Same-sex couples are legally entitled to wed, Massachusetts' highest court ruled, in a decision that stopped short of allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the seven longtime couples who filed the suit. The 4-3 ruling, the first of its kind in the country by a final appellate court, found the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. It follows a nearly identical ruling in Canada this summer. The Massachusetts decision gives state legislators, who are considering a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman, 180 days to arrive at a solution that would allow gay couples to marry.

The House was expected to pass a compromise energy bill that would provide $20 billion in subsidies and incentives to energy producers and double ethanol production to 5 billion gallons a year within a decade. After months of wrangling, House and Senate negotiators finished the bill late Monday, rejecting a string of amendments from Democrats, who criticized the GOP-crafted legislation as catering to the energy industry and harmful to the environment. The measure's provisions exclude drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge, a decision analysts said was calculated to help the bill through the Senate, where approval is less certain.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) sprang into action after his inauguration Monday, repealing an unpopular automobile tax hike and convening a special session of the state legislature to deal with the budget crisis. Political observers said that keeping his pledge to fix the world's sixth-largest economy will be a formidable task for the political newcomer, who faces a deficit of over $24 billion, a business climate he has cast as the nation's worst, and a Democrat-led legislature that may be loath to grant his wishes.

Buses began rolling again in Los Angeles, as a tentative deal ended a month-long strike by mechanics for the nation's third-largest transit system Monday. Union members vote Wednesday on the deal, which includes a 6 percent pay raise over three years. Full bus and train service is expected to be restored Thursday to the county's half-million riders. The strike has cost an estimated $4 million a day in lost wages and business.

Storms packing heavy rain and at least one tornado swept Texas Monday, forcing two high- water rescues and injuring at least 20 people. Tornado watches remain in effect along the upper Gulf Coast after a twister Tuesday broke scores of windows and tore the roofs off buildings. Parts of southern Texas received 10 inches of rain in 24 hours, with runoff flooding highways, covering vehicles and stranding motorists.

A budget crunch has shaved a day off the school week in a cash-strapped Idaho district. Orofino school superintendent Al Arnzen says the new schedule, designed to save $150,000 this year, is reducing absenteeism for students and teachers. But he says the district won't see possible effects on learning until standardized test results are released next spring.

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