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Jason Collins in Boston Pride; Cory Booker's Senate run
National roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2013-06-12

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Jason Collins' Sports Illustrated cover.


NBA veteran Jason Collins marched in his first ever gay pride parade in Boston, joined by Rep. Joe Kennedy III, his onetime roommate at Stanford University, according to WBUR.org . Collins wore a T-shirt that read "#BeTrue" when he joined thousands of marchers June 8. Among other things, Collins said the Boston Marathon bombing in April reinforced the notion that things can change in an instant, so he might as well live truthfully. Also marching with Kennedy's group was the first openly gay member of Congress, Barney Frank, who said he was proud to be walking with Collins.

In New Jersey, Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker will run for New Jersey's open U.S. Senate seat, according to Philly.com . A campaign aide confirmed the marriage-equality advocate's candidacy. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 13, with the general election Oct. 16. However, Peg Schaffer, an attorney and Somerset County Democratic chairwoman, filed suit in the Appellate Division on behalf of "three voters and taxpayers" to move the Senate election to the gubernatorial election date in November.

Video footage of 72-year-old Nashville grandmother Sherri Gray's poignant song for her lesbian bride-to-be niece is going viral, according to the Huffington Post. Gray said she was inspired to write and perform "What If We Are Just Like You? (Shannon And Lisa's Song)" by her niece and fiancee's August wedding. Gray—who wears a "Straight But Not Narrow" sweatshirt in the video—sings, "Some say we're different, that we're wrong/They want us set apart/We say we're equal, and we're strong/With human minds and heart."

A poll by Small Business Majority shows two-thirds of small business owners say federal law should prohibit discrimination against LGBT workers and job applicants, according to a Human Rights Campaign (HRC) press release. The release also stated, "While the Small Business Majority survey found 67 percent of small business owners support a federal non-discrimination law, the poll also showed that nearly 60 percent of those business owners believe that non-discrimination protections helps their bottom line—evidence the Congress must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)."

Following the passing of longtime LGBT ally U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin is urging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to appoint a successor who shares Lautenberg's commitment to equality for LGBT equality, according to a press release. Griffin stated, "From basic workplace protections to tackling bullying in our schools to the equal recognition of all marriages, legislation supportive of basic constitutional fairness will assume a central role in the legislative agenda of the coming months." For more than a decade, Lautenberg received a 100-percent rating on the HRC Scorecard, which scores members of congress on their positions on LGBT-related legislation.

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has vacated an immigration judge's ruling ordering the deportation of an HIV-positive immigrant convicted of solicitation for oral sex, according to a Lambda Legal press release. The order follows a motion by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seeking to retract its earlier argument that the man's HIV status made his solicitation conviction a "particularly serious crime." The DHS motion came shortly after Lambda Legal and the HIV Law Project submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, In the Matter of Ramirez, asking the BIA to overturn the immigration judge's ruling.

First Lady Michelle Obama confronted a gay-rights protester who heckled her at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington, D.C., according to NBC News. Obama was speaking at a couple's home when a woman standing at the front of the small crowd interrupted, demanding that President Obama sign an executive order on gay rights. Obama told the woman that people gathered in the backyard tent could "listen to me or you can take the mic, but I'm leaving," before telling the crowd, "You all decide. You have one choice." The heckler—who said she was a "lesbian looking for federal equality before I die"—was escorted from the event.

In Chicago, organizations backing comprehensive immigration reform that includes binational, same-sex couples released a letter sent to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) seeking an apology for his comments in May that they felt were inconsistent with his previous pledges of support. The letter, sent May 24, was prompted by Durbin's comments at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the immigration reform bill. Durbin acquiesced to the demands of gay-rights opponents to exclude same-sex, binational couples from immigration legislation, saying "this is the wrong moment" to fight for same-sex families.

A new report released by the Applied Research Center (ARC) examines challenges and opportunities at the intersection of the movement for racial justice and LGBT activism in the South. In "Better Together in the South: Building Movements across Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation," ARC identifies demographics changes, noteworthy trends, and key strategies that Southern organizations have been using, with the report outlining recommendations for continued work on these issues. See http://www.arc.org/arc.org/bettertogether.

In Tennessee, 11-year-old Marcel Neergaard is taking on anti-gay politician John Ragan, who is the co-sponsor of a controversial bill requiring teachers to out gay students to parents, according to Gay Star News. In a Huffington Post op-ed, Neergaard wrote, in part, that the act "promotes a system that does not educate students about gays, because no one but counselors, nurses and principals can talk about being gay." Neergaard also sponsored an online petition against the nonprofit StudentsFirst to withdraw a "Reformer of the Year" Award it gave Ragan approximately a year ago. StudentsFirst agreed to rescind the award after more than 53,000 MoveOn members in Tennessee and across the country signed the document.

In Pennsylvania, administrators at a high school refused to read the name of transgender senior Issak Wolfe when he walks across the stage to accept his diploma, according to Advocate.com . Wolfe had asked the Red Lion Area School District to read his assumed name, not his female birth name, at the June 7 ceremony. While he was allowed to wear the cap and gown designated for male students, his female given name was read.

In Florida, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to repeal a 2005 board policy that bans county government from acknowledging, promoting and participating in gay pride recognition and events, according to SouthFloridaGayNews.com . Commissioner Kevin Beckner led the repeal effort, supported by such officials as Tampa's mayor, Bob Buckhorn.

In Arizona, the sponsor of a bill targeting trans people who want to use bathrooms of the gender they identify with says he's giving up on the issue this legislative session, according to the Huffington Post. Republican Rep. John Kavanagh said there's concern in his caucus about some of his proposal's definitions, so the measure will have to be shelved until next year. Kavanagh caused a national uproar in March when he proposed the bathroom-privacy language.

A Florida LGBT advocacy group praised the Miami Beach (Fla.) City Commission for unanimously passing a tax-equity ordinance that allows the city to reimburse municipal employees in domestic partnerships who pay extra taxes on health benefits that married heterosexuals do not have to pay, according to the Washington Blade. "This ordinance finally puts city employees in domestic partnerships, whether same- or opposite-sex, on a level playing field with couples in legally recognized marriages when it comes to paying taxes on health benefits," SAVE Dade Executive Director CJ Ortuño said.

The Delaware Senate approved (by a vote of 11-7) a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the state's anti-discrimination and hate crimes laws, the Washington Blade reported. Senate Bill 97 would specifically ban anti-trans discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, among other areas. Sixteen states and D.C. have trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has chosen New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as interim U.S. senator, replacing the late Frank Lautenberg—but it's unknown where Chiesa stands on LGBT issues, according to the Washington Blade. During a 2012 interview with NJ Today, Chiesa said he'll defend the law banning same-sex marriage, or defend the law if it were changed. However, Garden State Equality spokesperson TJ Helmstetter has praised Chiesa for work in implementing and defending the LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation that Christie signed into law.

The Pentagon plans to begin issuing identification cards to the same-sex partners of service members beginning Sept. 1, the Washington Times reported. The dependents' ID cards will entitle partners to various benefits, as outlined by then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a February policy decision. The benefits include education, survivor, commissary, travel, counseling and transportation, but will not encompass health care and housing allowances.

In Atlanta, entrepreneur Michael Morrison may challenge City Councilmember Alex Wan for the latter's political seat, according to TheGaVoice.com . Wan recently attempted to oust several adult businesses with a rezoning proposal; however, the council rejected it nine votes to six. However, Morrison—an owner of several successful adult businesses that cater to LGBT and straight customers in metro Atlanta and a gay club opened last year in Miami—wants to challenge Wan in the wake of his proposal, saying he is prepared to spend $150,000 to try to defeat Wan. One possible strike against Morrison is that he spent time in a federal prison for tax evasion, even doing so at the same time as former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, who instigated police raids of Morrison's shops.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Washington Blade Editor Kevin Naff announced that three-time National Football League (NFL) Pro Bowl award winner and 2013 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champion Brendon Ayanbadejo will be guest editor of an Aug. 30 special-edition issue of the newspaper focused on LGBT issues in professional sports, according to the Blade. Ayanbadejo is a longtime outspoken ally for LGBT equality; since 2009 he has publicly advocated for marriage equality for same-sex couples.

LGBT military organization OutServe-SLDN extended congratulations to Major General Patricia "Trish" Rose, who became the U.S. military's highest ranking out gay officer, and her wife, retired Naval officer Julie Roth, according to a press release. Rose's promotion ceremony was held May 31, led by her direct supervisor, Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, the first female four-star general in the United States Air Force. Rose is the mobilization assistant to the Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In her civilian capacity, Rose is the public relations and marketing director for a local hospital.

Gay conservative group GOProud has endorsed Gabriel Gomez, a Republican former Navy SEAL seeking a U.S. Senate seat in a Massachusetts special election, according to the Washington Blade. Gomez, who was at the Boston Pride celebration, is running against Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for the U.S. Senate seat in a special election set for June 25 to succeed John Kerry, who left to become secretary of state. In a March primary debate, Gomez said he supports same-sex marriage while saying he supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act; however, regarding California's Proposition 8, Gomez said marriage is a state issue, and "you need to respect what the states decide on a state-by-state issue."

Phillip Curtis McKee III—a businessman, stained-glass artist and firefighter who was among the first to respond to the fire at the Pentagon caused by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack—died May 31 at a hospital in Fairfax City, Va., at age 41, the Washington Blade reported. Family members attribute McKee's death to complications from injuries and illness linked to three days of fighting the Pentagon fire following the 9/11 attack, including inhalation of toxic dust, a severe leg injury that resulted in him being wheelchair-bound, and a prolonged battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nike is unveiling a Gay Pride sneaker. According to Advocate.com, the company's most recent line of sneakers, under its #BeTrue Free Run 5.0 line, is a tribute to the LGBT community. The company promises that the shoe has a glove-like fit, with a barefoot running feel. In addition to the shoe, the collection includes sandals, graphic T-shirts and tank tops, and an iPhone 5 case. Profits of #BeTrue sales will go to the LGBT Sports Coalition, which has set the goal to end the practice of anti-LGBT discrimination in sport by 2016.

Consumer-advocacy website NerdWallet used a data-driven approach to find the country's most gay-friendly cities, according to a press release. To compile the list, analysts considered the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index, the percentage of households that are same-sex, the number of gay-related hate crimes and an overall gay-friendliness score. The top three cities were Palm Springs, Calif.; San Francisco; and Seattle; other cities on the list included Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Denver.

A Christian conservative has described Ohio Senator Rob Portman's support for gay marriage as a career-ender for the politician, according to On Top Magazine. In March, Portman announced in an op-ed that he had reversed course on the issue of marriage equality and credited his son's recent coming out for the change of heart. Citing that reversal, Phil Burress, who heads the Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values, told a newspaper that Portman's "career is over" in 2016, saying, "There's two non-negotiable issues: abortion and marriage, or the 'homosexual agenda.' And if you're wrong on either one of those, [we] will campaign against you and we will defeat you."

The nation's largest organization of LGBTA Catholics, DignityUSA, will gather members from across the country in Minneapolis July 4-7 for its biennial convention, according to a press release. Speakers will include Chicago Ald. James Cappleman, College of the Holy Cross Associate Professor James B. Nickoloff, United Church of Christ minister the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel and Interfaith Voices hostess Maureen Fiedler, SL, among others. See Conv2013.Dignityusa.org .

Rivendell Media has released the annual gay press report revealing that spending in the gay press for 2012 is at $322.6 million, up 5.1 percent from 2011, according to a press release. Circulation of LGBT media is also up almost 5 percent. Rivendell Media, the leading media representation firm for most LGBT publications in the United States, reports that spending for 2013 should reach a new high based on strong first- and second-quarter sales.

The Association of Transgender Professionals (ATP) has been formally dedicated and endorsed by a national advisory board of voluntary leaders and allies, according to a press release. The association is intended primarily to serve people who have, had or will have non-conforming gender expressions/identities and seek to advance their professional careers. The goal of this group is to encourage the networking and mentoring which strengthens careers and promotes the next generation of leaders. See www.transgenderprofessionals.org .

Twin sisters Erin and Elizabeth (Liz) Czerwinski, daughters of lesbian mothers, were named valedictorian and salutatorian at their Key West, Fla., high school, according to a SheWired.com item. The graduates were raised by their moms, Caroline Bauer and Sharon Czerwinski, who just celebrated their 25th anniversary. Erin finished with a 4.74 GPA; Liz had a 4.71 GPA and plans to attend Florida State University.

Marie Claire magazine commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Equal Pay Act both in its June issue and first-ever Women Taking the Lead awards luncheon, according to Adweek. The luncheon, which took place June 10, honored Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, journalist Katie Couric, fashion designer Tory Burch, actress Sarah Jessica Parker and tennis player Serena Williams (who was still in France after winning the French Open). Couric spoke of her early days in TV news, saying, "I always joke that I got into television news during a time when 'harass' was two words, not one."

In Iowa, a Council Bluffs jury found that an apartment complex's management company will have to pay $147,000 to two gay men, according to DesMoinesRegister.com . The jury decided that Allen Emert—a maintenance technician for the apartment complex management company, New Life Multi-Family Management LLC—repeatedly harassed the couple (Charles Anderson and Brandon Morehead) and called them names after he learned in March 2011 that they were sharing a one-bedroom apartment.

Former First Lady and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton now has a Twitter handle (@HillaryClinton), according to WKRG.com . On Twitter, she describes herself as a "pantsuit aficionado" and a "hair icon." In her first tweet, Clinton thanked the creators of the popular online parodies called "Texts from Hillary," and said, "I'll take it from here." After about three hours, Clinton had nearly 100,000 followers.

The New York alumni of the AIDS activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) will reunite June 22, according to its website. Dozens of people have already stated they would be present, including David Drake, Larry Kramer, Ann Northrop and Joe.My.God's Joe Jervis. The group formed in the late 1980s with the goal of bringing about legislation, medical treatment and policies to counter the AIDS pandemic.

The National LGBT Cancer Network released a new report that uses the direct experiences of cancer survivors to paint a stark picture of the effect of discrimination on LGBT health, a press release stated. The free, downloadable booklet, "LGBT Patient-Centered Outcomes," uses the findings to suggest practical recommendations for improving health care for LGBT people. See www.cancer-network.org .

Texas teen Mitch Anderson is being praised after coming out as gay in an emotional graduation speech, according to the Huffington Post. "I have been bullied a lot. I've been called unspeakable things and relegated to a place of lower class," Anderson is quoted as saying in the speech. Incorporating quotes by Zachary Quinto, Madonna and Nicki Minaj as well as a Harry Potter reference, he also said, "Be not afraid of what you do not know, because more often than not, it's probably incredibly similar to what you know. And when you disagree with someone, hate is not a form of love."

In California, Steven Mengel and Michael Woody are the lead plaintiffs in a class-action suit claiming that San Leandro police conspire to lure men into stalls in public restroom to bust them for seeking consensual sex, according to Courthouse News Service. Mengel claims he was arrested in 2012 after agreeing to perform a sexual act on undercover defendants Officer Matthew Barajas and Det. Morgan. Woody was arrested after a plainclothes officer approached him in a separate restroom, then "followed him aggressively urging him to stay," the complaint states.

A Florida-based lesbian couple is complaining after a local museum allegedly refused to offer them the standard price of a family membership, according to the Huffington Post. Karen Lee-Duffell—who says she's had a membership at the Hands On Children's Museum of Jacksonville, Fla. for more than three years—told a news outlet it felt "like a punch in the gut" when she was told by a staff member that she would have to pay more for the family rate than a pair of opposite-sex parents. A museum official responded that the memberships are "very specific" and do not allow for any substitutions.

President Obama named Daniel Baer—a former Georgetown professor and deputy assistant secretary of state—to be ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), based in Vienna, according to the Washington Post. Baer is reportedly one of as many as five openly gay ambassadors that Obama is expected to name in the next few weeks. HBO executive James Costos, former Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, ex-Democratic National Committee finance chairman Rufus Gifford and SB&K Capital managing partner James "Wally" Brewster are all possibilities for ambassadorships as well.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, has ruled that two East Texas softball coaches who told a mother that her minor daughter is lesbian did not violate the student's right to privacy, according to Courthouse News Service. Barbara Wyatt sued the Kilgore Independent School District and two coaches from Kilgore High School in 2010. The complaint says softball coaches Rhonda Fletcher and Cassandra Newell aggressively confronted Wyatt's 16-year-old daughter, S.W., about an alleged love triangle. The coaches then confronted Wyatt about the teenager's alleged relationship.

In Idaho, the city of Pocatello has passed an ordinance banning discrimination against a person on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to Newsradio1310.com . The city council voted 4-2 in favor of the ordinance after hours of debate. Pocatello is the sixth city in the state to enact an anti-discrimination ordinance, joining Boise, Sandpoint, Ketchum, Moscow and Coeur d'Alene.


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