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Same-sex benefits in Maryland

Thursday, May 20, 2010; B02

MARYLAND

State workers can get same-sex benefits

State employees in Maryland can now sign up same-sex spouses as dependents, making them eligible to receive the same health-care and other benefits afforded to husbands and wives of heterosexual state employees, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office announced Wednesday.

The change means that O'Malley's administration has followed through in codifying a legal opinion issued in February by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

In that opinion, Gansler overturned a previous attorney general's opinion, writing that there was nothing barring the state from recognizing valid same-sex unions performed elsewhere. In his role as Maryland's top legal adviser to state agencies, Gansler at the time went a step further, saying that state agencies should begin granting married same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones.

O'Malley (D) has consistently voiced support for civil unions but stopped short of supporting same-sex marriage. O'Malley's chief opponent in his reelection bid, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), has blasted the attorney general's decision, saying it flies in the face of state precedent not to recognize same-sex marriage.

Under new rules governing Maryland's state employee benefits program, members of same-sex unions with a valid marriage certificate from another state or the District have until June 2 to enroll a spouse for coverage that would begin July 1.

-- Aaron C. Davis

Woman gets 10 years in crash that killed 2

A 34-year-old woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday in connection with a drunken-driving wreck that killed two men on the Capital Beltway in Montgomery County on July 7.

Kelli Loos had pleaded guilty two counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of failure to remain at the scene of an accident resulting in death, according to Montgomery Circuit Court records.

She struck the back of a pickup truck on the Beltway, which sent the pickup over a guardrail and 60 feet down a ravine. Killed in the crash were Gradys Adelson Mendoza and Franklin Manzanares.

After striking the pickup, Loos kept driving into Virginia, crashed her sport-utility vehicle, and was arrested for drunken driving. She was tested with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

-- Dan Morse

Man and teen shot; several men sought

A teenager and a man were shot Wednesday night in Montgomery Village, and Montgomery County police were searching for several men who might have been involved, officials said.

The injuries to the two, ages 17 and 23, were not believed to be life-threatening, police said. They were shot in the 9300 block of Bremerton Way about 6:15 p.m., said Officer Melanie Brenner, a police spokeswoman. Both were taken to hospitals with gunshot wounds to the torso.

Officers were first called to the back yard of a house in the 19900 block of Spur Hill Drive, where the 23-year-old was found. Police found the teen later at Rothbury Drive and Arrowhead Road. Both addresses are within several blocks of the shooting scene.

Police released no specific descriptions of the suspects, but said that men in their 20s, wearing dark clothing, were seen fleeing the scene.

-- Clarence Williams

Woman injured in Damascus crash

A woman suffered potentially life-threatening injuries Wednesday when her car left a road in the Damascus area and struck a tree, Montgomery County police said.

The driver might have had a medical emergency that caused her to lose control of her vehicle in the 26200 block of Long Corner Road about 4:30 p.m., said Officer Melanie Brenner, a police spokeswoman.

-- Clarence Williams

THE DISTRICT

City budget talks will be televised

If you want to see your D.C. government at work, tune into the local government access channel (Channel 13 for Comcast cable subscribers in the city).

For years, council members have been meeting behind closed doors in the days leading up to the final budget to iron out details of their proposed spending plan.

Even though all 13 council members usually attend, council members have historically shut the media and public out of the meetings, saying the city's open-meetings law didn't cover behind-the-scenes bartering.

Last year, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) allowed reporters into the room to document some -- but not all -- of the deliberations. Lobbyists and the public were still excluded, even though members were making major decisions on how to spend billions of dollars.

Within 48 hours, the council also agreed to raise the cigarette, sales and gas tax out of public view.

Responding to a formal request by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, and other advocates to open up the proceedings, Gray agreed to have them televised on the government access channel.

Gray has been trying to make open government a key theme of his campaign against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), who has been criticized as being too secretive.

-- Tim Craig

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