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NATIONAL Trans teacher, Billy Porter, TGNC home, gay police officer
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-07-27

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Michigan honored a transgender educator as teacher of the year, LGBTQ Nation reported. The Michigan Department of Education announced at a virtual meeting that Owen Bondono—who teaches ninth-grade language arts at Oak Park High School, near Detroit—is Michigan's Teacher of the Year. State Superintendent Michael Rice said that the state Department of Education received more than 400 nominations for Michigan Teacher of the Year, and that the title is more than an honor.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) teamed with Grammy/Emmy/Tony award-winning actor, singer and activist Billy Porter to release a video encouraging people to vote and marking 100 days until the 2020 election, a press release noted. The video—which features Porter's new cover of protest song "For What It's Worth," audio from HRC President Alphonso David's speech at HRC's 2019 National Dinner, and images of protest past and present—notes that both protest and voting are necessary to create change. See https://www.hrc.org/resources/protest-vote-change.

In New Orleans, a plan is underway to buy a small batch of rundown houses along North Claiborne Avenue in the 8th Ward and convert them into living space for homeless transgender and gender non-conforming people, NOLA.com reported. The $1-million project, the House of Tulip, would reportedly be the first of its kind in the country. The House of Tulip, for "Trans United Leading Intersectional Progress," grew out of a coronavirus relief effort.

The family of Shannon Bennett—the gay Broward County ( Florida ) sheriff's deputy who died from COVID-19 in April—has been denied insurance benefits covering his death, according to Queerty. Insurance giant AIG denied the family's claim for accidental death in the line of duty last month. According to AIG, Bennett's death didn't occur in the line of duty; "rather, his death was caused in whole or in part by, or resulted in whole or in part from sickness or disease, specifically excluded under this policy." The sheriff's office joined the family in protesting the claim denial, as the office believes Bennett contracted COVID-19 while on duty.

Also connected to Bennett, Dale Engle—who made comments linking Bennett's death from COVID-19 to homosexuality—has resigned from his post as police chief in Davie, Florida, Queerty noted. NBC reported the Florida police union opened an inquiry into Engle's actions following complaints from several officers in April.

Jeff Kurtzman, a gay Los Angeles flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, died July 21 from COVID-19 complications, Advocate.com noted. According to NBC News, Kurtzman, 60, was one of 17 people to test positive after attending an in-person employee training session in Honolulu in late June. "I am heart broken," John Duran, council member and former mayor of West Hollywood, said. "We sang together in the gay men's chorus and he was a sobriety brother of mine. He was a sweet and gentle giant."

A Memphis man confessed to the murder of an off-duty firefighter after claiming the man propositioned him and his girlfriend for sex, Out.com noted, citing Fox 13 Memphis. Carlton Wells, 25, told arresting police officers he shot and killed Mack Bond, 58, at Kennedy Park because the firefighter's flirtations made him feel uncomfortable. Wells faces charges of second-degree murder and a convicted felon in possession of a handgun. Also arrested was his girlfriend, Danielle Mack, 39, for tampering with evidence.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ceremonially signed the bill that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's nondiscrimination law, The Washington Blade reported. Northam signed the Virginia Values Act in April, but a signing ceremony did not take place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The law took effect July 1.

On July 21, President Trump said, "I am following through on that commitment by directing the Secretary of Commerce to exclude illegal aliens from the apportionment base following the 2020 census," according to WhiteHouse.gov . However, PFLAG National Executive Director Brian K. Bond responded in a statement, "Dear Mr. President, while Martians and other space creatures may be aliens, human beings are not. The U.S. Constitution plainly states that all persons get to be counted for the purposes of reapportionment of taxes and representatives. When all people count in the Census, we make sure communities get the monies needed to support schools, transportation, electricity, and other services."

Exactly one month after the New York primary election, enough ballots have been counted to declare LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed candidate Jabari Brisport the winner of the Democratic primary for New York's 25th Senate District, a Victory Fund press release announced. With no general election challenger, Brisport will become the first openly LGBTQ person of color ever elected to the New York state legislature come November. Victory Fund invested heavily in Bisport's race, raising nearly $11,000 for his campaign and providing additional visibility through its earned media and social-media programs.

Fair and Equal Michigan—which seeks to put an LGBT-rights proposal on the ballot for Michigan voters—is getting a $100,000 boost from Business Leaders for Michigan, MLive.com reported. The endorsement is proof the issue has wide support, said campaign Co-Chairman Trevor Thomas, who stated, "This isn't a Democrat or Republican issue anymore." Business Leaders for Michigan is a "state business roundtable" with goals of making Michigan a top-10 state for jobs, personal income and a healthy economy.

Gay Nigerian refugee Edafe Okporo founded New York City's first and only shelter for asylum-seekers and refugees, NBC News noted. "Everything just changed when I stepped my feet into this country," said Okporo, 30, an LGBTQ activist who fled his homeland, Nigeria, in 2016 after dealing with violence throughout his life, "because there is an opportunity to dream of a better future, to have a path here as a gay man."

In Pennsylvania, hundreds of people took to the streets of Mifflinburg for a Pride rally organized by the "I am alliance," WNEP.com reported. Organizers say the event was launched after a sign was posted on the door of Wenger's Grocery Outlet, near Mifflinburg; the sign questions the science of wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 and also called being LGBTQ "a sin in god's eyes," saying it "spreads deadly disease and sickness."

Text messages sent by Michigan Republican sheriff candidate Terry King showed that he joked with his daughter about shooting a gay couple holding hands in public, LGBTQ Nation reported. In the October 2013 messages, King was texting his family from a wedding. He took a picture of a woman whose dress was being held together with a safety pin, making fun of her. Then his daughter Kimberly noticed a gay couple and asked, "Where the heck are you??? Homoland???" He responded, "THESE guys are holding hands, where is my fricken gun."

In a quick conversation with a TMZ reporter, transgender Olympian and reality-TV star Caitlyn Jenner said she texted Kanye West to ask if she could be his running mate after he declared his presidential bid, LGBTQ Nation noted. Jenner was supportive of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, even going as far as sporting a Trump MAGA hat after he was elected. She has has since soured on Trump—calling him "the worst" for transgender people—but hasn't stopped being a Republican.

A Media Matters for America study stated that anti-trans Facebook content shared by right-wing news sources generated more engagement than content from pro-trans and neutral sources combined, NBC News noted. That means the majority of Facebook interactions with those viral posts—more than 43 million of 66 million shares, comments and reactions over the span of a year —were on items posted by anti-trans websites like LifeSiteNews, Daily Wire and Daily Caller, according to the report.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf criticized Bloomsburg Fairground organizers for enabling hate speech directed at transgender Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine—the latest in what he considers a string of "vile" transphobic attacks against the state official, WFMZ.com reported. The Columbia County venue came under fire after images of a man dressed as Levine sitting in a dunk tank to raise money for local fire companies appeared on the Bloomsburg Fair Association's Facebook page—and that man was compared to Levine. Levine became the first transgender woman appointed to a Pennsylvania cabinet position in 2015.

In Indiana, Lutheran High School coach/athletic trainer Krystal Brazel said she was fired for being lesbian, IndyStar reported. She helped coach the softball team to a state title last year—its first since 2007. And a few weeks later, she proposed to her then-girlfriend, Samantha Spaeth, in the batter's box. While Brazel has legal counsel, she said her goal is to "implement change in Lutheran's policy to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ+ students." Head of School Michael Brandt said the school needs "leaders of its students" committed to the values of the church on which it was founded.

In Tennessee, a graduate student enrolled at a private Christian college had his admission revoked when the school learned he was gay, Out.com noted. The Jackson Sun reported that even though the evangelical Union University accepts public funding, the school used a religious exemption to legally remove Alex Duron from their three-year nursing program. The 38-year-old Duron posted a copy of the letter, which claimed his "social media profile" and "intent to live with your partner" showed he was unwilling to "abide by the commitment you made in signing ( the university's community values statements )."

A former, leading figure of a prominent "ex-gay" organization announced he is marrying his male partner next year, Queerty noted. Randy Thomas was formerly the vice president and spokesperson for the now-defunct Exodus International, which advocated for conversion therapy. After Exodus International closed down, Thomas revealed in 2015 his attraction to men had never really gone away, despite years of celibacy, praying and 23 years of involvement with Exodus.

Civil-rights icon Charles Evers—the first Black elected mayor of a Mississippi city and brother of Medgar Evers— died at age 97, USA Today reported. Charles has always followed the beat of his own drummer. In his 1971 autobiography, Evers outlined how he had been a gun-toting bootlegger, a numbers-runner and a pimp in Chicago before coming back to Mississippi after his brother was assassinated in June 1963. Charles came back and assumed the role of state NAACP field secretary—the position his late brother held; he also led marches, boycotts and other civil-rights activities.

A federal court in Pennsylvania said a transgender woman can pursue claims that a Dunkin' franchise subjected her to a hostile work environment and fired her because of her transgender and HIV-positive status, Bloomberg Law reported. The U.S. Supreme Court held in June that the language of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender individuals from discrimination, and Doe has raised viable claims against Triangle Doughnuts LLC, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said.

Days after a former theater student and former staff member at San Diego's Christian Youth Theater came forward with allegations of misconduct between teachers and young students, dozens of others have made similar claims of sexual abuse, discrimination, racism and misconduct, NBC San Diego reported. Janie Russell Cox, president of the Christian Youth Theater, addressed the allegations, saying "We are fully committed to the safety of every single child. We are grieving for every single individual whom we love and care so deeply for, who are hurting right now. We apologize. I love you." Russell Cox ensured that the national theater school will investigate each allegation.

An anti-LGBTQ Arkansas Republican who called his state's mask mandate "draconian" has been hospitalized with a coronavirus infection, LGBTQ Nation noted. State Sen. Jason Rapert once suggested defunding PBS because out actor Billy Porter once appeared on an episode of Sesame Street. Interestingly, in a recent release, Rapert stated, "[My family] have all been doing our best to wear a mask, social distance and be careful like everyone else. This virus is serious and can attack anyone regardless of age or general health," KATV.com noted.

A former theater director at Minnesota's Anoka Middle School for the Arts was charged with sexually abusing four teenage students, StarTribune.com reported. Jefferson Fietek, 46, was arrested in Malden, Massachusetts, where he lives, pending extradition to Minnesota. Charges filed July 15 in Anoka County District Court accuse Fietek of sexually abusing four male students between the ages of 14 and 16, from 2009 until his departure from Minnesota last year.

Rep. Ted Yoho ( R-Florida ) resigned from the board of directors of the Christian organization Bread for the World amid blowback after he accosted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ( D-N.Y. ) at the Capitol and called her "disgusting" and a "fucking bitch," according to The Hill. The bipartisan organization, which targets hunger and poverty around the world, said in a statement that it sought Yoho's resignation, calling his actions "not reflective of the ethical standards expected of members of our Board of Directors." In a heated exchange on July 20, Yoho approached Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the east side of the Capitol, saying she was "disgusting" for suggesting that poverty and unemployment could be driving a spike in crime in New York City. Yoho apologized July 22 for the "abrupt manner" in which he confronted Ocasio-Cortez, denying he said the expletive.

President Donald Trump announced that Republicans have scrapped plans to hold convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida, CNN.com noted. Trump had moved the convention to Jacksonville after North Carolina's governor raised public-health concerns about having massive gatherings in Charlotte, as the GOP had long planned. Pared-back events in Charlotte will still be held, Trump said. Trump's announcement about Jacksonville came hours after Quinnipiac released a poll showing former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump 51 percent to 38 percent in Florida.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez reaffirmed that his party will hold its national convention next month in Milwaukee, USA Today noted. Democrats will hold a mostly virtual event on Aug. 17-20. Delegates will vote remotely. Joe Biden has said he intends to accept the nomination in Milwaukee.


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