Regional

Kentucky Clerk Asks Court to Dismiss Gay Marriage Lawsuit

Jun 21, 2016
Ryland Barton

A Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is asking a federal appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit against her.

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis says a new state law taking effect next month should be applied retroactively.

Davis stopped issuing marriage licenses after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling effectively legalized gay marriage last year. Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her. A federal judge ordered herto issue the licenses, but she refused and went to jail.

The Kentucky legislature approved a new law in April removing the county clerks' names and authorizations from state marriage licenses. Davis said the law accommodates her religious beliefs and makes the lawsuit against her unnecessary.

A hearing has been set for next month.

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

A judge says Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer can remove a confederate monument near the University of Louisville campus.

The mayor and U of L President James Ramsey announced plans to remove the statue in late April, but a group headed up by the Sons of Confederate Veterans challenged the move, saying the monument was protected as a designated historical object.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell called the group’s legal arguments “dishonest.”

“There wasn’t a single shred of evidence to support any of their allegations,” O’Connell said. “The entire thing was a sham.”

Lisa Autry

It’s opening day for a substance abuse treatment center in Bowling Green.  Recovery Kentucky will begin accepting clients at its new men’s campus on Old Louisville Road. 

Former heroin addict Chris Thomas is director of the 107-bed facility.  He says treatment centers are an addict’s best chance at success.

"For every dollar we spend on these programs it's saving the taxpayers about three dollars.  It's a big difference in terms of breaking the cycle and sending them straight from jail back into society or giving them six or seven months of treatment where we phase them back into society, and they become a lot more successful that way."

Some of the clients will be referred from the Department of Corrections while others will voluntarily report to the facility.  Despite concerns from a nearby domestic violence shelter, Thomas says the center will not house violent or sexual offenders.

Bowling Green PD

A man killed in a shoot-out inside a Tennessee home has been confirmed as the same man who robbed a Bowling Green bank this week.

Bowling Green police say Eddy Connor was hiding inside the home after escaping from a police chase Tuesday. He was discovered when the homeowner returned home Wednesday morning. Both Connor and the unidentified homeowner were killed in an exchange of gunfire.

Connor reportedly had an extensive criminal record in his native Florida and was featured on a 2012 episode of the TV show “America’s Most Wanted”. He reportedly escaped from jail more than half a dozen times.

Bowling Green PD

A woman is in custody and a man-hunt continues in Tennessee for a man accused of robbing the Citizens First Bank on Campbell Lane in Bowling Green Tuesday morning.

The woman, 53 year old Colleen Watkins, was captured Tuesday afternoon following a vehicle pursuit. The unidentified man ran from the van she was driving and is still at large.

Video from the bank shows the man waiting in line and then demanding money from a teller when he got to the counter. No gun was shown.

The man then ran behind the bank and got into the van driven by Watkins.

Franklin police spotted the van several hours later and chased it into Portland, Tennessee, finally stopping it with the use of spike strips that flattened its tires.

The male passenger took off into the woods off Tennessee Route 25.

Watkins is in the Sumner County jail on a first degree robbery charge. More charges are possible.

More than 1,200 people died of drug overdoses in Kentucky last year.  Heroin accounted for 28 percent of those deaths, but state officials are most concerned about a prescription drug being mixed with heroin. 

Fentanyl is an opioid that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin and can prove deadly at very low levels, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. 

A report issued Tuesday by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy underscores the dangers of Fentanyl, which accounted for 420 overdose deaths in 2015, or 34 percent of all overdose deaths in the state. 

Former heroin addict Chris Thomas of Bowling Green says Fentanyl has a tranquilizing effect.

"The effects of heroin, when you use it, you're going to be drowsy and a lot people almost pass out  immediately, and Fentanyl is going to increase that," Thomas told WKU Public Radio.  "It's a cheaper drug than heroin and you think in the end you're getting a better product, but it's going to be more likely to kill you."

Thomas says some heroin users could be consuming Fentanyl and not be aware of it.  Fentanyl accounted for 420 overdose deaths in 2015, or 34 percent of all overdose deaths in the state.  The drug’s high potency allows traffickers to reap more profits.  The legislature passed a bill last year to improve treatment and increase penalties for traffickers.

Diocese of Owensboro

The Catholic Diocese of Owensboro has suspended the pastor of a Union County church who is accused of sexual misconduct decades ago.  The Rev. Freddie Byrd was removed as pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Morganfield. 

A complaint issued this month accuses Byrd of inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old juvenile in 1983.  According to a statement from the diocese, Byrd was not a priest at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.  The diocese says it is conducting its own investigation and has notified law enforcement. 

The Most Rev. William Medley, bishop for the Diocese of Owensboro, issued the following statement:

“Any allegation of the abuse of a minor is unsettling. The Diocese of Owensboro has offered support to the alleged victim in this case. In a sad moment such as this, it is always incumbent upon us to address any who may have ever suffered abuse within the embrace of the Catholic Church and invite them to come to us that we might offer support and assure that no one else is ever harmed.”

The Messenger-Inquirer reports Byrd’s name was mentioned in a suicide letter left by an Owensboro man who shot himself outside of Blessed Mother Catholic Church in 2008. The church was led by Byrd at the time of the death. The letter discussed sexual abuse, but never accused the pastor of misconduct.  An investigation by the Owensboro Police Department cleared Byrd of any wrongdoing.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Brent Moore

A number of remembrances are being held throughout the country in honor of those who died over the weekend in the mass shooting in Orlando. 

A prayer service will take place Monday evening at The Presbyterian Church in Bowling Green.  Pastor Matthew Covington says some of the church’s members are openly gay. He hopes they don’t feel singled out by the attack.

"All of us in the world needs God's mercy and care, and to single them out as a certain group that deserves  punishment or rebuke is short-sided," Covington told WKU Public Radio.  "This is something that should not have happened, and it is a symbol of brokenness in our community and world."

Covington says he believes the shooting was more than an attack on gays, but an attack on America.  

The service in Bowling Green is open to the public and will start at 6:30 p.m. at The Presbyterian Church on State Street.

WKU PBS

The recent public spotlight on substandard conditions at an Edmonson County animal shelter has brought an outpouring of support for several other shelters in the region.  

About sixty cats and dogs were taken from the Edmonson County shelter over a week ago after a Kentucky State Police raid. Twenty-seven of those dogs ended up at the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society.

Adoption Center manager Leah Lawrence says community support has been amazing.

“People have just come out of the woodwork to try to help. They’ve come out to bathe the dogs, to make donations, donate money toward sponsorships and our medical fund. And it’s been a real blessing that people have supported us the way that they have in this.”

A hometown hero is being laid to rest in Louisville, Ky., as Muhammad Ali, the boxer and humanitarian, is buried Friday. Fans came to the city from far and wide to pay their respects as Ali's body passed by on its way to a private burial.

Ali died one week ago, at age 74; at a memorial service in the KFC Yum Center in downtown Louisville, the friends he'd chosen to speak — including Billy Crystal, Bryant Gumbel, and Sen. Orrin Hatch — discussed Ali's talents and, more especially, his expansive humanity and his navigation of a troubled era in America's history.

You can hear the event as part of an NPR special hosted by Melissa Block (see link above). The memorial also featured eulogies from Ali's wife, Lonnie, and Louisville restaurateur John Ramsey. Religious and cultural leaders also spoke. The final eulogy was delivered by former President Bill Clinton.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Thousands gathered at Freedom Hall on Thursday for a Muslim funeral prayer service in honor of Muhammad Ali.

A diverse crowd gathered for the service, which was open to the public and held at the site of Ali’s last hometown fight in 1961. Notable figures from Ali’s life also attended, including boxing promoter Don King and civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Salaam Bhatti came from New York City to attend.

“Muhammad Ali became a household name, and essentially he was the first Muslim a lot of people knew in life,” Bhatti said. “And now in death, his funeral is the first Muslim funeral prayer service many will get to witness. And it’s something that he would be so proud of.”

Nancy Demartra from Louisville attended with several friends to honor The Champ, and also to make a statement.

U.S. Army

Army ROTC is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week with a ceremony at Fort Knox.

The post said senior leaders from across the nation, members of the U.S. Army Cadet Command and people from the community will take part.

The former commander of Africa Command, retired Gen. Carter F. Ham, will be the keynote speaker during the event Friday. The post said in a news release that the Golden Knights Parachute Team will conduct a demonstration, and the command will induct over 300 people into the Army ROTC Hall of Fame.

International Bluegrass Music Center

The city of Owensboro awarded the construction contract to build the new International Bluegrass Music Center to Peyronnin Construction of Evansville Wednesday. Peyronnin was the lowest of four bids for the project at $9.2 million.

Preconstruction is expected to begin within the next two weeks at the site on the corner of 2nd and Frederica Streets. Completion of the center is expected in the spring of 2018.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer quotes mayor Ron Payne as saying the project is good for the entire state of Kentucky, not just Owensboro. Payne said Peyronnin's bid wasn't a lot higher than original estimates which was surprising since a lot of construction projects underway in the area cause construction costs to rise.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and former Governor Steve Beshear are expected at a groundbreaking for the building on June 23rd. The Bluegrass Center received $5 million in state funding under Beshear's administration.

Aide to Read Letter from Obama at Ali Memorial Service

Jun 8, 2016
J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

President Barack Obama won't be attending Muhammad Ali's memorial service, but he and first lady Michelle Obama are sending a letter with a close aide to be read at Friday's service.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will represent the president at the service in Louisville, Kentucky. The White House says Jarrett knew Ali personally.

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman says the Obamas are unable to attend because they'll be at their daughter Malia's high school graduation ceremony in Washington.

Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell says Ali's widow, Lonnie, and Obama have spoken by phone and that she appreciated the president's "kind words and condolences."

Gunnell says two of Ali's daughters, Rasheda and Maryum, will speak at the service, as well as Islamic studies scholar Timothy Gianotti. Former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend, will deliver the eulogy.

Activists File Suit Challenging Tennessee Counseling Law

Jun 8, 2016
Creative Commons

Two gay rights activists have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Tennessee law that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles.

Bleu Copas is an Anderson County man who says he was discharged from the Army under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Caleb Laieski is an activist from Virginia. Their lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Anderson County Chancery Court. It claims the new law targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, violating the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.

Gov. Bill Haslam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Donnals, says the governor's office is unaware of any lawsuits challenging the counseling law and has not seen the Anderson County suit.

The American Counseling Association last month canceled a planned conference in Nashville because of the law.

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