WVAS Local News
It's been a full week of U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The High court essentially nullified the Defense of Marriage Act paving the way for legally married same-sex couples to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Alabama is one of 35 states that have laws banning same-sex marriage, but the state's first openly gay public official, Democratic State Representative Patricia Todd says, in light of the ruling, she and her partner will file lawsuits challenging the law.
Photo ID Law
Alabama officials say voters apparently will have to present identification at the polls in the next election. Officials including Gov. Robert Bentley, Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said the Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday throwing out part of the federal Voting Rights Act means the state does not have to submit for preclearance a new law requiring voters to have photo identification. But Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery said he feels the voter identification law needed to be reviewed by the Justice Department. He fears it will be used to intimidate blacks and keep some elderly people from being able to vote.
Criminal Cases Backlog
State officials say funding cuts and the closure of several drug investigation labs has led to a backlog delaying more than 30,000 criminal cases from going to court. Montgomery Regional Laboratory Director Katherine Richert says that nearly 30,400 are unresolved because of understaffing and a spike in cases after the closure of several regional laboratories. Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences Director, Michael Sparks, says forensic labs in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Dothan and Auburn are also struggling to keep up with processing drug cases after the closure of three regional laboratories. Sparks says the state will likely catch up when newly-hired chemists finish an 18-24 month training program and are cleared to examine evidence.