San Antonio adopts gay-bias protections

San Antonio’s leaders Thursday approved anti-bias protections for gay and transgender residents, despite the disapproval of top Texas Republicans and religious conservatives who packed a City Council hearing and occasionally criticized supporters for comparing the issue to the civil rights movement.

The 8 to 3 council vote in favor of the ordinance was a victory for gay-rights advocates and for Mayor Julian Castro (D), a top surrogate of President Obama. Castro has called the ordinance overdue in the nation’s seventh-largest city, where there is a stronger current of traditionalism and conservatism than in other major Texas cities that already have similar gay-rights protections.

San Antonio joins nearly 180 other U.S. cities that have nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibit bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

— Associated Press

Prison inmates end 60-day hunger strike

State inmates on Thursday ended a 60-day hunger strike after lawmakers said they would review solitary-confinement policies that kept dozens of gang leaders and members locked up for more than a decade in tiny, individual cells with little chance of returning to the general population.

Anne Weills, a lawyer representing strike leaders at Pelican Bay Prison near the Oregon border, said they met in the law library Wednesday with other prisoners and voted to end the protest several days after two Democratic lawmakers promised to hold hearings on their complaints.

Three of the four strike leaders have been kept in isolation for more than 20 years and the fourth for more than a decade. All four are serving life sentences for murder, officials said.

More than 30,000 inmates throughout the state prison system had refused meals when the strike began in early July over the isolation units and the indeterminate periods that some inmates can serve in the harsh conditions. By this week, the number had dwindled to 100, including 40 who had been on strike continuously since July 8.

— Associated Press

Rule bars assistance for injured wildlife

Wildlife lovers are protesting a new state rule in Alabama they say is a death sentence for helpless raccoons, skunks and other wild animals.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Thursday it will no longer issue permits for the rehabilitation of certain orphaned or injured raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, coyotes, feral pigs or bats.

Anyone who finds an orphaned or hurt animal should leave it in the wild, the agency said, and humane organizations should euthanize any of the animals they receive.

Removing orphaned or injured animals from the wild and nursing them interrupts the food chain and could help spread diseases such as rabies, said biologist Ray Metzler, assistant chief of wildlife for the agency.

— Associated Press

Zimmerman’s wife files for divorce: The wife of George Zimmerman filed for divorce Thursday, less than two months after the Florida man was acquitted of murder in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, her lawyer said. Shellie Zimmerman, 26, sought the divorce after saying in an ABC News interview last week that the trial had strained their marriage of six years. She also said in the interview that she was unsure whether she would remain married to him.

Family to claim Castro’s body: The family of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro, who hanged himself in prison, said they would claim his body Thursday, said Franklin County, Ohio, coroner Jan Gorniak. Castro committed suicide late Tuesday by hanging himself with a bedsheet in his cell at a prison where he was serving a sentence of life plus 1,000 years for the abduction, torture and confinement of three women over a decade.

Judge frees father of ‘Baby Veronica’: The biological father of “Baby Veronica,” a Native American girl at the heart of a protracted custody battle, surrendered to Oklahoma police Thursday to be extradited to South Carolina. An hour later, a local judge released him on bail and set a hearing for Oct. 3. On Wednesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed an order to have Dusten Brown extradited to South Carolina to face charges of interfering with the parental rights of Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the adoptive parents of the 3-year-old.

— From news services