In the year of 2013, we had several ups and downs: bombings, deaths, births and significant accomplishments. Here at Ignite UNMC, we will be writing about the biggest news of 2013 as we bid the current year a goodbye and welcome 2014 with open arms.
Supreme Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional
On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as being unconstitutional as a “deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment”. Later that day,
it also issued a separate decision which effectively allowed same-sex marriages in California.
The Defense of Marriage Act primarily was a United States federal law that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. This law has come under heavy fire for depriving same-sex couples from the right to marry whoever they choose to. DOMA was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, while during the Obama administration, the United States Justice Department initially defended the law despite the administration’s desire and efforts to repeal it. In early 2011, the Justice Department changed opinions and found the law unconstitutional and ceased to defend it any longer.
Upon the Supreme Court’s decision, a number of same-sex couples that were sitting in the audience of the courtroom were reported to look up to the ceiling, while others wiped away tears. Many gay and lesbian individuals view this act as a step in the right direction, especially when the decision to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
United States President Barack Obama has celebrated and praised the decision: “this was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it.”
In 2013, Edward Snowden rocked the world with news that US government was carrying out mass surveillance programs on its citizens. Snowden is an American computer specialist, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee and a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. He disclosed classified NSA documents to several media outlets, primarily The Guardian.
Starting in June 2013, he revealed Internet surveillance programs such as PRISM, XKeyscore and Tempora and the interception of US and European telephone metadata. PRISM is a program that collects and stores Internet communications based on demands given by the NSA to Internet companies like Google Inc. to turn over data that matches court-approved search terms. Snowden has characterized the extent of mass data collection to be “dangerous” and far greater than what the public is aware of.
Since then, Edward Snowden has been widely criticized and praised. He has been called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident and a traitor and a patriot. Snowden, in an interview, said that his sole motive was to “inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. His leaks have fueled debates and controversy over mass surveillance and the balance between national security and information privacy.
Snowden is now considered a fugitive and is currently living in Russia under temporary asylum. He has been charged by American authorities with espionage and theft of government property. In December, a federal judge declared the government has violated the US Constitution. However, two weeks later, another federal judge has ruled the data collection programs to be legal, and the case is now likely to travel up to the Supreme Court.
US Government Goes Into Shutdown
In the month of October, a large portion of international news centered around the United States government and its failure to come to a democratic decision.
From October 1 to October 16, the federal government entered what is called a ‘shutdown’ where most routine operations were reduced after Congress failed to pass legislation regulating funds for the fiscal year of 2014. The last government shutdown occurred in 1995-1996 during President Bill Clinton’s era.The shutdown occurred when the two chambers of the US Congress failed to agree on a budget. The House of Representatives, which is led by
Republicans, offered several resolutions that delayed or defunded the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is commonly known as Obamacare. On the other side, the Democratic-led Senate then passed several budget plans that kept the funding for the Affordable Care Act at the same level with no additional conditions. Political fights occurred over this along with many other issues which then lead to the government shutdown. Major players of the shutdown included Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas and Barack Obama, president of the United States.
During the course of the shutdown, about 800,000 federal employees were indefinitely given temporary leave by the government, while another 1.3 million employees were required to work without any known or decided payment date. The government shutdown ended on October 16, 2013 with Congress passing the Continuing Appropriations Act 2014 which also suspended the debt limit until February 7, 2014. Many individuals were worried about the debt limit (also known as the debt ceiling) which might have caused the US economy to suffer greatly and cause the US to default on its lending.