National news briefs from Tribune news services
Published: May 2, 2013 10:42PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:31PM

R.I. 10th U.S. state to legalize gay marriage

Providence, R. I. • As more than 1,000 ecstatic supporters looked on, Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Thursday signed legislation making Rhode Island the 10th state in the nation to permit gays and lesbians to wed, and establishing same-sex marriage as the law of land throughout all of New England.

“Today, we are making history,” Chafee told the crowd. “We are living up to the ideals of our founders.”

He also cast the bill in economic terms, saying vital new businesses want to come to places that reflect their values, “and now, Rhode Island does.”

Even as gay couples won the right to marry in other New England states during the past decade, the political and religious opposition in Rhode Island remained formidable, with bills repeatedly failing in the Legislature. “Democracy, though it may take a long time, does work,” said House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay.

Maryland guv signs death penalty repeal

Annapolis, Md. • Opponents of capital punishment marked a milestone Thursday as Maryland became the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line to abolish the death penalty in nearly 50 years, joining only West Virginia.

The passage was a significant victory for Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Roman Catholic who opposes capital punishment and is considering seeking the 2016 presidential nomination. Death-penalty opponents said the governor helped maintain the national momentum of repeal efforts by making Maryland the sixth state in as many years to abolish capital punishment.

“I don’t know exactly what the timing is, but over the longer arc of history I think you’ll see more and more states repeal the death penalty,” O’Malley said in a brief interview after the bill signing. “It’s wasteful. It’s ineffective. It doesn’t work to reduce violent crime.”

West Virginia, which is also south of the Mason-Dixon line, abolished the death penalty in 1965.

Maryland is the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. Neighboring Delaware also made a push to repeal it this year, but the bill has stalled.

Obama nominates Pritzker, Froman

Washington • President Barack Obama on Thursday chose two old friends with corporate executive experience for top posts on his economic team, naming longtime fundraiser Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary and adviser Michael Froman as U.S. trade representative.

Pritzker, a Hyatt hotel heiress, businesswoman and philanthropist, is Obama’s pick to fill a Cabinet post that has been vacant since former secretary, John Bryson, resigned last summer, after he said he suffered a seizure that led to a series of traffic collisions.

Froman is one of Obama’s law school classmates and senior economic advisers who previously worked as an executive at Citigroup. The Cabinet-level trade representative performs as the administration’s top adviser and negotiator on international trade. If confirmed by the Senate, Froman would replace Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor who stepped down as trade representative in February after serving in the post throughout Obama’s first term.

Obama made the nominations in the White House Rose Garden just before departing for Mexico.

Midwest schoolkids get rare snow day

Minneapolis • Schoolchildren in Minnesota and Wisconsin are getting a rare May snow day after a storm dropped up to 16 inches of sticky snow on the Upper Midwest.

Bobbi Howe’s two daughters had to stay home in the southeastern Minnesota city of Owatonna, where 15.5 inches of snow made it hard for the family to open their front door.

Owatonna was one of dozens of school districts in Minnesota and Wisconsin that canceled classes.

The Twin Cities were supposed to be in the bulls-eye but escaped unscathed when the storm tracked farther east than forecast.

But more than 16 inches of snow fell on Ashland in far northwestern Wisconsin before the storm moved on to Lake Superior. The Wisconsin State Patrol says that was a factor in a fatal collision between two semis on Interstate 94 near Menomonie.

Hayward, Wis., got 15 inches and other communities including Baldwin, Barron, Ellsworth and Spring Valley got 14 inches.