By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - America woke up Wednesday, looked into a giant mirror made up of millions of votes and saw how it has been changing for decades.
It wasn't just President Obama's re-election and the diverse coalition of minorities, women and youth that kept him in power.
For the first time, voters approved same-sex marriage in three states. Margaret Hoover, a Republican analyst and CNN contributor, called it "a watershed moment." Meanwhile, Wisconsin elected the country's first openly gay U.S. senator.
Two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
A record 20 women will be serving in the U.S. Senate.
All this would have been unthinkable a generation ago, as would the idea the country would elect, let alone re-elect, its first black president.
Tuesday's election showed that the United States is redefining what it means to be an American, some political and social observers say: The country is less conservative than popular belief suggests. It's no longer the same America. The nation has arrived at a "new normal."
Others say the election showed that America is "fractured" and even more "racially polarized" than many people believed, while some analysts caution against reading too much into any one election.
Americans may have awakened Wednesday to the same balance of power in Washington - same president, same divided Congress - but in many ways they also woke up to the sense that things outside the Beltway might never be quite the same.
The America that gave the president a second term and ushered in a string of cultural firsts was formed at a time of dramatic changes that were starting to take root just around the time Obama was born in 1961.FULL STORY
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - President Obama will make modern history Monday when he announces the creation of a monument to honor Cesar Chavez, as he works to energize Latino voters less than a month before the presidential election.
The Cesar E. Chavez National Monument will become the 398th park in the National Park Service system, and the first since the 1700s to honor a Latino, the park service told CNN.
The president will speak at the event in Keene, California, on land known as Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, where Chavez lived and led the farm worker movement.FULL STORY
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) – California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill banning therapy aimed at turning gay kids straight, saying such efforts "will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery."
"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," Brown tweeted.
The California Senate passed the bill in May. It will kick in on January 1.
The bill prohibits efforts to change the sexual orientation of patients under age 18.
The American Psychiatric Association says the potential risk of so-called "reparative therapy" is great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. Therapists' alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce the self-hatred already felt by patients, the association says.
"The longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation," the association says.
After the bill passed the state Senate, Equality California spokeswoman Rebekah Orr praised the "right first step in making sure that young people are protected from these unscrupulous therapists who are really engaging in therapeutic deception that is based on junk science."
Equality California describes itself as the largest statewide advocacy group in California working for "full equality" for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
But the president of an organization that promotes reparative therapy, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, called the bill "another triumph of political activism over objective science."FULL STORY
By Josh Levs, CNN
(CNN) - The Supreme Court's decision Thursday to uphold the Affordable Care Act means that the predictions about how it will affect all Americans remain in place.
Here are some highlights:
The decision leaves in place the so-called individual mandate - the requirement on Americans to have or buy health insurance beginning in 2014 or face a penalty - although many are exempt from that provision.
In 2014, the penalty will be $285 per family or 1% of income, whichever is greater. By 2016, it goes up to $2,085 per family or 2.5% of income.
Because the requirement remains for people to have or buy insurance, the revenue stream designed to help pay for the law remains in place. So insured Americans may be avoiding a spike in premiums that could have resulted if the high court had tossed out the individual mandate but left other requirements on insurers in place.
Millions of young adults up to age 26 who have gained health insurance due to the law will be able to keep it. The law requires insurers to cover the children of those they insure up to age 26. About 2.5 million young adults from age 19 to 25 obtained health coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Two of the nation's largest insurers, United Healthcare and Humana, recently announced they would voluntarily maintain some aspects of health care reform, including coverage of adult dependents up to age 26, even if the law was scrapped.