R.I. Asked to Honor Gay Marriages PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Rhode Island should recognize state employees' same-sex marriages and extend benefits to their partners, the state's attorney general said in an opinion released Wednesday. Rhode Island prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and also extends benefits such as health insurance to domestic partners of state employees, Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch noted in the opinion.

He said that with the absence of a law banning same-sex marriages, there's no strong reason to deny recognition to those performed in neighboring Massachusetts, the only state where such unions are legal.

Lynch said that the advisory opinion, requested by the state Board of Governors for Higher Education, was not binding, and that the board could disregard it.

Rhode Island is one of a few states that neither allow nor specifically bar same-sex unions. Several legislative attempts to ban or legalize gay marriage have failed.

Baptists Accused of Hiding AbuseNASHVILLE --The victims' advocates who dogged the Roman Catholic Church over sex abuse by its clergy have now turned their attention to the Southern Baptists, accusing America's largest Protestant denomination of also failing to root out molesters.

The Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests is campaigning to call attention to sex abuse that they say was committed by Southern Baptist ministers and concealed by churches.

SNAP presented a letter Monday to Southern Baptist Convention executive committee members in Nashville, asking the group to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on sex abuse and to create an independent board to investigate molestation reports.

Church leaders concede there have been some incidents of abuse in Southern Baptist congregations but say their hands are tied when it comes to investigating complaints across the denomination.

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· MIAMI --Parents of one of the world's smallest premature babies got to take her home for the first time since she was delivered last October. Amillia Sonja Taylor was delivered at Baptist Children's Hospital after less than 22 weeks in the womb. Amillia, who was 9 1/2 inches at birth and weighed less than 10 ounces, will require supplemental oxygen at home. She now weighs about 4 1/2 pounds and is just over 15 1/2 inches long.

· HOUSTON --U.S. Magistrate Calvin Botley ordered a suspected American "jihadist," accused of training with al-Qaeda and conspiring to make and use bombs in Somalia, jailed without bail. Botley ruled prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to back charges against Daniel Joseph Maldonado.

· PIERRE, S.D. --A South Dakota bill to ban most abortions in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade appeared defeated after a state Senate committee rejected it. The surprising 8 to 1 vote marked the third time in four years that measures to bar abortion in South Dakota were defeated. The legislature passed an even stricter ban last year, but voters rejected it in November.

· BELLEVILLE, Ill. --Convicted felon Richard Hedger II was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for plucking a $5 bill from a collection jar intended to help a policeman blinded in a shooting. In November, Belleville police Sgt. Jon Brough, 48, was shot in the face and permanently blinded by a double-slaying suspect who later killed himself.

-- From News Services