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Dan Savage controversy; Clementi's family visits suicide site
National roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2013-11-27

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Catholic League President Bill Donohue demanded that HBO cancel the show Real Time with Bill Maher after the late-night comedian invited gay columnist Dan Savage, who blasted priests who sexually abuse children, according to Raw Story. On a recent show, Maher pointed out to Savage that a Catholic bishop who opposed marriage equality in Hawaii had said that children with same-sex parents were at a greater risk of suicide. Savage replied, "That's total bullshit. He's confusing children with gay parents with children who are raped by Catholic priests."

The family of the late Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi paid their first visit to the George Washington Bridge, where he took his life, according to LGBTQ Nation. The family crossed the bridge to New York City to help raise awareness about the dangers of bullying. Clementi's mother, Jane, and brother, James, linked arms and walked with Ronnie Kroell and Elliot London, co-founders of The Friend Movement, who had walked from Chicago to New Jersey in Tyler's memory as part of a bullying awareness campaign. Clementi, 18, committed suicide in 2010 after learning his roommate, Dharun Ravi, had secretly used a webcam to capture Clementis' rendezvous with another man.

A Nebraska prison inmate and his transgender partner have lost another round in their legal fight to be able to visit each other and get married, the South Florida Gay News reported. A federal judge rejected the lawsuit prisoner Harold Wilson and his partner, Gracy Sedlak, brought that challenged a Nebraska constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a strictly heterosexual union. Their state lawsuit that raised the same claims was thrown out because they failed to pay an $82 court fee.

POZ magazine, a print and online brand for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, announced the fourth annual POZ 100. Among the individuals listed are Condom Nation Program Manager Marco Benjamin; Hyacinth AIDS Foundation Director of Community Organizing Deloris Dockrey; Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital's Rob Garofalo; and AIDS Foundation of Chicago Vice President of Operations Tom Menard. The full list is at www.poz.com/100.

Opponents of a new California law that gives transgender students certain rights said they had collected enough signatures for an initiative that would repeal the law, according to the South Florida Gay News. A coalition of conservative groups called Privacy for all Students submitted 620,000 signatures to get the initiative on the November 2014 ballot. California is the first state to pass a law detailing the rights of transgender K-12 students.

Former GOP presidential candidate and Sen. Rick Santorum ( R-Pa. ) waded into the gay-marriage debate on Stephen Colbert's show, according to The Huffington Post. At one point, Santorum was asked if proponents of traditional marriage have lost the issue against legalizing benefits for same-sex couples. "I think the real problem here is marriage has slipped away from us," Santorum said. "Marriage has devolved into just a romantic relationship between two people. And that's not what marriage is." Colbert then joked, "No—it's for transferring property."

Mayor Annise Parker announced that the city of Houston will offer health and life insurance benefits to all spouses of legally married employees, including same-sex couples, despite a voter-approved 2001 charter amendment that had banned the practice, the Houston Chronicle reported. Parker, a lesbian herself, relied on a legal opinion from City Attorney David Feldman that cited the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act this year; federal agencies' subsequent decisions to recognize legal same-sex marriages; and other relevant case law.

Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court claiming the Hesperia Unified School District and administrators at Sultana High School violated state law by not renewing the contract of an openly lesbian teacher in retaliation for her supporting LGBT students who had alleged harassment and discrimination, according to LGBTQ Nation. Lambda stated that Julia Frost protected the students and advised them how to exercise their free speech rights. In March, the ACLU of Southern California sent a letter to Hesperia USD on behalf of the Sultana gay-straight alliance, alleging discrimination and harassment.

Four female high school sophomores, including a transgender student, have been suspended from Hercules High School in Northern California while officials investigate a schoolyard brawl a student's cellphone captured on video, Advocate.com reported. School officials said the fight broke out last week after some female students began verbally harassing the trans teen about her gender identity. All four students suffered minor injuries, and two of the cisgender ( non-trans ) students involved indicated that they want to press battery charges against the trans student. However, the 16-year-old transgender girl also said she wants to press charges against the two girls who initially attacked her.

At approximately the same time Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the marriage-equality bill into law in Chicago, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the head of Springfield's Catholic Diocese, presided over a prayer service of "Supplication and Exorcism for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage." Paprocki called for a recall of the bill while saying that politicians who helped enact it are "morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin."

President Obama has lifted a ban on research into the possibility of transplanting organs from one HIV-positive person to another, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Obama signed the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act into law, directing the federal health department to develop and institute standards for conducting such research. Advocacy groups note that that the number of people waiting for organs far exceeds the number of organs available for transplant.

Eastern Mennonite University could be the first Mennonite institution to formally reverse its policy prohibiting tenure-line faculty from pursuing same-sex relationships, according to Inside Higher Ed. President Loren Swartzendruber announced a six-month "listening period" on the policy to involve students, faculty and staff. During the review process, faculty will not be penalized for violating the policy, meaning some professors in same-sex relationships could keep their jobs or be hired.

A 29-year-old gay Congressional staff member, Nishith Pandya, became the star witness in a murder trial in D.C. Superior Court of a former U.S. Marine charged with stabbing a fellow Marine to death in April 2012 on Capitol Hill, The Washington Blade reported. Police and prosecutors charged Pfc. Michael Poth, 21, with second-degree murder while armed for allegedly using a pocket knife to fatally stab Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, following an altercation on 8th Street in which Poth called Bushong an anti-gay name. Pandya was standing with Bushong when the incident started.

Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Marc Morgan, a gay African-American Republican, has taken out petitions to run in the April 1 Republican primary as a candidate for the at-large D.C. Council seat currently held by Democrat Anita Bonds, The Washington Blade reported. Morgan is the only GOP candidate to enter the at-large Council race so far. Two other Democrats ( Robert White and Nate Bennett-Fleming ) have entered the race and would be running against Bonds in the April 1 Democratic primary if they obtain the requisite number of petition signatures.

U.S. Army officials are denying a report that a legally married same-sex couple at Fort Irwin, Calif., have been denied participation in a marriage enrichment program on the base, SDGLN.com reported. The American Military Partner Association, a resource and support network for LGBT military spouses and their families, made the allegations. However, the Fort Irwin Public Affairs Office released a statement denying the claim that a lesbian soldier was turned away from participating in a "Strong Bonds" marriage enrichment retreat at the base with her wife.

A closeted gay cadet has criticized the U.S. Air Force for saying gays are welcome by writing a letter explaining why so many LGBs feel "so destroyed," according to Gay Star News. The anonymous recruit decided to write a letter to Mikey Weinstein, the leader of Military Religious Freedom Foundation who said the Air Force is a "safe and welcome place" for all people. The cadet described himself as gay, Christian and a member of "one of [the academy's] most publicized NCAA intercollegiate teams."

Nike announced that the company and its executives have donated $280,000 to the effort to pass a same-sex marriage initiative in Oregon next year, OregonLive.com noted. The company announced that it has set up a new committee, Nike Equality PAC, and seeded it with $100,000 from Nike itself and another $180,000 from Nike executives. The company also made it clear that it will be closely working with leaders of the gay-marriage campaign to determine how the money is spent.

In Connecticut, a high school football captain has been charged with fatally stabbing his boyfriend with a steak knife after an argument over ending their relationship, according to ESPN.com . Bloomfield High School student Tarence Mitchell appeared in court to face a murder charge in the death of 27-year-old Ronald Taylor Jr. When Mitchell tried to end their relationship at the end of last year, "Taylor posted a picture of him on Facebook that included a blog of bad things about him, including him being a Bloomfield gay football star," court documents stated. Mitchell claims he used a knife in self-defense.

Well-known gay blogger Michael Petrelis has entered politics, throwing his hat in San Francisco to run for supervisor of the Castro, according to his website. He added that his goal "is to help my neighbors, inspire like-minded lefty liberals and wage a fun and political campaign." Among his pledges, if elected, are to establish a city website disclosing all monthly city-funded travel, lodging and related expense reports each agency and department prepares.

Aunt Rita's Foundation and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton have launched a statewide campaign that promotes HIV/AIDS awareness across Arizona through a banner campaign introducing HIVAZ.org, Arizona's first comprehensive online database for HIV testing and services, according to a Globe Newswire item. Banners have been hung throughout the state to mark World AIDS Day ( Dec. 1 ) and to remind all Arizonans that HIV/AIDS is still one of the largest epidemics in global history.

The Center for American Progress released a new report examining the treatment of LGBT immigrants in U.S. immigration facilities, according to a media release. The report looks at several key areas, including the mistreatment LGBT immigrants and the steps ICE ( Immigration and Customs Enforcement ) has taken to address these issues. The report is at http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/report/2013/11/25/79987/dignity-denied-lgbt-immigrants-in-u-s-immigration-detention.

A federal court ordered the Cook County clerk to immediately issue a marriage license to Chicago lesbian couple Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert, according to a Lambda Legal press release. Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois filed the case Nov. 22, seeking immediate action for the couple. Gray has cancer that has spread to her bones and brain and will likely not live until the marriage law goes into effect ( June 1, 2014 ). Judge Thomas Durkin issued the order in Chicago Nov. 25.

Also in Illinois, the state's department of corrections will alter its law to reflect the new marriage-equality law, according to a Huffington Post item. "The Illinois Department of Corrections [IDOC] will be prepared to implement a policy regarding this law when it goes into effect," spokesman Tom Shaer said. Currently, the IDOC has no formal policy for gay inmates who wish to get married, although prisoners are prohibited from marrying another inmate and the approval ( or denial ) of each request is up to individual prison wardens.

The National Board of Directors of GLAAD announced the election of Sarah Kate Ellis as the organization's new CEO and President following a nationwide search, according to a press release. Ellis is an award-winning media executive, advocate for LGBT equality and communications strategist who has led national media brands to their biggest successes, most notably growing Real Simple into what some have called one of Time Inc.'s most respected and successful magazines. In 2011, Ellis co-authored a memoir with her wife, Kristen Ellis-Henderson, titled Times Two, Two Women in Love and the Happy Family They Made.

Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin has introduced legislation that aims to repeal the state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, according to SunGazette.net . Voters statewide approved the amendment 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006. To repeal the amendment, legislation would have to pass the General Assembly two times with an intervening election, then would go on the ballot in the next succeeding general election.


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