Md. governor signs bill legalizing gay marriage

Posted March 01, 2012, at 9:47 p.m.

BELTSVILLE, Md. — Maryland’s governor signed into law Thursday a bill to legalize gay marriage, although opponents vowed to rally voters to reverse the change this fall in a referendum that’s even anticipated by advocates of the new law.

The legislation signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley made Maryland the eighth state in the U.S. to legalize gay marriage. The law takes effect in 2013.

Six states and the District of Columbia currently recognize gay marriages. The state of Washington also has legalized gay marriage; its law takes effect in June. Voters there also are expected to petition the measure to referendum this fall.

Maine legalized the unions for same-sex couples in 2009, but later that year became the only state to overturn such a law passed by a legislature. About 30 states have constitutional amendments that seek to prohibit gay marriage, most by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

NKorea nuclear envoy to visit US on heels of deal

SEOUL, South Korea — In another sign of warming relations between two wartime foes, a senior North Korean nuclear negotiator will attend a security conference in the United States, a U.S. official confirmed Thursday.

Word of Ri Yong Ho’s visit to the forum held by Syracuse University comes on the heels of a breakthrough agreement that will provide much-needed U.S. food aid to North Korea in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear programs.

The agreement announced Wednesday sets in motion a plan laid out by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il before his death in December: to improve relations with the U.S. and to get back to six-nation disarmament-for-aid negotiations. Significant challenges remain, however, in achieving the long-term goal of the U.S. and other nations: to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear ambitions altoget her.

Iranians set to vote for new parliament

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian leaders are calling for a massive turnout in parliamentary elections Friday as a rebuke to the country’s enemies and an endorsement of its political-religious system.

But behind the calls for unity as thousands of pre-approved candidates sweep aside their differences in their quest for the people’s mandate, the vote is expected to strengthen the hand of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the hard-line Shiite Muslim clerics who have come to dominate political life here.

At stake are all 290 seats in the Majlis, or parliament. Few surprises are expected; reformists have been largely sidelined in a purge that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, and the current candidates have been vetted by a 12-member body of Islamic clerics and jurists — half appointed by the supreme leader and half by parliament.

Student kills teacher at Christian school in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi student shot his American gym teacher to death and then killed himself Thursday at a private Christian school in the usually peaceful Kurdish north of Iraq.

The shooting in Sulaimaniyah, the second largest city in the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, came after a heated argument between the two at the English-language Medes School, local police said.

Students heard shots in their classroom at about 10:30 a.m., during recess, and ran back into the room to find the teacher, whom relatives identified as Jeremiah Small of Cosmopolis, Wash., west of the state capital of Olympia, and a classmate, Biyar Sardar al Talabani, 18, lying on the ground, according to the spokesman for police in Sulaimaniyah province, Sarkawit Ahmed.

Officials say there doesn’t appear to have been a religious or political motive for the shooting. But a relative of the young man’s said he had argued with Small over what she described as the teacher’s open Christianity.

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