Same-sex marriage
Attorney general
defiant on unions

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Sunday advised county clerks, magistrates and others who have religious objections to same-sex marriage that they may opt out of providing services to same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses.

Calling the Supreme Court’s ruling Friday allowing same-sex unions nationally a “lawless decision,” Paxton said that his guidance was necessary to protect the religious liberties of hundreds of local officials whose job it is it issue marriage licenses.

“We find that although it fabricated a new constitutional right in 2015, the Supreme Court did not diminish, overrule, or call into question the First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion that formed the first freedom in the Bill of Rights,” he said in a statement.

The opinion offered a hint of the resistance that is likely to delay or otherwise hamper same-sex marriages in many of the 14 states that before Friday’s ruling did not permit gay couples to wed.

In particular, opponents have stressed the necessity to protect people of faith from being forced to condone or participate in a same-sex ceremony. Gay rights groups have called these efforts discrimination under the guise of religious liberties.

The opinion immediately drew criticism from gay rights groups, which said it was not legally sound. They also plan to press their case in Mississippi and Louisiana, which have held back broadly on providing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“Public officials have no constitutional or statutory right to discriminate in providing public services,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “This opinion is wrong on the law, and it does a disservice to officials who need clear, reliable guidance about their duty to follow the law and to provide marriage licenses to all qualified couples.”

— Sandhya Somashekhar

Plane crashes into
house, killing 3

A small plane crashed into a house Sunday evening, killing three people on board, police said, but residents managed to flee as fire engulfed the home.

The Beechcraft BE36 aircraft crashed into the house about 5:45 p.m., said Jim Peters of the Federal Aviation Administration. It had taken off from Lancaster Airport in Pennsylvania and was headed to Norwood Memorial Airport in Massachusetts.

Fire crews extinguished the blaze nearly three hours after the crash in Plainville, about 30 miles southwest of Boston, said Massachusetts State Police spokesman Dave Procopio. He said the residents escaped and two adults and a juvenile in the plane were killed.

The plane wound up behind the two-story colonial-style home, where a section of the tail and a charred wing rested on a hillside in the yard.

Neighbors told the Boston Globe a family of four lives in the home.

— Associated Press

Bulger tells students
crime doesn’t pay

Former Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger had some advice for three high school girls who wrote to him for a history project: Crime doesn’t pay.

The 85-year-old sent the handwritten letter, dated Feb. 24, from federal prison in Florida where he is serving two life sentences, the Boston Globe reported Sunday.

“My life was wasted and spent foolishly, brought shame and suffering on my parents and siblings and will end soon,” Bulger wrote.

He went on to write: “Advice is a cheap commodity some seek it from me about crime — I know only one thing for sure — If you want to make crime pay — ‘Go to Law School.’ ”

Bulger, a former FBI informant whose case brought scrutiny of the agency, was convicted in 2013 on racketeering charges that included playing a role in 11 murders. He spent 16 years as one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives before he was captured in California in 2011. His lawyers are appealing his conviction before the federal appeals court in Boston next month.

— Associated Press

Dust storm leaves thousands in dark: The first big dust storm of the monsoon season slammed the Phoenix area Saturday, with winds snapping utility poles and leaving thousands without power. Arizona Public Service and the Salt River Project, the two biggest utilities that serve metropolitan Phoenix, said Sunday that electricity had been restored to most customers. The APS initially reported power failures at 14,000 homes the night before. The SRP at one point had more than 15,000 customers with no electricity. According to the National Weather Service, winds were up to 51 mph around Sky Harbor International Airport.

Stunt pilot killed in crash: A pilot was killed when his biplane crashed while he was performing stunts in front of a crowd at a Missouri air show Saturday, police said Sunday. Steven O'Berg, 50, crashed shortly before 2 p.m. in Cameron, about 50 miles northeast of Kansas City, Police Chief Rick Bashor said in a news release. O’Berg flew in a Pitts S-28 biplane capable of vertical maneuvers and featured a loud exhaust and propeller tone that were popular with audiences, according to a description on the air show’s Web site. Bashor provided no details of the crash, but a witness told the Kansas City Star that the engine died, restarted and died again before the plane went down in trees as a crowd that included many children looked on.

Lightning blamed in woman’s death: Authorities say a lightning strike killed a woman and injured several other people who were taking shelter under a tree in the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said Christine Garcia, 24, of Orlando was found unresponsive Saturday afternoon. Sheriff’s spokesman Gerry Blair said crews received a call about 4:20 p.m. reporting a ­female hiker who wasn’t breathing. One critically injured man was flown to a hospital. Three other people also were hospitalized.

— From news services