SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK

Justices reject gay rights cases from Ariz., Nev.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has rejected appeals from Arizona and Nevada involving the rights of same-sex couples.

The justices let stand an appeals court ruling striking down an Arizona law that said only married state employees were eligible for health benefits and withdrawing domestic partner benefits for unmarried state workers.

Arizona's constitution bars same-sex marriage, so gay couples had no way to obtain the state benefits.

The other case, from Nevada, was a challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

A group opposing gay marriage filed the appeal, even though it won a judgment in federal district court. The Coalition for the Protection of Marriage wanted to bypass the federal appeals court in San Francisco, but that is where the case now will be considered.

Abortion drug case sent back to Oklahoma court

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court last Thursday asked a state court to clarify a couple of questions about an Oklahoma anti-abortion law that bans off-label use of certain abortion-inducing drugs.

The justices want the Oklahoma Supreme Court to answer two questions about the state law before the high court considers an appeal from the Oklahoma attorney general.

The law passed in 2011 required doctors to follow strict guidelines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prohibited off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs such as RU-486. Such moves include changing a recommended dosage or prescribing it for different symptoms than the drug was initially approved for. The law also required doctors to examine women before prescribing the drugs, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights has sued to stop the law, arguing that the restrictions would leave women no choice but to undergo invasive surgeries to end their pregnancies. Judges have halted its enforcement, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in December that the anti-abortion law was "facially unconstitutional" and that judges were right to prevent its enforcement.

The Supreme Court wants to know if the Oklahoma law "prohibits the use of misoprostol to induce abortions, including the use of misoprostol in conjunction with mifepristone according to a protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration." The high court also wants to know if the law stops "the use of methotrexate to treat ectopic pregnancies," which is when an embryo implants somewhere outside of the uterus.

Mifepristone is also known as Mifeprex or RU-486, according to court papers.

The two sides arguing over the law disagree in court papers to the answer to those questions, so "further proceedings in this case are reserved pending receipt of a response from the Supreme Court of Oklahoma," the high court said in its statement.

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The case is Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, 12-1094.

Court throws out Texas voter identification ruling

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has thrown out lower court rulings that blocked a Texas voter identification law and the state's political redistricting plans as discriminatory.

The court's action last Thursday was a predictable result of its major ruling two days earlier that effectively ended the federal government's strict supervision of elections in Texas and other states with a history of discrimination in voting.

The justices ordered lower courts to reconsider in light of Tuesday's ruling.

In both the voter ID and redistricting cases, the court stopped the state from putting in place the laws under the advance approval requirement of the Voting Rights Act.

The court has said that part of the law cannot be used unless Congress develops a new formula for determining which states and localities should be covered.

Published: Mon, Jul 1, 2013