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POSTED April 18, 2013 8:52 p.m.

MONTANA GOV. SIGNS BILL DECRIMINALIZING GAY SEX: HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An obsolete law deeming gay sex as deviant — akin to bestiality — was stricken from Montana code Thursday, prompting gay rights activists to say they hope that full legal equality may be close at hand.

When Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 107 decriminalizing gay sex, cheers erupted in the Capitol's Rotunda. It had been 16 years after the state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional and 24 years after gay rights activists began their fight to take government out of the bedroom.

"I am not going to speak too long because, frankly, the longer I talk, the longer this embarrassing and unconstitutional law stays on the books," Bullock said.

The victory, though a powerful one for the gay community in Montana, is highly symbolic with no tangible benefits aside from striking the obsolete law condemning gay sex from Montana code. The outdated code has not been used to prosecute individuals for years. And previous efforts to offer gays and lesbians protection under the law, including a push to prohibit civil discrimination, have been thwarted by a GOP-controlled Legislature.

Rep. Jerry Bennett, R-Libby, said he holds no ill will toward gay people, but he and other Republicans opposed the legislation and similar efforts along religious lines. He added that there is a bi-partisan movement to "protect the family," defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and gay rights efforts could have "long-term ramifications."

NJ WOMAN 'HORRIFIED' OVER PHRASE MOCKING ASIANS: BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — A woman of Korean descent who claims a worker at a CVS in southern New Jersey used a phrase mocking Asians to identify her on a store receipt said Thursday she was "horrified" when she made the discovery.

Hyun Lee said she had returned home from picking up her photos at the store and was sifting through them when she noticed the name on the receipt was "Ching Chong Lee" instead of her own.

"I was horrified because it just brought back old memories of growing up as a minority," Lee said.

She said she was subjected to name-calling because she was Asian while growing up in a diverse Bergen County town.

Lee said she believes someone deliberately changed the name on the receipt because the correct name appeared on an email from CVS saying her that the photos were ready for pickup.

Lee, who has two young children and is about a month from giving birth a third, said she worries about her kids growing up and facing discrimination.

Lee filed a lawsuit against the pharmacy chain April 16 seeking $1 million in mental and emotional damages. The suit was filed in federal court in Camden.

Attorney Susan Lask said her client picked up the photos in February at a CVS in Egg Harbor City. They have demanded the worker be fired, but that would not have stopped the lawsuit.

FEDS DONATE $5M TOWARD CALIF. QUAKE ALERT SYSTEM: PASADENA . (AP) — California's prototype earthquake warning system is getting a $5 million boost from the federal government.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the funding in a statement Thursday. He says the money will go toward improving the system's capability.

Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities have been developing the quake alert system for several years. The prototype only sends a test warning to select researchers and agencies after an earthquake. They're not broadcast to the public.

Supporters say having a few seconds' notice will allow people to duck under a table or allow trains to stop.

The price tag for a functional system is estimated at $80 million. Scientists say they would need to upgrade 400 monitoring stations and add 200 new ones to make the current system more reliable.

15,000 COUNTERFEIT TOASTERS SEIZED AT CALIF. PORTS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Customs agents have seized nearly 15,000 toasters that popped up at the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex.

Authorities said Thursday that the toasters seized last month were potentially dangerous because they had counterfeit safety markings.

The toasters arrived in two shipments from China, and Customs and Border Protection officials subsequently received confirmation that the Underwriters Laboratories labels on the products were counterfeit.

Underwriters Laboratories conducts product safety tests.

 

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