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National: Anti-LGBT bills, Larry Kramer, Grindr mag, trans group's message
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-03-28

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Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill that allows student groups at high schools and public universities to bar LGBT people from their organizations on religious grounds, according to an Advocate.com item that cited The Washington Blade. Senate Bill 1 came in response to a school's deletion of a Bible verse from a student production of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The measure is intended to protect students' religious freedom, allowing then to express their religious opinions, wear clothing that has religious meaning, and use school media to disseminate information about faith groups' meetings.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has vetoed Republican-backed legislation that would stop the government from punishing anyone who refuses to participate in same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs, a U.S. News & World Report item noted. He said as he signed the veto, while on WTOP-FM, that the Constitution already protects legitimate religious freedoms and the vetoed legislation is designed to stigmatize couples. McAuliffe added if the legislation had become law, it would have been detrimental to the state's economy. McAuliffe has now vetoed more bills than any other Virginia governor.

Lambda Legal announced longtime LGBT-rights activist Larry Kramer and gay, HIV-positive Hamilton actor Javier Munoz as this year's Liberty Award honorees, according to a press release. The Liberty Awards National Dinner honors advocates, activists and allies in the fight for LGBT equality. Larry Kramer will receive the Kevin Cathcart Community Legacy Award, an award named in honor of Lambda Legal's former executive director. Both awards will be presented to Kramer and Munoz at the annual gala event May 1 in New York City.

Grindr is launching its own online magazine, entitled Into, according to Out.com . "Into focuses a lot on travel, since our users like to travel and go out," said Grindr CEO Joel Simkhai to Forbes. "A lot of current offerings don't give you up to date info, and we have millions of Grindr users asking us to figure out what's going on around them. Simkhai and Grindr Creative Director Landis Smithers told Forbes that the platform will focus on Grindr's main demographic ( men 18-34 ), and will encompass the community with stories from gay immigrants and refugees as well as other serious topics.

Transgender Law Center issued a press release saying that Roger Severino—President Trump's choice for director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS/OCR )—is an anti-transgender and extremist right-wing lawyer and journalist. The center added that Severino's writings reject the authenticity of transgender people's identities, and dismiss transgender claims to civil rights. "This appointment is horrifying," said Jennifer Pizer, law and policy director for Lambda Legal, according to The Huffington Post. "It is going to have a serious, probably devastating impact on LGBT people."

An openly gay student will start as Texas A&M University's student body president in April, Chron.com reported. Bobby Brooks, a junior from Belton studying economics, will lead A&M's student body—a milestone for the rural campus better known for its love of tradition than for its embrace of progressive social issues. Brooks told The Battallion, A&M's student paper, "My sexuality was a non-issue in terms of selecting Texas A&M as a university because I knew what this university could offer." However, in an op-ed submitted to the Houston Chronicle, former Texas Gov. and current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry suggested that his alma mater's first openly gay president may have stolen the outcome, an WSILTV.com item noted.

In a setback for gay-rights advocates hoping for an expansion of workplace discrimination protections, a federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled that employers aren't prohibited from discriminating against employees because of sexual orientation, The StarTribune reported. The judicial panel ruled two to one that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which prohibits workplace discrimination based on a variety of factors—doesn't protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Jameka Evans, in April 2015, had sued her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital, alleging that she was discriminated against and effectively forced from her job as a security guard because she is a lesbian.

One lesbian couple has fallen pregnant at the same time, the UK Metro reported. Toby Fleischman and her wife Lindsey Lanciault recently took to Instagram to reveal the big news. While one held a sign saying, "It's a boy" and the other held up a similar sign saying, "It's also a boy," as their dog wore a sign reading "Big Sister." While both babies are due this summer, Toby and Lanciault fell pregnant just three weeks apart from each other. Both babies will be related by blood, as the women used the same sperm donor.

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin ( D-Illinois ) had a standoff over LGBTs during Gorsuch's hearing on March 21, New Civil Rights Movement noted. Asked by Senator Dick Durbin ( D-IL ), a lawmaker since 1983, about his relationship with his homophobic mentor at Oxford, John Finnis—when he wrote a dissertation arguing against same-sex marriage, abortion and assisted suicide—Gorsuch reportedly grew tense. However, Gorsuch essentially said marriage equality is settled law, The Advocate noted.

A historic streetcar featured in the movie Milk—about former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk—has been restored and returned to service, Patch.com noted. The streetcar, President's Conference Committee #1051, was dedicated in honor of Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. The streetcar, which has the green-and-cream livery of the 1960s and is the same model that was in service when Milk was in office, is the first of 16 contracted to be fully restored.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled that the state must issue accurate death certificates to all surviving same-sex spouses, a Lambda Legal press release noted. This is a victory for Lambda Legal clients and gay widowers Hal Birchfield and Paul Mocko as well as all other surviving same-sex spouses who were denied accurate death certificates for their deceased spouses that acknowledge they were married and recognize them as the surviving spouses. The decision is at LambdaLegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/birchfield_fl_20170323_summary-judgment.

Several pro-LGBT groups issued a statement warning about an anti-LGBTIQ bus traveling through the streets of New York City. The so-called FreeSpeechBus, which is bright orange, is covered in the message "It's Biology: Boys are boys ... and always will be. Girls are girls ... and always will be. You can't change sex. Respect all." Jessica Stern of OutRight Action International, commented, "Free speech is a constitutional right, but language has consequences that must be considered. ... This vehicle is part of the reason trans youth are driven to suicide." A similarly styled bus received strong pushback in Spain earlier this year and was recently banned in Madrid on the premise that it was discriminatory and could incite hate crimes.

A Pennsylvania woman is facing charges, accused of inappropriately touching and molesting a gay man in order to "mess" with him, CBS Pittsburgh reported. Rachel Nicole Acevedo, 36, is charged with indecent assault and harassment. Court documents indicate the incident took place in January at a Southampton Township residence in Cumberland County.

The Associated Press published new analysis showing North Carolina's HB2 law will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to a Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) press release. "In light of the AP's jaw-dropping new economic analysis, every North Carolina lawmaker should have to answer a simple question: Is discrimination worth nearly $4 billion dollars?" said HRC President Chad Griffin. "In addition to the personal suffering this bill has caused LGBTQ people over the last year, it has already inflicted incredible damage upon the state's economy. It's time for lawmakers to fully repeal HB2 once and for all, because the price of their inaction is simply too great."

The Air Force Academy superintendent said in e-mail that Acting Secretary of the Air Force Lisa Disbrow has named Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin as the next Academy Commandant, according to JQPublicBlog.com, citing the Colorado Springs Independent. BG Goodwin will be joined at the Academy by her wife, Kelly, and their two children. Mikey Weinstein—the founder and CEO of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which represents 16 LGBT cadets at the Academy—emailed the Independent as to why this announcement wasn't made more public.

The authors of what has become the most talked about book in Charlotte, North Carolina—Jacob's New Dress—have a message for the conservative groups that have labeled their children's book a threat to "traditional family values," The Charlotte Observer noted. "The idea that a book can turn someone gay or transgender is bizarre to us. Reading a book can't turn you gay," said Sarah Hoffman, who wrote the book with her husband, Ian Hoffman. The couple watched with dismay as Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools officials bowed to conservative outrage and reversed plans to use the book in all first-grade classes.

On March 23, GMHC ( formerly Gay Men's Health Crisis ) presented its 35th Anniversary Spring Gala and honored former President Bill Clinton as well as HIV/AIDS and LGBT-rights activist Peter Staley, and Barclays CEO Jes Staley, a press release stated. There were also performances from Tony-winning Broadway actor, singer and composer Billy Porter; Tony-winning actor, singer and guitarist Michael Cerveris; and Tony-nominated actress and singer Beth Malone. More than $700,000 were raised.

Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was convicted of hushing up suspected child sex abuse in 2001 by Jerry Sandusky, whose arrest a decade later blew up into a major scandal for the university and led to the firing of football coach Joe Paterno, Newser reported. The trial centered on how Spanier, 68, and two other university leaders handled a complaint by then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary, who reported seeing Sandusky sexually molesting a boy in a team shower in 2001. They told Sandusky he could not bring children onto the campus anymore but did not report the matter to police or child welfare authorities.

In Vermont, Winooski is the site of the new gay bar Mister Sister—and it's the only such bar in the whole state, MyNBC5.com reported. It's been 10 years since the closure of 135 Pearl, the long-established gay bar in downtown Burlington. Mister Sister's name choice sparked controversy, some saying they see the term as a slur against transgender people. The Pride Center of Vermont hosted a town hall where attendees ultimately decided to denounce the name. The bar owner said he chose the new name specifically for its inclusiveness and he hopes everyone will feel welcome.

The Associated Press Stylebook is "opening the door" to the use of the singular they, editors announced at ACES' national conference, a press release noted. A new stylebook entry—announced March 23 as part of the AP's session at ACES' 21st national conference in St. Petersburg, Florida—for the first time allows use of singular they as a singular pronoun or gender-neutral pronoun. The entry says, "In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. ... We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze."

The Washington Blade announced plans to launch a new sister publication, the Los Angeles Blade, Press Pass Q reported. The Los Angeles Blade will cover Los Angeles and California news, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment and will feature national and international coverage from the Washington Blade's reporting team. Troy Masters, a veteran of LGBT media, will serve as publisher and editor of the new venture. Veteran Los Angeles journalist Karen Ocamb was named senior contributing writer.


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