The New York Times, Los Angeles Times,and Washington Post all lead with Massachusetts Supreme Court's ruling that only full marriage rights for gays, not just civil unions, would be constitutional. With the decision scheduled to become effective in May, Massachusetts is about to become the first state allowing gays to marry.USA Today leads with, and others front, a preview of intel chief George Tenet's speech today in which he will defend the CIA's prewar assessments. The papers say Tenet, who rarely gives public speeches, is going to stick it to former top weapons searcher David Kay. According to one administration official, Tenet will argue that "those who say the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is 85 percent complete"—as Kay did—"are 100 percent wrong."
The Massachusetts' court issued its ruling after the state legislature asked its opinion of a bill to allow only civil unions for gays. The court wrote, "The dissimilitude between the terms 'civil marriage' and 'civil union' is not innocuous. It is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status. ... The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal." The state legislature is scheduled to vote next week on a proposed constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. Since the amendment would need to pass in two consecutive legislature sessions and in a voter referendum, it couldn't take effect before 2006.
According to the Post, Tenet's speech "did not go through the usual White House vetting." The paper says that while Tenet won't criticize the White House, he "also will not let himself or his agency become what a friend called 'a scapegoat.' "
Most of the speech stories fold in Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's comments that stockpiles of banned weapons in Iraq might still turn up—despite Kay having said there's a fat chance of that. "What we have learned thus far has not proven Saddam Hussein had what intelligence indicated and what we believed he had," said Rumsfeld in congressional testimony. "But it also has not proven the opposite."
Asked about a September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that "there is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons," Rumsfeld said, "I'm sure I never saw that piece of intelligence." He said he had based his opinions on broader, presumably joint-intel, reports.
Rummy also got in a slap-fest with Sen. Ted Kennedy. As the NYT notices, Kennedy charged, "Key policy makers made crystal clear the results they wanted from the intelligence community." Rumsfeld responded, "You've twice or thrice mentioned manipulation. I haven't heard of it, I haven't seen any of it, except in the comments you've made."
The WP fronts the White House's decision to drop its opposition to extending the 9/11 commission's deadline and to give the commission two more months. That would push the commission's report deadline to late July. Congress still has to approve the extension, which isn't a sure thing; the Speaker of the House has said he's against it.
The LAT has the latest on Vice President's Cheney's recent duck-hunt outing with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Despite the trip, Scalia has declined to recuse himself from a pending case involving the vice president's energy taskforce. According to today's piece, Scalia hitched a ride to the duck-shoot as Cheney's guest on Air Force Two. Federal law states that "any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned." As the paper mentions, the hunting camp where the two stayed is owned by the head of an oil company.
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick recently wrote that Scalia should step aside but that it should be his choice.
The LAT notices that Iraqi Governing Council members have been hanging out in D.C. and have various lobbyists on their payrolls. "If you have a strong profile in Washington, it's a plus for you, always," said one Iraqi politician.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has a new ally in his call for direct elections: The Wall Street Journal editorial page. The paper argues:
We've been inclined to give the Administration the benefit of the doubt on this. But the more we've listened, the more we haven't heard a good answer to the question, Why not elections? The current danger is that Iraqis chosen by caucuses could find themselves making decisions that are considered illegitimate by a popular majority. They'd then have to hold elections in any case, but only after months of suspicion or worse.