Nation/World Briefs

ACLU lawsuit challenges Ill. gay marriage ban

CHICAGO – Building on the momentum of President Barack Obama’s recent support of gay marriage, two major civil rights groups in his home state filed lawsuits Wednesday in hopes of legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois.

The two lawsuits – brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the New York-based Lambda Legal – represent 25 couples statewide. Both challenge a state law that defines marriage as between a man and woman, arguing that the Illinois Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry under due process and equality clauses.

The filings come a year after Illinois enacted civil unions, but many couples in the lawsuits said civil unions made them feel like second-class citizens.

Israel’s Barak: Weigh ‘unilateral action’

JERUSALEM – There are signs the Israeli government is considering taking unilateral action if peace talks with the Palestinians remain stalled, a move which could involve a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank along the lines of a 2005 pullout from the Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a high-profile security conference on Wednesday that inaction is not an option and Israel cannot wait forever to reach an accord.

The statement reflected a growing sense of urgency in Israel about ending its 45-year entanglement with the Palestinians, even if no peace deal is possible.

Two decades of on-again, off-again peace talks have failed to yield an agreement, and negotiations have been frozen for more than three years.

Government expanding E. coli tests for meat

WASHINGTON – The government is expanding E. coli testing in some raw meat, a move expected to prevent more people from contracting the bacteria that can cause severe illness or death.

Starting Monday, the meat industry will have to test beef trimmings for six new strains of E. coli that have been linked to a growing number of illnesses.

Until now, the meat industry has been required to test for just one strain of the pathogen, known as E. coli O157:H7. That strain was identified after an outbreak at Jack in the Box fast-food restaurants killed four children.

But illnesses from that strain have decreased over the years while more people have been sickened by other strains found in foods such as lettuce and ground beef.

Associated Press