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Oklahoma gay marriage case before US appeals court

DENVER (AP) - An appeals court in Denver is hearing its second gay marriage case in two weeks.

A panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing a case from Oklahoma on Thursday. That is one week after it heard the appeal of a judge's ruling that found Utah's gay marriage ban is unconstitutional.

The two cases are similar. They are significant because they are the first time an appeals court has considered gay marriage since a big U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year shook up the legal landscape.

It could be months before the judges rule on the two cases. They probably will issue a separate ruling for each case, but the rulings could come on the same day.

Their decision almost certainly will be appealed. The Supreme Court likely will have the final word on gay marriage.


Okla. justices send execution case to lower court

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court says it is not the place for death-row inmates to go if they want a stay of execution.

Justices said Thursday that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals should take up stay requests from two inmates scheduled to die in the next two weeks. The appeals court had said previously it didn't have the authority because the inmates hadn't met all technical requirements under the law.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner have sued the state seeking more information about the drugs that would be used to kill them. They say they need stays of execution so they can continue their challenge.

The justices wrote that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not taking up the request.


Death penalty abolitionists to protest executions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Death penalty abolitionists and others who seek to end the death penalty will protest the executions of two death-row inmates on the days of their executions.

The Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty will host "Don't Kill for Me" demonstrations at the governor's mansion followed by silent vigils on Tuesday for death-row inmate Clayton Lockett and on April 29 for Charles Warner.

The inmates have been in a legal battle with the state over the secrecy surrounding which drugs are used in executions and their origins. The executions are still scheduled to take place, despite pending litigation in the case.

Lockett was found guilty of the 1999 shooting death of a 19-year-old woman, Stephanie Nieman. Warner was convicted for the 1997 death of his roommate's 11-month-old daughter.


Oklahoma House's top Democrat: No time for tax cut

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House's top Democrat says critical state education and transportation needs coupled with declining tax revenue means the timing is not right to pass an income tax cut this year.

Democratic Leader Scott Inman of Oklahoma City made the comments shortly after the House adjourned on Thursday. Proposals to reduce the state's 5.25 percent top income tax rate by a quarter of a percentage point once revenues improve are expected to be considered by the Legislature next week.

Inman says educators have asked lawmakers to restore budget cuts that have trimmed $200 million from public school budgets in recent years. And lawmakers want to increase funding for road and bridge repairs.

Inman says those goals cannot be achieved as long as lawmakers continue to cut back on revenue.


Hospice owner, manager charged with Medicare fraud

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A hospice in Chandler, its owner and the general manager have been charged in a 39-count federal indictment with defrauding Medicare.

U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats said Thursday that Prairie View Hospice, owner Paula Kluding and manager Patricia Carter are each charged with conspiracy, obstruction of a federal audit, and making false statements in health care matter.

Defense attorneys did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Coats says the hospice, through Kluding and Carter, concealed the true medical condition of patients in order to pass a Medicare audit and receive Medicare reimbursements for patient care.

Hospice care consists of health care, medication, medical equipment and other services to terminally ill patients.


3 additional deaths due to flu reported in Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health reports three more deaths due to influenza to raise the total number this flu season to 61.

The deaths reported Thursday are the first in the state since early March and adds to the record number reported during the flu season that began in September. The previous record of 46 flu deaths in 2009 - the year the state began tracking the statistic - was broken in February.

Tulsa County has had the most deaths with 10, followed by Comanche County with six, Oklahoma County with five and Cleveland County with four. Logan, Muskogee, Pittsburg and Wagoner counties each have three deaths.

Carter, Creek, Le Flore, Mayes, McClain, and Washington counties have each had two deaths while 12 counties have one death each.


Passenger traffic increases at Tulsa airport

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Passenger traffic has increased at the Tulsa International Airport over last year.

Airport officials said Thursday the increase of more than 8 percent in March over the same period in 2013 is due to the addition of flights and continued success of the area's energy, aviation and manufacturing industries.

Airlines serving the airport scheduled more than 2,800 additional seats and 99 additional flights in March compared to a year ago. Southwest Airlines also launched daily service to Chicago Midway in April 2013 and Allegiant launched twice-weekly service to Orlando in October.

Officials say the increase is also due to the launch last March of the Tulsa Regional Air Service Initiative - a program to retain and attract air service from Tulsa in order to grow the airport's passenger numbers.

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