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A move to amend the Indiana Constitution to ban same-sex marriage died in the House of Representatives February 15 when Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, refused to consider the measure in the Rules Committee.

The proposal had passed both houses in 2005 and had passed the Senate a second time this year. Constitutional amendments must pass two consecutively elected legislatures, then be approved by voters in a general election.

Pelath's action means Gays are safe from the amendment for at least four years.

"This really is a very simple decision," Pelath said. "The reality is, we have

no Gay marriages in Indiana. It is against the law. Nobody has brought me evidence of a Gay marriage taking place in this state. "There's no reason to put very poorly crafted verbiage into our constitution, our state's highest document, that could potentially be a lawyer's dream with all sorts of unintended consequences."

A coalition of California Gay groups has formed a "Rapid Responders" project to confront paid signature-gatherers sent out by anti-Gay groups to collect the 694,354 voter signatures needed to force a ballot vote on amending the state constitution to ban same sex marriage.

"Equality for All is calling for volunteers to help educate voters and is asking all fair-minded Californians to be on the lookout for people gathering signatures at local malls, grocery stores and in their neighborhoods," the groups said.

The campaign has set up a hotline and put a "Rapid Response Team" sign-up form on its Web site: equalityforall.com.

ProtectMarriage.com and the National Organization for Marriage have hired people to collect the necessary signatures by the April 1 deadline, Equality for All said.

"Attempts to qualify a constitutional amendment banning marriage for Gay and Lesbian couples failed in 2004 and 2006," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. "With a large enough network of supporters and volunteers willing to help, we can stop them again."

The U.S. State Department has lifted its ban on HIV-positive Foreign Service officers, Lambda Legal reported February 15.

The move came less than two weeks before a scheduled trial in the HIV discrimination case Taylor v. Rice, which sought to overturn the ban.

Lambda's client, Lorenzo Taylor, was denied employment as a Foreign Service officer after disclosing his HIV status. The case has now been settled.

"The new guidelines mean that candidates for Foreign Service posts who have HIV will now be assessed on a case-by-case basis," said Bebe J. Anderson, Lambda's HIV Project director. "The State Department is taking down its sign that read 'People with HIV need not apply.'"

Taylor commented: "Now people like me ... will not have to go through what I did. They and others with HIV will know that they do not have to surrender to stigma, ignorance, fear or the efforts of anyone, even the federal government, to impose second-class citizenship on them."

Gay people and their supporters staged vigils across California February 19 and 20 to remember Lawrence King, a 15-year-old student who was shot during class at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard on February 12 and died three days later.

King was openly Gay and wore makeup, feminine jewelry and high-heel boots. As a result, he had been bullied and harassed by other students, including Brandon McInerney, 14, who has been charged with premeditated murder with a hate-crime enhancement.

The Los Angeles Times said King recently had told McInerney he had a crush on him, according to one of King's friends.

Vigils took place in San Francisco, Ukiah, Willits, Sacramento, Fresno and Los Angeles, and have been scheduled in San Diego and Santa Barbara.

"By remembering Larry at these vigils, we hope we will also honor him by raising awareness that young people are coming out at younger ages and [that] our schools - especially our junior highs and middle schools - need to be proactive about teaching respect for diversity based on sexual orientation and gender identity," said Carolyn Laub, executive director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, which helped organized the actions.

New Jersey's year-old civil-union law, which was supposed to give Gay couples the same rights as married couples, doesn't do that, a state commission determined February 19.

The commission found that the unions create a "second-class status;" are not treated as equal to marriage by government agencies, employers and others; and often are not understood by the public.

Given that the civil-union law was passed in response to a Supreme Court decision ordering the state to grant Gay couples all rights of matrimony, the commission pronounced the law a failure.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine said the findings raise "significant concerns" and that he'd be willing to resolve them by signing a bill granting Gay couples access to full marriage.

But he said he would not do so until after the November presidential election, so as not to inject the matter into the campaign season.

New Jersey would be only the second U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts. California's legislature has twice passed bills granting Gay couples access to marriage, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed them, saying the matter should be decided by the state Supreme Court or California voters.

Some 2,300 New Jersey couples have entered into a civil union in the past year.

With assistance from Bill Kelley
picture top: lawrence King; picture bottom: Geoffrey Kors

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