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NATIONAL Tampa mayor, trans woman's murder, Tennessee items
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Equality Florida Action PAC released a statement praising Jane Castor—whom the organization backed—as Tampa's first LGBTQ mayor. She won April 23 with more than 70 percent of the vote. "Jane Castor's victory is a historic milestone for our LGBTQ community," said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. "Tampa has a long history of leading the South in policies of inclusion and we look forward to working with Mayor-Elect Castor as she continues the work to keep Tampa a beacon of diversity in the South." Tampa is Florida's third-largest city.

A male white supremacist who murdered a Black transgender woman has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, LGBTQ Nation reported. In November 2017, Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, 31, was found dead in a hotel room in Oklahoma City with multiple gunshot wounds. An anonymous tip to police led them to arrest Brandon Michael Tyson, 32, in connection with the murder, and a witness connected him to the crime.

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee's policy prohibiting transgender people born in the state from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates, a press release noted. Tennessee is one of just three remaining states—including Kansas and Ohio—where Lambda Legal has similar lawsuits currently pending in federal district court. "Tennessee's birth certificate policy is archaic and discriminatory. By refusing to correct the birth certificates of transgender Tennesseans, Tennessee puts transgender people in harm's way and violates our most fundamental constitutional rights," said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan.

Amazon, IKEA, Lyft, Hilton, Warby Parker and several other businesses operating in Tennessee are speaking out against legislation affecting LGBT individuals, arguing the proposed bills will make employee recruitment more difficult and harm the state's business climate, The Tennessean reported. Marriott International, MassMutual, Nike, InterContinental Hotels Group, Salesforce, Unilever and Replacements also signed a letter dated April 23, initiated by the Human Rights Campaign and sent to Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Glen Casada. Warner Music Group, Curb Records and AllianceBernstein have previously issued statements voicing their concerns about the bills.

A sorority's new diversity statement explicitly bans transgender women from membership, LGBTQ Nation reported. The International Executive Board of Zeta Phi Beta—a sorority with more than 800 chapters and 125,000 members worldwide—adopted a new diversity statement in January. The Washington Blade received a copy of the statement from an unnamed source, which says "an individual must be a cisgender woman" to join the sorority. In 2017, Alpha Chi Omega became the first to announce that transgender women would be accepted at each of their chapters in the country.

Philly Black Pride ( PBP ) and Philadelphia gay bar Woody's are at odds after PBP claimed that the Gayborhood bar was throwing a PBP block party without the namesake organization's consent, Philadelphia Gay News ( PGN ) reported. PBP President Le Thomas said that AIDS Healthcare Foundation submitted a special-events permit to close part of 13th Street for a block party April 28 that would conflict with a party PBP is hosting around the corner. Woody's, in a statement to PGN, claimed it never used the name.

It turned out that a post published on the website Medium accusing Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg of sexual assault was fabricated as part of a smear campaign led by two right-wing agitators, PinkNews noted. Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman and provocateur Jacob Wohl had been looking for young men willing to accuse Pete Buttigieg of sexual misconduct as part of their plan to stop the candidate's momentum, The Daily Beast reported. The Medium account that posted the false accusation bore the name of Hunter Kelly, a 21-year-old gay Republican college student who told The Advocate he was flown to Washington, D.C., by Burkman and Wohl; Kelly later denied the claims against Buttigieg.

Evangelical pastor Franklin Graham ( the son of the late pastor the Rev. Billy Graham ) is calling on Pete Buttigieg to repent for being gay, The Washington Blade noted. Graham tweeted April 24 the Bible "defines homosexuality as a sin." Graham's comments come after Buttigieg declared himself a "gay Christian" and claimed "God doesn't have a political party" at a CNN town hall.

One Iowa Action Executive Director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel issued a statement condemning the Iowa House passing HF 766 ( the Health and Human Services budget bill ). The bill includes language excluding transition-related medical services for transgender Iowans from all insurance coverage funded by public dollars, including Medicaid, and preventing Planned Parenthood from engaging in competitive bidding for certain sexual-education grants. In part, Hoffman-Zinnel said, "By passing this legislation, our state has sent the appalling message that transgender people are second-class citizens in our state. Make no mistake, this cruel bill threatens people's lives."

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) noted a vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives to include H.F. 12—legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy—in the HHS Omnibus finance bill. In a statement, HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said, "All children deserve to live authentically and free from fear of this dangerous and discredited practice with potentially life-threatening consequences."

President Trump unloaded on Jussie Smollett during a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, calling the Empire actor and his alleged hate crime a "disgrace to our nation," Deadline noted. It's not the first time Trump has criticized the embattled actor. On April 3, at the National Republican Congressional Committee he called Smollett "the actor nobody ever heard of." Amid the controversy, Smollett was written out of the final episodes of season five of Empire; his fate on the upcoming sixth season remains unknown.

Indiana police went undercover using Grindr to catch 19-year-old Jacob Trosper, who once again is accused of using the dating app to rob victims at gunpoint, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported. Police said the idea on how to catch him came from his last robbery victim—20-year-old Zach Keil, who advised officers to use the same method the suspect used to lure him. Trosper is still facing charges of armed robbery, robbery resulting in bodily injury and kidnapping from an incident Dec. 2, when he allegedly used Grindr to lure in a 52-year-old Dyer man to injure and rob him.

An entire confirmation class at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, announced to their congregation that they have decided not to become members due to the church's stance on LGBTQ issues, LGBTQ Nation reported. The teenaged would-be members read an open letter in front of the congregation to explain why they couldn't support discrimination despite the church's recent controversial decision to crackdown on LGBTQ clergy and marriage equality. "We are not standing just for ourselves, we are standing for every single member of the LGBTQ+ community who is hurting right now," the letter read in part.

Activists in Puerto Rico have sharply criticized two bills they say will allow anti-LGBT discrimination, The Washington Blade reported. Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced the introduction of Senate Bill 1253, which would "clarify certain religious freedom principles" in Puerto Rico, and Senate Bill 1254, which would ban so-called conversion therapy in the U.S. commonwealth. SB 1254 contains a provision that exempts "churches and their institutions, members of the clergy ... [and] parents who are exercising their fundamental right to parental authority over their children."

Health officials are investigating two cases of HIV among clients who received injection-related procedures, including "vampire facials," at an Albuquerque spa, reported. The New Mexico Department of Health announced on Monday that laboratory tests indicated that the two clients were infected with the same virus, increasing the likelihood that the infections may have resulted from a procedure at the spa.

Openly gay Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims ( D-Philadelphia ) took to social media to reveal that he takes Truvada, Metro Weekly noted. He wrote, in part, "Starting this day off smart, proactive, and in control! How about you? #PrEPsavesLIVES." Truvada is a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP ) taken to avoid contracting HIV, and is more than 99-percent effective at reducing transmission of the virus.

In a press release, GLAAD announced that Caitlin Kinnunen—the star of the Broadway LBGTQ-themed musical The Prom—will perform the show's LGBTQ youth anthem "Unruly Heart" with the NYC Youth Pride Chorus at the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York on Saturday, May 4. It was previously announced that Madonna will receive GLAAD's Advocate for Change Award from Anderson Cooper, and Andy Cohen will receive the Vito Russo Award from Sarah Jessica Parker. D.J. "Shangela" Pierce will host the awards.

Also, GLAAD celebrated Lesbian Visibility Day ( April 26 ) with the release of the new LGBTQ-inclusive children's book Maiden & Princess, a press release noted. In partnership with Little Bee Books, Maiden & Princess is the third book to be released in an ongoing series of LGBTQ-inclusive children's books. Written by Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo, Maiden & Princess tells the story of a maiden sent to a royal ball to fall in love with a prince—but instead falls in love with the princess.

Will Rossi and Rob Massi have issued an apology on Instagram for posing for a photo with former GOP Congressman Aaron Schock, The Washington Blade reported. Schock, whose sexuality has been the subject of much speculation, has stood for anti-gay policies such as voting against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Over the last Coachella weekend, Schock was allegedly photographed and recorded partying with gay men and kissing another man. Rossi and Massi claim they were not aware of who Schock was or the anti-LGBTQ policies he has previously supported.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has published an additional 23 names of priests who had been accused of child sexual abuse after they were deceased, The National Catholic Reporter noted. Released April 24, the 23 additional names join 103 other clergy and religious brothers whose names had already been published by the archdiocese.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights will present the Chairperson's award to outgoing Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin during its 43rd annual Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award Dinner on May 15 in Washington, D.C., a press release noted. The dinner's theme, "We Are Democracy," serves to highlight the conference's work.

The Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Committee announced that lesbian activists Lucy DeBardelaben and Gail Christian will be the recipients of the Harvey B. Milk Leadership Award at the 8th Annual Coachella Valley Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast on Wed., May 15, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, a press release noted. Keynoting the breakfast will be California state Controller Betty Yee.

National Rifle Association President Oliver North has been ousted after an alleged extortion scheme within the group's highest-ranking officials came to light, The Washington Post reported. In a statement, North told the organization he was "informed" he would not be running for re-election. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre wrote a letter to the board accusing North—a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel perhaps best known for his role in the Iran-contra affair—of plotting to remove him from the group by threatening to release to the board "damaging" information about LaPierre.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claimed that a polar bear has "died from a broken heart" after being separated from her same-sex partner in San Diego's SeaWorld Wild Arctic exhibit, Gay Star News noted. Szenja, 21, and Snowflake, 22 have been inseparable and living in the same enclosure for the past 20 years. ( The two female polar bears were separated so that Snowflake could mate with male polar bears. ) The two female polar bears were separated so that Snowflake could mate with male polar bears—and Szenja died soon after the separation.

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