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Presbyterians ban gay ordinations

In a major setback to Christian gay-rights activists, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted to make its ban on the ordination of homosexuals part of church law.

The ban got the majority it needed Tuesday with approvals from regional bodies in Miami and Charlotte, N.C. The Book of Order _ the church's constitution _ will be changed to require chastity of single ministers.

"It says to the country that Presbyterians are committed to reaffirming their biblical center for faith and practice," said the Rev. Jack Haberer, moderator of the Presbyterian Coalition, a group favoring the amendment.

However, Scott Anderson, co-moderator of Presbyterians for Gay and Lesbian Concerns, said the change will force more gay and lesbian Presbyterians out of the 2.7-million-member church.

An announcement of the vote is not expected for another week or two as votes are sent to church headquarters in Louisville. But advocacy groups said the 172 districts so far have voted 88 in favor and 60 against.

The United Church of Christ is the only major Protestant denomination to permit the ordination of homosexuals.

N.H. rejects King holiday

CONCORD, N.H. _ New Hampshire lawmakers came one vote short Tuesday of joining the rest of the nation with a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

After a stormy 90-minute debate, the House failed by a 177-178 margin to adopt a bill passed by the Senate that would have added King's name to the state's Civil Rights Day. The House voted not to take up the issue again until 1999.

"The state of New Hampshire will stand as a beacon light for bigotry," Rep. Jane Kelley said when she joined other defeated lawmakers in taking the unusual step of lodging individual protests.

New Hampshire was specifically mentioned by the slain civil rights leader in his "I Have a Dream" speech.

A King holiday bill first came before the Legislature in 1979 and has been introduced during all but one two-year session since.

Opponents killed the holiday bill every session until 1991, arguing that King associated with communists, opposed the Vietnam War and was suspected of adultery. In 1991, state lawmakers finally reached an uneasy compromise and passed Civil Rights Day.

Drug plea preceded arrest

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. _ The teenager charged with killing Bill Cosby's son pleaded guilty to marijuana possession just hours before his arrest in the murder, court records show.

The marijuana charge stemmed from a traffic stop on Feb. 8. Court records show a car carrying Mikail Markhasev, 18, and three friends was stopped in Los Alamitos, outside Los Angeles, shortly before midnight for a missing or misplaced license plate. Investigators said there was no way that police there could have known he was a suspect in the Cosby case.

Markhasev pleaded guilty to drug possession charges last Wednesday and paid a $50 fine in Orange County, where he had lived for six years.

That afternoon, he was arrested at his home in North Hollywood, in Los Angeles County. On Friday, he was charged with murder in the slaying of Ennis Cosby, the entertainer's only son, who was shot while changing a flat tire on a dark road on Jan. 16.

Markhasev didn't enter a plea to the murder charge and is being held without bail until his next court appearance March 28.

Coma rape victim dies

ROCHESTER, N.Y. _ A nursing home patient who was raped while in a coma-like state and gave birth without ever regaining consciousness has died at 30.

The woman, identified only as Kathy, died over the weekend at a health care center, said a law enforcement official. The cause of death was not disclosed.

The woman fell into a chronic vegetative state after a car wreck in 1985. A decade later, she was raped by a nurse's aide. Her family ruled out abortion and decided to raise the boy, who turned 1 on Tuesday.

Doctors said it was the first case of a woman in a coma-like state becoming pregnant and giving birth.

On Feb. 27, John Horace, 53, was convicted of raping the woman. He could get up to 25 years in prison at sentencing March 27.