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Senator challenges District's same-sex marriage law

Thursday, February 4, 2010; B02

THE DISTRICT

Senator challenges same-sex marriage

Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) has introduced legislation that would require the District to put same-sex marriage on the ballot before issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as planned next month.

The proposed District of Columbia Referendum on Marriage Act, similar to legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), would halt the implementation of the new city law.

The D.C. Council voted to legalize same-sex unions in December, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) signed the bill. Under the Home Rule Charter, there is a 30-day congressional review period. Without congressional intervention, the law will go into effect next month.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have tried several legal avenues to block the law. But the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has rejected putting the issue on the ballot, saying it would violate District law, and a judge has upheld the decision.

A news release by Bennett called the rulings by the judge and election board "an activist interpretation" of District law.

-- Nikita Stewart

Gasoline fumes empty police station

A Northwest Washington police station was temporarily evacuated Wednesday morning after a fuel spill sent fumes into the station, officials said.

Fire officials responded to a fuel leak about 8:30 a.m. at the gas pumps of the 2nd District police station in the 3300 block of Idaho Avenue NW. Some gasoline fumes got into the ventilation system of the building, said D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Pete Piringer.

The building was cleared as hazmat officials ventilated with fans and open air, Piringer said.

There was no fire, and no one was injured. The station serves residents of wards 2 and 3 and has its own fuel tanks for the police vehicles assigned to the station, police said.

-- Theola Labbé-DeBose

MARYLAND

Montgomery offers income tax aid

Montgomery County residents with incomes of less than $49,000 a year may be eligible for free income tax preparation assistance through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Services are provided by trained Internal Revenue Service-certified VITA volunteers and staff.

For appointments in Gaithersburg, call 301-258-6395 between 5 and 9 p.m. Mondays and press option 6. (There are limited Saturday appointments at this site.)

Residents may also call the TESS Center in Silver Spring at 301-565-7675 between 5 and 9 p.m. Tuesdays; the city of Rockville at 240-314-8310 between 5 and 9 p.m. Wednesdays; and county offices in Silver Spring at 301-565-7451 between 5 and 9 p.m. Thursdays. The latter Silver Spring site also offers limited Saturday appointments.

Residents will be asked to bring: a government-issued ID card such as a driver's license, passport, age of majority card; a Social Security card or individual tax identification notice for each family member; all W-2 forms, 1098 forms, 1099 forms and other documents related to earned income; a statement of annual child-care expenses prepared by a provider, including provider tax identification number; and a copy of prior year's tax return.

The IRS has granted a special exception to the county Community Action Agency to assist seniors, individuals with disabilities and homeless individuals.

If language interpretation services or special aids and services are needed, residents are asked to alert the scheduler when making an appointment.

Zoning warning for host of sex parties

A Montgomery County zoning inspector has issued a warning to a Bethesda man who says he hosts sex parties in the spacious home he rents in Bethesda.

The renter, Paul Pickthorne, said in an interview that he is a practitioner of "BDSM," an acronym for "bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism." Since renting the house last summer, Pickthorne said, he has hosted four parties in the 6300 block of Tone Drive attended by dozens of people who also are involved "in the scene," as he called it.

Because Pickthorne accepted "donations" of $20 to $50 from the attendees, the parties constituted "a commercial enterprise," said zoning inspector Frank De Lange, who issued Pickthorne a warning last week. If Pickthorne holds future parties that participants pay to attend, De Lange said, he could be assessed a fine.

-- Paul Duggan

THE REGION

Nature Conservancy protects Va. wetlands

The Nature Conservancy said Wednesday that it had legally protected a large area of swampland and river bottom along a pristine Virginia tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

The environmental group said that it had bought about 13,350 acres on Virginia's Middle Peninsula -- between the Rappahannock and York rivers -- from a logging company. The group then resold the land to another forestry company at a loss, with new legal guarantees that would prevent logging in ecologically sensitive areas in wetlands or near streams.

Logging would be allowed in other areas of the parcel, the group said. Hunting and fishing would also be allowed.

A Virginia state official said the purchase was the largest conservation easement ever recorded in Virginia.

-- David A. Fahrenthold

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