By Christy Barritt
Permits for Baptisms?
This summer, the National Park Service began enforcing a policy in Missouri that required churches to obtain special use permits in order to baptize in public waters. They also mandated that churches give the NPS 48 hours advance notice of pending baptisms.
The NPS informed churches in the Show Me State that specific terms and conditions had been established in order to “maintain park natural/cultural resources and quality visitor experiences.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith pointed out the National Park Service doesn’t require 48-hour notification from fishermen or swimmers.
After some people voiced outrage, the Park Service changed its policy and now says permits aren’t needed.
Other localities across the country have also experienced similar restrictions. An Olympia, Washington church, for example, was denied a permit to hold a baptism at a park this past summer because the attorney general said that religious sacrament was a violation of the state constitution.
IRS Recognizes Same-Sex Marriages
For tax purposes, the IRS will now consider same-sex marriages as the equivalent of marriage. Although 37 states still don’t recognize gay marriage, the federal government has mandated that this law be applied even if the same sex-couple is legally married in one state, but lives in another state that has not redefined marriage.
The Treasury Department and IRS made the announcement in September. This comes after the Supreme Court, in June, overturned a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes such as insurance benefits, immigration, and tax filings.
The decision means that same-sex married couples may file their 2013 federal income taxes as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.”
Iowa Ends “Tele-Med” Abortions
The Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 to stop what’s called “tele-med” abortions in the state.
A tele-med procedure occurs when an abortionist communicates with a woman in another city or country via the Internet in order to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs.
The board’s decision hinged on standard of care, according to medical board chairman Dr. Greg Hoversten.
“How can any of us possibly find that a medical abortion performed over the Internet is as safe as one provided by a physician in person?” he said.
This procedure was started in 2008 at a Planned Parenthood in Des Moines, Iowa.
Proponents of this measure said they’re thrilled that these “webcam” abortions will now be banned.
Walmart Grants Benefits to Domestic Partners
Walmart announced to its employees that, beginning next year, full-time workers can share company benefits with any domestic partner of their choosing.
This applies to all employees, whether they’re gay or straight, married or unmarried. It will go into effect in 2014 across all 50 states.
Now health insurance and life insurance will be extended to spouses and domestic partners regardless of gender.
The world’s largest retailer said this was a business decision made partly in response to Obamacare and the recent Supreme Court decision to strike down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. They said that offering coverage to everyone was easier than trying to navigate the newly complicated legal landscape.
Experts are saying that Walmart’s decision may have a domino effect on other companies and that it could set an example for corporations across the country.
Christy Barritt is an award-winning author, freelance writer, and speaker living in Chesapeake, Virginia. She and her husband Scott have two sons.