Day in court. Lawyers for two Oklahoma women and the county clerk who would not give them a marriage license go before a federal appeals court today. U.S. District Judge Terence Kern of Tulsa ruled in January that Oklahoma’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution. He immediately stayed his ruling, preventing any same-sex marriages from taking place while the ruling was appealed. The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard a similar case from Utah last week, giving Oklahoma lawyers a preview of what questions they might face. Lawyers for Tulsa County Clerk Sally Howe Smith said they plan to argue states’ residents have the right to define marriage how they see fit.
Defensive line. Former Clemson University football players spoke out Wednesday after an atheist group complained about the team’s Christian atmosphere. The players insisted they never felt pressured or intimidated to become Christian under head coach Dabo Swinney. Former Clemson running back Roderick McDowell told TigerNet.com, “Religion was never forced on anybody, and nothing was ever mandatory.” Former wide receiver Aaron Kelly, who grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, agreed, saying, “It was never a problem, and it was never forced on me or anything like that. If I was uncomfortable with anything, I just explained myself, and they were OK with it.”
Mass media. Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker-turned-fugitive, went on Russian television to ask President Vladimir Putin about the country’s surveillance practices. During Putin’s annual, televised question-and-answer show, he told Snowden that Russia does not monitor individual communications within its country en masse the way Snowden has revealed the U.S. government did. According to CNN, Putin said Russia does eavesdrop on specific telephone and internet communications about criminal activity, but only with court permission. “So, the mass character is something we do not have and cannot have,” Putin said. Snowden sought refuge in Russia last year after disclosing to the press the details of the NSA’s domestic snooping operation. If he returned to the United States, he would face charges of espionage and theft.
Nuclear downgrade Iran has converted much of its weapons-grade uranium into less volatile forms, the UN atomic agency reported today. A deal with six world powers last year required Iran to downgrade its uranium in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions crippling its economy. By the time the agreement was reached late last year, Iran had amassed nearly 440 pounds of highly enriched uranium. With further enrichment, that quantity would have yielded almost enough weapons-grade uranium for one atomic bomb. Under the agreement, Iran committed to neutralizing its entire highly enriched stockpile, half by diluting to a grade that is less proliferation-prone and the rest by conversion to oxide used for reactor fuel. In line with information given to The Associated Press by diplomats earlier this week, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Thursday that Iran had completed the dilution process.