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Nat'l roundup: Larry Kramer's honor; cold case revived; Kristin Beck
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2015-02-17

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New York City-based Gay Men's Health Crisis ( GMHC ) will host its annual spring gala Monday, March 23, and plans to honor Larry Kramer, according to a press release. Kramer is one of the organization's original six founders, and is the award-winning writer of the play and HBO's Emmy-winning film adaptation of The Normal Heart. Founded in 1982 by Kramer, Nathan Fain, Larry Mass, Paul Popham, Paul Rappoport and Edmund White, GMHC calls itself the world's first provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy.

A new Queens precinct commander is trying to revive a cold-case investigation into the murder of a prominent gay activist more than two years ago, The New York Daily News reported. Captain John Travaglia of the 108th Precinct tweeted sketches of two out of the three men police say bludgeoned Lou Rispoli, 62, on Oct. 20, 2012. Rispoli and Danyal Lawson, his partner of 31 years, were married at Queens Borough Hall on the first day same-sex marriage became legal in New York State in 2011. It's never been determined if Rispoli's murder was a random act of violence or if he was targeted because he was gay.

Kristin Beck, a former Navy SEAL who rose to prominence for speaking out about her experiences as a transgender woman, has filed the papers to launch a primary challenge against Rep. Steny Hoyer ( D-Md. ), the second-ranking Democrat in the House, The Huffington Post reported. Beck, a decorated 20-year veteran of the elite unit SEAL Team 6, filed her papers with the Maryland Board of Elections in Annapolis. In 2013, Beck published a memoir, Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber submitted his resignation over a conflict-of-interest scandal Feb. 13, just one month into his record fourth term in office—and that move has made Secretary of State Kate Brown the first bisexual governor in the United States, The Atlantic noted. The resignation will take effect Wed., Feb. 18. Brown, who married to a man, will serve until 2016, when an election will be held to serve out the remainder of Kitzhaber's term, which ends in 2019. Brown unexpectedly flew back Feb. 11 to Oregon from Washington, D.C., where she was attending the National Association of Secretaries of State's winter conference.

Three defendants have been sentenced to prison for their roles in the hate-crime death of a Black man in Mississippi who died after being beaten by a group of white teens and run over by a truck in 2011, according to CNN. Deryl Paul Dedmon, now 22, was sentenced to 50 years in prison; John Aaron Rice, 21, to more than 18 years; and Dylan Wade Butler, 23, to seven years for the death of James Craig Anderson, 48. ThinkProgress.org noted that Anderson's partner of 17 years, James Bradfield, was the legal guardian of a 4-year-old child; Anderson and Bradfield were raising the child together.

The New Orleans Police Department's investigation has determined that 21-year-old transgender woman Penny Proud was likely murdered in the midst of a robbery, Advocate.com noted. Proud was fatally shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant Feb. 10, making her case the fifth reported murder of a transgender woman of color within the first five weeks of 2015. Proud's family and friens have set up a crowdfunding campaign to offset funeral costs at http://www.gofundme.com/m7oc0k.

Apple CEO Tim Cook strongly defended consumers recently, saying "everyone has a right to privacy and security," according to CNET.com . The head of the world's biggest technology company spoke at President Obama's cybersecurity summit in Palo Alto, California. Cook, who came out as gay last year, added that "history has shown us that sacrificing a right to privacy can have dire consequences," and that we still live in a world where people aren't treated equally and can face discrimination based on personal information.

Alabama's stand against same-sex marriage crumbled Feb. 13 as judges in most counties sided with federal courts rather than their own chief justice, a Republican who once called homosexuality an inherent evil, according to the Associated Press. Many counties in the Bible Belt state began issuing the licenses to same-sex couples after the latest strongly worded order from U.S. District Judge Callie Granade. She said Feb. 12 that a judge could no longer deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians, reiterating her ruling striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign released a new survey showing support for gay marriage at 60 percent among likely voters in the 2016 election, Politico.com reported. According to the survey, 60 percent of likely voters say they favor "allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally," while 37 percent oppose allowing gays to marry. That's only slightly higher than nonpartisan public surveys, which show majorities backing same-sex marriage in recent years.

Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas, issued an executive order to remove discrimination protections for LGBT state employees, The Chicago Tribune reported. State employees in Kansas can now legally be fired, harassed or denied a job for being gay or transgender, LGBT-rights advocates said. Brownback said an 2007 executive order by Kathleen Sebelius—who was then the state's Democratic governor—went too far by not getting legislative approval to bar job discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity.

An Idaho state lawmaker upset with federal judges who have overturned same-sex marriage bans across the nation is proposing that the U.S. Congress impeach judges who "fail to uphold" the U.S. Constitution, LGBTQ Nation reported. State Rep. Paul Shepherd ( R-Riggins ) introduced the non-binding resolution to the Idaho House State Affairs Committee. The committee voted to introduce the resolution, with four Democrats opposed.

The decision to discharge transgender soldiers from the Army would be made by a top, senior civilian official under a plan outlined in a draft document USA Today obtained. The move would make it more difficult to remove such troops from the service. Instead of being made by lower-level Army officers, the memorandum says, the decision to discharge transgender soldiers would be made by the assistant secretary of the Army for personnel. In all services, transgender troops can be automatically dismissed from service on medical grounds once they are identified.

Arkansas is set to become only the second state to ban cities and counties from locally expanding anti-discrimination laws under a bill approved by lawmakers Feb. 13, according to LGBTQ Nation. Opponents say the bill sanctions discrimination against gays and transgender individuals because it blocks municipalities from adopting ordinances that go beyond state's law, which doesn't protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Tennessee is the only state that currently blocks local governments from extending certain anti-discrimination protections.

A jury in the trial surrounding Houston's embattled equal-rights ordinance delivered a mixed slate of decisions, The Houston Chronicle reported. Now, neither side has the obvious upper hand as a district judge now uses those findings to decide whether opponents submitted enough valid signatures to trigger a repeal referendum. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance ( HERO )is a measure passed by the City Council in May 2014 extending workplace, housing, public contracting and public accommodation protections to LGBT people, according to a Human Rights Campaign press release.

Transgender Law Center and Southerners on New Ground ( SONG ), an LGBTQ grassroots organization, have announced the collaboration TLC@SONG, a press release stated. The collaboration was officially announced to thousands of LGBTQ activists in Denver, Colorado, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change Conference. SONG Co-Director Caitlin Breedlove said, "There is already some strong trans and gender nonconforming-led work in the South, and we want to see that grow through innovative national collaboration."

The U.S. Army has approved hormone therapy for Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking national-security secrets to Wikileaks, according to NBC News. Manning revealed her gender identity as a transgender female after being convicted and sentenced to 35 years in military prison at Fort Leavenworth in July 2013. Chase Strangio—attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & HIV Project and counsel for Manning in her lawsuit against Department of Defense and Army officials—said in a statement, "We are thrilled for Chelsea that the government has finally agreed to initiate hormone therapy as part of her treatment plan.

The Log Cabin Republicans chapter in Texas has defended its agenda, which included conservative items such as open carry ( for guns ), tax cuts and border security, according to the Texas Observer. Branch president Jeff Davis said, "I'm gay, but I don't define myself just based on my sexuality, so my politics aren't defined by that, either." Eight Log Cabin members from across the state attended lobby day, splitting up into two-person teams that were scheduled to meet with legislators or staffers from more than 50 offices.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia recently discussed their views on gay rights before an audience of more than 1,400 people at George Washington University, The Washington Blade reported. Scalia didn't dispute Ginsburg's assertion that society was changing, but questioned the appropriateness of the Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage and other equality-related issues. He also said, "Don't paint me as anti-gay or anti-abortion or anything else. All I'm doing on the Supreme Court is opining about who should decide [the court or the people]."

Two possible GOP presidential contenders and four Congressmen are slated to appear in a new documentary that claims the push for gay rights threatens Christianity, The Huffington Post reported. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul ( R-Ky. ) are reportedly in the documentary Light Wins: How to Overcome the Criminalization of Christianity. U.S. Reps. Trent Franks ( R-Ariz. ), Louie Gohmert ( R-Texas ), Tim Huelskamp ( R-Kan. ) and Steve King ( R-Iowa ) are also supposedly in the film.

A gay couple made history as the submarine warship USS San Francisco returned to its home port in San Diego, becoming the first same-sex couple to ever share a ceremonial first kiss before the crew disembarked, NewNowNext.com noted. The celebratory first kiss is tradition on all warships returning to port—it marks the beginning of celebration as friends and family lining the dock are reunited with loved ones. Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Sawicki's seven-month deployment in the Western Pacific was the first for him and boyfriend Shawn Brier.

A New Jersey Superior Court judge has ruled that misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion-therapy services violates the state's consumer-protection laws, SDGLN.com reported. The ruling marks the first time a court in the United States has found that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder, and that it is fraudulent for conversion therapists to make such a claim. The ruling is part of the consumer-fraud lawsuit the Southern Poverty Law Center filed against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing ( JONAH ), a New Jersey-based conversion therapy provider.

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene ( D-Wash. ) introduced legislation to reauthorize and expand the Department of Veterans Affairs' ( VA's ) Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include LGBT veterans in its membership and scope, according to a press release. The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans, which Congress established in 1994, advises the VA secretary on the needs of minority veterans with respect to compensation, health care, rehabilitation, outreach and other VA benefits and services.

Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a possible presidential candidate, has criticized President Barack Obama for his support of marriage equality, according to On Top Magazine. Jindal—talking about Alabama probate judges who are refusing to comply with a federal judge's rulings declaring the state's gay-marriage ban invalid—said, "Remember when President Obama first ran for office? He was for traditional marriage, [then] saw the polls change [and] changed his position. I'm not one of those politicians." Jindal recently endorsed a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

In Pennsylvania, gay former Harrisburg City Treasurer John Campbell faces two additional felony theft charges for his alleged misuse of a non-profit's credit cards, The Washington Blade noted. Dauphin County District Attorney Edward Marsico Jr., has accused Campbell of making $11,800 in unauthorized money transfers from a Historic Harrisburg Association credit card and PayPal account. Campbell also allegedly opened an unauthorized credit card in the Historic Harrisburg Association's name and spent nearly $12,000 on what the Patriot-News described as "vacation and entertainment expenses." Campbell had been executive director of the Historic Harrisburg Association for about five years before becoming Equality Pennsylvania's director of development in April 2014.

A tiny town in West Virginia has become the smallest in the nation with an LGBT-inclusive civil-rights ordinance, according to Advocate.com . The Town Council of Thurmond—which has a population of five—voted unanimously to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The ordinance—similar to one enacted in Charleston, the state's capital and largest city—applies to employment, housing and public accommodations. Until now, Vicco, Kentucky, with slightly more than 300 residents, was believed to be the smallest municipality in the U.S. with such an ordinance.

Lafayette, Indiana, couple Ashlee and Ruby Henderson have filed a federal lawsuit to get their names on their son's birth certificate, according to an Associated Press item. They claim Indiana's birth certificates discriminate against gay married couples and their children because they do not account for both spouses being the same gender. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, challenges how state law defines "born in wedlock" and "born out of wedlock," saying it violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment.

In New Jersey, Pennsville lesbian couple Sheena and Tiara Yates are locked in a custody battle over their son after a sperm donor sued them for parenting time, NJ.com reported. The outcome of their case, according to their attorney and a Rutgers law professor, might change the status of reproductive rights for couples around New Jersey who conceive by artificial means. The Yates family lost the first custody case ( another child conceived through a separate sperm donor ), and that man now has visitation time with the older child.

A new hire to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's ( R ) 2016 political action committee is under fire for past tweets that disparaged women and gay men, according to The Hill. Bush's leadership PAC, Right to Rise, brought on Hipster.com co-founder Ethan Czahor to be its chief technology officer. However, it has been reported that dozens of tweets ( from 2009 and 2010 ) had been deleted from Czahor's account; some of the tweets referred to women as "sluts," while others joked about being ogled by gay men at the gym. Czahor has since parted ways with the PAC, Bloomberg.com noted.

GLAAD has released "Accelerating Acceptance," based on two surveys conducted on GLAAD's behalf by Harris Poll, which reveal some non-LGBT Americans still report substantial levels of discomfort with LGBT co-workers, family, and neighbors, despite historic legal progress for marriage equality, according to a press release. For example, many straight, non-transgender parents say they would be uncomfortable with their child playing at a home with an LGBT parent—40 percent for a transgender parent, 29 percent for a gay dad and 28 percent for a lesbian mom. The executive summary can be found at http://glaad.org/acceptance.

Jen Kramer, a candidate for alderman from the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, is being criticized for transphobic and racist tweets on her personal Twitter account. ( One tweet, under @Kramerica, was posted Sept. 11, 2014: "Gone are the days when a high pitched voice and moustache determine someone's sex. The worst part, I think it hit on me. Just my luck." ) Kramer, who is running in the 43rd Ward, apologized for the comments and told Windy City Times Feb. 13 that she took responsibility for them, calling the remarks "insensitive and ill-advised attempts at humor. That is not the person who I am." The city's mayoral and aldermanic elections are Feb. 24.

After what some called a bad year for Apple's cybersecurity reputation, CEO Tim Cook recently talked about hacking at a White House summit, CNNMoney reported. The summit, held at Stanford University, took place months after several celebrities' nude photos were stolen from their iCloud accounts and Apple controversially decided to prevent law enforcement from accessing customers' iPhone data. In addition, the FBI has lashed out against Apple, saying that the company's new encryption technique will prevent it from capturing pedophiles and terrorists.

Peter Thiel—the openly gay co-founder of PayPal and early backer of Facebook—recently dismissed claims that super-smart machines pose an imminent threat to U.S. workers, CNNMoney noted. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur characterized these fears about technology as shortsighted and tired, having been around for over 200 years. "It's a problem we would like to have. ... It would free people up to do far more productive things," said Thiel, who recently invested in a marijuana startup.


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