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National: Biden at HRC event; Little Rock; trans gamer's suicide
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
2015-04-28

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The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) announced that Dr. Jill Biden will deliver the keynote address at the 28th Annual HRC Atlanta Gala Dinner on Saturday, May 2, according to a press release. HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement, "For years, she has spoken out on LGBT issues from youth well-being, to anti-bullying efforts, to ensuring that our national dialogue reflects the lives of all Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity." The event is expected to draw more than 1,200 guests and will be held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta.

In Arkansas, Little Rock officials voted to prohibit the city and companies contracting with it from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, challenging a new state law criticized as anti-gay, the Associated Press reported. The ordinance approved by the city's board on a seven-to-two vote bans discrimination against LGBT people in hiring and city services, including those offered through outside vendors. Little Rock is among several Arkansas cities trying to expand anti-discrimination protections after the state faced a backlash over religious objections measures that critics said were discriminatory.

Gay New York hotelier Ian Reisner issued an online apology April 26 for hosting a party for GOP candidate Ted Cruz, saying that he was "shaken to my bones" by the public response. Establishments co-owned by Reisner have become the target of an online boycott after Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz spoke at a function that Reisner co-hosted. His numerous holdings include the Out Hotel NYC and a resort he recently acquired on Fire Island. In 2013, he attempted to open a hotel in Chicago's Lake View neighborhood but was met by steadfast opposition from local residents and neighborhood organizations.

Gaming communities are mourning the death of prominent transgender game developer Rachel Bryk, who committed suicide on April 23, Vocativ reported. Bryk, 23, was plagued by chronic pain, which she told friends was a result of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. She took her own life by jumping from the George Washington Bridge, which connects Manhattan to New Jersey—something she discussed on social-media platform Ask.fm in the days before her death. Despite her beloved status in online gaming communities, Bryk commented on a popular 4chan forum that she was withdrawing from various sites because she suffered constant, anti-trans harassment.

Rick Perry became one of the latest Republican presidential hopefuls to answer the question of whether he would attend the same-sex wedding of a family member—but he thinks that is a "gotcha" question, according to Politico. Speaking on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, the former Texas governor said that he "probably would" go, but that the "real issue is that's the 'gotcha' question that the left tries to get out there." Perry said that there are more pressing issues—such as the economy and national defense—that need to be addressed.

The organizers of the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration ( July 2-5 ) announced that Aisha Moodie-Mills—president and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute—will be a presenter at the National LGBT 50th Anniversary Ceremony at Independence Hall on July 4, according to a press release. At the ceremony, she will honor the history of openly LGBT elected officials. The National LGBT 50th Anniversary Celebration will commemorate the Gay Pioneers, celebrate 50 years of civil-rights progress and address future challenges.

A few days before the U.S. Supreme Court was set to hear oral arguments in the case for marriage equality, Lambda Legal Board Co-Chair Karen Dixon announced that she and her wife, Nan Schaffer, are donating a $1 million match to the organization that will support future work to achieve equality for LGBT people and people living with HIV, according to a press release. The largest match in organizational history, Dixon and Shaffer are challenging people across the country to meet the match and ensure that Lambda Legal will receive the full $1 million. Until the Supreme Court decision date ( slated to be late June ), Dixon and Schaffer will be matching donations, dollar for dollar, as well as online actions that show support for equality.

A new report documents how systemic failures to protect certain students, recognize modern families and protect people from discrimination drive and trap LGBT people of color into a devastating cycle of poverty, a press release stated. "Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT People of Color" examines the economic insecurity experienced by this demographic, compared to their white LGBT counterparts and non-LGBT people of color. Among the findings in the report are that 3 million LGBT people of color are at risk of economic insecurity, and that the law fails to protect LGBT students—in particular, those of color. An overview infographic summarizing the report's findings is available at http://lgbtmap.org/unfair-price-lgbt-people-of-color-infographic.

The number of legally married same-sex couples in the United States has tripled in the last year, according to a new poll released today by Gallup that was co-authored by Gary J. Gates, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, and Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup. The new estimate suggests that 390,000 out of nearly 1 million same-sex couples in the U.S. are married. Estimates from the 2013 National Health Interview Survey had the figure at 130,000.

Organizers for the Western Conservative Summit have banned the nation's leading gay Republican organization from setting up a table when attendees convene in June in Denver, BuzzFeed reported. The issue, they said, is that the Log Cabin Republicans' support for same-sex marriage violates their "core biblical beliefs." "It seems a bit shortsighted not to allow us to participate," Alex Hornaday, the vice president and spokesman for the Colorado chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, said. The Western Conservative Summit is technically nonpartisan—sponsored by the Colorado Christian University—but features presidential contenders.

The Nevada Assembly rejected a bill that angered transgender advocates and would have required students to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex, according to the Associated Press. Assembly members voted against AB375 on a mainly party-line, 22-20 vote; five Assembly Republicans and all Democrats voted against the measure. The measure would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded to their biological sex, as well as require schools to provide separate facilities for transgender and intersex students.

At the University of New Mexico ( UNM ), voters passed a constitutional amendment that will make all pronouns in the ASUNM ( Associated Students of UNM ) Constitution gender-neutral, The Daily Lobo noted. All pronouns in the constitution will now consist of they/them/they're as the primary form of identification. ASUNM President Rachel Williams said she sees the amendment as a big step toward campus-wide inclusiveness for students who may want to serve in ASUNM to feel more welcome.

A primary school in Kittery Point, Maine, has come under fire for teaching their students on trans issues without their parents consent, Gay Star News noted. The children were read extracts from the book I Am Jazz, about the life of trans teenager Jazz Jennings, during a lesson on tolerance and acceptance. However, some parents at the school became upset when they weren't notified of the lesson in advance, as they find the topic "controversial."

A Baptist preacher who is one of the leading opponents of LGBT-rights protections passed in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is a former serial rapist, The New York Daily News reported. "I have nothing against the gays; I love them," Acra Lee Turner, 60, says in a video, joined by four challengers to the city's emergency ordinance to protect sexual orientation and gender identity. Turner's rap sheet dates back to 1977, when, as a 22-year-old college student, he pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree rape—assaults so violent nearly 5,000 signatures were collected for a petition to keep him imprisoned.

The University of Missouri ( MU ) has received a $1-million estate gift to support journalism education and research into the connection between American journalism and the advancement of human rights for LGBT people, according to a press release. Timothy Blair, an alumnus of the MU School of Journalism and current resident of Bel-Air, California, says he is giving the gift to MU to advance the education of students of the world's first school of journalism on the role media have played in reinforcing stereotypes and shaping new understandings of LGBT people in U.S. culture.

A woman donated money she planned to use for a down payment on a family home to an anti-gay group, according to Pink News. The National Organization for Marriage was slated to hold an anti-gay "March for Marriage" rally in Washington, D.C., ahead of the Supreme Court's upcoming marriage-equality case. One woman has donated more than $750 to the group to hit back at who she called "LGBT bullies"—money she had originally planned to use for her home.

The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund is welcoming the historic confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the first Black woman to hold the position of U.S. attorney general, a press release stated. Executive Director Rea Carey said, "With the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, another glass ceiling is broken and another outstanding candidate joins the most LGBTQ-friendly administration ever. But this vote was needlessly delayed for almost six months as the Senate Majority leaders engaged in political games—even refusing to take a vote until they satisfied their need to push an extreme anti-reproductive justice, anti-women's rights agenda. ... Our message to the Senate Majority leadership is stop playing politics with qualified nominees and stop trying to push back progress."

A Michigan business owner who sparked controversy by posting opinions on Facebook about refusing to serve certain groups, including gay customers, has been the target of vandalism, USA Today reported. Dieseltec owner Brian Klawiter made headlines when he posted that he would refuse to provide service to openly gay customers. However, graffiti was sprayed on the Grandville, Michigan, building reading, "I ( heart ) nuts." Klawiter later posted, "I think it's childish behavior. I think for a community of people that want to display tolerance, I don't think that's the right way to do it."

Transgender South Carolina teenager Chase Culpepper—who was told to remove her makeup for a driver's license photo—has settled her lawsuit over the incident, and a state agency has agreed to handle such cases differently, the Associated Press noted. Under the terms of the settlement, the state Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its policy on how male and female license applicants may dress or wear makeup in their official photos. Culpepper and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fundhad sued the agency, calling the policy unconstitutionally vague.

Police say they've made no arrests in the beating of two gay students at Carver High School in Atlanta, according to 11Alive.com . "My face is messed up some," said 15 year-old Timothy Jefferson, a 10th grader. He said the Carver High student who attacked his face with a screwdriver was one of dozens of kids and young adults who took part. Jefferson added he and another gay teen came out two years ago—and that fellow students have abused them for it repeatedly since.

Pennsylvania's United Methodist Church bishops are calling on legislators to update the state's anti-discrimination laws, ABC27.com reported. The bishops held a news conference o announce their support for legislation that would protect gay and transgender people from being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes or refused services at businesses because of who they are. The bishops said Pennsylvania's unemployment rate for gay and transgender people is nearly three times the national average.

A restaurant is opening in Dallas that will put a male spin on Hooters, Chron.com reported. Tallywackers, a restaurant and bar set to feature scantily clad guys serving food and drinks, is looking to launch in May in Dallas' Oak Lawn neighborhood, which is known as the city's "gayborhood." Tallywackers management has put out a call for prospective bartenders, waiters, hosts and cooks.

A proposed state ballot measure that would authorize the killing of gays and lesbians infuriated one woman so much that she filed her own measure with the state attorney general's office: the "Intolerant Jackass Act," The L.A. Times noted. The proposed ballot measure, from Woodland Hills author and activist Charlotte Laws, would require anyone who proposes measures calling for the death of gay people to attend monthly sensitivity training and to donate $5,000 to "a pro-gay or pro-lesbian organization." Laws' proposal is directly aimed at the so-called Sodomite Suppression Act, a proposed initiative by Huntington Beach attorney Matthew McLaughlin that authorizes the killing of gay people by "bullets to the head" or "any other convenient method."

Pride at Work's triennial convention will be Aug. 26-29 in Orlando, Florida, at the Buena Vista Palace Hotel and Resort, according to a press release. This year's theme will be "Out and Organizing." Among the agenda items are plenaries and panels; a Pride at Work national executive board meeting; and an awards banquet dinner.


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