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Referendum Sought on Gay Rights Bills

A conservative group has launched a drive to give voters a chance in 2006 to strike down gay rights legislation passed this year by the Maryland General Assembly.

The four bills would allow unmarried partners, including gay couples, to make health and funeral decisions for one another; add sexual orientation as a protected category under the state's hate crime law; grant domestic partners a tax break on property transfers now given to spouses and other relatives; and require schools to report incidents of harassment, including those motivated by sexual orientation.

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"Our goal is to let the people of Maryland decide whether homosexuals are a protected class," said Tres Kerns of votemarriage.org, which is spearheading the petition drive.

Activists would need to collect nearly 52,000 signatures by June 30, a third of them by May 31. The Maryland Constitution gives voters the power to strike laws through a referendum.

Two Arundel Schools Join IB Program

Two Anne Arundel high schools have received authorization to offer the International Baccalaureate, a college preparatory program similar to Advanced Placement but more comprehensive.

Annapolis and Old Mill high schools will offer the IB program starting in August. Students will sit for the first IB exams in May 2006, and the first class of IB students will graduate in 2007, school system officials said yesterday in a news release.

The two schools will be the 15th and 16th in the Baltimore-Washington area to offer the IB program.


Chief in Drunken Driving Case Resigns

The Middletown police chief has resigned five weeks after he was arrested twice in the same day for drunken driving.

Roger L. Ashley, 41, stepped down Monday. He was suspended by the Middletown Town Council shortly after his arrests, and Investigator Phil Breeden has been serving as police chief since then.

Police in neighboring Strasburg stopped Ashley twice on the afternoon of March 12 as he drove along Route 11. He was charged each time with drunken driving, and the second time he also was charged with driving on a suspended license and jailed.

Ashley is scheduled to go to trial June 13 in Shenandoah County Court in Woodstock. He posted bond March 23 and has since completed an alcohol treatment program.

Jamestown to Obtain DNA From England

The Church of England has given permission for DNA to be extracted from an English grave to determine whether a skeleton found at Jamestown is one of the settlement's founders.

Church officials said yesterday this is the first time they have agreed to the removal of DNA from a grave for a scientific project.

Jamestown archaeologists will be permitted to dig beneath a church floor in England for the 400-year-old skeleton of Elizabeth Tilney. She was the sister of Bartholomew Gosnold, a leader of the English expedition that founded Jamestown in 1607.

The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities says the excavation will take place in mid-June. Archaeologists also have asked to extract DNA from the grave believed to be that of Gosnold's niece. The church is still reviewing that request.


"This is what baseball is supposed to be, a diversion from the workday."

-- travel agent Anthony Peacock, on why he took the afternoon off yesterday to attend the Nationals' game at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Karlyn Barker, Del Quentin Wilber, Steven Ginsberg, John Wagner and Daniel de Vise and the Associated Press.

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