By Joan Biskupic WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court's arguments on Tuesday over same-sex marriage will cap more than two decades of litigation and a transformation in public attitudes. Based on the court's actions during the past two years, a sense of inevitability is in the air: That a majority is on the verge of declaring gay marriage legal nationwide. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's pivotal member on gay rights, has been marching in this direction with opinions dating to 1996. In his most recent gay rights decision for the court in 2013, rejecting a legal definition of marriage limited to a man and woman for purposes of federal benefits, Kennedy deplored that U.S. law for making gay marriages "unequal." That 5-4 decision did not address a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but lower court judges interpreted the ruling as an endorsement of it and began invalidating state bans.
In Kathmandu Valley, quake-hit Nepalis fend for themselves
By Ross Adkin DHADING, Nepal (Reuters) - Barely any sign of an organized relief effort was visible outside Nepal's capital on Sunday, as aid agencies struggled to fly and truck relief supplies to a country stricken by its worst earthquake in eight decades. In the lush Dhading farming district 80 km (50 miles) outside Kathmandu, people camped in the open, the hospital was overflowing, the power was off and shops were closed. Many people have died," said English teacher Chandra Lama, whose home village lies two hours' drive further west. "We are waiting to see what the government will do." More than 1,100 people - or half of the total confirmed dead in Nepal - were in the Kathmandu Valley, a crossroads of the ancient civilizations of Asia and economic hub of the Himalayan nation of 28 million.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments this week on whether a drug used in Oklahoma's lethal injection mix should be banned in a case that comes as a shortage of execution chemicals has sent some states scrambling for alternatives. The main question before the nine justices in the case brought by three death row inmates that will be heard on Wednesday is whether the use of the sedative midazolam violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The case does not address the constitutionality of the death penalty in general, but brings fresh attention to the debate over whether executions should continue in the United States. Opponents say midazolam is not approved for use in painful surgeries and should not be used in the death chamber because it cannot maintain a coma-like unconsciousness, potentially leaving inmates in intense pain from lethal injection drugs that halt breathing and stop the heart.
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