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  WINDY CITY TIMES

NATIONAL Court briefs, flag burned, Amazon books removed
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2019-07-10

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The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership and Freedom for All Americans announced that 206 major corporations have signed a "friend of the court" brief that will be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in a trio of cases that may determine if LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under existing federal civil-rights laws, according to a press release. The landmark brief has more corporate signers than any previous business brief in an LGBTQ non-discrimination case; a few of the companies include Ernst & Young LLP, LinkedIn, Viacom Inc., Apple, American Airlines, Williams-Sonoma and the San Francisco Giants.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Transgender Law Center filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court highlighting the stories of more than 30 transgender people who have experienced discrimination in the workplace for being transgender, a press release noted. In the brief, civil rights attorneys argued that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is a form of sex discrimination and is thus illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The brief is being filed on behalf of 46 organizations dedicated to eradicating discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people.

A rainbow flag was set on fire at the entrance to a New York City gay bar on July 8—the second such incident at the same club in just more than a month, NBC News noted. Alibi Lounge owner Alexi Minko said staff members, alerted by someone on the street, found the flag had been set aflame. Minko told The Associated Press that a staff member also had to remove the rainbow flags from the bar's entrance on July 4 because people on the street "were intentionally setting off firecrackers" at the front door. Minko hadn't expected the flag-burning to happen again after police released surveillance video of the suspect in a May 31 incident.

Amazon has taken down several gay-conversion books after sustained pressure from activists, Business Insider reported. The books were written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a vocal proponent of so-called gay conversion therapy who died in 2017. National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon Minter said in a statement, "Rather than providing these families with accurate information, these unethical practitioners exploit them for financial gain, falsely claiming that parents can prevent their children from growing up to be gay or transgender. No reputable business should be complicit in marketing this quackery." The widely debunked practice of conversion therapy purports that people can be "cured" of being gay.

In Alabama, a Montgomery Pride United ( MPU ) event was allegedly shut down after an inspection by law enforcement June 29, WSFA.com reported. MPU posted about the incident on its Facebook page, saying, "The police just shut down the drag shows tonight at Touch of Soul. This is why we fight." Workers at Touch of Soul Cafe, where the incident reportedly occurred, has compared the incident to the Stonewall riots.

The U.S. House voted to defund Trump's transgender military ban, LGBTQ Nation reported, citing Politico. Politico.com noted, "During debate on a $1-trillion spending package, lawmakers voted 243-183 to adopt an amendment from Rep. Jackie Speier ( D-California ) to block funding to implement the new policy, which Democrats slammed as discriminatory and arbitrary." Since there are only 235 Democrats in the U.S. House, that means a handful of Republicans also voted against funding Trump's trans military ban. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five to four to lift the injunctions against the ban and let it begin.

Despite Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital announcing it will close by Sept. 6 due to "financial difficulties," an LGBTQ-focused health center will open and the medical center's Transgender Fellowship Training Program—among the first of its kind in the United States—will live on at a new home, Philadelphia Gay News reported. The year-long fellowship, officially launched in July 2018, will move to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in summer 2020. Fellows receive in-depth training on performing gender-affirming surgeries and sensitive interactions with the trans community under Dr. Kathy Rumer, the fellowship director.

The owner of a Willoughby, Ohio, gay bar is still searching for answers more than two months after he found an anti-gay slur on his basement wall when arson destroyed his home, Cleveland.com reported. ALL AXS owner Billy Welker and his family are now offering $15,000 ( when combined with $5,000 from the state fire marshal's office ) for credible information that leads to an arrest and prosecution in the April 6 fire at his Leroy Township home.

Hackensack, New Jersey, Mayor John Labrosse said he and the City Council accepted school trustee Frances Cogelja's apology for remarks about LGBT studies—but the crowd at a recent meeting did not accept that response, NorthJersey.com reported. Cogelja sent an email to acting Superintendent Rosemary Marks in February, around the time New Jersey lawmakers dictated that schools must create lessons about the contributions of individuals who are gay or transgender. "I find it repugnant that someone's sexual preferences have anything to do with their contributions or achievements in society," Cogelja wrote. "Everywhere I turn, this alternate lifestyle narrative is being shoved [down] our children's throats. Where does it end???"

A customer at a Shelby, North Carolina, Denny's called police to report a 22-year-old trans woman who used the same bathroom as his wife—and, in response to the incident, the national restaurant chain announced that all of its bathrooms are open to trans people, regardless of local laws or biases, LGBTQ Nation reported. In a company statement, Denny's said that it "does not tolerate discrimination of any kind" and expects customers to treat people equally, according to WSOC-TV. North Carolina became infamous in 2016 for signing HB2, a law which banned trans people from using the bathroom matching their gender identity.

In Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Library and the Children's Museum both canceled the Drag Queen Story Hour after threats posted on social media, CBS Pittsburgh reported. The programs—part of a relatively new phenomenon catching on in libraries—feature drag queens reading stories, singing songs and having fun with the children. Akasha Van-Cartier, a local drag queen who reads at the library, told KDKA Radio that the program teaches exclusivity and love: "This isn't a gay program, this isn't a straight program—this is an educational program."

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, the school district has worked to respond to a spring incident in which leaflets distributed by students at a junior high school told pre-teens to "Join the KKK" and that "It's not OK to be gay," the Casper Star Tribune reported. The district has been holding community meetings and plans to hire a "diversity and cultural awareness" counselor while providing additional employee training. However, others aren't so confident the Cheyenne school district is up to the challenge. The new approach to student bullying and harassment sounds good, but "only time will tell if it's upheld," parent Abby Kercher said.

The pastor of an anti-LGBTQ Baptist church in Alabama was arrested just days after confessing he'd molested at least one young boy from his congregation, the New York Daily News noted. John Martin, the lead pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church, confessed to four counts of sexual abuse. According to local news station WAFF48, the 41-year-old pastor from Florence, Alabama, confessed to his congregation from the pulpit, after telling his wife.

Billionaire businessman, philanthropist and independent presidential candidate Ross Perot has died at 89, CNBC.com reported. Perot, who ran for president in 1992 and 1996, died after a battle with leukemia. In 1962, he founded his first company, Electronic Data Systems, with just $1,000 in savings. More than two decades later, he launched information-technology services provider Perot Systems, which was acquired in 2009 by Dell for $3.9 billion.

Former Marine and previous Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath announced that she is launching a 2020 challenge against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ( R ) in Kentucky, The Hill reported. McGrath released a 3-minute campaign video, entitled "The Letter," that depicts her and other Kentucky residents writing letters to their senator with concerns about health care, jobs and affordable college that were ignored.

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan—the only Republican in Congress to call for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump—said he is leaving the GOP, The Chicago Tribune reported. In an opinion article published in the Washington Post on July 4, Amash said partisan politics is damaging U.S. democracy. "I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party," Amash said. "I'm asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us."


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