PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Gettysburg anniversary, a fight over gay marriage and a young girl who challenged national organ transplant rules were among the major headlines in Pennsylvania this year, each with a different outcome: One was re-enacted, one rages on and one saved the life of a 10-year-old.
Thousands trekked to central Pennsylvania in July for the 150th anniversary of a bloody Civil War conflict; many returned in November to commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal speech on the fighting.
Supporters of gay marriage filed several lawsuits — still pending — that challenge the state ban on same-sex unions. A rogue clerk in Montgomery County issued licenses to 174 gay couples until a state judge ordered him to stop, while a Methodist minister from Lebanon, Pa., was defrocked because he officiated at his gay son’s marriage in Massachusetts, where the unions are legal.
And the family of Sarah Murnaghan successfully fought to get her a life-saving lung transplant. Although dying of cystic fibrosis in a Philadelphia hospital, Sarah sat at the end of a waiting list for adult lungs because of her age. She received the donated organs after a judge intervened.
A botched building demolition in Philadelphia killed six people and forced the city to re-examine its construction regulations. Authorities say cut-rate contractors skimped on safety, causing a three-story brick wall to fall on top of a thrift shop, crushing shoppers and employees.
Penn State agreed to pay nearly $60 million to 26 young men over claims they were sexually abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The settlements close another chapter in the sordid scandal, but the coming year promises more drama: Three former university officials will be tried on charges accusing them of a cover-up.
In Pittsburgh, the police chief resigned and later pleaded guilty to theft-related charges tied to a department slush fund. The still-unfolding probe has widened to include those close to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who denies wrongdoing. He also decided not to seek re-election.
In January, not long after the Connecticut school massacre, organizers of the state’s largest outdoor-sports expo banned the sale and display of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The backlash from customers and vendors led to the cancellation of Reed Exhibitions’ planned nine-day show in Harrisburg. The event is now sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
Guns made headlines again during the summer. Police say Rockne Newell, upset over a property dispute with officials, killed three people at a municipal meeting in Ross Township. Newell has pleaded not guilty.
And officials in Gilberton sought to fire police chief Mark Kessler after he posted profanity-laced videos of himself shooting guns and railing against liberals. The personnel hearing was suddenly halted after a loaded firearm worn by one of Kessler’s supporters slid out of its holster and crashed to the floor. No one was injured, and no new hearing date has been set.
In business news, Pittsburgh got a jolt when Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital bought condiment giant Heinz for $28 billion. The new owners say it will stay based in the city where it was founded in 1869; the Heinz name graces such buildings as the football stadium and the orchestra hall.
The once-obscure Marcellus Shale became the most productive natural gas field in America, and that turned Pennsylvania into one of the top three producers in the nation, according to federal energy officials. But at year’s end, the state Supreme Court threw out significant portions of a law limiting municipalities’ power to regulate the industry; the ruling’s effects will start unfolding in 2014.
Turmoil continued at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and philly.com as feuding owners sued one another. A key issue is whether the firing of Inquirer editor Bill Marimow constitutes a business or editorial decision; although Marimow was reinstated by a judge, the larger battle for control of the media company continues.
Sports made for a trio of interesting headlines. In a Philadelphia courtroom, the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to settle lawsuits from thousands of former players who developed dementia or other concussion-related health problems.
The eastern Pennsylvania town where famed athlete Jim Thorpe was laid to rest six decades ago is appealing a ruling that could clear the way for his remains to be moved to American Indian land in Oklahoma.
And Mansfield University decided to shine a light on its football team.
The state school hosted the nation’s first night football game in 1892, but it was such a disaster that it took more than a century to try again. The power finally went on again Sept. 15, and the Mountaineers knocked off Princeton in front of an electric, record-breaking crowd.
Follow Kathy Matheson at www.twitter.com/kmatheson