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NATIONAL Marsha P. Johnson, Anchorage, electoral items, gay author dies
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-09-02

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Marsha P. Johnson—the iconic transgender activist who was a central figure in New York City's LGBTQ+-liberation movement—will get a monument in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, CNN.com reported. Throughout October, city and county leaders will put together events which will allow the public to participate in the planning and creating of the project, a news release stated. "The monument is anticipated to be the first public monument in the State of New Jersey to honor a LGBTQ+ person and transgender woman of color," Union County said. It will be located near Elizabeth's City Hall, in an area the city says is used to "recognize trailblazers, pioneers and international patriots."

The Anchorage Assembly passed a ban on "conversion therapy," making illegal the practice of trying to change a minor's sexual orientation or gender identity, Anchorage Daily News reported. The ordinance passed nine to two, with Assemblywomen Crystal Kennedy and Jamie Allard opposing. In a statement, The Trevor Project Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs Sam Brinton said, "The Trevor Project applauds the Anchorage Assembly for taking this historic action to end conversion therapy in Alaska's largest city. According to data from The Trevor Project's new national survey, LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not."

LGBTQ Victory Fund—the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office—endorsed 28 more openly LGBTQ candidates for 2020 races, a press release noted. Victory Fund has now endorsed 310 candidates throughout the 2020 cycle, surpassing its previous endorsement record of 274 candidates set in 2018. A few of the recently endorsed candidates include Kristin Graziano ( running for sheriff of Charleston County, South Carolina ), Amani Johnson ( Southfield, Michigan, school board ), Dean Trantalis ( mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Florida ) and Zack Zappone ( Washington House of Representatives, District 6 ).

Trans United Fund endorsed Janelle Crossley for Pennsylvania's House of Representatives, a press release noted. Trans United Fund is a national trans-led political group that was instrumental in doubling the number of trans elected officials in 2017, including Danica Roem's historic win and 2019 re-election to the Virginia House of Delegates.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's political action committee Courage to Change threw its support behind Holyoke, Massachusetts Mayor Alex Morse in his race against long-time incumbent Richard Neal in the state's First Congressional District, Out.com reported. ( The primary was slated for Sept. 1. ) Morse was recently accused of inappropriate contact with students at a local college. Leaders of the College Democrats at the University of Massachusetts Amherst College reportedly manufactured a sexual misconduct scandal against Morse by claiming he used his position as a part-time lecturer to engage in inappropriate relationships with students.

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce ( NGLCC ) publicly announced its endorsement of Joe Biden for president of the United States, a press release noted. NGLCC has only endorsed someone for president once previously in its nearly 20-year history, and this vote was unanimous by the organization's board of directors. "We need to elect a president with a commitment to LGBTQ equality, ending racism and racial violence, promoting small businesses and entrepreneurship, and ensuring a safe and equitable society for every American. Joe Biden is that candidate," NGLCC Co-Founder and President Justin Nelson wrote in a statement provided to ABC News.

Randall Kenan—an author whose stories explored the experience of being Black and gay in the U.S. South—has died at age 57 in North Carolina, The New York Times reported. His 1992 collection of short stories, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, received critical acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Kenan also wrote a young adult biography of author James Baldwin.

The family of Layleen Polanco—a 27-year-old Afro-Latinx trans woman who died while being held in solitary confinement in Rikers Island in June 2019—settled a civil suit with the City of New York, a New York City Anti-Violence Project press release noted. The civil suit for reckless indifference for Layleen's life was settled for a financial settlement of $5.9 million—the largest settlement paid by the city for a death in custody.

The commission that enforces Kansas' nondiscrimination laws will begin hearing claims from people who allege they are being mistreated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, WIBW.com reported. The Kansas Human Rights Commission said the decision is in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a landmark civil rights law protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment. However, the commission expanded the ruling beyond employment cases, offering protections for people alleging discrimination in housing and public accommodations, such as retail stores and educational institutions.

A trans woman said she is living in fear for her life after she was brutally beaten in her own home in front of two children, Out.com noted. Kendell Stephens told WPVI ABC 6 she was attacked by a group of assailants after she tried to intervene in a disturbance outside her home. The attackers followed Stephens into her home and yelled transphobic epithets during the assault.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh—a 24-year-old organization whose signature event was the annual Pittsburgh Pride celebration that brought together members and supporters of the LGBTQIA+ community for a downtown festival—plans to dissolve, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The postponement of Pittsburgh Pride this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty about whether the event could be held in 2021 left the nonprofit without a revenue stream and no means to move forward, board president Martin Healey said. Nine members of Delta's board of directors voted unanimously to wind down its operations; one board member abstained. Pittsburgh Pride generated more than 90% of Delta's annual funding, Healey said.

While allegations that an out gay candidate for a western Massachusetts U.S. House seat engaged in inappropriate conduct with students at the University of Massachusetts ( UMass ) were shown to be fabricated, UMass is moving forward with a wide-ranging investigation into his conduct, Gay City News reported. "[Natashia] Tidwell is conducting her independent review [of Alex Morse] as described in this announcement," Ed Blaguszewski, the executive director of strategic communications at UMass, wrote in an Aug. 25 email. Morse, 31, has been the mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, since he was first elected at 22; he taught at UMass as an adjunct from 2014 through 2019.

Philadelphia's oldest LGBTQ+ community center, William Way, made a move that could improve health care and services for hundreds of seniors in Philadelphia: merging with the LGBT Elder Initiative, KYW Newsradio reported. William Way LGBT Community Center Executive Director Chris Bartlett said, "This is an example of intersectionality—bringing together advocacy and education to make sure that LGBT seniors are not invisible but in fact are visible and thriving, and putting that alongside direct service, whether that's housing or supplies." According to Bartlett, personnel size will increase for the partnership, called the Elder Initiative at William Way.

Les Harrison, 77—a Black drag performer who entertained Philadelphia LGBT audiences for five decades—died Aug. 14 of complications from liver cancer and sepsis at Penn Rittenhouse Hospice, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Harrison was one of the first Black drag queens to integrate nightclubs in Philadelphia, a scene that had been segregated for years. Harrison's reputation was made as a Shirley Bassey impersonator.

Late in July, applications were filed with the city to demolish the commercial buildings located in the Fenway at 1252-1268 and 1270 Boylston St.—the home of Boston's gay bar Machine/Ramrod, Instinct Magazine noted. The small buildings on the block currently will be demolished to make way for a 15-story, 225,000 square foot mixed-use project that will include 451 rental units above a ground-floor retail podium. Bosguy reported that the building will also include the Boylston Black Box—a 10,000-square-foot LGBTQ-centric venue for the performing arts.

In response to a resolution adopted by the Republican National Committee "refuting the legitimacy of the Southern Poverty Law Center ( SPLC ) to identify hate groups," and saying that "the federal government should not view [SPLC] as a legitimate foundation equipped to provide actionable information," 25 civil-rights groups issued a statement supporting the organization, a Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights press release noted. The statement says, in part, "The Southern Poverty Law Center's research and analysis on hate groups has long provided critical data to help local leaders protect people targeted for hate violence. That research documented a 50 percent increase in the number of white nationalist hate groups last year. Offering research and data that helps people understand the source of violent threats so we can all combat hate and keep our communities safe is part of a commitment to making our country safe for all to thrive."

The LGBT Asylum Task Force—a Worcester, Massachusetts-based group that offers housing and support to people fleeing violence in other countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—purchased a multi-unit building after a two-year search, MassLive.com reported. With this building, the task force, a ministry of Hadwen Park Congregational Church, will be able to provide shelter for people seeking asylum in the United States. The acquisition of the property will also reduce program costs, according to a news release.

Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake is leading a group of more than two dozen former Republican members of Congress who are backing Democrat Joe Biden over Republican President Donald Trump, a list that includes former Rep. Jim Kolbe, AZCentral.com reported. The effort, first reported by Fox News, came on the first day of the Republican National Convention. Among the other congressional alums who joined Flake on Monday are former Sens. John Warner, R-Virginia; Gordon Humphrey, of New Hampshire, who is now an independent; and U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood ( R-Illinois ), who also was secretary of transportation in the Obama administration.

Step Up—the mentorship nonprofit supporting girls on their way to confidence and careers—will host "Step Up Together," a digital summit connecting womxn and girls during these disconnected times, on Thursday, Sept. 10, a press release noted. This year's honorees include executive producer and triple threat Debbie Allen ( Grey's Anatomy ), actress Chrissy Metz ( This Is Us ), Frito Lay North America Senior Vice President Marissa Solis and teen honoree Valeria Gonzalez. See SUWN.org .

The Falwell saga continues, as a business partner of Jerry Falwell Jr. has come forward to say he had a years-long sexual relationship involving Falwell's wife and the evangelical leader, Reuters reported. Giancarlo Granda said he was 20 when he met Jerry and Becki Falwell while working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March 2012. Starting that month and continuing into 2018, Granda said the relationship reportedly involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry looked on. Granda showed Reuters emails, text messages and other evidence that he said demonstrate the sexual nature of his relationship with the couple, who have been married since 1987. Jerry took an indefinite leave of absence earlier this month from Liberty University, the Christian school he has run since 2007.

Facebook failed to take action against a self-styled militia group that was using the social-media platform to encourage armed citizens to take to the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Aug. 25—despite at least one Facebook user reporting the group to the company, Facebook confirmed to CNN. Seventeen-year-old Illinois resident Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested Aug. 26 following a fatal shooting in Kenosha the previous night. Facebook told CNN it had shut down Rittenhouse's Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working with federal and local law enforcement; however, it had found no evidence that Rittenhouse had followed the Kenosha Guard page or was invited to the event it had promoted.


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