Minnesota filmmakers’ lawsuit over gay weddings reinstated

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a lawsuit filed by two Minnesota filmmakers who want the right to refuse to film same-sex weddings, saying that videos are a form of speech with constitutional protections under the First Amendment
Carl and Angel Larsen, who run a Christian business called Telescope Media Group in St. Cloud, sued the state’s human rights commissioner in 2016, saying Minnesota’s public accommodation law would result in steep fines and jail time if they offered services promoting only their vision of marriage.
A federal judge dismissed the case two years ago. But a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision Friday. The panel sent the case back to the lower court with instructions to consider a preliminary injunction that would allow the Larsens to operate their business without fear of being found in violation of Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, the Star Tribune reported.
Judge David Stras, a former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, wrote in Friday’s opinion that wedding videos involve editorial judgment and control and “constituted a media for the communication of ideas.” He said the Constitution’s First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say.
Judge Jane Kelly issued a dissenting opinion.
“That the service the Larsens want to make available to the public is expressive does not transform Minnesota’s law into a content-based regulation, nor should it empower the Larsens to discriminate against prospective customers based on sexual orientation,” Kelly wrote.
The state Department of Human Rights said it was disappointed by the decision and was working with the attorney general’s office to explore its legal options.
“Minnesota is not in the business of creating second-class community members in our state,” the agency’s commissioner, Rebecca Lucero, said in a statement. “Time and again, Minnesotans have chosen love and inclusion in our communities in order to build a state where our laws lift up our beautiful and complex identities, not hold them down.”
Attorney General Keith Ellison said that he was offended by the decision and would respond in the strongest way possible.
“A ruling that lets a business discriminate against LGBTQ folks today would let it discriminate on the basis of religion, race, gender, ability, or any other category it chooses tomorrow. The decision smacks of other dark moments in our nation’s history when courts have infamously upheld discrimination,” he said in a statement.
Carl Larsen issued a statement saying he and his wife “serve everyone. We just can’t produce films promoting every message.”
“We are thankful the court recognized that government officials can’t force religious believers to violate their beliefs to pursue their passion,” Larsen said. “This is a win for everyone, regardless of your beliefs.”
The Larsens had the backing of attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a national conservative Christian legal group. The 8th Circuit heard their appeal months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled for a Colorado backer who wouldn’t make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

Prohibited invasive species found in Ramsey County lake

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it has found zebra mussels in McCarron Lake in Ramsey County.
The DNR says six zebra mussels were detected by an invasive species expert near the public access and a department survey found an additional half-dozen of the mollusks north and south of the access. Further investigation confirmed a lake-wide zebra mussel presence.
Zebra mussels have been in Minnesota waters for about 10 years. State law requires boaters to clean watercraft and trailers of aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species, drain all water from boats and dispose of unwanted bait.

Ash tree killer confirmed in 3 counties

DES MOINES (AP) — State agricultural officials say an insect that’s killed millions of ash trees has been confirmed in three more Iowa counties, bringing the total to 69 counties.
Samples were found in New Hampton in Chickasaw County, Hampton in Franklin County and Anamosa in Jones County. Officials with the Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the samples positive for the emerald ash borer.
The bugs are native to Asia and were first reported in the U.S. in Michigan in 2002 and in Iowa in 2010.
Infected trees usually lose leaves at the top of the canopy and the die-off spreads downward. The trees usually die within four years.
More information about the bug and other pests threatening Iowa’s trees is available online.

Hundreds of poor migrant workers flee Kashmir under lockdown

By CHANNI ANAND Associated Press
JAMMU, India (AP) — Hit by a complete security lockdown in Kashmir, hundreds of poor migrant workers have begun fleeing the Himalayan region to return to their far-away villages in northern and eastern India.
Some complained on Wednesday that their Kashmiri employers didn’t pay them any salary as security forces began imposing tight travel restrictions over the weekend and asked them to leave their jobs.
Authorities in Hindu-majority India clamped a complete shutdown on Kashmir as they scrapped the Muslim-majority state’s special status, including exclusive hereditary rights and a separate constitution, and divided it into two territories.
The Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both. The two nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.
Pakistan announced Wednesday that it is downgrading its diplomatic ties with India and suspending bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s decision to reduce Kashmir’s special status.
On Wednesday, workers crowded the railroad station at Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, as they waited for trains bound for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. They carried their belongings on their heads and under their arms, tied in bedsheets.
Jagdish Mathur, a worker, said many people walked for miles (kilometers) on a highway and hitched rides on army trucks and buses from Srinagar to Jammu, a distance of 260 kilometers (160 miles).
“We haven’t eaten properly for the past four days,” said Mathur, adding that he doesn’t have money to buy a rail ticket to take him to his village in eastern Bihar state. “The government should help me.”
Surjit Singh, a carpenter, told the New Delhi television channel that he was returning home because of Kashmir’s security lockdown.
Every year, tens of thousands of people travel to Kashmir from various Indian states looking for work, mainly masonry, carpentry and agriculture. Whenever the security situation deteriorates, they return homes.
Insurgent groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.

Man pronounced dead after tubing accident

CLEAR LAKE (AP) — Authorities say a man who might have suffered a medical problem while tubing at Clear Lake was pronounced dead at a Mason City hospital in northern Iowa.
The Iowa Natural Resources Department says 28-year-old Daniel Linderman fell off a tube into the water Saturday afternoon. The department says he appeared to suffer the medical problem while swimming back to the boat that had been pulling the tube. He went face down in the water for a time, although he was wearing a life jacket. Another person on the boat tried to keep Linderman’s head above the water.
The department says two department water patrol officers and a conservation officer took Linderman to shore and performed CPR, and he was taken to the hospital.
An autopsy has been ordered.
Linderman lived in Waukee.

Council Bluffs police investigating death

COUNCIL BLUFFS (AP) — Authorities are investigating what they say is the suspicious death of a Council Bluffs resident.
Police say medics called around 5:15 p.m. Sunday for officers to join them at the residence of 52-year-old Jerrot Clark. He’d been found dead inside his home. Authorities have not said what caused his death.
No arrests have been reported.

Man gets 50 years for killing woman

CEDAR RAPIDS (AP) — A Marion man has been given 50 years for killing a Cedar Rapids woman during a break-in.
Linn County District Court records say 20-year-old Kyler Junkins also was sentenced Friday to 10 years for burglary, a term to be served at the same time as his sentence for second-degree murder. He was ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to her heirs or her estate. He pleaded guilty after making a deal with prosecutors.
Police say Junkins was involved in breaking into the apartment of 18-year-old AnnaElise Edgeton and shooting her. Her body was found Jan. 13 last year.

Anesthetist pleads guilty in painkiller case

CEDAR RAPIDS (AP) — A nurse anesthetist has pleaded guilty to tampering with opioid painkillers in northern Iowa.
Records for the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids say Christopher West also pleaded guilty to obtaining a controlled substance by deception.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports that West had been accused of ordering extra painkillers so he could use the leftovers. Prosecutors also say West reported several times that painkiller vials broke when he dropped his anesthesia kit at the Floyd County Medical Center in Charles City. Prosecutors say he actually stole the vials and used the painkillers himself.
Hospital officials who’d grown suspicious of West last year also checked a supply of painkiller vials and ampules and found they’d been opened, the painkiller replaced with saline and then glued back together.

Trial date set in southern Iowa murder

OSKALOOSA (AP) — A second trial has been scheduled for a woman found guilty nearly five years ago of killing her daughter in south-central Iowa’s Mahaska County.
Court records say the trial of Alicia Ritenour is set to begin Sept. 30 and has been moved to Henry County because of intensive news media coverage of the crime and her first trial. Ritenour was convicted of first-degree murder in November 2014.
Authorities went to Ritenour’s Oskaloosa apartment in January 2014 following a 911 call. Officers found 17-month-old Ava Ritenour dead. An autopsy showed she died of head trauma.
Judge Daniel Wilson set aside Ritenour’s conviction in December, agreeing with her arguments that her trial attorney had been ineffective.

Iowa authorities: 2 bodies found in rail car

CENTERVILLE (AP) — Authorities say two bodies were found in a rail car that had carried about 100 tons of steel from Mexico to south-central Iowa.
The Daily Iowegian newspaper reports that Iowa Southern Railway workers discovered the bodies Friday when decoupling cars from an engine about 1.5 miles southeast of Centerville. The cars had been pulled there Friday after BNSF railroad dropped them off Thursday in Albia.
Authorities think the two people were killed by the tons of shifting steel that had been loaded in Monterrey, Mexico. It’s unclear when they got into the car.
The pair have yet to be identified. The bodies were taken to the Iowa state medical examiner’s office.