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Listeners Weigh In On Gay Marriage

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Listeners Weigh In On Gay Marriage

Listeners Weigh In On Gay Marriage

Listeners Weigh In On Gay Marriage

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Host Michel Martin and NPR Digital News' Corey Dade comb through listener responses from past stories. This week, listeners debate on how states should grant same-sex marriage rights, and there are updates on the 2009 shooting in Oakland, Calif. and Ga.'s new immigration law.

MICHEL MARTIN, host: And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. With me today is Corey Dade. He's a national correspondent for NPR Digital News. Hi, Corey, welcome back.

COREY DADE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So, what do you have?

DADE: First off, NPR's Tony Cox guest hosted the program earlier this week, as you know. And on Monday he talked about the new law in New York State legalizing same-sex marriage. He spoke with gay rights activist R. Clarke Cooper, who's the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. He also talked with Julie Bolser. She's a reporter for the Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine. Here's some of what she had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF PREVIOUS RECORDING)

JULIE BOLSER: I think that even with the level of national conversation that has been opened, it is always, certainly from the perspective of advocates for marriage equality, that is a good thing. I mean, a key part of moving the ball forward in New York was popular opinion.

DADE: We heard from lots of listeners who support same-sex marriage. But there was disagreement on how show states should grant marriage rights.

MARTIN: Listener Stewart Bowers wrote this: He wrote, there are times when the issue of civil rights and their protection should not be decided by the constituents. As a citizen of Florida, I find it abhorrent that my rights as a gay person should be determined by a majority of people who also do not believe in the separation of church and state. Many a disenfranchised group of people throughout our history have needed the intervention of the Supreme Court to step in and right the wrong.

DADE: Thanks, Stewart. On to another sensitive social issue: immigration. Michel, last week you had a conversation about Georgia's new immigration law, which was supposed to take effect today. That law would require employers to verify the immigration status of their workers. And police would be allowed to check the immigration status of suspects and to detain them.

Well, we have an update. On Monday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the extra authority for police. The judge also ruled that people knowingly harbor illegal immigrants can't be prosecuted for now. Georgia governor, Nathan Deal has pledged to appeal the ruling. So in the meantime, there's one provision that does take effect today. It's now a felony for a person to submit false information or documents about their immigration status when applying for a job.

MARTIN: There's also an update on a story out of Oakland, California that we've been following closely. Many people may remember that on New Year's Eve of 2009, a man named Oscar Grant was shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer. That case was racially charged from the beginning because Grant was African-American and the former officer, Johannes Mehserle, is white. Also, Mr. Grant was unarmed and shot in the back. On Tuesday, BART agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson. and to pay her $1.3 million.

Corey, what else do you have?

DADE: One final update, Michel. Last month, you spoke with Natasha Darrington. She served nearly 11 years in prison on a conviction for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. She gained early release in 2008 due to a change in sentencing that reduced the prison time for some crack-related offenses.

Michel, in June, Ms. Darrington testified before the U.S. Sentencing Commission about how her early release helped change her life for the better. She urged the commission to give that same chance to other inmates in prison for crack-related offenses. Here's a clip from your conversation.

(SOUNDBITE OF PREVIOUS RECORDING)

NATASHA DARRINGTON: I wanted to tell my story so that the Sentencing Commission could see that someone had benefited from their decision. And I wanted them to see how well I was doing and possibly, you know, make this new law retroactive so that others could go home to their families earlier.

DADE: Michel, just yesterday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission did decide to apply a fairly new law that fixes disparities in the sentencing for crack offenders. And they decided to apply it retroactively, which means early release for up to 12,000 inmates.

MARTIN: Thank you, Corey.

DADE: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again, that's 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR.

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