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NATIONAL Teen suicide, scholarship loss, discrimination cases
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2019-04-23

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Out.com reported that Alabama high-school student Nigel Shelby died by suicide after being the target of homophobic bullying, according to reports that began to surface over the weekend on Facebook. Rocket City Pride—the local LGBTQ+ Pride organization in Huntsville—said in a statement, "Nigel took his life because he was bullied for being gay. There are no words that can be said to make sense of this devastating news." A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Shelby's mother with funeral expenses; it's at www.gofundme.com/f/k2h35t-nigel, and has already surpassed its $26,000 goal.

In Texas, transgender student Map Pesqueira lost his military scholarship because of his gender identity, LGBTQ Nation reported. Pesqueira is a first-year student at the University of Texas at Austin, and he was awarded a Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship to pay for three years of school. However, because he had already started his transition, the Department of Defense took away his scholarship, citing the newly installed transgender military ban. Lt. Col. Matthew O'Neill, the ROTC chair at the University of Texas, tried to save Pesqueira's scholarship. Pesqueira has started a GoFundMe page, at https://www.gofundme.com/f/lgbt-college-student-lost-us-army-scholarhip.

A California school district has reached a settlement agreement with a former teacher who sued for discrimination, alleging she was fired because she was a lesbian and because of her outspoken support for her school's Gay-Straight Alliance club, Metro Weekly reported. Julia Frost—a former English teacher at Sultana High School, in the Hesperia Unified School District—claims she was retaliated against after she helped members of the Gay-Straight Alliance club bring in the ACLU of Southern California to address a pattern of anti-LGBTQ discrimination by teachers and administrators during the fall of 2012. In November 2013, Frost enlisted the help of Lambda Legal and sued the district in San Bernardino Superior Court, alleging 10 separate claims of harassment and discrimination.

A former casino worker at Pennsylvania's Parx Casino took on the company in court, alleging that she suffered discrimination while employed by the casino, gaming site CalvinAyre.com noted. ( Law.com also noted the same case. ) The individual—only identified as "Michelle Doe"—asserted that she was routinely targeted because she is a "masculine-looking" lesbian; however, the judge presiding over the case dismissed the suit. U.S. District Judge Joel Slomsky determined that "Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation." Doe and her lawyer, Justin Robinette, have already stated that they will appeal.

Organizers behind Give OUT Day ( GiveOutDay.org )—the only national day of giving for the LGBTQ community—announced that the campaign raised in excess of $1.1 million for more than 475 participating nonprofits, a media release stated. Held this year on April 18, Give OUT Day raised $1,132,970 for nonprofits from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and, for the first time, Puerto Rico. Next year's Give OUT Day is scheduled for April 16, 2020.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) responded to a proposed rule change from the Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ) "that would abandon data collection on the sexual orientation of youth in foster care and foster and adoptive parents and guardians in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System ( AFCARS )," a press release stated. "The Trump-Pence administration's latest assault on the LGBTQ community threatens to harm some of the most vulnerable youth in the foster care system," said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy. "LGBTQ youth are tragically overrepresented in foster care, and this attempt to erase them and important data on adoptive and foster parents undermines efforts to address the marginalization, harassment and discrimination that LGBTQ youth in foster care and families face."

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled that city contractors must abide by nondiscrimination policies in the placement of foster children with same-sex couples, NPR.org reported. A three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the city, which had ended a foster-care contract with an agency of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That agency, Catholic Social Services, had declined to place foster children in LGBTQ households and sought an injunction that would have forced the city to renew their contract.

In the two days since kicking off a campaign swing through Iowa, presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has faced anti-gay heckling at several stops, NBC News noted. On April 16, he was interrupted in Fort Dodge by protesters who shouted, "Mayor Pete, you betrayed your baptism, your holy baptism" and made anti-abortion remarks. Later that day, at a large rally in Des Moines, hecklers shouted "remember Sodom and Gomorrah." The hecklers—Gary Boisclair and anti-abortion activist Randal Terry—said they had also heckled another Democratic presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.

Also regarding Buttigieg, support for him jumped 14 points in a new Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire—launching him into the first-in-the-nation primary state's top tier of candidates, CNN.com reported. The poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire's The Survey Center, shows the young mayor of South Bend, Indiana, joining Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Vice President Joe Biden at the top of the increasingly large Democratic presidential pack.

Nevada has become the 10th state to allow trans and intersex people to obtain gender-neutral IDs, PinkNews noted. In addition to the current "M" for male and "F' for female markers, residents can ask for an "X" to be displayed on driver's licenses and ID cards. Nevada joins Arkansas, California, Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Utah and Vermont ( as well as Washington D.C. ) in the move.

Tennis-shoe company Converse has announced an LGBTQ-inclusive collection that also includes trans-themed shoes, LGBTQ Nation noted. The shoes are available for purchase now, for $60-80/pair ( no shipping fee ). Converse's lineup includes eight different designs, and they're available in both adult and children's sizes.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell—the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration—has defended "my friend" Vice President Mike Pence and compared openly gay South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to Jussie Smollett in an interview on Fox News, The New York Daily News reported. Grennell defended Pence's character—despite the vice president's actions and statements on transgender people, marriage equality, HIV, hate crimes and anti-LGBTQ discrimination throughout the years.

Speaking of Pence, the choice of him to be the commencement speaker at an evangelical Christian college in his home state of Indiana has split the institution, NBC News noted. More than 5,000 people— many of them alumni and current students—have signed a petition urging Taylor University in Upland to replace Pence because his beliefs "are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear." The Change.org petition is addressed to Taylor University President Paul Lowell Haines; however, he does not appear to share the petition supporters' views on the vice president's religious beliefs.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the suspension of Dawn Segal's law license for one year and a day, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Segal, an out lesbian, served as a municipal-court judge in Philadelphia for about six years until she was forced to leave the bench in 2016 due to improper conversations with another judge. The following year, she was permanently barred from holding judicial office.

Judy Shepard—the mother of Matthew Shepard and co-founder of the foundation that bears his name—will join a former Wyoming state superintendent in being awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Wyoming at the May 18 commencement, The Casper Star-Tribune reported. A longtime Casper resident, Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation in December 1998—two months after her son was beaten and left for dead tied to a fence outside of Laramie. The honorary degree is the most recent award earned by Shepard, who has previously been recognized by LGTBQ organizations for her support of the community.

Equality California will honor singer-songwriter Jason Mraz ( of San Diego ) for his commitment to LGBTQ rights and social justice at the group's 2019 San Diego Equality Awards on Friday, June 14, a press release noted. Mraz will receive the Ally Leadership Award and joins additional honorees, including Assemblymember Todd Gloria ( Vanguard Leadership Award ), Nora Vargas of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest ( Community Leadership Award ) and Darlene Tando, LCSW ( Equality Leadership Award ).

Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock ( R-Illinois ) was spotted making out with another man at Coachella, LGBTQ Nation noted. Schock was a reliably anti-gay vote for Republicans, despite the parade of young men who visited his D.C. apartment, and his outing by journalist Itay Hod in 2014. Activist James Duke Mason took to Facebook to share photos of Schock with other gay men at the Coachella music festival, posing shirtless and having fun. "Normally I wouldn't comment on something like this, but I am just infuriated by these images of former Republican ( and anti-gay ) Congressman Aaron Schock partying with a group of gay men at Coachella. The fact that he would think he could show his face in public, particularly when he has NEVER renounced or apologized for his votes against gay marriage, gays in the military and against anti-discrimination laws is astounding," Mason wrote.


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