HARTFORD, Conn. -- The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would make Connecticut the first state, absent court pressure, to recognize civil unions between same-sex couples. Senators voted 27-9 in favor of the legislation, which proponents say will likely clear the House of Representatives, possibly as early as next week. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has not taken a stand on the bill, but has said she supports the concept of civil unions. According to the 2000 census, there are 7,400 same-sex couples in Connecticut.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Discovery began its slow creep to the launch pad Wednesday after a brief delay caused by the discovery of a crack in the external fuel tank's foam insulation. NASA later said the crack was no reason for concern. The flaw was discovered as the spacecraft was being readied for the first shuttle launch since Columbia fell to pieces two years ago -- a disaster blamed on a chunk of foam that fell off the tank during liftoff. NASA officials described the flaw as a hairline crack and said after sending images of it to the tank's manufacturer in Louisiana, the space agency concluded it did not need to make any repairs.
CHICAGO -- Avowed white supremacist Matthew Hale was sentenced to 40 years in prison Wednesday for trying to have a federal judge killed -- the same judge whose husband and mother were murdered five weeks ago by a deranged man with no connection to Hale. Hale, the 33-year-old leader of a group that preaches racial holy war, was sentenced after a two-hour speech in which he claimed he was the victim and even recited part of "The Star Spangled Banner." Hale was convicted in April 2004 of soliciting an undercover FBI informant to murder U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow of Chicago in retaliation for ruling against him in a trademark dispute.