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Andrew Davis, Windy City Times. Ex-gay leader comes out; Westboro to picket the Ohio State Univ.
National News Roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.
2011-10-19

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Several individuals connected with the LGBT group Servicemembers Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) has contributed to the book Our Time: Breaking the Silence of Don't Ask, Don't Tell ( Penguin Press ) , according to a press release. SLDN co-founder Michelle Benecke is featured prominently in the book, along with former Marine Lance Corporal Danny Hernandez, discharged under DADT and a member of the SLDN staff, and former Air Force Staff Sergeant Anthony Loverde, a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit brought by SLDN that seeks the reinstatement of three servicemembers discharged under DADT.

The New York Institute of Technology is auctioning off items connected with the estate of the late Dr. Jack Kevorkian Oct. 28, USA Today reported. There will be more than 100 personal items available, including handwritten documents from prison; a pearl flute; his famous blue sweater; and the Thanatron machine, which Kevorkian built and used in more than 100 assisted suicides. Kevorkian filed a lawsuit in the mid-1990s with a gay man with AIDS, with both challenging California's ban on euthanasia.

South Carolina's Episcopal diocese may secede from the national church over the issue of homosexuality, according to Reuters. In a statement, the Rev. Jeffrey Miller of the South Carolina diocese said, "The question is not whether we can stay. It is whether they will let us stay and follow what we believe." The statement followed the national church accusing South Carolina Bishop Right Rev. Mark J. Lawrence with "abandonment" of the church's doctrine. The South Carolina bishop accused the national church of preaching a "false gospel of indiscriminate inclusivity ... that has suffocated the mission of the Church."

The University of Iowa is weighing interest for a gay-friendly fraternity, according to Press-citizen.com . Kelly Jo Karnes, associate director for the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, said, "We're trying to build up our offerings and grow our community, so we want to see what the interest is on campus for this." The university has 40 fraternities and sororities, including several for specific cultural groups.

In honor of National Coming Out Day, Harvard University wrestling team members wore gay-pride T-shirts and rainbow pins instead of their usual uniforms, Advocate.com reported. Openly gay student Robert Joseph "R.J." Jenkins introduced the idea of wearing pro-gay clothes to the wrestlers. The T-shirts had statements on them such as "Some dudes marry dudes. Get over it" and "Some kids r gay. That's OK."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a budget Oct. 12 that aims to make large strides in closing a projected $636 million shortfall—and mayoral LGBT liaison Bill Greaves is among the occupational sacrifices, as he will not have his job after Jan. 1. According to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, Greaves was invited to join the council in 1995. Five years later, he became director. State Rep. Deb Mell, who also sits on the City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations' Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues ( that Greaves will be director of through the end of the year ) , said, "I know firsthand how hard Bill [ Greaves ] works. It's a loss; I think ... he's a valuable asset there."

A hearing- and speech-impaired man who is awaiting trial for raping a deaf woman last year in Michigan is now wanted in connected with the 2004 abduction and rape of a transgender man in Pittsburgh, Pa., according to an Advocate.com item. Christopher Lauer, 30, was linked to the first incident through DNA. Authorities said the first victim was pulled into a van, tied with duct tape and raped while attending an event for hearing-impaired people.

In Ohio, two churches are publicly airing their opposing views on homosexuality through billboards, WKYC.com reported. Toledo's Central United Methodist Church posted a roadside billboard in April that said, "Being Gay Is a Gift from God." After seeing that, the Rev. Tony Scott of the Church on Strayer in Maumee, Ohio, bought nine billboards that state "Being Gay is NOT a Gift from God—Forgiveness, Love, and Eternal Life Are." Central United recently put up a new billboard that reads, "Creating a Space for All God's Children Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity."

The controversial Westboro Baptist Church plans to return to the Ohio State University Oct. 25, the Christian Post reported. The congregants intend of returning to what is the largest U.S. university campus for the second time in two years, alleging that "God hates" the college for its inclusiveness. Last year, U.S. News & World Reported named the university—located in Columbus, Ohio—one of the nation's top gay-friendly campuses.

Oregon's U.S. attorney's office has recently become the first federal prosecutor's office in the nation to produce a video for the "It Gets Better" campaign, according to JustOut.com . Several prosecutors and staff members detail their own experiences, including one woman who describes the relief her teenage son had after coming out to her. Paralegal Cheryl Root also talked, saying, "I think the biggest thing for kids today is to understand that the fear of actually telling someone is greater than the event itself so don't isolate—don't hold it in."

In Illinois, the Cook County sheriff's office is attempting to use DNA comparisons to identify eight of John Wayne Gacy's victims, according to a Chicago Tribune item. Gacy became notorious in the late 1970s when authorities discovered that he had killed 33 boys and young men ( most of whom he had raped and tortured ) , and had buried them in the crawl space of his house at 8213 W. Summerdale Avenue in the township of Norwood Park. Gacy was executed via lethal injection in 1994.

An ex-gay ministry leader has come out, recanting previous teachings, according to ThinkProgress.org . John Smid resigned as executive director of Love in Action ex-gay ministries in 2008, and has been rethinking his beliefs ever since. In a new blog post, Smid acknowledged his own homosexuality ( even though he's married to a woman ) and added, "Actually, I've never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual."

On a recent appearance on Fox News Sunday, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum reiterated his thoughts that being gay is a choice and that there should be no sexual activity in the military unless "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ( DADT ) is reinstated, ThinkProgress.org reported. Santorum also expressed his support of ex-gay ministries, saying, "There are all sorts of studies out there that suggest ... there are people who were gay and lived the gay lifestyle and aren't anymore." Host Chris Wallace countered one of Santorum's points by saying that DADT is connected with soldiers living openly and is not about sexual activity.

In Tennessee, a minister accused of ordering an assault on his gay son and the son's boyfriend has now been charged with stealing copper, according to Advocate.com . Jerry Pittman, pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Fruitland, was arrested Sept. 21 on charges related to theft. Son Jerry Pittman Jr. told TV station WBBJ that recently "my uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad's request," with the three men physically attacking the younger Pittman and his boyfriend. The elder Pittman is slated to appear in court on the theft charges Oct. 28.

Union Township, N.J., high school teacher Viki Knox has stirred controversy because of her Facebook remarks criticizing her school's observance of LGBT History Month, according to an Equality Forum press release. Knox described homosexuality as "perverted" and a "sin" that "breeds like cancer." Malcolm Lazin, founder of LGBT History Month, responded, "While Americans are blessed to have constitutionally protected free speech, it does not protect a teacher who engages in homophobic speech that endangers school children. LGBT History Month is an educational project that provides role models and life-affirming resources." The Human Rights Campaign has asked New Jersey Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf to investigate Knox.

The Gill Foundation's Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado announced Thursday that it is "embarking on a strategic re-evaluation" of its giving, according to the Denver Post. The foundation also plans to close its Colorado Springs office and lay off the nine employees there by the end of 2011. The fund has donated $27.6 million to Colorado organizations in the areas of civic participation, arts and culture, healthy families, and public broadcasting. The fund is one of several arms of the Gill Foundation, which software entrepreneur Tim Gill started in 1994 in response to Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) issued a statement praising Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy's announcement that the panel would soon hold a markup on the bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. "This markup is an incredible step toward ending federal marriage discrimination that causes real harm to American families," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "Chairman Leahy and Senator Feinstein have been leaders in this fight and we applaud them for continuing the momentum against this unjust law."

In Texas, a male Alice High School cheerleader was booted from the squad and suspended after he was caught kissing another male student on campus, according to KrisTV.com . The student was caught on a surveillance camera—leading him to believe he was being spied upon because of his sexual orientation. The boy ( who asked not to be identified ) also believed that he wouldn't have been suspended if he had kissed a girl.

In Virginia, openly gay Republican state Senate candidate Patrick Forrest is accusing Democratic incumbent opponent state Sen. Janet Howell of anti-gay tactics, the Washington Blade reported. The Blade obtained an audio recording of a Howell supporter Kavita Imarti—who was drunk at the time—asking, "Why would you want to vote for someone who's a homosexual and is going to push his agenda in your schools?" Imarti later said she is not directly connected with the Howell campaign; Howell, who has a strong pro-gay record, denied employing any homophobic tactics.

Out U.S. Army veteran Brian Carroll has made history with his announcement that he intends to run for the Colorado State House of Representatives for District 28, according to a press release. Carroll, who serves in the Colorado Army National Guard, is the first out armed-forces veteran to officially file and run for office since the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell ( DADT ) ." He served two tours in Afghanistan and one Iraq with Army Special Forces Information Management Division, Special Operations Command and was openly gay despite DADT.

An estimated 30,000 participants filled the streets of West Hollywood and Los Angeles at the 27th annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles ( AWLA ) , which took place Oct. 16 and raised more than $3 million, according to a press release. Celebrity supporters, elected officials and AIDS activists spoke before the massive crowd assembled in and around West Hollywood Park before the walkers set out on the 10-kilometer route. Celebrities attending included Drew Carey ( The Price Is Right; The Drew Carey Show ) , Dot Marie Jones ( Glee ) , TV host Carson Kressley and actress/performer Jenifer Lewis.

Bi Social Network has announced that actor Alan Cumming has signed on its imagery series for the "I am Visible" Campaign "to help fight biphobia and bi-erasure and to showcase and support visibility in the bi community," according to a press release. Bi Social Network founder Adrienne Williams said that Cumming is "using his voice to stamp out biphobia and bi-erasure in entertainment, news and media and we are honored." Another actor from the TV show The Good Wife, Paul Fitzgerald, has also joined the campaign.

In California, more than 7,000 fans have joined a local resident in inviting the San Francisco 49ers to become the first NFL team to make an "It Gets Better video, according to a press release. Sean Chapin, who created an online petition at Change.org, had previously inspired the San Francisco Giants baseball team to make a video. More than 20,000 "It Gets Better" videos have been produced since columnist Dan Savage and partner Terry Miller launched the project in September 2010 in response to an epidemic of teen suicides by gay kids and kids perceived to be gay.

Actor Zachary Quinto's coming-out has inspired ABC News reporter Dan Kloeffler to do the same, according to the Huffington Post. While on air commenting on a segment about Quinto, Kloeffler said, "I'm thinking I can lose my distraction about dating actors." On his ABC News blog, the anchor wrote, "I've never shared that I'm gay on-air, even though I've been out to my family, friends and co-workers for years. ... As a journalist, I don't want to be the story, but as a gay man I don't want to stand silent if I can offer some inspiration or encouragement to kids that might be struggling with who they are."

New York City's Ali Forney Center—the nation's largest organization working on behalf of homeless LGBT youth—released a statement Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the New York state Legislature, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Council to support the Campaign for Youth Shelter, according to a press release. The campaign is an initiative calling for an additional $3 million per year in funding to create 100 youth shelter beds annually, until there are enough beds for all homeless youth in New York City. The statement was signed by prominent LGBT organizations including GMHC, PFLAG NYC, and The Trevor Project; activists such as Urvashi Vaid, Kevin Jennings, and Matt Foreman; and celebrities, including Carson Kressley, Sandra Bernhard, Alan Cumming, Ally Sheedy and Justin Bond.

Three Marines who coordinated sham marriages to steal from the government received bad-conduct discharges, according to the L.A. Times. Marine Cpl. Ashley Vice wanted to live off base with her civilian girlfriend, Jamie Murphy. Vice and Murphy each wedded a male Marine so they could procure the $1,200-a-month housing allowance married Marines receive. Along with the discharges, Vice and Cpls. Jeremiah Griffin and Joseph Garner were each fined $5,000 and sentenced to confinement ranging from three to six months.

In California, the Fremont Presbyterian Church—the largest congregation of its kind in Sacramento—voted to leave the Presbyterian Church ( USA ) because of its ordination of gay clergy, Advocate.com reported. The congregation voted 427-164 to "seek dismissal" and join a smaller denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Recently, the national Presbyterian Church ordained its first gay minster, Scott Anderson, under its new policy in Wisconsin.

National Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper has de-chartered the previous chapter in Dallas and created a new one, according to the Dallas Voice. Cooper said in a statement that the leadership of the first chapter, especially that of president Rob Schlein, has "engaged in a consistent pattern of behavior that detracts from the mission of our organization." Clarke added that Thomas Purdy will lead the new chapter. Schlein said that he "didn't see it coming at all. I knew yesterday that something was cooking, and I got the official word this morning."


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