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Arkansas Court Throws Out Ruling on Birth Certificate Law

(AP) Arkansas' highest court on Thursday threw out a judge's ruling that could have allowed all married same-sex couples to get the names of both spouses on their children's birth certificates without a court order, saying it doesn't violate equal protection "to acknowledge basic biological truths."

The state Supreme Court also issued a rare admonishment to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, saying he made "inappropriate remarks" in his ruling that struck down the birth certificate law. Fox had cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage in his ruling last year that said married same-sex couples should have both names listed on their children's birth certificates, just as heterosexual married couples do, without requiring a court order.

In the state Supreme Court's decision Thursday, the justices sided with the state attorney general's office, saying Arkansas has a vested interest in listing biological parents on birth certificates.

"What is before this court is a narrow issue of whether the birth-certificate statutes as written deny the appellees due process," Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote in the court's majority opinion. "...In the situation involving the female spouse of a biological mother, the female spouse does not have the same biological nexus to the child that the biological mother or the biological father has. It does not violate equal protection to acknowledge basic biological truths."

Cheryl Maples, who sued on behalf of three same-sex couples, said she hasn't decided yet whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The three couples who sued were allowed to amend their children's birth certificates last year under a ruling issued by Fox.


Next North Carolina Governor Says He can Carry Out Agenda

(AP) North Carolina's incoming Democratic governor said Wednesday he's optimistic he'll be able to repeal the law limiting state and local LGBT protections, vowing to pull back the conservative agenda of a Republican-dominated legislature.

Roy Cooper told The Associated Press in an interview - two days after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory conceded - that he wants to assemble issue-specific bipartisan coalitions on such matters as education, renewable energy, criminal justice reform and ending House Bill 2. That law known as H.B. 2, signed by McCrory, also directs transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

Republicans still will command veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate in 2017, so Cooper will be hard-pressed to block Republican legislation. Just a few GOP lawmakers now say they want the bill repealed, but Cooper believes more would be willing as the fallout of a national outcry continues to impact the state.

Opposition from major business CEOs, entertainers and sports organizations has dealt a blow to North Carolina's business-friendly image, leading companies to pull back on expanding in the state.

Citing the law, the NBA moved its All-Star game and the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference sent championship events out of North Carolina.

"I believe that most or all of the legislators understand the severe economic impact of House Bill 2 that it's having on us and that something needs to be done," Cooper said in the phone interview.

GOP legislative leaders continue to defend the law, saying it provides privacy and protection for children using restrooms and locker rooms.

Noting an argument raised by some, the U.S. Justice Department and others contend the threat of sexual predators posing as transgender persons to enter a bathroom is practically nonexistent.

Meanwhile, backers of the law say the economic impact has been negligible compared to the state's entire economy, which is benefiting from the recovery.


Malta Bans Gay Conversion Therapy, a First for Europe

(AP) Malta has become the first European country to ban gay conversion therapy, imposing fines of up to 10,000 euros ($10,750) and a jail term of up to one year for offenders.

The Maltese Parliament approved a law Wednesday that effectively outlaws any attempts to "cure" gay people of their sexual orientations.

The law stipulates that "no sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression constitutes a disorder, disease or shortcoming of any sort."

It also lowers to 16 the age at which minors can request a gender change without their parents' approval.

Transgender Europe says the small Mediterranean country is the first in Europe to outlaw conversion therapy.

Malta has been at the forefront of progressive social reforms in Europe since the Labour government was elected in 2013.