POLITICS: PennAve

Supreme Court rules on AIDS funding, sentencing, class-action lawsuits

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Politics,Health,Judicial Branch,Supreme Court,PennAve,Sean Lengell

Justices hold off ruling on major cases

The Supreme Court on Thursday kept the nation waiting for its pending decisions on major cases regarding gay marriage, voting rights and affirmation action, instead issuing rulings on three significantly lower-profile cases.

In one opinion issued Thursday, the justices voted 6-3 to strike down a federal law that forces private health organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition to get AIDS funding.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court, said the law's anti-prostitution pledge improperly restricts the groups' First Amendment rights.

Four organizations that work in Africa, Asia and South America challenged the 2003 law, arguing their work has nothing to do with prostitution.

In another ruling, the justices voted 8-1 to reverse a lower court's decision in a move that will make it more difficult for the government to use the facts of a prior conviction to enhance a federal criminal sentence.

The high court also upheld a law that places certain restrictions on persons wanting to join a class-action lawsuit against a business.

The justices have yet to rule on 11 cases that they have heard oral arguments on this term, including challenges to federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's "Proposition 8" -- laws that define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman -- and a challenge to the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The high court is expected to issue more rulings Monday. The court's current term is scheduled end late next week, though the justices could extend it further.

Wire services contributed.

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