Nation roundup for January 2


Same-sex unions start in Maryland

BALTIMORE (AP) — Same-sex couples in Maryland were greeted with cheers and noisemakers held over from New Year’s Eve parties, as gay marriage became legal in the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line on New Year’s Day.

James Scales, 68, was married to William Tasker, 60, on Tuesday shortly after midnight by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake inside City Hall.

“It’s just so hard to believe it’s happening,” Scales said shortly before marrying his partner of 35 years.

Six other same-sex couples also were being married at City Hall. Ceremonies were taking place in other parts of the state as well.

The ceremonies follow a legislative fight that pitted Gov. Martin O’Malley against leaders of his Catholic faith. Voters in the state, founded by Catholics in the 17th century, sealed the change by approving a November ballot question.

“There is no human institution more sacred than that of the one that you are about to form,” Rawlings-Blake said during the brief ceremony. “True marriage, true marriage, is the dearest of all earthly relationships.”

Brigitte Ronnett, who also was married, said she hopes one day to see full federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Maryland, Maine and Washington state were the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote, in November, a development Ronnett said was significant.

“I think it’s a great sign when you see that popular opinion is now in favor of this,” said Ronnett, 51, who married Lisa Walther, 51, at City Hall.

Gov. to sue over PSU sanctions

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett said Tuesday he plans to sue the NCAA in federal court over stiff sanctions imposed against Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

The Republican governor scheduled a Wednesday news conference on the Penn State campus in State College to announce the filing in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.

The sanctions, which were agreed to by the university in July, included a $60 million fine that would be used nationally to finance child abuse prevention grants. The sanctions also included a four-year bowl game ban for the university’s marquee football program, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins.

The governor’s office announced the news conference late Tuesday afternoon. Corbett’s brief statement did not indicate whether his office coordinated its legal strategy with state Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, who is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 15.

Kane, a Democrat, ran on a vow to investigate why it took state prosecutors nearly three years to charge Sandusky, an assistant under former football coach Joe Paterno.

Corbett was the attorney general when that office took over the case in early 2009 and until he became governor in January 2011.

State and congressional lawmakers from Pennsylvania have objected to using the Penn State fine to finance activities in other states. Penn State has already made the first $12 million payment, and an NCAA task force is deciding how it should be spent.

Oscar voting deadline extends

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Growing concern that problems with the new electronic Oscar voting system could lead to record-low turnout has prompted the motion picture academy to extend the deadline for members to vote for Oscar nominations.

But next week’s highly anticipated announcements looming, the extension is only for a day, until Friday. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday any votes received after the new deadline will not be counted.

“By extending the voting deadline we are providing every opportunity available to make the transition to online balloting as smooth as possible,” said the academy’s chief operating officer, Ric Robertson, in a statement. “We’re grateful to our global membership for joining us in this process.”

Reports of difficulty accessing the Oscars’ first-ever online voting system and fears that it could be hacked have raised questions about balloting for the 85th annual contest. Earlier this year, the academy and its longtime accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, partnered with the electronic voting firm Everyone Counts Inc. to develop the system.

In the past, Oscar voting has been compiled strictly through paper ballots sent through the mail. The new system allows members to choose between voting online or sticking with a traditional mail-in ballot.

Morgan Spurlock, the documentary filmmaker whose 2004 film “Super Size Me” was nominated for best documentary, posted on Twitter last week that he wasn’t able to log on to vote electronically and his ballot was instead mailed to him.

 

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