Richard Gonzales

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And high tech companies in Silicon Valley have long depended on foreign born workers, some of whom are eligible to become citizens. Now a few companies are helping their employees do just that in hopes of helping their own bottom line.

There was a small development in a case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month that could have a major impact on the legal battle over same-sex marriage. The case involves a dispute between two pharmaceutical companies, a gay juror and the level of legal scrutiny directed by the appellate court.

Even through a long-distance line from Uganda, you can hear the fear and anxiety in the young man's voice. Nathan, 19, is gay. NPR is not using his surname because he fears arrest.

"Right now we are not safe," he says. "Because we are hearing some people say ... 'If we get you, we will kill you. If we get you, we'll do something bad to you.' "

A federal judge in Virginia struck down that state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage this week. It's just the latest in a string of similar rulings in conservative states, and it indicates that the strategy for winning marriage equality in federal courts is moving faster than many had expected.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen said Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because "core civil rights are at stake." She compared the case to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling recognizing interracial marriage.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives Wednesday approved a massive five-year farm bill that costs nearly half a trillion dollars.

The bill includes some reductions to food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, to the tune of nearly $1 billion a year. It's far less than what many Republicans had wanted. But the cuts are large enough to worry some Democrats and many food stamp recipients.

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And I'm Robert Siegel.

Today, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state's healthier finances will mean billions of dollars of new spending. The winners in the governor's proposed record budget include schools and welfare. He also wants millions spent on maintaining roads and parks.

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San Francisco has long been a desirable place to live — and that's even more true today as the city is basking in the glow of another tech boom. But the influx of new money and new residents is putting a strain on the city's housing market.

The city has the highest median rent in the nation, and evictions of longtime residents are skyrocketing.

Ground zero for San Francisco's eviction crisis is the Inner Mission District. Until recently, this edgy neighborhood was home to a mix of working-class Latinos, artists and activists.

The city of Oakland, Calif., is in the middle of a robbery epidemic. In response, some residents in several Oakland neighborhoods are taking matters into their own hands, hiring private security companies to patrol their neighborhoods.

Overall, robberies in Oakland are up 24 percent over the past year, with armed robberies up 45 percent. Since the recession dried up local tax revenues, the Oakland Police Department has been hamstrung by the loss of more than 200 officers and can't respond to all the calls it receives for help.

This story is part of an ongoing project on commuting in America.

What's known as the "last mile" of a commute can be the Holy Grail for many city transportation planners. How do you get people from their major mode of transportation – like a train station – to their final destination?

Sonoma County, Calif., is probably best known for its good wine, green sensibilities and otherwise healthy and peaceful living. But that peace was shattered last week when a county sheriff's deputy shot and killed a young teenager carrying a toy gun.

New Mexico law doesn't explicitly ban or approve same-sex marriage. There were a spate of lawsuits seeking to clarify the issue, but they were tied up in the courts. Then in August, the clerk of Dona Ana County, Lynn Ellins, a long-time supporter of same-sex marriage, consulted his staff.

"And we all agreed that it was about time to bring this thing to a head, and if we did nothing, the cases would languish in the district court if we did not move to issue these licenses and try and put the ball in play," Ellins says.

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In California, officials are ramping up a unique program that identifies and seizes guns from people who are prohibited from keeping them. Under state law, a legally registered gun owner loses the right to own a firearm when he or she is convicted of a crime or becomes mentally ill.

It's not often that Oakland, Calif., hosts a movie opening. But there is plenty of anticipation for Fruitvale Station.

The film is about the life and death of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was fatally shot in the back by a white transit police officer in the early morning hours of New Year's Day in 2009.

Grant was killed by Officer Johannes Mehserle, who claimed to have been reaching for his Taser, not his handgun. Mehserle was tried and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months of a two-year term.

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In most states, the power to draw lines for political districts rests with legislators. In recent years, California voters have tried to make the process less political by taking it out of lawmakers' hands. But not everyone is happy with how things are turning out.

To understand redistricting in California, consider this: Over a 10-year period beginning in 2000, there were 255 congressional races, and only one seat — that's right, one seat — changed parties.

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California Gov. Jerry Brown is locked in a legal battle over control of his state's prison system. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling ordering the state to drastically reduce its prisoner population. Brown claims the state has made substantial progress, but the governor has stopped short of complying fully with the court order.

Ever since the Newtown, Ct., school shooting, there's been a raging debate over how to keep America's schoolchildren safe. National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre proposed stationing an armed guard in every school in the country. Critics said that idea was impractical and would be too expensive to carry out.

But many schools and school districts already have armed police officers. Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, about one-third of the schools in the U.S. have added some kind of armed security, according to federal data.

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