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NATIONAL Backlash in Tennessee, judge dies, voucher program, hate-crimes bill
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-02-11

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More than 140 businesses signed a letter announcing their opposition to Tennessee's recent slew of anti-LGBTQ laws, which has been dubbed the "slate of hate" by activist groups, NBC News noted. The collective, known as the Tennessee Businesses Against Discrimination, included major companies such as Amazon, Nike, Dell, Lyft, Marriott and American Airlines, as well as more than 100 small businesses in Tennessee. The letter specifically targets the passage of HB 836, which allows taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

The first openly gay judge appointed to a U.S. federal court died Feb. 2, ABC News reported. Judge Deborah Batts, 72, presided over the bench at Southern District of New York since 1994 and oversaw major cases including the criminal trial against al-Qaida member Mamdouh Mahmud Salim and the defamation lawsuit filed against Bill O'Reilly. Batts was slated to preside over the upcoming federal trial of Michael Avenatti over his alleged theft of Stormy Daniels' book advance.

The debate over anti-LGBTQ policies in Florida's private-school voucher program spilled into the national arena when U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio ( R-Florida ) entered the situation, Tampa Bay Times reported. Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo were among the companies withdrawing their support after investigation found that 83 private religious schools have policies explicitly barring LGBTQ students, or, sometimes, the children of LGBTQ parents, from attending. Rubio said the two banks announced they are halting future donations to the school voucher program for low-income students to take part in a "publicity stunt aimed at earning 'wokeness' points with the radical left."

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar ( D-Minnesota ) and Lisa Murkowski ( R-Alaska ) introduced a bill calling for strengthening the enforcement of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 by clarifying the law's language related to the motive of people charged with a hate crime, The Washington Blade noted. The newly introduced bill, the Justice for Victims of Hate Crimes Act of 2020, calls for amending the Shepard-Byrd law to make it clear that prosecutors must prove that bias or hate was a "substantial motivating factor" for the crime rather than the sole motive.

NMAC announced that the name of the United States Conference on AIDS will be changed to the United States Conference on HIV ( USCH ), a press release noted. The conference will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during Oct. 10-13, and the theme will be "Luchando Por Nuestras Vidas/Fighting For Our Lives." Registration is now open at USCHIV.org; scholarship applications and abstract submissions will open March 3.

In a setback for Gilead Sciences, a federal panel rejected its bid to invalidate a pair of patents owned by the U.S. government for using the Truvada pill to prevent HIV, STATNews.com reported. The Patent Trial and Appeals Board ruled that Gilead failed to demonstrate it was likely to win its argument for overturning the patents held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which helped fund academic work into HIV prevention that later formed the basis for the best-selling medicine that is also known as PrEP.

A debate is happening around the nation as lawmakers in eight states have introduced bills in recent weeks seeking to restrict transition-related treatment for transgender youth, USA Today reported. The South Dakota House passed its version of the bill ( HB 1057 ), which would impose a one-year jail sentence and a maximum fine of $2,000 on doctors who provide hormone-replacement therapy, puberty blockers and gender-confirmation surgery to children younger than 16 years old. Chase Strangio, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice, said trans-rights advocates are geared up for a fight against HB 1057 and similar measures in Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina and Florida.

A man who beat a transgender woman for using the women's restroom at an Oregon park was found guilty of a hate crime and sentenced to six years in prison, The Mercury News reported. Fred Constanza, 37, of Blackfoot, Idaho, was convicted of first-degree bias crime, second-degree assault and harassment for the attack last summer on Lauren Jackson, 29. Costanza hit Jackson 10 times while grabbing her hair to keep her from fleeing, police said; she suffered multiple fractures to her jaw as well as a broken skull.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) responded to the U.S. Senate's vote to acquit Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, despite having a Republican ( Sen. Mitt Romney ) supporting his conviction, a press release noted. "It is crystal-clear that Donald Trump abused his power to subvert the next election, worked to cover it up, and lied about his motives and actions. Senators who have doubts about the evidence refused to seek the truth, but instead were this President's accomplices in the cover up. This is profoundly troubling and a blow to the rule of law," said HRC President Alphonso David.

The board that oversees San Francisco Pride will not ban Google, its affiliate YouTube, and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office from this year's parade and festival, the Bay Area Reporter noted. In a statement, Executive Director Fred Lopez said, in part, "We have decided as a board there will not be a ban against Google nor the Alameda County Sheriff's Office at this year's Pride celebration. Instead, we are saying yes to inclusivity." The Bay Area Reporter reported Jan. 17 that seven people at a Pride general membership meeting voted to ban the organizations.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she has endorsed former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg for president, The Washington Blade reported. The Bloomberg campaign announced that Bowser will serve as a national campaign co-chair, advising the campaign on "key political and policy issues."

The leader of the Democratic National Committee called for an immediate recanvass of the Iowa caucuses Feb. 6, dealing another blow to Iowa's reputation and further extending an already delayed process to tally votes, Politico reported. DNC Chairman Tom Perez's announcement came shortly before Bernie Sanders claimed victory in a race that officially remains too close to call. A senior Sanders aide said his campaign did not get a heads-up beforehand about Perez's announcement. Incomplete state party results show Pete Buttigieg with a slight lead in the state delegate equivalent count, but Sanders argued that he has a significant advantage in the popular vote and accused the media of putting too much stock in standard delegate equivalents.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates issued a statement in support of Matthew A. Cherry, who won an Oscar for directing and co-producing ( with Karen Rupert Tolliver ) the short Hair Love. Cherry. During his acceptance speech, Cherry used his speech to call for the passage of the Crown Act in all 50 states. In a press release, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates CEO Erin Uritus said, "Bias takes many forms. The filmmakers behind Hair Love did us all a service by telling a story that powerfully showed that hair-based discrimination is linked to race. They raised our collective consciousness. They deserve even more credit for connecting the dots to the Crown Act. Remedies like this are key to providing dignity and inclusion for all."

Caitlyn Jenner joined ABC network president Karey Burke, Emmy-nominated and creator of Project Runway Jane Cha Cutler, and Los Angeles-based artist Marco Lorenzetto to honor Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD, medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, a press release noted. Attendees browsed and shopped the exclusive prints by Marco Lorenzetto, with 30 percent of proceeds going to the Center.

Donald Trump once made fun of a journalist for having a "tr***y dad," according to a new book co-authored by two Daily Beast journalists, LGBTQ Nation noted. Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng's new book, Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington, bills itself as an "eyewitness account" of how the Trump administration brought an "unprecedented awfulness" to Washington. Trump famously loves giving out nicknames, and several sources told the authors that his nickname for journalist Katy Tur is "that b***h with the t****y dad." Tur's biological father is Emmy Award-winning journalist Zoey Tur, who transitioned in 2013.

A high school principal who suggested Kobe Bryant deserved to die by posting it was "karma" after the NBA legend's fatal helicopter crash has resigned, ABC News noted. "Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today," Liza Sejkora—the now-former principal of Camas High School in Camas, Washington—posted on Facebook the day the former Los Angeles Laker died. Sejkora apologized after the incident, saying she regretted writing the post.

A new gay bar with food and a brunch plans to open in the Arts District in March in Vegas, Eater Vegas noted. Eduardo Cordova—who opened Santos Guisados Tacos & Beer in Fremont East in February 2019—plans to open The Garden in the former Mingo Kitchen & Lounge space. Cordova created the first LGBT pool party on the Strip at the Luxor and an LGBT party, Closet Sundays, at chef Kerry Simon's former Cathouse at the resort.


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