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Victory in Syrian election is show of Assad’s control

BEIRUT — President Bashar Assad of Syria on Wednesday celebrated his overwhelming victory in a deeply disputed election, asserting his confidence and defiance in the Syrian conflict as supporters savored his success in thwarting the United States.

Syrian officials announced that Assad had been re-elected with 88.7 percent of the vote and reported turnout of 73.4 percent of eligible voters. Those numbers could be questioned on many levels, but that did not matter much, as the election was primarily a display of Assad’s continued control of important Syrian cities, the loyalty of his core supporters and the failures of his opposition and its backers.

For U.S. officials, it was a less triumphant day. Assad’s supporters celebrated with gunfire in Damascus and even in neighboring Lebanon, where Secretary of State John Kerry paid a visit Wednesday.

But the Americans were confronted with a sense that their policy on Syria and in the region was adrift.

The night before, Robert S. Ford, the career diplomat and Arabic speaker who was until recently the nominal ambassador to Syria and the main executor of U.S. policy there, declared on “PBS NewsHour” that he quit his post in February because the policy had failed and he “could no longer defend” it in public. He said that with the United States unwilling to seriously aid potential allies in the Syrian opposition, Russia and Iran had been “driving” the war’s dynamics by hugely increasing their support for Assad.

At the United Nations on Wednesday, the top official overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, Sigrid Kaag, confirmed that Assad’s government would miss the June 30 deadline set by the Security Council for the arsenal’s destruction.

—Anne Barnard, The New York Times

U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs call to end same-sex marriages in Oregon

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request to halt same-sex marriages in Oregon. The court’s one-line order gave no reasons for declining to issue a stay.

Many gay and lesbian couples have gotten married in Oregon since a May 19 decision from Judge Michael J. McShane of the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon, struck down the state’s ban on such marriages.

“With marriages continuing in Oregon, we have 44 percent of the country living in a freedom-to-marry state,” said James Esseks, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented some of the plaintiffs in the Oregon case.

Same-sex marriages are permitted in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

State officials had declined to appeal McShane’s decision. Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen F. Rosenblum, told the court that “there is no rational basis on which to defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban.”

The request to the Supreme Court that the decision be stayed came instead from the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage.

The organization’s brief reminded the justices that they had issued a stay in January of a federal trial judge’s ruling allowing same-sex marriages in Utah. But that request had come from state officials.

Decisions from federal appeals courts in some of those cases are expected shortly, and the question of whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage could return to the Supreme Court in its next term, which starts in October.

—Adam Liptak, The New York Times