In Massachusetts on Monday, the legislature by 105 to 92 vote approved a state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and create same-sex civil unions instead. Immediately after the vote Gov. Mitt Romney asked the state’s highest court to issue a stay on its ruling that ordered the state to allow same sex couples to marry beginning May 17. Romney asked that the stay bar same-sex couples from marrying until after the proposed constitutional amendment could go before the voters. If it approved by voters, the state’s constitution banning gay marriage would go into effect in November 2006.
Meanwhile in New Mexico, the judge who issued a court order barring a county clerk from issuing same-sex marriage licenses recused himself from the case Monday, possibly clearing the way for more permits to be granted.
Descendants of slaves filed a $1 billion lawsuit Monday against Lloyd’s of London, FleetBoston and R.J. Reynolds. The corporations are being accused of “aiding and abetting the commission of genocide” by financing and insuring the ships that delivered slaves to tobacco plantations in the United States.
Discussions between the White House and 9/11 Commission are continuing over a compromise that would allow National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice testify in public. According to the Los Angeles Times, White House officials said Rice was willing to talk again to the commission privately but she would not testify under oath. But the chair of the commission Republican Thomas Kean said “I would like to have her testimony under the penalty of perjury.” It has also been proposed that the commission be allowed to release their notes of Rice’s first interview with the panel. There are no recordings of the questioning, because the White House had barred the session from being taped. On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles Schumer of New York plan to introduce a formal resolution today calling on Rice to testify under oath. The New York Times points out today that it is not unprecedented for a national security advisor to testify before Congress in open session. Jimmy Carter’s Zbiginiew Brzezinski did so in 1980 and Sandy Berger did so twice during his term as President Clinton’s advisor.
The Guardian of London is reporting the United States is planning to install an Iraqi prime minister and then transfer power to him on June 30 instead of the 25-member governing council. The Guardian also reports a three-person presidency–with a Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish representative–is still being considered but its powers would be mainly symbolic.
The new chief U.S. weapons hunter in Iraq, Charles Duelfer, is expected to tell lawmakers today that his teams have still not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But he said the search will continue.
Iranian News Agency: U.S. Planting WMDs in Iraq
Meanwhile the Iranian news agency Mehr has published a report suggesting the U.S. may be planting such weapons in Iraq. The news agency cites an unnamed member of the Iraqi Governing Council who says that U.S. forces have been quietly unloading parts for long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction at ports in southern Iraq.
USA Today is reporting that in 2002 the U.S. pulled a team of special forces who specialized in the Middle East off of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden so they could be sent to Iraq. They were replaced by troops with an expertise in Spanish cultures. The report appeared one day after the Bush administration’s former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke told “Meet the Press” “If we catch (bin Laden) this summer, which I expect, it’s two years too late.” He added “Because during those two years when forces were diverted to Iraq… al-Qaeda has metamorphosized into a hydra-headed organization with cells that are operating autonomously, like the cells that operated in Madrid recently.”
The Inter Press Service is reporting that a former aide to President Bush who now serves as the executive director of the 9/11 commission said in 2002 that a prime motive for the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to eliminate the threat Iraq posed to Israel. The comments of Philip Zelikow mark the first time a link has been publicly made by a member of the Bush administration between the invasion of Iraq and Israel. On Sept. 10, 2002 Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia QUOTE “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 — it’s the threat against Israel.” He went on to say “And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.” At the time of his comments Zelikow was serving on the influential President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which reports directly to the president.
The U.S. Army admitted on Monday that it had shot dead two Iraqi journalists with the al-Arabiya television network earlier this month near a roadblock in Baghdad. The army claimed the killings were accidental and offered no apology.
Meanwhile the U.S. released a report Monday that found the worst friendly-fire incident of the Iraq war was triggered by a Marine air controller who mistakenly cleared Air Force attack planes to shoot at U.S. positions. 10 Marines died in the bombing.
The California-based group Justice for New Americans is planning to hold a press conference today to demand the U.S. government issue a formal apology to Captain James Yee who served as a chaplain at Guantanamo Bay. Last September, Yee was detained and jailed. Reports soon emerged that he was going to be charged with espionage and aiding the enemy. He was held in solitary confinement for over two months. When charges were finally filed the most serious was for illegally transferring classified documents as well as unrelated charges of downloading pornography and committing adultery. Last week the government dropped all of the criminal charges. Meanwhile attorneys for Yee called for the Army throw out the reprimand given to Yee related to the adultery and pornography charges. His lawyers said the proceedings were biased and a “hoax by any standard.”