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Student lies about hate crime; Dollywood's lesbian controversy
NATIONAL ROUNDUP: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2011-08-03

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Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., were among those applauding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for outlining concrete steps toward ending the lifetime ban on gay men from donating blood, according to a press release. "We've been working on this a long time in a serious way and I'm glad Secretary Sebelius responded with concrete steps to finally remove this policy from the books," said Kerry. "HHS is doing their due-diligence and we plan to stay focused on the end game—a safe blood supply and an end to this discriminatory ban."

For the first time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released data on employer-provided domestic partner benefits, according to a press release. The data was from the National Compensation Survey, which collected data on the employment-benefit policies from more than 15,000 employers in the public and private sectors. The report shows that 30 percent of civilian employees (private sector, state and local government employees, but not federal government employees) have access to health benefits for same-sex domestic partners, and 25 percent have access to health benefits for different-sex domestic partners. State and local employees (33 percent) have more access to health benefits for same-sex partners than private-sector employees (29 percent) do. To read the full report, visit http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ebs2.nr0.htm.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) launched an online petition calling on President Obama to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the armed forces based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to an organizational press release. SLDN renewed its call for the order recently, when the president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen issued formal certification to the Congress that the military is ready for repeal. The petition is at http://www.change.org/petitions/white-house-issue-executive-order-prohibiting-lgbt-discrimination-in-the-military.

Tomorrow, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, Inc.,—a foundation that says it is "dedicated to restoring morality and values in the nation's youth"—has sued MSNBC, Rachel Maddow and others for $50 million for allegedly defaming its founder, Bradlee Dean, according to FreedomWatchUSA.org . According to the organization, Dean—while making an anti-gay statement—referenced Muslims as taking a stronger stance against the LGBT community. The organization then stated that Maddow and others said that Dean advocates the killing of gays, "as is the practice in some radical Islamic countries," allegedly causing him harm.

More than 3,000 public health officials, HIV-community leaders and researchers are slated to attend the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference—the only major meeting in the United States to focus exclusively on HIV prevention—Aug. 14-17 in Atlanta, according to a press release from the CDC. The conference will include an official press briefing highlighting

research related to the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and a media roundtable for on-site reporters focused on HIV among Black gay and bisexual men—one of the groups hit hardest by HIV. See www.2011nhpc.org .

In Florida, Miami Beach officers Frankly Forte and Eliut Hazzi have been fired after gay tourist Harold Strickland accused them of hurling anti-gay slurs and arresting him without reason in 2009, according to Advocate.com . Strickland, a former Miami Beach resident of Miami Beach, claims he was visiting his old neighborhood when he saw two undercover cops beating and kicking Oscar Mendoza, who is also gay, in his head. Strickland called 911, but drew the attention of the officers, who allegedly called him "faggot" and "fag" before arresting him for loitering and prowling. The officers will be able to appeal at an Aug. 1 hearing.

July 28 was the first World Hepatitis Day, as officially designated by the World Health Organization, according to a press release from the CDC. In the United States, World Hepatitis Day was commemorated at a special White House event that brought together policymakers, leading researchers, top government officials, healthcare providers and patients to discuss the impact of viral hepatitis. July 28 was selected to honor the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg (1925—2011), who discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and received the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

In New York state, Lambda Legal filed a discrimination lawsuit in Queens County Supreme Court against the Sizzler Restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens on behalf of Liza Friedlander, who was allegedly violently attacked while trying to eat with friends, according to a press release. On Sept. 18, 2010, a restaurant manager pushed Friedlander, accusing her of not paying for her buffet meal; he then allegedly shoved and kicked her, reportedly calling her "a fucking dyke." Other patrons then allegedly hurled anti-gay slurs, with one man reportedly threatening to sexually assault her.

A lesbian couple is claiming that officials at the Tennessee theme park Dollywood wouldn't let them in because one of the women wore a "Marriage is so gay" T-shirt, according to Gothamist. Olivier Odom says that when she and her wife, Jennifer Tipton, visited the park with their friend's young daughters, the guard told her she had to invert her T-shirt. Dollywood has a dress code stating that clothing deemed offensive or inappropriate must be turned inside out or covered. Parton has since apologized.

A lawsuit connected with the upcoming Gay Games has been settled, Advocate.com reported. The city of Cleveland will pay approximately $475,000 to the Cleveland Synergy Corp., the original organizers of the Games, after that group was dropped for the Cleveland Special Events Corp. Earlier this year, Synergy settled with the Federation of Gay Games for an undisclosed amount.

The California Superior Court has ruled that San Francisco's initiative to ban circumcision will be removed from the city's November ballot, the San Francisco Sentinel reported. Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi wrote, "The evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure." Plaintiffs representing community organizations, doctors and Jewish and Muslim families in San Francisco filed the lawsuit, with some physicians worried that they could be jailed for performing what they feel is a routine medical procedure.

The number of U.S. residents living in places that recognize same-sex unions has increased tenfold in the past 15 years, according to an On Top Magazine item. Now, 143 million people live in such municipalities, as opposed to 13 million in 1996. Also, support for marriage equality has doubled, from 27 percent to 53 percent. In addition, 291 Fortune 500 companies now offer protections and benefits to gay employees and their partners; in '96, it was 19.

In Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley wrote a letter to Chairman Rep. Eugene O'Flaherty and Chairwoman Sen. Cynthia Creem that supports the so-called Transgender Equal Rights Bill, according to Bay Windows. The proposed measure would add gender identity and expression to the state's civil-rights laws. In the letter Coakley, a longtime LGBT-rights supporter, detailed the need for transgender-specific civil-rights laws and responded directly to opponents' claims.

Sam Adams—the openly gay mayor of Portland, Ore.—will not seek re-election because he feels a campaign would be too time-consuming, according to Advocate.com . In an open letter, Adams stated, ""For me to win re-election as mayor, I would need to fundraise and campaign full-time, starting now." Adams was surrounded by controversy in 2008, when he admitted lying about having sex with then-teenaged legislative aide Beau Breedlove.

In Texas, Houston-area officials are banding together in an attempt to overturn the parole granted to Jon Buice (pronounced "Bice"), who killed gay banker Paul Broussard in 1991, according to the Houston Chronicle. Buice is serving 45 years in prison for his part in Broussard's murder, but the Texas Board of Pardons voted 2-0 on July 1 to approve Buice's parole. Buice and nine others bullied Broussard, then 27, and two friends, eventually killing him; the other nine are already on parole. State Sen. John Whitmire and the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus are among those opposing Buice's release.

Gay GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger is moving closer to debating on a national stage, Advocate.com reported. Karger was favored by 1 percent of Republican voters in a recent poll—which ties him with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and puts him just 1 point behind former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Debate candidates have to average 1 percent in five national polls; so far, Karger has been excluded.

In Michigan, Grand Rapids resident David Battjes said that he was the victim of a violent hate crime July 27, Advocate.com reported. Battjes, 51, told police two men in their 20s attacked him as he walked to his vehicle after attending an Equality Michigan meeting; he was wearing a West Michigan Pride shirt at the time. "They threw me against the wall. They called me a f----t. They told me 'You don't deserve to live," Battjes told a newspaper.

University of Iowa grad student Ryan Grant Watson has been charged with falsely reporting he was a hate-crime victim, according to an Advocate.com item. Watson initially claimed that a Black man attacked him in an alley by calling him an anti-gay slur and then hitting him in the face. After subsequent reports Watson made conflicted with his initial one, an investigation revealed that the attack never happened; instead, Watson was intoxicated and fell while walking down an alley.

In New York, a woman who worked as an executive housekeeper is suing them for discrimination after allegedly being fired because the couple discovered she is transgender, Reuters reported. Anastasia St. Clair-Hannah, 42, claims Thompson and Caroline Dean were pleased with her until a background check revealed that she had undergone gender-reassignment surgery. An attorney for the Deans said "the allegations are completely false and without any merit."

Gay conservative group GOProud has been banned from the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), LGBTQ Nation reported. GOProud had participated in CPAC for the past two years, even co-sponsoring last year's conference; however, that move resulted in several other organizations boycotting the event. GOProud, which recently defended presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, released a statement citing its disappointment with the decision to bar the group.

Utah State University professor Renee Galliher has started a research study that looks at the experiences of gay Mormons, according to a CBS News item. Galliher said she hopes the data will dispel myths and promote better understanding about the lives of Mormon gays. Mormonism teaches that any sexual relationship outside of traditional marriage is a sin; in the past, the church preached that just having feelings for someone of the same gender is sinful.

In San Francisco, David Muñoz Diaz, 22, is accused of murdering Freddy Canul-Arguello and then setting fire to the victim's remains—but Diaz claims Canul-Arguello's death was accidental, according to LGBTQ Nation. Diaz, 22, and the victim reportedly went to Buena Vista Park in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to have sex. Diaz's attorney, Alex Lilien, believes that "some form of erotic asphyxiation" resulted in the victim's death, adding that Diaz "panicked and set a garbage can on fire." Diaz is being held on $5 million bail.

Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown has been criticized for refusing to participate in a video for the "It Gets Better" project, according to LGBTQ Nation. All 10 U.S. House representatives from Massachusetts participated in a recently released video, as did U.S. Sen. John Kerry; Brown declined. Brown favors civil unions, and was among a handful of Republicans who voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" last December.

The American Bar Association (ABA) awarded the American Foundation for Equal Rights' (AFER) lead attorneys, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson, the American Bar Association Medal, according to a press release. AFER brought these two attorneys together in 2009 to lead the federal case against Proposition 8 (Perry v. Brown). AFER, Olson and Boies achieved an unprecedented victory for marriage equality on Aug. 4, 2010, when a U.S. District Court concluded that "Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis."

The man who led Milwaukee authorities to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer two decades ago has been ordered held on $10,000 bail in another man's drowning death, the Chicago Tribune reported. Tracy Edwards, 52, and Timothy Carr, 44, are charged with reckless endangerment with the drowning of Johnny Jordan; a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 8. In 1991, Edwards escaped from Dahmer's apartment and guided police to him.

On Aug. 7, several organizations—including the Gay Asian & Pacific Men of New York (GAPIMNY); Queer, Asian, Visible, Empowered (Q-WAVE, a queer women and trans API group; and the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)—will hold a protest in front of the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in New York City, according to a press release. The groups will be protesting the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department's recent "ex-gay conversion therapy" workshop led by Hong Kwai-Wah, an ex-gay "specialist." Hong is the leader of a Christian counseling group called New Creation Association, which allegedly has deep ties to Exodus Ministries and its overseas branch Exodus International, both of which have reportedly championed conversion therapy.

In Missouri, the Olivette City Council unanimously passed two pro-LGBT measures, according to The Vital Voice. Olivette is the first city in the state to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. It will also be one of the few cities across the country to have created a domestic-partner registry along with the anti-discrimination protections. The nondiscrimination ordinance went into effect immediately; the registry will be available Sept. 1.

In Florida, a fight between Republican U.S. Allen West and gay-rights activists continues, Advocate.com reported. The Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Caucus recently sent a letter to the The Wilton Manors Business Association, threatening a boycott if the association followed through on an event featuring West; Wilton Manors relented. West, a Tea Party favorite, and his wife criticized the caucus separately, saying it was intolerant. Wife Angela West also posted on the congressman's website that "if tolerance were to be achieved by an evening of discussion, it would have been discovered that Congressman West's close relative is gay and married to his partner—we love and adore them both."

In Colorado, teens Joseph Murphy and Zachary Kocman have been charged with an anti-gay attack after allegedly yelling slurs at a man before chasing and assaulting him, according to Advocate.com . Murphy, 18, and Kocman, 19, yelled at a 25-year-old man; they then allegedly got out of the vehicle, chased the victim for several blocks and assaulted him. They were released on bond but have an Aug. 9 courtroom appearance.


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