January 1st, 2013
12:00 PM ET

Same-sex Maryland couples ring in new year with wedding bells

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - Jim Scales and William Tasker have been a couple for 35 years, but only on Tuesday were they able to legally marry, thanks to Maryland's new same-sex marriage law, which went into effect with the new year.

Maryland was among three states this past November where voters approved laws allowing same-sex marriages.

At Baltimore City Hall, a celebration erupted with the first official marriage ceremonies just after midnight, similar to celebrations when laws went into effect in Washington and Maine in December.

Scales and Tasker made up the first couple in Baltimore to marry under the new law.

"Jim and I met in 1977 and at that time I just didn't really believe that gay people would ever see the day when they could marry," Tasker told CNN affiliate WBAL.

Scales agreed: "This is as happy as I've ever been, to be able to spend the rest of my life with Bill - legally - and to show the rest of the gay community that this can be done."

Seven couples exchanged vows in Baltimore in the first hours of the new year.

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Filed under: How we live • Sexual orientation • Where we live
4 female war veterans sue U.S. military over policy against women in combat
Four veterans (not pictured) and a national female veterans group have sued the Department of Defense.
November 28th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

4 female war veterans sue U.S. military over policy against women in combat

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Four servicewomen who have done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a suit against the Defense Department Tuesday challenging the military's longstanding policy against women in ground combat.

Some of the plaintiffs led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the women.

"Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts," the ACLU said. "The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs."

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Filed under: Gender • Veterans • Women
U.S. finalizes $3.4 billion settlement with American Indians
The late Elouise Cobell, right, watches as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testifies during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in 2009.
November 27th, 2012
08:37 AM ET

U.S. finalizes $3.4 billion settlement with American Indians

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Thousands of American Indians are now in line to receive part of a $3.4 billion settlement with the federal government, ending a long-running dispute over government mismanagement of tribal lands and accounts.

After an initial agreement was outlined in 2009, Congress approved it in November 2010 and it spent the last two years going through an appeals process. It was finalized Saturday, with government officials announcing and touting it on Monday.

"I welcome the final approval of the Cobell settlement agreement, clearing the way for reconciliation between the trust beneficiaries and the federal government," President Barack Obama said in a statement. The settlement is named after the late Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Indian tribe.

The deal follows a class-action lawsuit, filed in 1996, which accused the U.S. Department of the Interior of failing to account for and provide revenue from a trust fund representing the value of Indian assets managed by the government.

The missing funds at the center of the class-action case involve what are called Individual Indian Money accounts, which are supposed to represent the property of individual Indians. The accounts are held by the United States as trustee.

The lawsuit had accused the government of failing to account for the money, failing to make proper payments, and converting tribal money for the government's own use.

Judge blocks Pennsylvania voter ID law for November election
93-year-old Viviette Applewhite holds up the temporary photo ID she was able to obtain in Philadelphia.
October 2nd, 2012
12:26 PM ET

Judge blocks Pennsylvania voter ID law for November election

Philadelphia (CNN) - A Pennsylvania judge ruled Tuesday that state officials cannot enforce a new voter identification law in next month's presidential election.

The ruling by Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson is expected to be appealed, but amounted to good news for Democrats who contend the voter ID law is motivated by Republican efforts to suppress the traditionally Democratic minority vote.

"It's a huge victory in that the photo ID requirement for the November election has been blocked and people without ID will be able to vote on regular ballots," said Witold "Vic" Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania.

Read the documents (.PDF)

Supporters argue that the law signed in March by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett will prevent voter fraud and is upheld by the Constitution.

Sisters navigate new Pennsylvania voter ID law

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Where we live
Atlanta police clear white officers of profiling in Tyler Perry case
An internal investigation has cleared two white Atlanta police officers of racially profiling director/actor Tyler Perry.
September 12th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Atlanta police clear white officers of profiling in Tyler Perry case

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Two white Atlanta police officers who pulled over and questioned entertainment mogul Tyler Perry have been exonerated of racial profiling by an internal investigation, according to documents released Tuesday.

Just after noon on February 24, Perry left his studio in southwest Atlanta alone in a white Porsche Panamera. As the actor and director later explained in a lengthy Facebook post, Perry made an illegal left turn to make sure he wasn't being followed.

Two Atlanta police officers in a patrol car pulled Perry over and questioned him for about six minutes before letting him go without issuing a ticket.

Perry described the incident as "hostile" and that he felt unsafe. One of the officers continued to "badger him" during questioning, the entertainer said.

After a four-month investigation, an internal affairs officer reported, "I would submit the evidence shows the actions of both officers with the regard to the traffic stop of Mr. Perry were justified, lawful and proper."

Read the full story 

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Filed under: Black in America • How we look
September 11th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Alabama appeals ruling on immigration law

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Alabama officials Monday asked the full 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate portions of a tough law targeting illegal immigrants after a three-judge panel blocked those provisions.

"We are filing this based on principle," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, said in a statement announcing the move. "As the governor of Alabama, I have a duty to uphold and defend Alabama law. Federal courts should not restrain state governments in a way that is contrary to the U.S. Constitution."

The Obama administration took Alabama to court over the law, arguing that the legislation and a similar act in Georgia law encroached on federal authority.

The judges blocked parts of the Alabama law in August, including language that makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or solicit work; imposed criminal penalties to hide "an alien" or rent property to anyone in the United States illegally; and required state officials to check the immigration status of children in public schools.

The judges let stand one of the most controversial portions of the law, allowing local and state police check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws. The ruling followed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld a similar law in Arizona despite a federal challenge.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Immigration • Where we live
September 3rd, 2012
08:31 PM ET

'Green Mile' actor Michael Clarke Duncan dead at age 54, family rep says

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Michael Clarke Duncan, nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the 1999 film "The Green Mile," died Monday morning at age 54, according to a representative for his family.

Duncan "suffered a myocardial infarction on July 13 and never fully recovered," a written statement from Joy Fehily said.

Clarke died at a Los Angeles hospital where he had been since having the heart attack more than seven weeks ago.

According to TMZ, it was Duncan's girlfriend Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, a reality star and former contestant on "The Apprentice," who had acted quickly and provided lifesaving efforts when he had the heart attack.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Pop culture • Who we are
TSA behavior detection officers will be retrained after profiling complaints
TSA officers staff a checkpoint at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
August 23rd, 2012
03:30 PM ET

TSA behavior detection officers will be retrained after profiling complaints

By the CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is retraining some workers after allegations of racial profiling by officers assigned to look for people behaving suspiciously, a spokesman said.

The classes come after agents at Boston's Logan International Airport said fellow employees in the agency's behavior detection program were targeting minorities for questioning based on their race or ethnicity.

Some Boston officers have complained to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

ACLU attorney Sarah Wunsch, who has spoken with 10 officers accusing their colleagues of racial profiling, told CNN that officers were targeting racial and ethnic groups - including Mexicans, African-Americans and Brazilians - for secondary screening.

The claims, first reported in The New York Times earlier this month, prompted the TSA to open an internal investigation.

Now behavior detection officers nationwide will take an "online learning center refresher course to reinforce that racial/ethnic profiling will not be tolerated," TSA spokesman David Castelveter said.

TSA says it focuses on security, not good looks

A class called Combating Racial/Ethnic/Religious Profiling is being provided to behavior detection officers and managers at Boston and Detroit airports, where similar intensive programs are in place.

Classroom training includes a four-hour session where problems created by profiling will be discussed.

Read the full post

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Filed under: Black in America • How we look • Race • Where we live
August 20th, 2012
08:58 PM ET

George Hickman Jr. former Tuskegee airman, dies

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - George Hickman Jr., a flight mechanic with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, has died, according to a spokeswoman for the group.

Hickman, who served in Europe during World War II, died this past weekend, Sandra Campbell, public relations officer for Tuskegee Airmen Inc., said.

Hickman, who was 88, died in Seattle, CNN affiliate KIRO reported.

University of Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar said he will miss Hickman, who worked for the Huskies' athletics' department.

"He was one of the most inspirational men that I have ever met," Romar tweeted. "Things will be a little different right before we go out on the court not being able to shake the hand of George Hickman."

Football coach Steve Sarkisian also tweeted about the man that the university's athletics department called an icon.

"He represented the UW and the Tuskegee Airmen with class. I will always appreciate how he treated my family," he said.

The Tuskegee Airmen, who earned a place in history as the first African-American pursuit pilots, protected U.S. bombers from enemy fire during missions over parts of Europe and North Africa. Their training program, first based at the historically black Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1941, eventually grew to include nearly 1,000 pilots and several air bases.


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Filed under: Black in America • History • Who we are
May 9th, 2012
03:50 PM ET

Obama says he supports same-sex marriage

By CNN Wire staff

(CNN) - President Barack Obama, who previously said his views on the issue were "evolving," said Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage.

"At a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," Obama said in an interview with ABC News.

The president once opposed same-sex marriage.

Obama was "disappointed" by Tuesday's vote on the issue in North Carolina, which he described as discriminatory against gays and lesbians, a spokesman said earlier Wednesday.

North Carolina voted to implement a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which was already prohibited in the state. Supporters of the measure pushed for the constitutional amendment, arguing that it was needed to ward off future legal challenges.

Read the full story

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Filed under: How we live • Politics • Sexual orientation
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