First lady? Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Kathy Hubbard participated in a same-sex marriage ceremony in California on Thursday. In a statement released today, the mayor’s office back in Texas referred to Hubbard as the city’s “first lady.” Parker did not make an issue of her homosexuality when she ran for mayor in 2010. But in December she announced the city would start offering benefits to city workers’ same-sex partners, as long as they had a valid marriage certificate from another state. Texas does not recognize same-sex marriage. Parker is now in her third and final term in office.
Execution trouble. Ohio officials are defending their decision to use a new two-drug cocktail for executions after convicted killer Dennis McGuire choked, made guttural noises, and struggled for air for about 10 minutes before dying yesterday. The state used the new drugs, which have never been used in a U.S. execution, because manufacturers will no longer sell pentobarbital, the drug typically used to carry out death sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear McGuire’s appeal for a stay based on fears the drug would cause him undue suffering, violating the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Allen Bohnert, one of McGuire’s federal public defenders, called the execution a “failed, agonizing experiment by the state of Ohio” and said the state’s residents should be appalled. McGuire was convicted of raping and killing 22-year-old Joy Stewart in 1989. She was pregnant at the time. In a statement issued after the execution, Stewart’s family said McGuire had been treated more humanely than he treated his victim.
Free and fair? A Pennsylvania judge struck down the state’s 2-year-old voter-identification law today, declaring it an unreasonable burden on the fundamental right to vote. Like other state laws that have been challenged in court, the Pennsylvania legislation requires voters to present photo IDs proving their identity before casting ballots. “Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal,” Commonwealth Court Judge Bernard L. McGinley wrote in his 103-page ruling. Although the state offered to provide free voter ID cards before the 2012 election, dozens of registered voters did not get them in time to vote.
More fire woes. California firefighters managed to keep a fire burning in Glendora from spreading overnight after it engulfed five homes and several other buildings on Thursday. An illegal campfire started the blaze, and police have arrested three men they believe are responsible. The fire has burned more than 1,700 acres and is only 30 percent contained.