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NATIONAL Benefits suit, Matthew Shepard, homeless act, Nigerian migrant
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-10-02

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Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Social Security Administration ( SSA ) on behalf of a 63-year-old lesbian seeking spousal survivor's benefits based on her relationship with her partner of 27 years, who died in 2006 before same-sex couples in the State of Washington were able to marry, an organizational press release noted. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Helen Thornton in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington argues that SSA's exclusion of same-sex couples from survivor's benefits based on their inability to marry is unconstitutional.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation is celebrating its 20th-anniversary year on Oct. 20 in Denver, a press release noted. The organization will honor Olympian Adam Rippon, poet Leslea Newman, Chance Mitchell and Justin Nelson of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce ( NGLCC ), and youth advocates Drew Adams & Ose Arheghan. Judy and Dennis Shepard—the parents of Matthew Shepard, whose brutal and homophobic murder was the impetus for the Matthew Shepard Foundation as well as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act—will be speaking at the event.

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 918, the Homeless Youth Act of 2018, authored by Senator Scott Wiener ( D-San Francisco ) and Assemblymember Blanca Rubio ( D-Baldwin Park ) and co-sponsored by Equality California ( EQCA ), an EQCA press release noted. Following an historic $25 million investment in combating youth homelessness included in California's 2018 budget, SB 918 provides resources for housing, services and supports for youth experiencing homelessness, and tasks the state's Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council with overseeing the program.

The Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project ( BLMP ), a project of Transgender Law Center, celebrated the release of Udoka Nweke, a 29-year-old gay Nigerian migrant, from California's Adelanto Detention Facility, according to a BLMP press release. ( Nweke fled from Nigeria, where he was the target of violence for being gay. ) A June 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Detention Watch Network and the American Civil Liberties Union analyzed the death records of people who died while in immigration prisons and found that between 2010 and 2017, seven people died at Adelanto—more than any other facility in the United States.

After taking flak for remaining the only MLB team not to host an LGBT Pride Night, the New York Yankees organization changed the narrative by announcing details on a series of 2019 events that will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, USA Today reported. The Yankees' commemoration, tabbed the Yankees-Stonewall Scholars Initiative, will be held during the team's homestand June 17-26, 2019, that will honor graduating senior students from the New York City Public School who have made impactful support toward LGBT equality.

Lesbian Texas gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez rejected anti-transgender bathroom legislation—once a priority for anti-LGBT Gov. Greg Abbott—as "fear-mongering" in a debate Friday night with her opponent, The Washington Blade reported. During a debate at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, KSAT-TV anchor Steve Spriester asked Abbott whether he'd sign a bill barring transgender people from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity—and Abbott eventually said, "Not on my agenda." Valdez said, "There is a continual fear-mongering, and I don't believe in laws that start out with fear. We need to stop the fear-mongering in our laws and get down to what really matters to all Texans: To have an equality life, to have an equal and fair opportunity in this state instead of just dealing with people that you don't agree with."

A lawsuit challenging the replacement for North Carolina's House Bill 2 is moving forward, with a judge finding evidence that transgender plaintiffs are being harmed by a prohibition on new local anti-discrimination laws, WRAL.com reported. However, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder rejected another key argument: that uncertainty created by the current law effectively discriminates against transgender people. Schroeder sided with plaintiffs' arguments that House Bill 142 ( which halted new local anti-discrimination ordinances until the end of 2020 ) largely thwarts their efforts to seek new LGBT protections.

In Pennsylvania, what started as a call to support a principal who had been placed on leave turned into a personal admission from Beaver Area School District's top administrator—as Beaver Area Superintendent Carrie Rowe said she's lesbian, TimesOnline.com reported. Rowe's statement came after Luke Berardelli, a Beaver graduate and former Beaver councilman, organized a rally prior to a meeting to show support for Steve Wellendorf, the Beaver Area High School principal placed on paid leave in August. Berardelli had complained of a "toxic culture" in the school district, and alleged Rowe has targeted people who are involved in a Christian group called Young Life; Wellendorf supported the speech of a student at a 2017 graduation that included elements of prayer and Christian themes.

There is a new project to compile a resource list of service providers to the transgender community throughout Texas called the Texas Transgender Alliance, The Dallas Voice reported. Black Transman founder Carter Brown and Equality Texas Transgender Programs Coordinator Lou Weaver are running the project. The Texas Department of State Health Services is identifying groups across the state falling through the cracks when it comes to HIV care.

In a strange development in Colorado, a Jefferson County court has found that a man was married to his ex-boyfriend as a result of a commitment ceremony in 2003—11 years before gay marriage was legalized in the state, Westword.com noted. As a result of the ruling on a complaint filed by his onetime partner, who sued for spousal support earlier this year, Denver-area resident Dean LaFleur had to divorce a man to whom he never believed he was married to—losing a sizable amount of his assets in the settlement that resulted.

Bryan Deneumostier—a Miami man arrested in July for posing as a housewife and promising men sex before luring them to his home, filming them without their knowledge and putting those films on a pay website called Straightboyz—has pled guilty to charges of recording two victims in May and July 2015, a Towleroad item noted. Deneumostier reportedly told the men he filmed that the "housewife" was an army wife and would never film them. The men wore blackout goggles or a blindfold while engaged in the sex act.

The Trevor Project—the world's largest suicide-prevention and crisis-intervention organization for LGBTQ young people—released "How to Save a Life," a new national campaign that encourages supporters to apply to become volunteer crisis counselors for TrevorText and TrevorChat, a press release noted. The campaign's 30-second PSA features artist-activist Jussie Smollett. To become a volunteer, supporters can apply at TheTrevorProject.org/SaveALife; to see the ad, see https://www.thetrevorproject.org/about/corporate-partners/trevor-att-and-jussie-smollett/#sm.0002tjds011zre0fw2g1eeusb6kkf.

On the Sept. 21 episode of ESPN's Outside the Lines, sportscaster Bob Ley commended Capital University's Wyatt Pertuset for "the first touchdown scored by an openly gay college football player in any division" during the show's "Underreported Story of the Week" segment, Queerty noted. Pertuset actually made the touchdown nearly three weeks prior, and Ley speculated the triumphant moment had been underreported because sports media is finally treating LGBT athletes as equals. There are still no openly gay football players currently playing in the NFL, but there are seven openly gay or bi players competing at the college level.

An effort to accommodate LGBTQ students at the evangelical Christian Azusa Pacific University changed when its board reversed an administration decision to lift the ban on LGBTQ relationships, San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported. When the APU student newspaper published an article on Sept. 18 about the initial pro-LGBT move, the 119-year-old university received some kudos but significantly more criticism, especially from Christian news outlets and pundits. In response, the university announced Sept. 28 that because the policy change was never approved by its board of trustees, it was reinstating the ban.

A new episode of Smithsonian Channel's The Lost Tapes relives the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal, using only contemporary film and audio to allow viewers to experience history without comment, a Smithsonian Channel press release noted. The hour-long episode seeks to ask: At a time when everyone took a side, would you take the same one now? The Lost Tapes: Clinton Impeachment will air Monday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. CT on the Smithsonian Channel.

Fox News fired contributor Kevin Jackson over his tweet referring to the women accusing U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault as "lying skanks," TheWrap reported. Jackson, a radio personality and author, took to Twitter to make some widely criticized comments during Kavanaugh and his accuser's testimonies before Congress on Sept. 27.

Speaking of Kavanaugh, his gay college roommate spoke out about what it was like living with the Supreme Court nominee around the same time he was accused of assaulting multiple women, Queerty noted. Kit Winter lived with Kavanaugh and a third roommate in a three-man suite at Yale in fall 1983. In a new piece by The Cut, Winter, who is gay, described what it was like living with Kavanaugh and the "grim" conditions. Winter described Kavanaugh as a "loud, obnoxious frat boy-like drunk" type who was "frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk."

The Center for Fiction announced that Oprah Winfrey will present author Toni Morrison with a lifetime achievement honor for "Excellence in Fiction," Page Six noted. Winfrey, who has chosen such Morrison novels as Song of Solomon and Paradise for her book club, will introduce the author during a Dec. 11 dinner ceremony. Morrison's longtime publisher, editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta of Alfred A. Knopf, also will be honored that night.

A message of "silence" shared on fourth-ranked Ohio State football's Twitter account drew criticism on social media and from national advocates for victims of sexual abuse and relationship violence, ESPN.com reported. The football team's account shared a graphic ahead of its top-10 win at ninth-ranked Penn State featuring the word "silence," along with a message that said "silence the white noise"—and the post was later deleted. The context creating controversy stems from head coach Urban Meyer's recent suspension for how he handled a former assistant coach accused of domestic violence.


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