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First U.S. lesbian homecoming couple; gay man says he was stabbed and burned
National News Roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2011-11-02

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At a fundraiser in her hometown of Chicago, First Lady Michelle Obama said she hopes U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan will protect the right to of Americans to "love whomever we choose," the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Obama also praised the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military.

Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) President Joe Solmonese has sent a letter to National Organization for Marriage ( NOM ) President Brian Brown, accusing NOM of using a President Obama campaign photo to mislead voters, according to an HRC press release. Part of the letter reads, "Your organization has sunk to a new level of deception by manipulating photographs from an Obama campaign event in Ohio to trick Granite Staters into believing support for the National Organization for Marriage is much greater than it really is. ... [ T ] his new phoniness is an example of just how far you will go to make people believe your pursuit—the denial of equal treatment under the law—is supported by New Hampshire voters and Americans in general."

The Johnson Family Foundation has announced that The Pride Center of the Capital Region in Albany, N.Y., and The LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, Calif., have each been awarded a $150,000 grant over three years, according to a press release from CenterLink, a partner in the mental-health initiative. The grant will allow the centers to increase the variety and quality of mental-health services they provide and will strengthen their organizational capacity.

Absolut, the Swedish vodka sold by Pernod Ricard, is introducing a campaign that commemorates 30 years of the brand's efforts to reach the U.S. LGBT community, according to the New York Times. In 1981, Absolut ran ads in two gay magazines, The Advocate and After Dark. The article says that existence of the LGBT-focused TV network Logo underscores how far Madison Avenue has come since those initial Absolut ads. Among the blue-chip marketers that are also seeking LGBT consumers are American Airlines, Campbell Soup, General Motors, Macy's, Orbitz, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Wells Fargo.

In his new biography, the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said that his first gay friend set him on the proper road regarding sexual orientation, according to On Top Magazine. When Jobs asked gay friend Ron Wayne, a draftsman at Atari, his thoughts on beautiful women, Wayne said, "It's like when you look at a beautiful horse. You can appreciate it, but you don't want to sleep with it." Jobs later said, "It was my first encounter with someone who I knew was gay. He planted the right perspective of it for me." Apple's newest CEO, Tim Cook, is openly gay.

Megachurch pastor Joel Osteen told The Washington Post that more love could possibly change the sexual orientation of gay people, according to On Top Magazine. He said, "Somebody that maybe had this certain difficulty now, maybe in five years they're not, if we will love them." Osteen added that he would attend but not officiate a same-sex wedding because gay sex is a "sin" in his eyes.

The Yale University School of Medicine is actively courting LGBTQ applicants, according to the Yale Daily News. Recently, the school released an LGBTQ-specific admissions brochure and plans to release this material in the official packets beginning with the 2012 entering class. "It's a big step for our medical school to be doing this," said student Jorge Ramallo, who heads the school's Gay-Straight Medical Alliance. "It will put Yale on the map as a leader in LGBT health, just by making this simple step."

In Georgia, Shorter University, a Southern Baptist school, has adopted "faith statements" that include banning gay employees, according to TheGaVoice.com . The school's board of trustees approved new documents Oct. 21 that include a "Personal Lifestyle Statement" for university workers. Trustee Chair-Elect Joe Frank Harris Jr. said that the standards were adopted because "what you stand for matters."

In Colorado, all four of the state's openly gay legislators are supporting the rival of Brian Carroll, the first out service member on active duty to run for elected office, according to an On Top Magazine item. Carroll's Democratic primary opponent, Rep. Andy Kerr, also has the support of Robin Kniech, the first openly gay member of the Denver City Council, and Brad Clark, executive director of the gay rights group OneColorado.

New IRS 990 forms reveal that Chick-Fil-A donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2009 alone, according to an Equality Matters press release. Two years ago, Chick-Fil-A's charitable arm, WinShape, gave to such organizations as Exodus International, Focus on the Family, Eagle Forum, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Family Research Council. Exodus is one of the world's largest promoters of "ex-gay" therapy.

In Virginia, conservative independent House of Delegates candidate Linda Wall has admitted having an affair with a female student when Wall was a junior-high gym instructor in the '70s—but that she's now changed, according to the Huffington Post. Wall told the Associated Press, "I've never tried to hide that I was in homosexuality. ... Forty years ago I was a different person. I was a heavy pot smoker with ... impaired judgment and made some bad choices." Since the student was a minor, Wall can still be prosecuted if the other woman ever comes forward.

In Utah, the Jesus Church of Latter-day Saints is countering criticism after a flier for a Halloween event said that no "cross-gender" costumes were allowed, according to FoxNews.com . ( The flier also stated that no masks were permitted. ) Some people said that the event sent the wrong message to children. However, Bishop Dennis Toone said, "I thought it was church policy. I'll defend the church and anyone who doesn't like it doesn't have to come." Members also defended the event, saying that the goal was just to get children to dress appropriately at church events.

The Department of Defense has made a list of 14 benefits that same-sex partners of service members can own get, according to Advocate.com . The department made the list as same-sex couples filed a lawsuit demanding benefits that the Defense of Marriage Act have made inaccessible. Among the list of 14 benefits ( at www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx ) are casualty notification, wounded warrior-designated caregiver and survivor benefits for retirees.

While in New Hampshire, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry commended lawmakers for attempting to repeal the state's marriage-equality law, the Huffington Post reported. At the annual banquet for Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group, Perry said, "And I applaud those legislators in New Hampshire who are working to defend marriage as an institution between one man and one woman, realizing that children need to be raised in a loving home by a mother and a father." Two years ago, New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage.

In California, lesbian Rebecca Arellano was crowned the homecoming king at San Diego's Patrick Henry High School, 10News.com reported. "They were chanting my name and it was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had," Arellano said. Her girlfriend, Haileigh Adams, was elected homecoming queen—making them the first lesbian homecoming couple in the United States, according to Gather.com . LGBT-rights activist Ben Cartwright, who graduated from the school in 1998, said that Arellano's win will help dissolve stereotypes. However, the L.A. Times reported that the couple has been subjected to hateful calls and emails.

Aristide J. "A.J." Laurent, a pioneer in the gay-rights movement and a founder of The Advocate newspaper, died at his home in Los Angeles Oct. 26 after a long illness at age 70, according to a press release. Laurent helped start The Los Angeles Advocate in 1967, working alongside Richard Mitch ( Dick Michaels ) , Bill Rau and Sam Allen. Regarding his advocacy work, Laurent was in the anti-war movement of the 1960s and '70s, and was part of pre-Stonewall protests against police harassing gays. In the 1980s, he was part of the ACT UP movement.

The San Diego's Veterans Day Parade will include openly LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families for the first time Nov. 11, according to a press release from San Diego Pride. The release added, "With the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, LGBT servicemembers and veterans can at last walk openly with their families to receive the full support of their community, and the recognition they have earned with their service to our country."

In New Jersey, prosecutors relented and gave defense attorneys the name of the man who had at least one intimate rendezvous with Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, according to CBSNews.com . Suspect Dharun Ravi, attorney Steven Altman and an investigator were allowed to know the man's name; however, they may not reveal it to anyone. Ravi, 19, faces 15 charges—including invasion of privacy—in a webcam-spying case involving Clementi, who committed suicide last year after the encounter was made public.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) has joined Media Matters' call for MSNBC and its parent company, NBC Universal, to sanction contributor Pat Buchanan, who recently told NPR's The Diane Rehm Show that homosexuality is "unnatural," according to a press release. "While Pat Buchanan is free to hold and express his views, that fact that MSNBC has given him a public platform to spew this sort of dangerous rhetoric is unacceptable, "said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "MSNBC should sanction Mr. Buchanan, as his extremist ideas are incredibly harmful to millions of LGBT people around the world."

U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., was booed and heckled while answering a question about the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ) at the University of Michigan Ford School of Policy, On Top Magazine reported. Audience members booed Cantor when he said, "I've always been very straightforward about this. I just believe in traditional marriage between a man and woman." One student then said, "I'm gay and you're not for my family."

In Missouri, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey heard arguments Oct. 27 on whether the Camdenton School District should be stopped from using Internet filtering software that has prevented access to some LGBT websites, according to CBS News. The school system is the first to be sued under a national campaign by the ACLU and Yale Law School that aims to improve access to such websites. The school district's lawyer argued that the plaintiffs had no legal standing to sue. Laughrey made no immediate decision.

Lambda Legal and the Idaho Safe Schools Coalition praised a Boise-area school district for approving a student-club policy that eliminated a new requirement that students get parental permission to participate in clubs and other restrictions that would have harmed LGBT students and violated their rights, according to a press release. In late 2010, students at Mountain View High School, which is part of Joint School District No. 2 in Meridian, Idaho, attempted to form a gay-straight alliance ( GSA ) —only to have the board defer the GSA's application and propose the new criterion involving parents.

Nick Aaronson, a 27-year-old Phoenix-based flight attendant, was found dead in a Mexico City hotel room Oct. 29, according to LGBTQ Nation. Aaronson, who worked with U.S. Airways, was found naked, face down on the hotel bed with a belt around his neck and his hands tied behind him. He showed signs of being choked and beaten before being strangled to death. Aaronson's mother, Anita, told a television station that the FBI apparently arrested a suspect.

Equally Blessed—a coalition of four Roman Catholic pro-LGBT organizations—has released a sign-on statement asking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to end its silence about violence directed at LGBT youth, according to a press release. Francis DeBernardo ( executive director of New Ways Ministry, an Equally Blessed partner ) said, "We call on the bishops, who meet in November, to put our church firmly on the side of LGBT youth who have been targeted. When any of us is harmed or tormented, the entire Body of Christ is wounded." Catholics can join the campaign by signing on at www.equally-blessed.org .

In Texas, 26-year-old gay man Burke Burnett said he was the victim of a brutal hate crime in the small town of Reno, the Dallas Voice reported. Burnett said he was at a party when four men attacked him, stabbing him with a broken beer bottle and throwing him onto a fire. Burnett also claims they shouted anti-gay slurs such as ""pussy-ass faggot," "gay bitch" and "cock-sucking punk." "They knew I was gay," Burnett added. "I'm convinced they were trying to kill me."

Also in Texas, wounded lesbian Marine veteran Esther Garatie, 28, said that a nurse practitioner subjected her to an anti-gay tirade, according to the Dallas Voice. Garatie said that nurse practitioner Lincy Pandithurai held a three-hour session with her, repeatedly citing the Bible and telling Garatie she was living in darkness. Garatie has filed a complaint against Pandithurai with the VA Medical Center and the Texas Board of Nursing.

Anti-gay minister Bradlee Dean has distanced himself from GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, saying she doesn't directly answer questions, according to Advocate.com . On his own radio show, Dean said, "I was listening to a radio show, and she was asked a question and she would not answer the question. ... I thought it was shameful conduct." However, Dean was reportedly not upset when Bachmann avoided questions about her anti-gay beliefs.

Government attorneys have dropped charges against Mennonite missionary Timothy "Timo" Miller, who allegedly helped in the kidnapping of a young girl in a high-profile child-custody case, according to Advocate.com . Miller was charged regarding the international kidnapping of Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins, who is in the center of a child-custody battle between former partners Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins; however, he has agreed to help with the investigation of the abduction. Isabella has been missing since 2009.

Marriage-equality foe, physician and North Carolina state Sen. James Forrester has died at 74, On Top Magazine reported. Forrester, first elected to the state Senate in 1991, sponsored a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. In supporting the measure, he called homosexuality an "unhealthy lifestyle" that would take at least two decades off a person's lifestyle because of "the increased death rate from AIDS, and hepatitis, and all of the related factors to that."

In Washington state, a University of Washington Center for Survey Research poll has revealed that most voters would support a state marriage-equality law if the legislature approved it, the Seattle Times reported. Fifty-five percent said they would uphold such a law if it were challenged by referendum; 38 percent would oppose the law and 7 percent were undecided. The poll surveyed 938 people Oct. 10-30.


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