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Tying The Knot With Same-Sex Marriage: Obama’s Slow Evolution

Includes: interactive timeline (with videos)

The year was 1996, and a political novice named Barack Obama was running for Illinois State Senate – his first bid for public office. Responding to a questionnaire from Outlines, a gay newspaper in Chicago, Obama wrote: “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

It took him till now to return to that position.

Just two years later, Obama was deeply steeped in the world of politics. In his re-election bid for state senate, the same newspaper asked the same question. Obama’s position had already shifted, though. In response, he said he was now “undecided.”

Since then, Obama has held fast in his support for civil unions and equal rights for gays and lesbians, but until this week, he never firmly tied the knot in support of same-sex marriage. Scroll through the timeline, and view the clips, to see Obama long “evolving” feelings on this issue.

Obama’s Very Loaded Thumbs Up On Same-Sex Marriage

Includes: article; PBS video; Daily Show video; resource links

It took just 10 words for President Obama to end his career-long wrestling match with the same-sex marriage issue. During a deceptively casual television interview on Wednesday, Obama simply said:

“I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

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The History of May Day Explained

Includes: Article, archival photos

The Haymarket affair, as depicted in a a Harper’s Magazine engraving (Wikimedia Commons)

For some, May Day means prancing awkwardly around a feather-wreathed pole.

But that ancient Druid rite of Spring is likely not what today’s protestors have in mind.

In about 80 countries throughout the world, May Day is actually an official labor holiday, often commemorated with large strikes, rallies, and demonstrations in support of workers rights. And its roots date back to a heated struggle for something that most of us now take for granted: the eight-hour work day. Continue reading

How One Law Helped Pack California’s Prisons

A single state law from the 1970s completely transformed the way California sentences its criminals.

The Uniform Determinate Sentencing Law was signed in 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown (yes,  same guy). Shortly thereafter the prison population metastasized.

Here’s what happened:

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Packing the House: The Back Story on California’s Prison Boom

California’s prisons are old, crumbling, and packed to the gills with inmates. The inmate population  exploded in the late 1980s and 90s. It rose almost 900 percent over three decades and reached an all-time high in 2006, with more than 172,000 inmates behind bars. During that same period, the state almost tripled the number of prison facilities: Continue reading