MOBILE, Ala.

A few more counties issue same-sex marriage licenses

Same-sex marriage spread further across Alabama on Tuesday as more courthouses issued licenses to gays and lesbians, yet some counties still defied a federal judge’s order, so couples took their fight back to court.

The dispute and confusion headed toward a showdown in federal court set for Thursday in Mobile, where gay couples have waited for two days in a courthouse after officials quit issuing marriage licenses altogether – even for heterosexual couples – rather than sell them to same-sex couples.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore threw the state into disarray when, at the 11th hour, he ordered probate judges not to allow gay marriages. He gave the order even though a federal judge ruled the state’s ban was unconstitutional and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the marriages to begin Monday.

At least 19 of the state’s 67 counties had issued wedding licenses to same-sex couples or said Tuesday they would do so, compared to just seven Monday. The exact number of counties refusing to sell licenses wasn’t immediately clear.

TOPEKA, Kan.

Ban on gender-identity hiring biases rescinded

Kansas will no longer specifically ban discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered in hiring and employment in much of state government because of an action announced Tuesday by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Brownback rescinded an executive order issued in August 2007 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The order applied to hiring and employment decisions by agencies under the governor’s direct control.

Brownback said Sebelius – a Democrat who went on to serve as President Barack Obama’s health secretary – acted “unilaterally” with her order and that any such changes should be made by the state Legislature. But Brownback, who became governor a little more than four years ago, didn’t say why he waited until now to rescind her directive.

WASHINGTON

Defense secretary nominee backed by Senate panel

A Senate panel voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of Ashton Carter’s nomination to become secretary of defense, and he could win final confirmation for the job this week.

Carter, who would become the fourth Pentagon chief to serve under President Barack Obama, easily won the approval of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Carter had testified before the panel last week and encountered few obstacles, though lawmakers used the hearing to express objections to the Obama administration’s policies in various hot spots, including Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee chairman, said the full Senate could vote on Carter’s nomination as soon as Wednesday.

SALT LAKE CITY

Church boots out man who ran chat forum for doubters

A Mormon man who gained notoriety over the past decade for running a website that offers doubting Latter-day Saints a forum to chat has been kicked out of the religion.

John Dehlin announced the decision from regional church leaders Tuesday.

A regional church leader, Bryan King, told Dehlin in a letter that Mormon officials made a unanimous decision to excommunicate him for apostasy, defined by the church as repeatedly acting in clear public opposition to the faith.

While not a lifelong ban, excommunication is a rare move that amounts to the harshest punishment available for a church member.

– From news service reports