Ruling in gay-rights case

New Jersey is unconstitutionally denying federal benefits to gay couples and must allow them to marry, a judge ruled Friday. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson sided almost entirely with a group of same-sex couples and gay-rights groups who sued the state in July days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key parts of a law that blocked the federal government from granting benefits to gay couples. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican in the midst of a re-election campaign and a possible presidential contender, said through a spokesman Friday he plans to appeal the decision, which he believes should be determined by a popular vote rather than a court. The judge made the ruling effective Oct. 21, giving Christie time to appeal and likely ask a court to delay implementation of her order. Christie refused to take questions about the ruling on Friday.


Storm aid program to end

A judge has lifted an injunction that preserved a program providing New York City hotel rooms to 350 people made homeless by Superstorm Sandy. State Supreme Court Judge Margaret Chan issued her decision Friday. The program could end Monday when the Federal Emergency Management Agency has said it will stop reimbursing the city for the program. The city has spent $70 million housing the evacuees. More than 3,000 people have been sheltered by the program but 350 remain.


Cartel figure pleads guilty

A U.S.-born lieutenant of a Mexican cartel that smuggles drugs to California pleaded guilty to criminal charges in an agreement with prosecutors to limit his prison sentence to 30 years. Armando Villareal Heredia, 35, acknowledged in his plea agreement that he participated in murder, kidnappings and the smuggling of methamphetamine on behalf of a Tijuana-based cartel led by Fernando Sanchez Arellano. The San Diego native can be sentenced to a maximum sentence of life in federal prison for racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, but prosecutors agreed to ask for 30 years.

Compiled from wire reports.