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Marriage ruling for four states; robbers target trans women
National roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2014-06-24

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A federal appeals court will hear arguments in gay marriage fights in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee in a single session, setting the stage for historic rulings in each state, according to The Detroit News. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, scheduled arguments in five cases from the four states for Aug. 6. Although the cases are unique, each deals with whether statewide gay marriage bans violate the Constitution. In Cincinnati, a three-judge panel will hear arguments in each case one at a time. It's unclear whether it will issue a large ruling encompassing all the cases or separate ones.

Washington, D.C., police are investigating a string of robberies in which transgender women were apparently targeted, according to NBC Washington. The crimes all occurred June 10-18 along the Eastern Avenue corridor and side streets. Police say they are not currently treating the robberies as related because descriptions of the suspects vary. In two cases, guns were displayed and in others, verbal threats were made.

Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, is quoted in a profile in the National Journal as saying Southern men seem "a little effeminate"—using toppled House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as an example, according to MySanAntonio.com . At one point, Schweitzer said, "If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say—and I'm fine with gay people, that's all right—but my 'gaydar' is 60-70 percent. ... I'm accepting." He later posted on Facebook, "I recently made a number of stupid and insensitive remarks to a reporter from the National Journal. I am deeply sorry and sincerely apologize for my carelessness and disregard."

New York's first openly gay member of Congress has married his longtime partner, SeattlePI.com reported. Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney exchanged vows with Randy Gene Florke at the Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands in Cold Spring. Florke proposed in December after the youngest of their three children wrote to Santa wishing for her parents to be married. Maloney and Florie been together 22 years and have three children, ages 11 to 24.

The Presbyterian Church ( U.S.A. ) voted to allow pastors to marry same-sex couples in states where it is legal. The church also voted, by an overwhelming majority, to change the language about marriage in the church constitution to "two persons" from a "man and a woman," CNN noted. To take effect, that change would need to be approved by a majority of 172 local presbyteries, which have a year to vote. However, pastors can begin marrying same-sex couples in the states that allow it.

The first openly transgender priest to preach at the Washington National Cathedral urged the gay community to be brave and open-minded as it works to eliminate oppression, The Washington Times reported. The Rev. Cameron Partridge told the audience at the church that people need to be unashamed of who they are and embrace "the blessing of collaborating visions." Partridge ( who reportedly completed his transition in 2001 ) is the Episcopal chaplain at Boston University as well as a lecturer and counselor for Episcopal and Anglican students at the Harvard Divinity School.

In Washington, D.C., several hundred opponents of same-sex marriage marched to the U.S. Supreme Court after former Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee urged them to keep fighting to have marriage defined as being strictly between a man and a woman, Reuters reported. ( Among the marchers, one woman wore a hat made out of an open Bible. ) Not including Wisconsin, same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia. That number could jump sharply if federal court rulings striking down bans in several states are upheld on appeal.

Legal experts say that a federal judge's lengthy deliberations on whether to stay his Indiana ruling recognizing a same-sex couple's marriage could signal that a broader decision is coming, The Post-Tribune reported. The state asked U.S. District Judge Richard Young for the stay on May 8, the same day he granted a preliminary injunction requiring Indiana to recognize the marriage of Munster residents Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney ( who's terminally ill with cancer ). The state also is asking the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to review Young's decision, which applies just to the one couple. Marriage law expert Seymour J. Reisman said it is "absolutely unusual" for a judge to take so much time to grant a stay.

The U.S. Labor Department has stated that married same-sex couples nationwide will soon have access to emergency-leave benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act ( FMLA ), Business Insurance reported. Labor Department officials issued a proposed rule that would expand the definition of "spouse" under the FMLA to include all legally married gay and lesbian couples, regardless of their state of residence. Signed into law in 1993, the FMLA guarantees eligible private and public employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in cases of serious illness or injury or to care for sick or injured family members, including spouses and their immediate relatives.

Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship, a White House press release stated. This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions come in response to last year's Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

In Utah, a Salt Lake City police officer was placed on leave after refusing an assignment to work at a gay-pride parade, The Huffington Post reported. The officer was among about 30 officers assigned to provide traffic control and security for the annual Utah Pride Parade on Sunday in Salt Lake City. Utah Pride Center spokeswoman Deann Armes said her group is pleased with the department's stance, and thinks officers should undergo sensitivity training before joining the force.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund is asking the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to allow a gender non-conforming teen to retake his driver's license photo while wearing makeup, The Huffington Post noted. Chase Culpepper—a 16-year-old who wears makeup and androgynous or girls' clothing on a daily basis—went to the DMV in Anderson on March 3 with his mother to get his driver's license after passing his driver's test. However, he was told he couldn't be photographed while wearing makeup.

A University of Central Florida ( UCF ) investigation has found that Beta Theta Pi fraternity did not kick out a pledge because he's gay, according to the Orlando Sentinel. However, student George Dumont, 20, still believes the group discriminated against him and he plans to transfer from the school this year. Dumont, a former UCF cheerleader, had said that friends in the fraternity told him his sexual orientation had played a role in his removal from last fall's pledge class.

In Florida, Fort Lauderdale city commissioners approved a marriage-equality resolution that encourages state leaders to take action to legalize same-sex marriage, according to Out Traveler. The commission won approval with a 3-2 vote with commissioners Dean Trantalis, Bobby DuBose and Bruce Roberts supporting the resolution; Mayor Jack Seiler was among the opponents. "If we're truly going to be an All-America city, we have to be a city for all Americans," Trantalis said in a statement.

A young woman in Texas has been brutally murdered, allegedly as a result of her HIV status, according to HIVPlusMag.com . Justin Welch reportedly strangled 30-year-old Elisha Henson "when he learned she had HIV after she gave him oral sex." This is the second brutal murder of a woman due to HIV status within two years in Texas that has made mainstream media headlines.

A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police officer was under investigation after video surfaced of him apparently punching a woman during an arrest at the weekend gay pride march, The Huffington Post reported. A video shows Souroth Chatterji, a male police officer, dragging Ariel Lawther, 19, who attended the march, down by the hair and punching her in her torso. Lawther was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The officer was placed on desk duty for 30 days while the city's Office of Municipal Investigations looks into the situation.

Hoosiers Unite for Marriage, a bipartisan public education campaign dedicated to lifting the voices of couples in support of the freedom to marry, has launched, according to a press release. In partnership with Liberty Indiana, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and Freedom to Marry, Hoosiers Unite for Marriage will talk about what freedom and equality really mean for gay and lesbian couples.

Nearly two years after a teenager and her girlfriend were both shot in the head on a grassy hillside in South Texas, killing one of them and leaving the other with serious injuries, authorities have arrested a man in the attack, NBC News reported. U.S. marshals and Texas Rangers in the San Antonio suburb of Helotes arrested David Malcolm Strickland, 27. He is facing charges of capital murder, aggravated assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault in the June 23, 2012, attack on Mollie Olgin, 19, who died in the shooting. Olgin's girlfriend, Kristene Chapa, then 18, survived.

In Florida, Fort Myers police are trying to find the killer of a transgender woman whose body was found burned behind a garbage bin, according to the Naples News. Police identified the victim as Eddie James Owen, 31, but family members said Owen identified as a woman and went by the name Yazmin or Yaz'min Shancez. Fort Myers Police Lt. Jay Rodriguez said the department has not determined a cause of death, and are not investigating the homicide as a hate crime.

Point Foundation ( Point ) announced that it is awarding scholarships to 23 students, according to PR Newswire. The new scholarship recipients bring Point's total to 80 full-time students who will receive financial assistance and programmatic support from Point during the 2014-15 academic year. Point is the nation's largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students, many of whom have faced obstacles such as bullying and financial hardship.

Lesbian attorney Maite Oronoz Rodriguez has become the first openly gay person on Puerto Rico's Supreme Court. In a statement, Gov. Alejandro GarcÃa Padilla congratulated Rodriguez on her Senate confirmation by the Senate as the new associate judge of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Padilla said, "During her confirmation process in the Senate, attorney Oronoz Rodriguez not only proved the quality of human being she is, but also showed that she has the temperament, the knowledge and wisdom required to belong to the highest court of the country."

A pastor who presided over his son's same-sex wedding ceremony and vowed to perform other gay marriages if asked can return to the pulpit after a United Methodist Church appeals panel overturned a decision to defrock him, The Huffington Post noted. A nine-person appeals panel ordered the church to restore Frank Schaefer's pastoral credentials, saying the jury that convicted him of breaking church law erred when fashioning his punishment. The church suspended Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, last year for officiating his son's 2007 wedding.

Friendfactor, the LGBT equality organization for straight friends, announced the winners of its 2nd annual MBA Ally Challenge, according to a press release. Columbia Business School came in first place, with the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan earning second and third respectively. The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia received the Most Improved award.

A new study has shown that bisexual men are disproportionately affected by HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, Gay Star News reported. Factors that may affect the sexual health include sex without condoms, forced sexual encounters, an increased number of sexual partners and attitudes toward pregnancy. In the United States last year, 21 percent of bisexual men reported STD treatment, compared to 12 percent for gay men and 2.3 percent of straight men.

As North Carolina lawmakers debated a proposal to prevent charter schools from discriminating against applicants based on sexual orientation, one representative suggested that adult sexual attraction to children is a sexual orientation like homosexuality, the Associated Press noted. Republican Rep. Paul Stam said pedophilia, masochism and other sexual practices are sexual orientations like homosexuality, and he questioned the role adults who are sexually attracted to children might have in schools. The amendment from Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, would "prohibit a charter school from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity." However, Republicans tabled it, preventing a vote on it.


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