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Republicans supported gay marriage in New York. Will they do the same in Maryland?

Allan Kittleman, a Republican, speaks in support of the gay marriage bill on the floor of the Maryland State Senate in February. Photo: AP/Gail Burton

When a bill legalizing same-sex marriage came up in the New York State Senate in 2009, the measure was defeated by a wide margin. Democratic leaders, who controlled the chamber, failed to muster enough votes on their side, and the entire Republican caucus opposed the bill.

Last week, when the Senate considered legalizing same-sex marriage for a second time, it was the Republicans who made the difference: Four of them joined 29 Democrats to approve the measure, giving the bill enough votes to pass. That startling turnaround capped weeks of intensive lobbying and personal anguish, especially among the Republicans, all of whom had either voted against the bill in 2009 or vowed during their campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage.

Now, fresh off their victory in New York, gay rights advocates are turning to Maryland, where same-sex marriage is “on the verge” of becoming law, according to Patrick Wojahn of Equality Maryland. And some are hoping a similar change of heart among Republicans will tip the balance.

“I think the Republicans can provide crucial votes,” said Allan Kittleman, a Republican member of the Maryland State Senate. “It could be very similar in the Maryland House of Delegates as it was in the New York State Senate, with the final margin being the Republicans.”

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Photo: Farewell, Rabbi

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish youths peer from a window as thousands gather next to the body of Rabbi Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, Lithuanian-Orthodox leader and scholar, during his funeral Tuesday in Bnei Brak, Israel. Photo: AP/Ariel Schalit

Republican rift on foreign policy widens as Pawlenty criticizes ‘isolationist’ rivals

Republican presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Republican candidates for president have been careful to present a unified front on most issues, especially taxes and government spending. But fissures have begun to show in the party’s views on foreign policy, a rift that widened Tuesday as Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty assailed his rivals for “trying to outbid the Democrats in appealing to isolationist sentiments.”

In a wide-ranging speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Pawlenty staked out what is easily the most hawkish foreign policy platform in the race, calling for regime change in Libya, Syria and Iran, attacking President Obama’s “anti-Israel” attitude and casting the recent “Arab Spring” as a chance to shape formerly autocratic regimes into democracies that are friendlier to American interests.

Pawlenty also seemed to split from Republicans in Congress when he said in a question-and-answer session after the speech that, while he would have consulted members of the House and Senate on the military action in Libya “as a courtesy,” he would not have felt compelled to seek congressional approval for the bombing campaign “as a legal obligation” under the War Powers Act. The Obama administration has taken a similar view, while large numbers of House Republicans, especially those affiliated with the Tea Party, have voted to end U.S. involvement in the NATO-led operation against Moammar Gadhafi.

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Ohio voter I.D. bill hits roadblock

Voters cast absentee ballots in 2008 in Columbus, Ohio, under a disputed early voting law that allows new voters to register and cast an absentee ballot on the same day. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Ohio’s new proposed voter identification bill – potentially one of the strictest in the country – just hit a serious roadblock. Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted just signaled that he’s against the bill as currently written, calling its provisions “rigid.”

According to a statement, Husted said, “I want to be perfectly clear, when I began working with the General Assembly to improve Ohio’s elections system it was never my intent to reject valid votes. I would rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters’ ballots from counting.”

As we reported earlier this month, Ohio’s proposed voter identification bill would make a government-issued photo I.D. (like a driver’s license or a military I.D.) the sole form of identification voters can use on election day.  The bill would eliminate many of the other forms of I.D. that are currently acceptable under Ohio law.
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Photos: Doggie face-off!

The contestant list was brimming with potential and past champions — Princess Abby, Squiggy and Pee Wee Martini to name a few.

In the end, though, there could be only one winner, and on Friday, they lined up to be judged. One wore dazzling feathers while others opted for more traditional attire. Some played to the crowd, while others almost peed on the judges. They came from all over to compete head to head for the title of World’s Ugliest Dog at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. Here are a few of this year’s contestants:

Ratdog. Photo: AP/Noah Berger

Ratdog, a 14-year-old Chihuahua mix, did not win. But he stuck his tongue out with the best of them.

Handsome Hector and Icky. Photo: AP/Noah Berger

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Photo: Rainbow state

The Empire State Building, already decked out in its rainbow finest this weekend for the annual Gay Pride events, became a Twitter sensation overnight as this (undated, but not recent) photo went viral in celebration of New York's passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

If you have some of the same Facebook friends I do, your news feed looked something like this at midnight: “New York!!” “NY, ya did good!” “Good job, NY” as if the state were a big, slow dog that had finally sauntered out from under the tree where it had been dozing and started to run. Yes, the state Senate finally ushered in a new era of equality, civil rights and really fun parties late last night by approving a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Republican-dominated Senate approved the bill 33-29, following on the heels of the Assembly, which OK’d the bill last week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had made the law his personal mission for months, rallying the Democratic senators around the cause and orchestrating the efforts of several gay rights advocacy groups. All but one Democratic senator supported the bill, while four Republicans backed it. Two years ago, the Democrat-controlled Senate resoundingly defeated a similar measure.

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The view from 10,000 miles: Huntsman brings an outsider’s eye to the 2012 campaign

Then-Ambassador Jon Huntsman in China in 2009. Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak

The views of America from the small-town Tea Party meeting in Iowa and the halls of the State Council in Beijing are probably quite different.

If you’re a Tea Party supporter in Ames, you might see a reckless, irrepressible political class, conspiring to acquire as much power as it can and seeking to implement a European-style social welfare system that will eventually topple under the weight of its own debts, all while snuffing out the freedom and ingenuity of the private sector.

If you’re a Chinese Communist Party official in Zhongnanhai, you might see a debilitated American political system enfeebled by infighting, unable to invest in its own future — in its human capital, its infrastructure and its alternative energy sources — and unable to recover the substantial ground it has lost in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

Which view does Jon Huntsman take?

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Photo: Keep your chin up

The head of a lawn deer remains above flood waters from the Souris River in an evacuated western neighborhood of Minot, N.D., Friday. About one-fourth of the city's 40,000 residents have evacuated their homes in anticipation of record summer flooding. Photo: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

Treatment of jailed Bahrain dissidents called ‘brutal,’ as activists call for U.S. action

An illustration released by Bahrain's state news agency depicting the military trial of 21 political activists, eight of whom were sentenced to life in prison Wednesday.

The son of one of Bahrain’s most prominent opposition leaders said in an interview Wednesday that the sentences handed down by a military court to 21 of the country’s most well-known political activists were pre-ordained, and that the jailed dissidents had been subjected to harsh interrogation techniques, including physical abuse.

Ibrahim Sharif, the secretary-general of the National Democratic Action Society, was swept up in an early morning raid at his home in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, in early March. Sharif had called publicly for a gradual transition to a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain, just as the state was executing a bloody crackdown on protests inspired by the so-called Arab Spring. Armed thugs raided his home and shoved a gun in his face, according to the accounts of family members, and he was whisked away to an undisclosed location along with several other opposition figures.

After three months of legal proceedings set up under the country’s emergency law, Sharif and 20 others were sentenced to jail time for “plotting to topple the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain,” according to the state Bahrain News Agency. Sharif, the only Sunni among the group, was sentenced to a relatively short five years in prison. Eight other Shiite dissidents, however, were given life sentences. They were also accused of conspiring with Iran, Bahrain’s increasingly powerful Shiite neighbor. After the sentences were handed down, the defendants pumped their fists in the air and chanted “peacefully,” a slogan from the protests, as they were dragged out of the courtroom.

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