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First take

Benefits battle

Gay marriage and states’ rights will be the issue when representatives of Congress and Massachusetts give oral arguments in a federal appeals court in Boston today.

The case is about the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which – in addition to defining marriage as a union between a man and woman – prohibits the federal government from providing benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees.

Massachusetts is supporting the decision of a federal judge who ruled that the law impedes the rights of states to define marriage. A congressional group is appealing that ruling, saying the federal government rightfully has good reason to define marriage and determine who gets federal benefits.

Vote deadline near

Connie Lawson, in one of her first public statements since becoming Indiana’s secretary of state, urged Hoosiers to register to vote for the upcoming May primary.

Monday is the deadline, but Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices – which accept registration – are closed for Good Friday.

Voters with a state driver’s license or ID card can also register at

Next for GOP

Look for Republican officials to increase the pressure on Rick Santorum to bow out of the presidential race after Mitt Romney swept three primaries Tuesday and did better with presumptive Santorum voters than he had in previous primaries.

With both Romney and President Obama gearing up for a November face-off, Santorum has thus far remained defiant.

Romney has a big lead in the delegate count – 646 compared with Santorum’s 272 – but he is still significantly short of the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination.