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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Opponents of same-sex marriage are scrambling to find effective responses, in Congress and state legislatures, to a rash of court rulings that would force some of America's most conservative states to accept gay nuptials.

Some gay-marriage foes are backing a bill introduced in Congress that would leave states in charge of their marriage policies, though it stands little chance of passing. They're also endorsing bills in statehouses — some intended to protect gay-marriage bans, and others to assert a right, based on religious freedom, to have nothing to do with gay marriages.

Federal judges have voided part or all of the same-sex marriage bans in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Virginia. Each ruling has been stayed pending appeals, and a final nationwide resolution may be a few years away.

Published in National News

   SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - A New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen is scheduled to appear before a federal judge to change his plea.

   Thomas George Paculis was to appear Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Savannah, where he pleaded not guilty during his last hearing in July.

   Court records filed last week say 62-year-old Paculis of Newfield, N.Y., has signed a plea agreement with prosecutors. But details have not been released.

   Prosecutors and Paculis' defense attorney have declined to comment.

   Authorities say Paculis contacted Deen's attorney threatening to reveal damaging statements by the former Food Network star unless she paid him $200,000. That happened after documents became public that showed Deen acknowledged using racial slurs in the past.

 
Published in National News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A judge has spared members of Gov. Jay Nixon's administration from testifying before a Missouri House panel investigating state driver's license procedures.

Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green issued a preliminary order Thursday blocking the committee from proceeding with the subpoenas. The order did not elaborate on why.

An attorney representing the Nixon administration employees had argued the subpoenas imposed an unreasonable burden by providing too little notice and taking the employees away from important work. He also asserted there was no legal authority for the subpoenas.

The committee is looking into whether state officials tried to implement provisions of the Real ID Act, despite a state law forbidding compliance with the federal proof-of-identity law.

House Speaker Tim Jones issued the subpoenas. He suggested Nixon is trying to hide something.

Published in Local News

CHESTER, Ill. (AP) - A southern Illinois judge has ordered a mental evaluation of a man accused of setting a house fire that killed four children.

The mental fitness examination for 33-year-old Derrick Twardoski was requested Monday by James Kelley, his Randolph County public defender.

A hearing on the testing's outcome is scheduled for June 20.

Twardoski has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the May 10 deaths in Percy, a village about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis. The fire killed siblings ages 12, 9 and 5-year-old twins.

The county's state's attorney, Jeremy Walker, has said he doesn't consider the fire random. Although he's declined to say why authorities suspect Twardoski set it or whether Twardoski knew anyone who lived in the home.

 
Published in Local News

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Lawmakers approve changes to Missouri criminal code

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