. Dilma has my vote," she said. "I'm not convinced most Pentecostals will vote based on religion. At the end of the day, they want a president who'll give them a better life."
Health officials on Tuesday announced the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States — a man isolated in intensive care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
Five things to know about the case:
WHEN AND HOW IT HAPPENED
Health officials say they don't know how the man was infected but he flew from the West African country of Liberia, where the outbreak is ongoing, on Sept. 19 and arrived to visit relatives in the U.S. a day later. His symptoms started around last Wednesday, he sought medical care Friday but was not admitted to the hospital until Sunday.
RISK TO FELLOW TRAVELERS
"Ebola doesn't spread till someone gets sick, and he didn't get sick for four days" after getting off the plane, so officials are not seeking out fellow passengers for signs of Ebola, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus does not spread through the air — only through close contact with bodily fluids from a sick person, he stressed.
RISK TO PEOPLE IN DALLAS
Several family members and maybe a few community people are being monitored for possible risk — "handful is the right characterization" for how many, Frieden said.
HOW LONG RISK LASTS
People will be watched for fever or other possible signs for 21 days.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU'RE AT RISK
Contact the CDC, Frieden said. Call 800-CDC-INFO. State and local health officials in Texas also are working to trace any possible contacts.