Washington becomes 7th state to legalize same-sex marriage

Posted Feb. 13, 2012, at 9:10 p.m.

SEATTLE — In a ceremony at the state Capitol in Olympia, Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday signed legislation to give same-sex couples the same right to a marriage license as anyone else, making Washington the seventh state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Look into your hearts and ask yourselves: ‘Isn’t it time?’ “ said Gregoire, a Democrat and Catholic who weathered strong opposition to the measure, including a last-minute “action alert” from the state’s Roman Catholic Church leadership.

The debate in the state Legislature — which approved the bill on split votes in both houses — had been measured, lacking the name-calling and fireworks that often characterize the issue. The issue is far from settled. Conservative and religious leaders have vowed to collect signatures for a referendum to overturn the law.

The statute, due to take effect on June 7, would be held in abeyance if referendum proponents succeeded in placing it on the November ballot.

Senate GOP bill would restore Keystone pipeline

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans introduced an amendment Monday to a federal transportation bill that would speed the construction and operation of a controversial oil pipeline between Canada and the United States.

The move sparked a backlash from environmentalists, who generated hundreds of thousands of emails against the amendment within hours.

It remains unclear how quickly the Senate will vote on the amendment, which has the backing of 44 Republicans and one Democrat, because Senate Democratic leaders oppose it.

The amendment indicates the debate over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline — which would transport heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries — will continue to help define the two parties this election. Proponents say it will create jobs and provide the United States with a reliable energy supply. Opponents argue that the energy-intensive extraction of crude in Canada will accelerate climate change, and they worry that a spill could jeopardize sensitive habitat.

2 students attacked with hammer in Columbine High School

DENVER — Authorities were investigating a 14-year-old girl’s actions before they say she attacked two students with a hammer at Columbine High School in the first assault with a weapon since the deadly shootings there in 1999.

Investigators Monday were trying to gather additional details, including where the girl got the hammer, said John McDonald, Jefferson County School District’s executive director of security and emergency management. The Jefferson County sheriff’s office — the same agency that investigated the shootings nearly 13 years ago — is also working to determine whom the girl spoke with before the attack.

It was unclear what sparked the attack Monday morning at the school outside of Littleton, about 13 miles southwest of downtown Denver.

The 14-year-old targeted a 15-year-old girl in a hallway leading to bathrooms, Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley said.

A 16-year-old boy saw the attack developing and was injured while stopping it. He and the girl were expected to recover fully from their injuries, described by Kelley as hand injuries. They were taken to a hospital and later released.

Feds recover $4.1B in health care fraud in 2011

MIAMI — Federal authorities say they recovered $4.1 billion in health care fraud judgments last year, a record high which officials on Monday credited to new tools for cracking down on deceitful Medicare claims.

The recovered funds are up roughly 50 percent from 2009. Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were expected to make the announcement at a news conference Tuesday.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services told The Associated Press that agencies are doing a better job of screening providers before they get in the system and have beefed up enrollment requirements.

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