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NATIONAL Teen PrEP bill, conversion therapy, Laverne Cox, murder-suicide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2019-04-09

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Maryland lawmakers have approved a bill allowing minors to receive pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, without obtaining parental consent as a way to prevent the spread of HIV among youth, Metro Weekly reported. The House of Delegates voted 111-19 in favor of SB 251, sponsored by Sen. Clarence Lam ( D-Baltimore, Howard counties ), which would allow doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to prescribe Truvada. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), the use of Truvada as PrEP can reduce the risk of person becoming infected through sex by 90 percent and through IV-drug use by 70 percent.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ( R ) signed a bill banning gay conversion therapy for minors in the state, TheHill.com noted. The Massachusetts State House News Service reported that Baker signed the bill, which bars health care providers from conducting or promoting "sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient who is less than 18 years of age." The move makes Massachusetts the 16th state, in addition to Washington, D.C., to enact protections for LGBTQ youth regarding the practice.

Emmy-nominated actress/transgender activist Laverne Cox, designer Christian Siriano, and LGBTQ and plus-size advocate Nicolette Mason joined moderator Jess Weiner at Harvard's 2019 Summit for Gender Equity, The Boston Globe noted. Cox—one of the stars of Orange Is the New Black—said she began booking roles once she stopped looking at being a transgender woman as a hindrance and instead embraced it. As a plus-size, openly gay woman, Mason said she fights exclusion "by being political, by being active, by being visible, promoting visibility, promoting conversation and dialogue in spaces that weren't inviting us to the table."

The tale of the Hart family—who all died last March when their car drove off a cliff in the California coastal town of Fort Bragg—has come to a final conclusion following a coroner's inquest, SFist.com reported. A Mendocino County jury ruled the crash was the result of a murder-suicide pact, and that both women, Jennifer and Sarah Hart, both 38, were complicit in the deaths of their six adopted children and their mutual suicides. Jennifer Hart—who was behind the wheel of the SUV before it flew off the cliff at high speed—had a blood alcohol level of .102 at the time of her death; Sarah Hart had 42 doses of generic Benadryl in her system, and all of the children had been dosed with Benadryl in some form.

In honor Women's History Month and the Trans Day of Visibility, and in support of trans women of color around the world, trans media personality Gia Gunn wrote an op-ed in Paper Magazine, a press release noted. In part, Gunn wrote, "During a time when we're seeing the highest rates of reported homicide against transgender people, I feel honored, hopeful and more motivated than ever to speak up and stand up for my trans brothers and sisters, and try to be a driving force for our community." The entire op-ed is at http://www.papermag.com/gia-gunn-transgender-day-of-visibility-2633186935.html.

A congressional hearing on the Equality Act—legislation seeking to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in fundamental aspects of life such as employment and housing—got sidetracked into fears over men participating in women's sports, The Washington Blade noted. The issue became a central focus during the nearly four-hour congressional hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban anti-LGBT discrimination under federal law.

A group of Christian pastors and a private healthcare company are once again alleging that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC ) is infringing on their religious rights by pursuing LGBT-discrimination cases on sex-bias grounds, Bloomberg Law noted. The U.S. Pastor Council and Braidwood Management Inc. want the EEOC to exempt religious employers—including those that are closely held corporations—from the parts of the federal anti-discrimination law the agency enforces, they said in an amended complaint filed March 29.

Tennessee state lawmakers have moved forward legislation that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ parents, LGBTQ Nation reported. The bill passed the Republican-dominated House 67-22. Republican Gov. Bill Lee hasn't said if he would sign it if the bill passes through the state senate as well, but he has said "his religious faith has often been a cornerstone of his political career."

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce ( NGLCC ) is among the chambers of commerce that have launched a new initiative that seeks to provide additional support to business owners around the country, The Washington Blade reported. The U.S. Black Chambers Inc., the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, along with the NGLCC, are behind the Chamber Leadership Development Program, which "is aimed at educating and developing leaders of diverse state and local chambers of commerce to support diverse entrepreneurs," a press release noted. Wells Fargo has made an initial investment of more than $800,000.

GLAAD, Logo, and The Pritzker Military Museum & Library hosted a panel discussion and screening of the documentary TransMilitary on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a press release noted. The screening included more than 100 invited guests including members of Congress, the media and the military. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Joe Kennedy both gave remarks during the panel discussion on transgender military service that included trans service members Capt. Jennifer Peace and Captain El Cook and Lt. Col. Mark Rasmussen; PBS NewsHour's Amna Nawaz moderated the discussion. Also, during the event, GLAAD Chief Programs Officer Zeke Stokes surprised Gabe Silverman, Fiona Dawson and Jamie Coughlin ( TransMilitary director, co-director, and producer, respectively ) with a GLAAD Media Award. The talk is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTmiLk9S6Hw.

GLAAD, in a press release, expressed its disapproval of the University of Texas Board of Regents' decision to name Heather Wilson as the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso ( UTEP ). The release said that the selection occurred amid disturbing news reports exposed Wilson's anti-LGBTQ record as well as a bombshell report suggesting Wilson used the power of her political office to cover up a sex-abuse allegation involving her husband and a minor. "The decision to select Heather Wilson as UTEP's president without holding a public hearing about her disturbing past is a failure in process and transparency and a disservice to the students, faculty, and alumni of the University of Texas," said GLAAD President/CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "LGBTQ students should never have to question whether their University president supports them, and Heather Wilson's appointment is a slap in their face."

In Florida, Vero Based-based Piper Aircraft Inc. has become embroiled in an international controversy as a result of its ownership by the government of Brunei—which has just implemented a harsh new law that punishes sex between men and adultery with death by stoning, FloridaToday.com noted. Also caught up in the controversy is Melbourne-based Harris Corp., which is in the process of merging with New York-based L3 Technologies Inc.; a unit of L3, called L3 Commercial Aviation, just placed an order for up to 240 new Piper aircraft.

A gay teenager from Northern Kentucky who was not allowed to give his valedictorian speech at his high school graduation will be honored with a First Amendment award in Washington, D.C., in May, Cincinnati.com reported. Christian Bales, of Cold Spring, was told he could not give his speech at Holy Cross High School last May because the Diocese of Covington disagreed with the content of his speech. Instead, Bales gave his speech on a megaphone outside the ceremony in Crestview Hills.

In Alabama, the Shelby County winery that was shamed on social media for declining to host a same-sex wedding and then urging the couple to patronize its business made an about-face and declared its premises will be "inclusive of all people," AL.com reported. The owners of the Cat-n-Bird Winery in Chelsea said they made their decision after talking with the LGBT community—but added they still hold their religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.

Google has finally removed a gay conversion-therapy app from its online store following increasing criticism from LGBTQA leaders, NewNowNext.com noted, citing Gizmodo. Google met months of pressure and questioning from the LGBTQ community with silence, hosting the app for Living Hope Ministries, a non-profit Christian group based in Arlington, Texas. Apple and Amazon were quick to drop the app in December, shortly after the national LGBTQ-rights organization Truth Wins Out launched an online petition demanding its removal.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has invited a drag queen to hold a children's story time at City Hall after the county library system pulled its support for the event, which was to be held at an Alpharetta branch, WHIO.com reported. Bottoms tweeted the invitation to Miss Terra Cotta Sugarbaker, the drag persona of Buford native Steven Igarashi-Ball. The event Bottoms proposed to host is part of the national Drag Queen Story Hour movement that began in San Francisco and entails drag queens reading books to children at libraries.

If a recently inaugurated crowdfunding effort doesn't succeed in raising adequate capital, a Philadelphia HIV-services agency will be forced to close its doors within two months, Philadelphia Gay News reported. The board of Siloam Wellness has initiated a GoFundMe campaign in an attempt to raise $500,000, which would give the agency enough money to continue operations for the next two years. Those interested in supporting Siloam Wellness can visit www.siloamwellness.org/donate.


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