Dispatches > News
Photo by Pete Muller

Without country

And more news briefs

Issue: "Face-off," Aug. 13, 2011

By next spring, more than 1 million South Sudanese living in northern Sudan will acquire a new identity: foreigner. Less than two weeks after South Sudan broke from the north on July 9 to become an independent country, northern officials announced they wouldn't allow southerners living in the north to retain citizenship. Their only options: Live as stateless residents or return to South Sudan. (Leaders in South Sudan announced northerners living in the south could pursue dual citizenship.)

More than 1.3 million southerners either fled or were forced to go north during the country's two-decade civil war. As many as 300,000 have returned to South Sudan, but more than a million remain in the north, now many for decades. It's unclear what losing their citizenship might mean, but the Sudan Tribune reported that officials in the north already have terminated employment for southerners working for the northern government or military. Some worry that living and working conditions will only grow worse for southerners who stay.

The law and the law

When city halls opened across New York on Sunday, July 24, to issue the state's first marriage licenses to homosexual couples, at least one local official didn't report for duty: Laura Fotusky decided to resign as town clerk of Barker rather than violate her conscience by facilitating gay marriage.

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Issuing marriage licenses had been part of Fotusky's duties since becoming town clerk in 2007. She had hoped New York's gay marriage law-passed by the Republican-led legislature on June 24-would allow religious exemptions. The Christian, a member of a nondenominational church, said the Bible "clearly teaches that God created marriage between male and female." But when the law didn't allow such exemptions, Fotusky resigned: "Basically I had to choose between my God and my job." The Alliance Defense Fund issued a memo saying the New York Human Rights Law requires employers to accommodate religious exemptions, but Fotusky declined to pursue a lawsuit, saying she didn't want to financially burden her small town.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to Fotusky's resignation, saying: "The law is the law, and when you enforce the laws of the state, you don't get to pick and choose." Fotusky told her superiors she had a different mandate: "I had to obey God rather than men."

Control from above

A July 19 report by the Institute of Medicine recommended that insurance companies pay for birth control under government-run healthcare. The recommendation, contained in a report commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, could include morning-after drugs like ella and the abortion pill RU-486, according to Jeanne Monahan, director of Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity: "This is a question of whether the government should mandate every health plan to cover these drugs free of cost . . . many Americans do care, and many religious health plans would care, and they should not be forced to violate their conscience."

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