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Newt's lesbian half-sister supporting Obama; Romney's heated exchange with gay Vietnam War vet
NATIONAL ROUNDUP Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.
2011-12-14

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A new Williams Institute report finds that the total spending on wedding arrangements and tourism by same-sex couples and their guests added a $12 to $13 million boost to the state and local economy of Iowa in the first year alone, according to a press release. This spending is likely to have added $850,000 to $930,000 in tax revenue to state and local coffers. Approximately 2,100 same-sex couples married during the first year following Iowa's decision to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The U.S. House Democratic Caucus has appointed openly gay Congressman Jared Polis to the House Committee on the Judiciary, according to a press release. In a statement, Polis said, "My new position on the House Judiciary Committee will allow me to help foster job creation in Colorado's high-tech industries and other fields by protecting Internet freedom and intellectual property rights, fixing our broken immigration systems, preserving the autonomy of Colorado's medical marijuana laws, and protecting Americans from credit card abuse and other consumer fraud. A seat on the Judiciary Committee, in addition to my place on the House Rules Committee, will only increase Colorado's influence in Washington and ensure that the voices of our communities are heard in Congress."

Ebony Magazine has named National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert as one of 2011's 100 most notable people, according to a press release. Since joining NCLR in 2010, Rupert has been a regular contributing writer to a number of media outlets—including the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post—where she addresses the intersection of race, sexual orientation and gender identity. Other Ebony honorees include President and First Lady Obama, Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Televangelist Pat Robertson has said that God will punish the nation for supporting President Obama's pledge to promote LGBT rights internationally, according to the Huffington Post. One day after Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak about LGBT rights, Robertson criticized the developments on his CBN show, The 700 Club. Robertson asked, "Isn't it appalling that the United States of America would try to enforce the acceptance of homosexuality on other nations, but at the same time, we would not force them to take care of religious minorities? What kind of a country have we got?"

The Human Rights Campaign released the 2012 Corporate Equality Index and, because of more stringent ranking criteria, 148 fewer companies than last year scored 100 percent, according to Advocate.com . The index uses more rigorous criteria that considers account corporate giving and health care coverage for transgender employees alongside longtime factors such as equal employment benefits. Kraft, Office Depot and JP Morgan Chase are among the 190 companies that received perfect scores.

At a Macy's outlet in San Antonio, Texas, store employee Natalie Johnson stopped a transgender patron from using a women's fitting room, resulting in an altercation, according to the Huffington Post. Even though officials ordered her to allow transgender customers to use any room they wished, Johnson reportedly said she could not allow a man to use the room because of the employee's religious beliefs before being terminated. A Macy's spokeswoman said, "At Macy's we recognize and appreciate the diversity of our customers and associates."

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is defending a controversial ad he recently filmed, the Huffington Post reported. In the advertisement, entitled "Strong," he says, "You don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." Perry told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he is "very comfortable with that ad. My faith is part of me."

In response to Perry's ad, two gay conservative leaders have criticized the ad while also using an anti-gay slur to out Perry strategist Tony Fabrizio, according to Advocate.com . GOProud co-founder Jimmy LaSalvia tweeted, "I've just about had it with faggots who line their pockets with checks from anti-gay homophobes while throwing the rest of us under the bus." LaSalvia's colleague, Christopher Barron, latter said that they have an issue with Fabrizio.

Press reports from Puerto Rico indicate the ruling party there is attempting to amend the penal code in the legislature to make it harder to charge criminals with hate crimes when crimes are committed against people because of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In separate statement, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez and the Human Rights Campaign have criticized the development. Gutierrez said, "To say this is appalling is an understatement. Excluding more people from protections under the law is exactly the wrong thing to do, especially right now. This year, violence has been on the upswing in Puerto Rico, particularly crimes—including scores of murders—against women, against members of the LGBT community and against immigrants, especially those from the Dominican Republic."

Chrissy Polis, the transgender woman who made news earlier this year when a video of her assault at a McDonald's went viral, has been arrested for disorderly conduct, Advocate.com reported. Polis, 23—who called authorities Dec. 3 to report that her purse, cell phone and $800 had been stolen in a robbery—faces the charge after having an argument with a Baltimore County police officer. Polis, who was released on $7,500 bail, is scheduled to go on trial in February.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Mississippi reached an agreement with the Copiah County School District in a dispute over the exclusion of student Ceara Sturgis' photo from the senior portrait section of the yearbook because she posed in a tuxedo, according to a press release. The district has agreed to adopt a policy that will require all students to wear a cap and gown instead of requiring boys to wear tuxedos and girls to wear drapes. As part of the agreement the school will include Sturgis' photo featuring the tuxedo in her class' composite picture hanging in the school library.

The plaintiffs in Perry v. Brown, the federal constitutional challenge to California's Proposition 8, presented oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Dec. 8, according to a press release. The plaintiffs argued why videotapes of the Prop 8 trial should be publicly accessible and why they felt the Prop 8 backers' motion to vacate judgment is meritless. This will likely be the final hearing before the Ninth Circuit issues a ruling on the U.S. District Court's August 2010 decision that struck down Prop 8.

In El Paso, Texas, a battle over health benefits for the partners of city employees has resulted in the LGBT community fighting for Mayor John Cook after he refused to take away those benefits, according to Advocate.com . After El Paso's leadership approved domestic-partnership benefits, a voter-approved ordinance removed them; however, Cook and council members Steve Ortega and Susie Byrd refused to enforce the ordinance. The conservative group that proposed the anti-gay ordinance now wants to recall Ortega, Cook and Byrd.

In People magazine, Joseph and Jane Clementi—the parents of Tyler Clementi, the late Rutgers University student—said that their son came out to them three weeks before he committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge, according to Advocate.com . "Mom. I'm gay," Jane Clementi remembers her normally happy-go-lucky son saying, shaking and nearly in tears. "I'm tired of living a lie." To honor their son's memory, the family has established the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which will "offer grants to programs that deal with gay teens, suicide prevention, and bullying."

In Philadelphia, Kenneth J. Houck Jr., an openly gay detainee at the Federal Detention Center, was critically injured during an alleged assault, according to the Philadelphia Gay News. At the time, Houck, 36, was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to transporting child pornography. Houck's father said his son suffered a broken leg, dislocated hip and other injuries.

Jamiel Terry, the gay son of anti-gay activist Randall Terry, has been killed in a car crash, Advocate.com reported. Jamiel, 31, made headlines in 2004 when he revealed his sexuality in OUT Magazine. Terry's adoptive father—the founder of Operation Rescue, which blocked entrances to abortion clinics in the 1980s and '90s—disowned his son after the revelation. However, the two mended fences before the fatal crash.

In Texas, a Harris County jury awarded $102,000 in back wages to a gay former employee of the Harris County Hospital District who was terminated two weeks after he complained of sexual harassment, according to the Houston Chronicle. Architect R. Michael Lee said he complained about two men's graphic story about male sexual activity to his boss—who happened to be one of the men who told the story; the boss did not report it, as policy requires. After snapping a photo of a barefoot co-worker, Lee was fired, with the district citing poor judgment and a loss of confidence.

Transgender Lake Worth, Fla., city manager Susan Stanton was fired Dec. 6 in a 3-2 vote, according to Advocate.com . Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell, who reportedly disagreed with Stanton on various issues, made the motion to terminate her. Stanton received negative press earlier this year when it was alleged that she attempted to shut down downtown Lake Worth's only gay-friendly establishment.

In Tennessee, teenager Jacob Rogers committed suicide, reportedly because of anti-gay bullying, according to On Top Magazine. Friends said that Rogers—a senior at Ashland City's Cheatham County Central High School—was tormented for years, with people calling him "queer," among other names. He stopped going to school around Thanksgiving. Tim Webb, director of Cheatham County Schools, said the school only knew of one instance of bullying.

In Michigan, dozens of people have called for newly elected Troy Mayor Janice Daniels to resign after she used an anti-gay slur on Facebook, the Detroit News reported. At a city council meeting, residents wondered how she could continue with her job because of the uproar she's caused. During the meeting, Daniels admitted the post—in which she referred to gay people as "queers"—was inappropriate." "I ask … for forgiveness," Daniels, a Tea Party supporter elected Nov. 8, told the crowd inside Troy City Hall.

Marriage-equality crusader Ed Watson, who earlier this year urged an appeals court to overturn Proposition 8 so he could wed his partner of 40 years, has died, according to Advocate.com . Watson, 78, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, hypertension and diabetes; he and partner Derence Kernek lived in Palm Spring, Calif. In May, the couple spoke in a video for the Courage Campaign's Equality on Trial project, asking to make their union legal.

In Hawaii, lesbian couple Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid are suing the state for the right to marry, according to Advocate.com . The state health department told the couple they could not file for a marriage license, as the civil-union law goes into effect in January. Jackson and Kleid are claiming that their rights to due process and equal protection have been violated.

In Alaska, sponsors of an initiative to protect LGBT people from discrimination in Anchorage turned in a huge stack of petitions to the city clerk's office in an effort to put the measure on April's ballot, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Volunteers collected more than 13,000 signatures from the city's registered voters; to get on the ballot, fewer than 6,000 were needed. A conservative Christian organization, the Alaska Family Council, is already planning to campaign against the measure.

Memphis, Tenn., police are investigating accusations from two former players that Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) President/CEO Robert "Bobby" Dodd molested them in the 1980s, according to ESPN.com . Ralph West, 43, and an anonymous accuser said they independently—with neither knowing about the other—confronted Dodd after seeing news reports of the alleged sexual abuse by ex-Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Candace Gingrich-Jones, the lesbian half-sister of GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, has said she's voting for President Obama because of Newt's position on marriage equality, according to the New York Daily News. Gingrich-Jones told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, "He is definitely on the wrong side of history when it comes to those issues." Gingrich-Jones added that although Gingrich was invited to her wedding, he chose not to attend.

U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., wrote Attorney General Eric Holder, calling for a federal task force to investigate and prosecute hate crimes occurring in Puerto Rico, a press release stated. The legislature in Puerto Rico began consideration of Senate Bill 2021 to eliminate gender, national origin and sexual orientation or identity as protected classes related to hate crimes under the Puerto Rico penal code. Gutierrez, who has been an outspoken critic of the development, asked Holder to become involved.

In a study recently published by the Journal of Advertising, Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai (assistant professor of advertising at the University of Miami School of Communication) said that the media has transformed the stigmatized stereotype of gays into a new, socially desirable image of stylish consumers with high-end taste, according to a press release. Tsai added that this marketing strategy affects the way gays understand themselves and influences the meaning of gayness for society in general. Currently, Tsai is working on a project about gay and lesbian consumers' political consumption to understand how they would respond to political appeals in advertising messages.

Conservative Internet mogul Andrew Breitbart has quit the advisory board of GOProud after organization members Jimmy LaSalvia and Chris Barron outed Rick Perry pollster Tony Fabrizio, according to Advocate.com . LaSalvia and Barron reacted to an ad featuring Perry some have viewed as anti-gay. Breitbart wrote on one of his websites, BigGovernment.com, "I have a zero tolerance attitude toward ... divulging the details of an individual's sexual orientation as a weapon of political destruction."

In another development related to Perry's controversial ad, gay Gulf War veteran Jay Foxworthy has responded to the video, Advocate.com reported. Foxworthy, who is married and has two children, is in an upcoming documentary about LGBT families. Foxworthy, who lives in California, said, "My family goes to church every Sunday, and there is something wrong in this country when conservative Christians want to use God to attack my family." On YouTube, Perry's video has more than 18,000 likes but more than 600,000 dislikes.

In Indiana, a man who says he's a gas-station manager launched into an anti-LGBT tirade after a gay customer posted a YouTube video described an alleged verbal assault at the establishment, the Huffington Post reported. Josh Love claims a Clark store employee told him to get his "faggoty ass out of his store" after Love said he was charged too much for a soda refill. Bilerico reported that the man claiming to be the manager commented, "i can be anti homo just like ur pro homo.. u need some money for ur gay mariage? is that the problem. ... take ur gays to gayville. fag."

In New Hampshire, gay Vietnam War veteran Bob Garon, 63, told reporters "You can't trust [Mitt Romney]" after getting into a heated exchange with the GOP presidential candidate Dec. 12 over marriage equality, according to the Washington Post. Romney slid into the booth next to Garon at Chez Vachon in Manchester, apparently unaware that Garon was eating breakfast with his husband. After Romney answered Garon's marriage question by saying he only believes in opposite-sex marriage, Garon told reporters, "I'm totally convinced today that he's not going to be my president—at least in my book. At least Obama will entertain the idea."

Dharun Ravi, the defendant in the case involving the late Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, has refused a plea deal that possibly would've kept him out of prison, the Huffington Post reported. Ravi's attorney, Steven Altman, said the reason was simple for the rejection: "He's innocent. He's not guilty." Ravi faces 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy, after allegedly spying on Clementi's intimate rendezvous with another man; Clementi later committed suicide.

Tennis legends Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Rennae Stubbs have criticized anti-gay remarks made by another icon, Margaret Court, who is now an evangelical minister, according to the Gay News Network. Court, 72, recently denounced same-sex relationships as "unhealthy, unnatural unions" and criticized "abominable sexual practices." Navratilova said she's tried talking with Court but the minister is "completely close-minded on the issue." King told the Tennis Channel, "We have to commit to eliminating homophobia because everyone is entitled to the same rights, opportunities and protection." Stubbs said that Court's comments were disappointing.

Orlando is the first city in central Florida to recognize same-sex relationships by approving a domestic-partnership registry, according to Advocate.com . The city council voted unanimously to enact the registry, which will be open to same- and opposite-sex couples Jan. 12. Couples can record their relationship in a government database for $30.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is backing lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor in 2013, according to Advocate.com . Koch decided to support Quinn after it became clear that his favorite, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, would not run. Koch, 87, added, "I believe that she is the best one for New York because I think she'll be in the tradition of being in the center—a center candidate like I was center left." Quinn has not formally announced her candidacy.


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