Obama backflips on anti-gay marriage bill

The Age
The Obama administration has dropped its support for a US law that says marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. The decision, welcomed by gay rights advocates and human rights groups, is sure to spark renewed controversy in America and a likely showdown in the Congress. Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed the policy reversal today, saying the administration would no longer defend the Defence of Marriage Act, the 1996 anti-gay marriage bill that Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed into law. Mr Holder said he and President Obama agreed that the law was unconstitutional and discriminated against same-sex couples, who are legally married but whose status is not recognised by the federal government.

Muslim lobby group backs Libs in Labor strongholds

The Australian
A hard-fought contest for Muslim votes is under way before the March 26 state election as the powerful Lebanese Muslim Association throws its support behind a swag of Liberal candidates in the Labor strongholds of southwestern Sydney, urging Muslim voters to punish the state Labor government for neglecting them. The LMA has declared its backing for Liberal candidates in the safe Labor seats of Bankstown, Lakemba, Canterbury, Auburn, Liverpool and Granville, electorates where the proportion of Muslim voters is as high as 17 per cent. LMA president Samier Dandan, an IT entrepreneur and onetime member of former prime minister John Howard's Muslim reference group, says the ALP has betrayed Muslim voters by failing to deliver support or services in Sydney's southwest.

Foreigners leave as Gaddafi loses control of Libya's east

The Australian
The Gaddafi regime has lost vast swathes of Libya's east to an insurrection, as the West prepared for a mass exodus from a "bloodbath" in the north African country. With condemnation of the brutal crackdown growing and foreigners fleeing the oil-rich country, Muammar Gaddafi was increasingly isolated on the international scene after reports hundreds of civilians were killed in the backlash by his forces. Europe moved to isolate the regime, readying sanctions and warning it would hold to account those responsible for the bloody crackdown. At London's Gatwick airport, foreigners who escaped said Tripoli had descended into war-like scenes.

Voters punish dissent in the ranks

The Australian
The federal Liberal Party's recent infighting is a stark reminder of the fragile alliances and uneasy relationships within political parties. So close to government and contemptuous of their opponents, the Liberals think they have the luxury of jockeying for position without political fallout. They are wrong. The public has a nose for self-indulgence and will punish disunity. Every time Tony Abbott has to defend a shadow minister for stuffing up, he is at risk of collateral damage. Every time there is a leak, the public will ask who is running this ship. Abbott has to keep his focus on the enemy in front. He must also take charge of the economic debate. Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb are performing well in different ways but Abbott must stamp his authority on this area. He should keep doing big policy speeches to demonstrate why he has the breadth and depth to be a better prime minister than Julia Gillard and the pretenders, Bill Shorten and Greg Combet.

Pell does not have the gospel truth on climate change

The Punch
Cardinal George Pell has been a spiritual adviser to Tony Abbott and he would have provided welcomed guidance to the Opposition Leader over the years. But a mild-mannered weather forecaster has raised the prospect that Cardinal Pell might have misled his closest friend in his political flock on the secular issue of climate change policy. Dr Greg Ayers is director of the Bureau of Meteorology and on Monday night he used a Senate estimates committee hearing to take on the cardinal, his scientific adviser, and a handful of senators who thought they could talk him down.

A response: (Unborn) Human Rights 101

The Australian Family Association responds to Tory Shepherd’s Punch column on abortion.

The Punch
Ah pro-choice warriors, methinks thou dost protest too much. The sheer passion and vigour with which you attack anyone who gives off even the vaguest whiff of pro-life sentiment casts doubt upon the substance of your convictions. Shout those evil medievalists down! Throw names, mud, whatever – just make sure you get ‘em good! (Just quietly though: throwing a tantrum and slagging off a 16 year old for saying that the little critter inside mummy’s tummy is a baby doesn’t exactly do wonders for your journalistic cred.)

A leader of the disadvantaged

Helen Prendergast - The Age
Edith Hall, a woman of courage and intelligence who overcame polio as a child to become a leading advocate for the disabled at Victorian and national levels, has died at a nursing home in Port Macquarie after suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She was 77. For four decades she maintained a strong commitment to social justice for people with disabilities, and she championed women's rights. In 1984, Hall was appointed by the Hawke government to chair the National Women's Consultative Council, and as convener she encouraged the council to concentrate on issues on the government's agenda that particularly affected women. She contributed to the development of the National Agenda for Women, with recommendations about social security, violence against women, women's health, education and workplace discrimination.