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National roundup: GLAAD PSA, Alabama ordinance, AIDS memorial
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-05-04

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GLAAD announced the release of a public service announcement ( PSA ), "HIV & AIDS: Why Aren't We Talking?," in partnership with The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation ( ETAF ). This is the second PSA launched as part of an ongoing partnership following GLAAD's release of a resource guide for journalists covering HIV and AIDS and a PSA starring a wide variety of celebrities—in this case, Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Lane, Tituss Burgess and Daniel Franzese. The PSA started airing on Logo April 28 and will also be available on GLAAD's YouTube channel.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Alabama, in a statement, condemned the passage of an anti-transgender ordinance by the Oxford City Council. Unanimously approved, the ordinance prevents transgender residents and visitors from using public restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity, and imposes a $500 fine or six months in jail on violators. "This ordinance is a shameful and vile attack on the rights and privacy of transgender people," said HRC Alabama State Manager Eva Walton Kendrick. "Transgender people are our neighbors, our coworkers and our fellow churchgoers, and every Alabamian has the right to live their lives without fear of discrimination and prejudice."

Aiming to help one of the nation's first AIDS hospices avoid the wrecking ball, San Diego leaders will require historic analysis of the Truax House in Bankers Hill as part of any sale of the city-owned property, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. They are also asking philanthropists and nonprofit groups to consider buying the house and helping to restore it, which would require an estimated $1.8 million in renovations after many years of neglect. The 1910 house, which served as an AIDS hospice for several years beginning in 1989, could become the site of the city's first permanent AIDS memorial if it gets restored.

Gay-rights group The Mattachine Society has sued the Justice Department for failing to produce hundreds of pages of documents related to a 1953 order signed by President Dwight Eisenhower that empowered federal agencies to investigate and fire employees thought to be gay, the Associated Press reported. The suit in U.S. District Court accuses the government of conducting an inadequate search for the material and of groundlessly withholding some records on the basis of national security. Executive Order 10450 allowed broad categories of federal workers—including those with criminal records, drug addiction and "sexual perversion"—to be singled out for scrutiny and termination as threats to national security.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of oral arguments in the historic Supreme Court of the United States marriage-equality case Obergefell v. Hodges, the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) has renewed its call for the Senate Judiciary Committee to fulfill its constitutional obligation and hold confirmation hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, U.S. Federal Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland. "The Supreme Court has a sacred responsibility to uphold the rights of all Americans, and throughout our history the court has been instrumental in affirming the Constitutional rights of LGBT people," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "It's time for Senate Republicans to stop playing politics with our nation's highest court and fulfill their constitutional obligations by granting Merrick Garland the hearing he deserves."

A second stabbing death in Wichita, Kansas, in two nights involved a transgender woman who wanted to help others facing the same struggle, KAKE.com reported. According to police, Tyreece Walker was stabbed to death by a 16-year-old who is being held on second-degree murder charges. Police records stated that the mother of the teen claims he told her that Walker tried to sexually assault him.

A gay couple in Ohio were told their wedding would be "ruined" and they would "get what they deserve" in hate-filled RSVP from one of the people they invited, Metro reported. The Canton couple—identified only as Chad and Keith—sent invitations to their May wedding, only to receive an angry letter from an invitee who threatened to turn the day into an "anti-gay show." Speaking to Fox 8 Live, the pair said the thought of backing down "never even crossed their minds."

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz ( R-Texas ) is standing his ground in his belief that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice "opens the door for predators," dismissing criticism from Caitlyn Jenner, who mocked him over the issue, CNN reported. "This is not a matter of right or left, or Democrat or Republican. This is common sense. It doesn't make sense for grown adult men, strangers, to be alone in a restroom with a little girl," Cruz told CNN's Jake Tapper. Jenner, who recently used a restroom in Trump Tower, posted a Facebook video knocking Cruz for his support of a controversial North Carolina law that requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their "biological sex" stated on their birth certificate, rather than how they self-identify.

Hundreds of equality advocates joined the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), NAACP, ACLU of Mississippi, Southern Policy Law Center, Planned Parenthood and other rights organizations and leaders to demand the repeal of the state's religious-exemption measure HB 1523 during a rally on the steps of the State Capitol, an HRC press release noted. The demonstrators called on Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn to repeal of the discriminatory measure before it goes into effect on July 1.

Pro-LGBT group Equality California announced the endorsements of 33 incumbent candidates for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a press release. Some of the endorsed individuals include Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Mark Takano, Judy Chu, Susan Davis, Xavier Becerra, Adam Schiff and Linda Sanchez.

The brother of one of Dennis Hastert's closest political proteges said publicly for the first time that he was sexually molested decades ago by Hastert, The Chicago Tribune reported. Scott Cross, 53—the brother of former longtime Illinois House GOP leader Tom Cross—previously told the Tribune that until recently he never spoke to anyone about what happened in Yorkville High School's locker room after wrestling practice one night when he stayed behind to try to drop some pounds before his next match. Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and was slapped with a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release for financial improprieties; he also has to enroll in a sex-offender treatment program.

A former graduate student in Missouri State University's ( MSU's ) counseling program says he was ousted from the department after stating that he would refuse to counsel a gay couple, The Daily Beast reported. Andrew Cash, a former MSU student, is suing the university for unspecified damages over what he says is a violation of his religious rights. Cash claims that when his MSU professors learned of the institute's anti-gay marriage views in 2011, his internship was terminated and his religious views subjected to scrutiny.

Also in Missouri, a House committee rejected a so-called religious-freedom bill that sought to protect people opposed to the marriages of gay and lesbian couples, On Top Magazine reported. Senate Joint Resolution No. 39 would have protected people such as clerks, clergy and businesses who didn't want to serve gay couples as it relates to their marriages. According to the Associated Press, three Republicans joined three Democrats in voting against the measure, which cleared the Missouri Senate.

GLSEN released Kit Espacio Seguro—the Spanish-language version of its Safe Space Kit, one of the organization's flagship resources—for use throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, according to a press release. GLSEN's Safe Space Kit, made up of the Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students, two Safe Space posters and 10 Safe Space stickers, provides strategies for supporting LGBT students, including how to educate about anti-LGBT bias and how to teach respect for all. Kit Espacio Seguro is available for free digital download at www.glsen.org/safespace and for purchase in hard copy in the GLSEN Shop.

Staffers at Foothill High School in Redding, California, are against the idea of a lesbian couple being prom queen and prom queen, LGBTQ Nation noted. Jim Bartow, principal of the high school, says allowing two prom queens would amount to gender discrimination and violate federal law. Hayley Lack and her girlfriend have gathered more than 100 signatures and written a petition urging the school to alter the rules.

In an ongoing case, a bakery that was ordered to pay a $135,000 fine after refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony filed a brief with the Oregon Court of Appeals challenging the decision, The Washington Times reported. Attorneys for the Melissa and Aaron Klein, who own Sweet Cakes by Melissa, argued in the brief that the family's 1st and 14th Amendment rights were violated. The Kleins declined to bake a wedding cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple who has since married.

An Omaha, Nebraska, man who stole and publicly burned his lesbian neighbors' rainbow-pride flag was found guilty of felony hate-crime charges, according to a Raw Story item that cites Omaha.com . Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty did not believe 24-year-old Cameron Mayfield's statement that he mistook the pride flag for a "spring ornament" when he snatched it off the women's porch, lit it on fire and paraded back and forth in front of their house as it burned. Mayfield's sentencing will take place in August.

The self-proclaimed "first gay officer in the LAPD" has been arrested and charged with assault with a firearm and criminal threats after a domestic dispute with his husband, according to LGBTQ Nation. Mitchell Grobeson, 57, was arrested after allegedly pointing a handgun at his husband and ordering him to leave their West Hollywood residence. The husband then called the police, leading to a multi-hour standoff between the officers and Grobeson, who later surrendered.

In Texas, a man followed Jessica Rush inside a restroom at Baylor Medical Center in Frisco—claiming he thought she was a man, WFAA.com noted. "You didn't look like a girl when I saw you enter. I thought you was a…," the man told her with a heavy accent. "A boy?" she asked him. Rush recorded the encounter and posted it to her Facebook page—one of the latest episodes in what's quickly becoming a hot debate over who can use which bathroom.

Cumberland County, New Jersey, will pay $275,000 to settle a harassment suit filed by a detective from the prosecutor's office, NJ.com reported. Det. Lynn Wehling sued in 2013 claiming she had been subject to inappropriate comments about her gender and sexual orientation from a colleague, Det. Sgt. George Chopek. Wehling had originally sought $2.5 million in damages.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has created new positions to help LGBT people link up with health services. Trans activist Deja Lynn Alvarez has been hired to fill a full-time role as assistant prevention navigator, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Alvarez will continue as director of Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center, for which she currently does not take a paycheck due to limited funding.

Two Methodist preachers intentionally defied denominational rules on Saturday when they decided to openly marry a same-sex couple at First United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina—a move that could lead to church discipline for the clergy members, The Blaze noted, citing The Charlotte Observer. The Rev. Val Rosenquist and Bishop Melvin Talbert presided over the wedding of John Romano and Jim Wilborne, the first gay couple to be publicly married inside of a United Methodist Church in North Carolina. The United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, which outlines church law, is explicit in noting that marriage is confined to one man and one woman.

A New York City real-estate brokerage firm that had denied HIV-positive individual David Goode housing agreed to pay him $5,000 in damages and to overhaul its business practices to curb such cases in the future, The New York Times reported. "People on H.A.S.A. [subsidies from NYC's HIV/AIDS Services Administration] are so used to being told no that we often just accept it," Goode, 28, an AIDS activist now living in Miami Beach, said. "That's what realtors and landlords are banking on." Officials from the city's Commission on Human Rights, which investigated Goode's complaint and arranged the settlement, said the case demonstrated their strengthened efforts to rein in source-of-income discrimination.

A study has found that, while gay and bisexual men are at higher risk for mental-health issues than their straight counterparts, the risk is particularly high for young gay and bisexual men, Reuters reported. On the other hand, high levels of education, income and living with a man were among the factors that seemed to protect gay and bisexual men of all ages against depression, anxiety and other mental-health problems. There's been a tendency to lump gay and bisexual men into a single group, said lead author Ford Hickson, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. However, the new findings illustrate that gay and bisexual men are as varied as the general population.

Actor Reid Ewing ( Modern Family ) will join the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( SAMHSA ) to celebrate National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day on Thursday, May 5, at the Jack Morton Auditorium in Washington, D.C., according to a press release. Ewing will serve as Awareness Day 2016 Honorary Chairperson. SAMHSA will present the actor with a special-recognition award for speaking out about his experiences with body dysmorphic disorder and mental health issues, and for encouraging young people in similar situations to seek help. Last year, Ewing came out as gay.

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling has slammed ESPN, saying it employs some of the "biggest racists in sports." Schiller, who was recently fired by the network as a commentator for posting an anti-transgender meme on social media, blasted his former employer while appearing on SiriusXM Satellite Radio's Breitbart News Patriot Forum. He has been extremely outspoken about conservative issues in the past, comparing Muslim extremists to Nazis and calling for Hillary Clinton to be sent to prison.


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