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NATIONAL Statewide commission, Miss. ordinance, Biden, electoral news
by Andrew Davis
2018-08-14

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has established the nation's first statewide LGBTQ commission, according to INTOmore.com . After signing an executive order enacting the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, the first-term Democrat claimed its creation was "one step of many [Pennsylvania has] taken to ensure obstacles are removed for anyone who is facing an unfair disadvantage based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression." Commissioners will serve two-year terms.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) hailed the Clarksdale Board of Commissioners for passing city-wide non-discrimination protections that include sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public accommodations and employment. "Clarksdale is a city that is welcoming and inclusive for all its residents, including our LGBTQ friends and neighbors," said Mayor Chuck Espy in an HRC press release. "We are glad to affirm this spirit of diversity and openness with this fully-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. Thank you to the Board for standing up for fairness, equality and for our community." Clarksdale is the third city in Mississippi to pass such an ordinance; Jackson passed one in 2016 and Magnolia passed one in 2017.

The Biden Foundation today launched "As You Are," a family and community acceptance campaign to raise awareness of the importance of family acceptance in the lives of LGBTQ young people, a press release noted. The "As You Are" campaign is collecting personal stories—from LGBTQ youth, parents, siblings, educators, social service providers, coaches, and others—to help educate the broader public about the critical importance of affirming, accepting, and supporting our LGBTQ young people, and the harms these youth face when their families and communities reject them. See https://bidenfoundation.org/pillars/equality/asyouare/.

Vermont made history Aug. 14 as former energy-company executive Christine Hallquist won the Democratic primary for governor—becoming the nation's first openly transgender person to ever win a major party's nomination for that office. If she wins in November, she'd be the country's first transgender governor. Hallquist defeated three Democratic opponents—including 14-year-old Ethan Sonneborn, who was able to run because of a loophole in the state's constitution, NPR noted.

Congressional candidate Sharice Davids won a crowded primary in Kansas on Aug. 7 and will now face anti-LGBTQ incumbent Kevin Yoder in a race considered pivotal to winning a pro-equality majority in the U.S. Congress come November, a press release noted. Hillary Clinton won her district in 2016 and Democrats consider it one of the key pickup opportunities this cycle. If elected, Sharice will be the first openly LGBTQ member of Congress from Kansas and the first Native American woman to serve in Congress.

Casey Hoke, a respected transgender artist and student activist, has died at the age of 21, a NewNowNext.com item noted, citing the Los Angeles Blade. A Point Foundation scholar studying graphic design communications at the California State Polytechnic University of Pomona, Hoke died in his home, according to a family statement on his Facebook page. Hoke was a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network as well as a former student ambassador for GLSEN's Art, Identity & YOU workshop.

A Detroit woman targeted for being transgender in an attack that ended with her being shot is now telling her story in court, Fox2Detroit.com reported. Kimora Steuball said she was standing in line to buy cigarettes at a gas station on July 23 when Deonton Rogers started harassing her. She said he called her the N-word and she explained that she's transgender—and then it is alleged he pulled out a gun. Steuball was shot in her left shoulder as she attempted to grab the gun. Rogers was already a felon so he wasn't allowed to legally carry a gun, but his attorney says he didn't mean to fire it. Rogers has been charged with firearm discharge-serious impairment/injury, felonious assault, felony firearm, felon in possession of a firearm, child abuse ( fourth degree ) and ethnic intimidation based upon gender.

Minnesota Republican Rep. Jason Lewis has repeatedly demeaned recipients of welfare and government assistance, calling them "parasites" and "scoundrels," and said the Black community had "traded one plantation for another," CNN.com noted. Lewis made the comments on a conservative radio program he hosted, The Jason Lewis Show, from 2009 to 2012. Also, in a blog post written on his personal website in 2015, Lewis argued that Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act didn't go far enough in allowing private discrimination.

After the recent death of 10-year-old Anthony Avalos, the California Legislative Audit Committee approved a bipartisan request for the California State Auditor to review L.A. County's Department of Children and Family Services to determine whether the agency is doing enough to protect children, an Equality California press release noted. The audit was requested by Sens. Ricardo Lara ( D-Bell Gardens ) and Scott Wilk ( R-Santa Clarita ) and Assemblymember Tom Lackey ( R-Palmdale ), who noted that Anthony had been the subject of 13 calls to the department and that he may have come out as gay before his death, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

A Salisbury, North Carolina, parade that refused to let LGBT-rights supporters ride along last year has ended, citing hate mail and threats, according to a U.S. News & World Report item. The Charlotte Observer cited a Holiday Caravan Parade statement blaming "hate mail, emails and threats to protest the 2018 parade" for ending the 58-year tradition. Last year a local business, Avita Pharmacy, invited a Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays ( PFLAG ) chapter to ride along; parade organizers said Pride attire and rainbow beads violated rules against unauthorized advertising.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb broke with predecessor Mike Pence by confirming support for a fully LGBTQ-inclusive hate crime law, INTO reported. Holcomb first signaled his support for a statewide hate-crime bill recently following an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in central Indiana. Indiana is just one of five states—including Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming—without any kind of hate-crime law on the book.

Texas couple Cannon and RafiQ Salleh-Flowers—who have been together more than 22 years and married for the past four-and-a-half years—finally received confirmation from the U.S. government that their relationship is being recognized as valid, The Dallas Voice reported. Cannon explained that, last year, the couple ( who met in Singapore ) relied on health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, because RafiQ was eligible for that coverage with a provisional green card. So once the permanent green card arrives, they're going to move quickly to file paperwork for naturalization.

In Indiana, students, parents and alumni are rallying behind a Roncalli High School guidance counselor who they say is being fired after administrators found out she was married to a woman, IndyStar.com noted. The Catholic school defended the firing of Shelly Fitzgerald after her supporters began criticizing the school on social media over the weekend. Fitzgerald has worked for Roncalli for 15 years, and she's been with her partner for 22 years; the couple have a child.

The leader of Iowa 4-H Youth Development was fired just a week before the start of the Iowa State Fair, Fox23.com reported. John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, the first Latino statewide youth leader in 4-H's 115-year history, confirmed his departure but declined to provide details. His termination came months after a suggested 4-H LGBTQ inclusion policy, which has since been withdrawn, drew rebuke from conservative groups and praise from LGBT advocates, resulting in hundreds of comments submitted to Iowa 4-H. "Through my life and through my career I have always tried to foster inclusive environments that welcome diversity for all youth and all people," Chaisson-Cardenas said. "That's what I believe my career was built upon."

In Nevada, Clark County School Board trustees voted four to three to push through a pro-transgender policy after a final meeting of lengthy public comment that featured both support and opposition from parents, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. Trustees Linda Cavazos, Deanna Wright, Carolyn Edwards and Lola Brooks supported the policy, while Trustees Kevin Child, Linda Young and Chris Garvey opposed it. In a statement, Human Rights Campaign Nevada State Director Briana Escamilla said, "These long-overdue protections will make all the difference to the countless transgender and gender diverse youth in Clark County."

Caitlyn Jenner repeatedly backed President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign—but said recently to Variety that she thinks his time in office has thus far been "extremely disappointing," The Huffington Post noted. "I met with Paul Ryan. I've met with just about everybody. Publicly, they aren't supportive of transgender rights," Jenner said for the publication's "Trans Hollywood" issue. Still, Jenner said she was "very proud" of stepdaughter Kim Kardashian for meeting with Trump in May to discuss prison reform.

A United States Postal Service ( USPS ) employee in Columbus, Ohio, is accused of calling two gay men a homophobic slur, 10TV.com noted. Michael Coward and his fiance Michael Vaughn were headed to a dinner party when Coward went over and grabbed his mail from his mailbox. Allegedly, the postal worker was annoyed that he didn't wait until she was finished, and called him a slur. The USPS said the matter was being investigated.

Chris Donohoe was removed from Encore Beach Club at the Wynn Las Vegas, allegedly because of his choice of swimwear—but Donohoe, who is gay, believes that it was an act of discrimination, The Huffington Post noted. "I was made to leave the pool for wearing a Mr. Turk bathing suit that they said was not 'in integrity' with the brand of the pool party," he posted on social media. However, according to Encore's website, the dress code states: "Dress to impress, no baggy clothing, jeans, or basketball shorts. Pool attire is required to enter the venue." Wynn Resorts issued an apology and said, "Wynn welcomes and appreciates all of our LGBTQ+ guests. Decisions to enforce policies are solely based on guest behavior, or in this case, attire."

A short and sparsely attended white nationalist rally broke up Aug. 12 as police ushered the attendees into white vans and drove them away from a crowd of thousands of angry protesters in downtown Washington, D.C., The Washington Post reported. The rally's end followed a day in which large numbers of police officers sought to keep the two sides from clashing in a repeat of last year's deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The demonstration's message of "white civil rights," delivered in an overwhelmingly liberal city where African-Americans outnumbered whites at the last Census count, was angrily denounced by those who flocked to Lafayette Square. "As a Black queer man, I feel called to confront hate and oppression with love," the Rev. Jason Carson Wilson said in a press release. "That's what Jesus would do."

Maine's Deering High School apparently has become the first school in the nation to outfit athletes with hijabs designed for physical activity—a move Athletic Director Melanie Craig hopes will encourage more Muslim girls to play sports, CentralMaine.com reported. Among other things, the sports hijabs are helping to foster a greater sense of inclusivity in a social climate where Muslims have been targeted. There was a 44-percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in America from 2015 to 2016, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Former Ohio State University wrestler Mark Coleman told a national newspaper that his former assistant coach, now an Ohio congressman, must have known about sexual-abuse allegations against a team doctor—but has now changed his account, CNN.com noted. Coleman told CNN he wants to clarify his comment, and he stressed he has no direct knowledge that Jordan knew of any sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss, a doctor at Ohio State. More than 100 former students, including Coleman, have accused Strauss of sexual misconduct.

Aug. 13 was National Gay Uncles Day, LGBTQ Nation noted. Gay Uncles Day occurs every year on the second Sunday of August. According to Gay Star News, Gay Uncles Day began with a suggestion two years ago by Florida resident C.J Hatter.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company's decision not to kick far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones off its platform, CNN.com reported. "We didn't suspend Alex Jones or Infowars yesterday," Dorsey tweeted. "We know that's hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn't violated our rules." Twitter was notably absent from a list of big tech companies that cut some ties with Jones and his InfoWars site this week; Apple, Facebook and Google's YouTube removed content associated with Jones and InfoWars for violating their policies.


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