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A gay and lesbian advocacy group that gave Microsoft Corp. a civil rights award four years ago has asked the software giant to give it back, blasting the company for withdrawing its support of a state bill that would have outlawed discrimination against homosexuals.

Darrel Cummings, chief of staff for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said in a statement released Friday that Microsoft appeared to have yielded to anti-gay extremists.

Microsoft, which has offered benefits to same-sex couples since the early 1990s and supported versions of the bill in the past, said it decided to take a neutral position on the gay rights bill this year so it could sharpen its focus on a shorter list of legislative priorities.

The bill banning discrimination against homosexuals in housing, employment and insurance failed by one vote in the State Senate on Thursday. The House passed the bill by a 61-37 vote two months ago.

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