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New Push For Gay Rights Laws

Advocates of gay and lesbian rights raised their symbolic rainbow flag above the Connecticut state capitol Sunday, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston. The unusual salute was permitted because Connecticut is one of the few states with laws protecting homosexuals.

"In all but ten states, you can be fired from your job because you're gay," says Kerry Lobel of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "You can be denied credit because you're a lesbian."

Now, there's a new push for civil rights for homosexuals. Launched in each of the 50 states this weekend, it's called "Equality Begins at Home." The goal is to pass state laws guaranteeing equal treatment and protection against hate crimes for gays and lesbians.

The movement coincides with three recent brutal attacks against men who were gay.

In Alabama, Billy Jack Gaither, 39, was beaten and burned. In Richmond, Va., 29-year-old Henry Edward Northington's decapitated head was found in a park frequented by gay men.

And the most publicized murder of all: The killing of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shephard; his beaten, broken body left hanging on a fence. Weeks after the murder, the Wyoming legislature rejected a proposed hate-crime bill.

For New York State Senator Tom Duane, the cause is political and personal. Sixteen years ago, Duane says he was beaten outside a Long Island nightclub because he is gay.

"I was terrified," says Duane. "It was one of the most terrifying things that have happened to me."

Duane is guardedly optimistic about the chance of a hate-crimes law passing in his own state. "There's a better chance this year than in past years," he says, "because the governor has been supportive."

Critics say new laws to protect gays are unnecessary. But many lawmakers in states with sizable gay voting blocs are handling this issue carefully, knowing the ultimate decision may come at the ballot box.