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NATIONAL Gay attorney dies, lawsuit against HHS, trans woman killed, health news
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-03-24

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The LGBT Bar Association of New York, or LeGal, noted that Richard Weber Jr. ( who was a board member ) died from complications related to COVID-19, Law.com reported. LeGal Executive Director Eric Lesh said Weber, 57, died March 18—two days after Weber wrote in an email that he had tested positive with COVID-19 and had been hospitalized but was improving. Weber graduated from Seton Hall Law School in 1991, according to his LinkedIn profile, and he was admitted to practice in both New Jersey and New York.

Several LGBTQ organizations filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ) "Notice of Nonenforcement" that allows recipients of federal grants to discriminate against LGBTQ people, highlighting the negative impact the rule could have during the coronavirus pandemic, LGBTQ Nation reported. In November, HHS issued the notice along with a new proposed rule to allow organizations that get its grants to refuse to serve people, even if they're discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. The estimated $500 million in annual grant money go to organizations involved in adoption, foster care, healthcare and child-care programs.

In North Carolina, transgender woman Monika Diamond, 34, was murdered in the back of an ambulance—shot several times in front of police and the medics who were trying to keep her alive, LGBTQ Nation reported. Prentice Bess, 52, has been arrested and charged. Police confirmed that no officers or EMS personnel were hurt in the "very volatile situation," local CBS affiliate WBTV noted.

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis called for the FDA to lift the 12-month ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, a press release noted. Ellis said, in part, "The antiquated ban that still prevents gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men from donating blood must be immediately lifted by the FDA. Currently, all men who have had sex with men in the past 12 months can not donate blood. Leading medical experts have highlighted for years that the ban is ineffective and doesn't rely on science."

A cluster of positive coronavirus cases has been linked to an LGBTQ festival that took place on Miami Beach in early March, at a time when concerns over the virus had not yet led to mass cancellations and the upending of ordinary life, The Miami Herald noted. Nine people who attended Winter Party Festival—an annual event that draws thousands of gay men to Miami Beach—have reported testing positive for COVID-19, according to the LGBTQ Task Force, which organized the festival. The week-long "circuit" party was held at multiple venues across the Miami metro area March 4-10; organizers had previously announced that one attendee reported testing positive.

West Hollywood, California, Mayor John D'Amico tested positive for the coronavirus, and all of the city's staffers were ordered by City Manager Paul Arevalo to leave work, Deadline noted. The West Hollywood city facilities are now closed to the public and staff is working from home, and the facilities will undergo sanitization. West Hollywood is a separate city with its own government, unlike surrounding areas. It's bordered by Hollywood and Beverly Hills and includes the Sunset Strip, Chateau Marmont, gay bars, dance clubs and shops along Santa Monica Boulevard.

In a petition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, NYC activist/drag queen Marti Gould Cummings started a Change.org petition asking the state to suspend all rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis, a media release noted New York has already halted evictions statewide. The petition was rapidly reaching its goal of 25,000 names; see https://www.change.org/p/govenor-andrew-cuomo-suspend-rent-mortgage-in-new-york-during-covid-19?utm_source=grow_us&utm_medium=media.

The House of Representatives passed a coronavirus relief bill March 16—but one Republican refused to vote for it because he said it "redefined family" by including sick leave to care for an unmarried partner's children, LGBTQ Nation reported. Rep. Andy Biggs ( R-Arizona ) talked with the SPLC designated hate group Family Research Council's radio program this week to explain why he was voting against the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ( FFCRA ). Biggs complained on FRC's program, "The problem with that is it's really hard to define a committed relationship, and it's really hard to define anything related to that."

In California, The Palm Springs City Council issued a shelter-in-place advisory and closed all "non-essential businesses" in the city to the public as part of efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus, KESQ.com reported. Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors listed what would be considered essential: take out/drive-thru/delivery restaurants, food providers, pharmacies, gas stations, medical locations, vacation rentals and hotels ( although hotel restaurants will be closed ). The emergency order is effective until Thursday, April 2, when the City Council will consider if an extension is necessary.

D.C. Council member David Grosso ( I-At-Large ), a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, said that his decision not to run for re-election this year was heavily influenced by emotional scars that resurfaced when Virginia prosecutors recently uncovered evidence against a former Catholic priest who allegedly sexually abused Grosso when Grosso was 14 years old in Purcellville, Virginia, The Washington Blade reported. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced on March 16 that his office had secured an indictment against former clergyman Scott Asalone, 63, of Asbury Park, New Jersey, on a single felony count of carnal knowledge of a minor between the age of 13 and 15.

According to the AIDSMAP, there has been zero increase in HIV infections since the United States lifted the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, Instinct Magazine noted. This information was shared by Dr. Eduard Grebe of non-profit transfusion medicine organization Vitalant at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections on March 11. The ban was lifted in 2015 and a new policy was instated that says gay and bisexual men can't donate blood until after abstaining from sex with other men for 12 months.

The head of the National Labor Relations Board fumed over charges the agency is seeking to eliminate LGBTQ protections from its contract with the union representing its D.C.-based attorneys—although he stopped short of denying that specific claim from the bargaining unit, The Washington Blade noted. In a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein ( D-California ) dated March 16, NLRB chair John Ring denounced the charges made by the National Labor Relations Board Professional Association as "nothing more than a public relations stunt."

In Alaska, librarian Jennifer Fletcher won a lawsuit she brought against the state for not covering medical procedures related to her transition, LGBTQ Nation reported. With the help of the organization Lambda Legal, Fletcher sued the state. Alaska doesn't have a state law that bans discrimination against LGBTQ people, and its executive order that bans discrimination against state employees does not apply to gender identity. Fletcher argued, though, that her procedures would have been covered by her insurance if they were required for conditions that weren't gender dysphoria.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has approved a new historical marker to honor Philadelphia political activist Gloria Casarez, who was ultimately named director of LGBT Affairs for Philadelphia, KYW NewsRadio reported. Casarez died in 2014 after fighting breast cancer for five years. William Way LGBT Community Center archive director John Anderies said the historical plaque will most likely be placed at City Hall, but the application process is still underway.

Police, on March 12, were caught on video berating an LGBTQ student group and then kicking them out of the Iowa State Capitol building because trans boys were using the men's restroom, according to LGBTQ Nation. In a video that has been circulating online, an Iowa state trooper identified as "Sgt. Underwood" was caught telling teens that he was "not gonna put up with" students claiming that they have a right to use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity. In a statement, Iowa State Patrol released a statement saying it received multiple complaints about transgender boys in the men's room.

AIDS/LifeCycle organizers announced that the 545-mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles has been canceled this year in order to protect vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, a press release noted. AIDS/LifeCycle cyclists were scheduled to depart from Cow Palace on Sunday, May 31, and arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 6, with hundreds of volunteer "roadies" supporting them during their weeklong journey. The Ride debuted in 1994 as the California AIDS Ride before it was reconfigured in 2002 to what is known today as AIDS/LifeCycle.

Houston, Texas, college educator Brian Flores alleges State Farm Insurance Company fraudulently denied a $1 million insurance policy after his husband died, a Dolcefino Consulting release noted. It appears to be the first LGBTQ-discrimination claim filed against the insurance giant. Flores, 55, was married less than two years when his husband, 32-year-old Nathan Foyil, slipped in the bathroom in 2017; Foyil later died. Houston attorney Andrew Cobos represents Flores in a $3-million lawsuit filed against State Farm, alleging breach of contract, fraud, deceptive trade practices and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

According to the York Dispatch, a junior at York Suburban High School won the Pennsylvania state championship of the poetry performance contest Poetry Out Loud, Instinct Magazine noted. Gay student Steven File beat 4,600 other students from 110 schools across the state. The three poems File recited were "Where Did the Handsome Beloved Go?," by Jalal al-Din Rumi; "Undivided Attention," by Taylor Mali; and "The Mortician in San Francisco," by Randall Mann, which is about the late gay politician Harvey Milk.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said taxpayers will get a three-month reprieve to file and pay the income taxes they owe for 2019, a Daily Herald item noted, citing the AP. Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet March 20, saying that at President Donald Trump's direction "we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties."

Indiana is moving its primary to June 2 because of the coronavirus outbreak, IndyStar.com noted. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb believed it's the first time the state has had to change an election date in its 200-year history. Six states have pushed forward their nominating contests: Georgia will vote May 19; Maryland, Ohio and Connecticut on June 2; Louisiana on June 20; and Kentucky on June 23. Wyoming Democrats, scheduled to caucus April 4, now will do so by mail.

In a move that progressives say should be implemented on a permanent basis and nationwide, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office is temporarily suspending the collection of medical and student loan debt in an effort to assist New Yorkers as they cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, CommonDreams.org noted. Effective immediately, the New York Office of the Attorney General ( OAG ) "will halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the state of New York and referred to the OAG for collection from March 17, 2020 through April 16, 2020," James said in a statement.

Diagnostics business Cepheid Inc. said it won emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use a test it developed that can detect the virus behind COVID-19 in 45 minutes, BizJournals.com reported. It's the first test approved for coronavirus that can be done bedside and get results in less than an hour. The test from Sunnyvale-based Cepheid is called SAR-CoV-2 Xpert Xpress; it can be run on a machine that Cepheid makes called GeneXpert.

NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists postponed its 25th annual Headlines & Headliners New York benefit because of COVID-19 concerns, a press release noted. The association will release more information about a new date for Headlines & Headliners, as well as pertinent updates on our other scheduled events, as that information becomes available.

Sen. Rand Paul ( R-Kentucky ) announced he has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first senator and third member of Congress known to have contracted the disease, Politico.com reported. A staffer said that Paul's office in Washington has been working remotely for 10 days, so "virtually no staff" has had physical contact with him. Recently, Paul joined a handful of Republican lawmakers who opposed a $100-billion stimulus package on to combat COVID-19, Courier-Journal.com noted. He argued during a floor speech for senators to pay for the measure—which was approved by the Democratic-controlled House—by cutting funding for wars or other "frivolous" programs.

Amid the COVID-19 global health crisis, the National Cannabis Festival organizers decided to postpone its 5th Annual Festival to Saturday, Sept. 19, a press release noted. ( It was originally scheduled for Saturday, April 18. ) Event organizers are adhering to guidance from their partners at Events DC, and the District of Columbia Department of Health about upcoming events taking place on the RFK Campus. The National Cannabis Policy Summit will take place on Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.


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