Nation Briefs

Democratic Party backs gay marriage

DETROIT – The national Democratic Party’s platform committee endorsed gay marriage Saturday for the first time and called for the repeal of a federal law that recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman.

The committee, meeting in downtown Detroit, let stand the work of a separate group that drafted the platform two weeks ago in Minneapolis. The platform is a broad statement of the party’s priorities about the economy, social issues and national defense and next goes to the national convention in North Carolina in September.

Scott Dibble, a committee member and a state senator from Minnesota, said support for gay marriage can attract new voters.

“Young people are looking for a political home right now. This has become a defining moral question of our time,” said Dibble, who is gay.

The platform says Democrats support “marriage equality” and the “movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples.”

Refinery fire probe focuses on corrosion

SAN FRANCISCO – Federal investigators probing the cause of a massive Chevron oil refinery fire are focusing on possible corrosion in a decades-old pipe the company inspected late last year but did not replace.

Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board told The Associated Press on Saturday that the November inspection led Chevron to replace an old pipe connected to the one that failed Monday.

The fire exploded when a vapor cloud ignited, endangering more than a dozen workers in the immediate vicinity. The resulting blaze kicked up thick, black smoke and caused thousands to seek medical attention for related health issues in one of the most serious U.S. refinery fires in recent years.

The Richmond refinery, located about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, produces about 16 percent of California’s daily gasoline supply.

Hudson River swimmer dies during Ironman

FORT LEE, N.J. – An athlete competing in the Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City and New Jersey died Saturday after having a medical problem during the swimming portion of the grueling triathlon, race officials said.

The competitor “experienced distress” during a 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River at the start of the all-day competition, a publicist for the race organizers said. The course ran along the New Jersey shoreline, just north of the George Washington Bridge.

The swimmer was pulled out of the water and taken to a hospital in nearby Englewood Cliffs, N.J., but did not survive. The organizers said the cause of death is unknown. An autopsy is planned.

New York City police said the contestant was a 43-year-old man. His name has not yet been released.

Associated Press