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NATIONAL Political candidates, Larry Kramer, Virginia laws, drag-queen news
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-01-27

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LGBTQ Victory Fund—the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public office—endorsed Ross LaJeunesse for the U.S. Senate, a press release noted. LaJeunesse would be the first openly LGBTQ man and just the third LGBTQ person ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He is running in a multi-candidate Democratic primary for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins from Maine, considered a critical pickup in Democrats' efforts to retake the U.S. Senate in November.

Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City is backing Elizabeth Warren for president, Gay City News reported. The club's endorsement of Warren came during a busy week of presidential endorsements for New York City's LGBTQ political clubs: The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club voted to support U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn endorsed Warren. At the Stonewall event, surrogates spoke on behalf of seven presidential candidates: Warren, Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, out gay former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

In Indiana, Sabrina Haake—a lesbian attorney who wants to tackle the climate crisis—is running for congress in the home state of Donald Trump's notoriously anti-LGBT+ vice president, Mike Pence, PinkNews noted. Haake is running for Indiana's 1st Congressional District, which has been Democratic since the 1930s, although most congressional seats in Indiana are held by Republicans. Pence has repeatedly refused to declare that climate change is threat to national security, and in 2014 he said the scientific community had not "resolved" whether climate change was a man-made issue.

Legendary gay writer Larry Kramer has said he wants more authors to consider writing about gay history, claiming that most respected historians are straight, PinkNews noted. "They wouldn't know a gay person if they took him to lunch," Kramer told The New York Times. The 84-year-old playwright, author and AIDS activist also touched on his own writing career, noting that he has sometimes gotten into trouble for his work.

Several LGBT-friendly measures cleared the Virginia Senate, the Virginia Mercury noted. Lawmakers voted to ban health professionals like counselors and psychologists from performing conversion therapy on anyone under age 18; create uniform policies for transgender students attending public schools; make it easier for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates; and remove language from the state code banning same-sex marriage. The ban on conversion therapy saw the most opposition among Republicans, with 18 members opposing and one, Sen. Jill Vogel, not voting.

RuPaul's Drag race alumna Nina West has teamed with the company HOMAGE to release The Nina West Foundation X HOMAGE limited-edition AUSTRALIA T-shirt, a press release noted. This limited edition blue and yellow T-shirt benefits Wildlife Victoria, an Australian-based nonprofit that specializes in protecting and rescuing native Australian wildlife injured and displaced by the current wildfires. The T-shirt is available now at Homage.com/products/australia, with all proceeds going directly to Wildlife Victoria.

Days after Republican Missouri Rep. Ben Baker's bill targeting drag-queen story hours at public libraries drew national attention—and criticism—local performers are putting together plans to protest, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Tanner Rambo, a Springfield promoter representing two performers organizing the March 7 event, said he hopes other performers will flock to Jefferson City "to show Ben Baker and the legislature this kind of bill is just bad policy." Baker said he disagrees with the idea of a drag-queen storytime in libraries "based on my own philosophy" and that young kids shouldn't be exposed to such content, which he said could easily confuse them.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) criticized presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for announcing the endorsement of television and podcast personality Joe Rogan. HRC President Alphonso David said in a press release, "Rogan ... has attacked transgender people, gay men, women, people of color and countless marginalized groups at every opportunity. For example, Rogan's statements compared a Black community to the Planet of the Apes." In addition, Rogan called transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox "that tranny" and "a f—king man," and he questioned the sexual assault of young women if and the guy are both drunk. The Joe Rogan Experience YouTube channel has 7.28 million subscribers and the podcast is downloaded tens of millions of times every month, Newsweek noted.

Utah officially banned the controversial practice of conversion therapy on minors this week, ending a long battle between local LGBTQ activists and religious groups, ABC News noted. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, announced the decision in November, saying it could go into effect as early as Jan. 22. Eighteen other states, the District of Columbia and more than 60 municipalities have adopted similar protections, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

New Jersey became the ninth state to prohibit homicide defendants from claiming that panic brought on by a victim's sexual orientation or gender identity could be used a legal defense, NBC New York reported. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the measure, saying it promotes "full equality for all our residents." The defense amounts to arguing that a gay or transgender victim brought the attack on themselves because of their orientation or identity, the bill's supporters said.

The first person to have their gender recognized as non-binary has legally reclaimed his birth name and male birth status—and is now renouncing gender identity as fraud and pseudoscience, Ocala-News.com reported. On Christmas Eve, Multnomah County, Oregon, Circuit Court Judge Patricia L. McGuire signed a "General Judgment Regarding Change of Name and Sex" restoring Jamie Shupe's sex to male and his name to James Clifford Shupe. "It should have never happened," said Shupe, who's lived in Ocala, Florida, with his wife of 32 years, Sandy, since July 2018. "It was based on lies and pushed by the transgender community."

Lambda Legal appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to urge the court to uphold a district court ruling that the State Department cannot rely on its male-or-female-only gender policy to withhold a U.S. passport from Dana Zzyym—a U.S. Navy veteran who is intersex and non-binary, and does not identify as male or female, a press release noted. In September 2018, a U.S. District Court judge ruled for the second time against the U.S. State Department, finding that the agency violated the federal Administrative Procedure Act in denying Zzyym a passport. In its ruling, the court stated, "The authority to issue passports … does not include the authority to deny an applicant on grounds pertinent to basic identity[.]"

Sarah Fearon—a Brick Township, New Jersey, court clerk—filed a lawsuit against the township and her supervisors, alleging anti-gay and anti-LGBT bias, OUT in Jersey reported. The suit came after Fearon reported the abuses to administrators, allegedly to no avail. Fearon, who is gay, has been with the township's municipal court since March 2016.

Ahead of the 2020 census, Equality California Institute launched a $1 million statewide outreach campaign focused on the LGBTQ community—one of the hardest-to-count populations nationwide, an organizational press release noted. The campaign aims to educate and encourage LGBTQ people, especially those who are a part of other historically undercounted populations, to take part in the census by mail, telephone or online. California is reportedly home to the nation's largest statewide LGBTQ population.

In Idaho, a local legislator plans to introduce a bill banning transgender women from competing in women's sports, East Idaho News noted. State Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, said, "Boys and men will not be able to take the place of girls and women in sports because it's not fair. We cannot physically compete against boys and men." Ehardt claimed her bill is not anti-LGBTQ and that she has worked with and trained many LGBTQ athletes.

The Modern Military Association of America ( MMAA )—the nation's largest nonprofit organization working to advance fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community— announced that the board of directors chose Jennifer Dane as interim executive director, a press release noted. Dane is a veteran of the United States Air Force who served as an intelligence analyst focusing on geopolitical, terrorism and threat vulnerability issues.

Maumee ( Ohio ) Municipal Court Judge Dan Hazard apologized after several letters to the editor he wrote as a sophomore in college resurfaced, Queerty noted. In one letter, published in December 1992, Hazard advocates for cutting AIDS funding because "95% of those inflicted with the deadly disease pretty much deserve it anyway"; then he proudly declares himself a homophobe. In another, published in April 1993, Hazard calls gay people "savages," "unethical," and "immoral" and demands they "keep your AIDS to yourself." He recently said, "I have zero excuse and could not attempt to justify it then or now. It was hurtful to anyone that saw it in 1993 or today. I am sorry that it will hurt even more people today including my gay and transgender family and friends whom I love dearly."

In his last act in office before his resignation took effect Jan. 17, D.C. Council member Jack Evans introduced a bill to support the city's Capital Pride celebration and related events by waiving all city service fees for the Capital Pride Alliance in 2021 and all future years, The Washington Blade noted. The bill—titled the Capital Pride Grant and Equitable Forgiveness Amendment Act of 2020—also calls for reimbursing Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C. Pride events each year, of the more than $300,000 in fees it paid the city for the 2019 Capital Pride events.

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of conservative Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Philadelphia—and replaced him with an ideological ally, NBC News reported. The pope has given the post to Bishop Nelson Perez, of Cleveland. Francis picked Perez to lead the troubled Philadelphia archdiocese, which like other Catholic communities nationwide has been contending with a clerical sex-abuse scandal and dwindling church attendance. Chaput called on divorced Catholics, as well as gay Catholics, to abstain from sex even if they are married if they want to receive Communion.

Citing "Oklahoma's pro-life stance," Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an executive order banning all nonessential state-funded travel to California, The Oklahoman reported. The move came after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in October, banned city-funded travel to 22 states—including Oklahoma—that city officials say have "restrictive abortion laws." The ban that also prevents the city from contracting with businesses in those states took effect Jan. 1.

Out gay man Gene London—the celebrated host of Cartoon Corners aka The Gene London Show during 1959-77—died Sunday, Jan. 19 in Reading at age 88, Philadelphia Gay News ( PGN ) noted. His family reported the cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by a fall. In order to host PGN's LAMBDA Awards, London came out publicly as gay in 1993; at that time, he was already with his now-husband John Thomas, who London met through mutual friends in 1981.

Indiana University celebrated its 200th birthday and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day with song, speeches, and a special keynote address given by actress Viola Davis, TheIndyChannel.com reported. "In the words of James Baldwin, 'We are our history,'" Davis said. "You know, we always say that when people come from impoverished environments, or there's a lot of violence, and then they go on to sort of lead very challenged lives, and they're in prison, and people always say, 'Oh, they're a product of their environment.' We're all a product of our environment."


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