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National: Conversion therapy in N.Y.; church takeover; Tyler Clementi
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-02-09

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York is taking steps to stop conversion therapy for minors, according to USA Today. The Democratic governor's move comes as LGBT-rights advocates have campaigned state by state with mixed results to try to ban a practice that major mental-health organizations have repudiated. "Conversion therapy is a hateful and fundamentally flawed practice" that punishes people "for simply being who they are," Cuomo said in a statement.

Fewer than two weeks after the ATLAH church—home of virulently anti-LGBT Rev. James David Manning—announced it had been foreclosed and was being put up for auction, the Ali Forney Center launched the #harlemnohate campaign and has raised $200,000 as an initial goal toward buying the building to provide housing for LGBT homeless youth in Harlem, according to a press release. "It has been an extraordinary two weeks," said Carl Siciliano, executive director and founder of the Ali Forney Center. "We have been overwhelmed with support and encouragement and now have the opportunity to turn a place that has promoted hatred and violence into a safe space for LGBT homeless youth." More info is at HarlemNoHate.org .

Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi—convicted of using a webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi, a gay roommate who later killed himself in 2010—likely will have to wait a few months to find out whether a state appeals will order his 30-day jail sentence invalidated or lengthened or will send him back for a new trial, NBC Philadelphia reported. Ravi secretly broadcast online images of roommate Tyler Clementi in an intimate encounter with another man, and Clementi, a freshman in his first weeks at Rutgers, later jumped off the George Washington Bridge to his death. A three-judge panel will rule in the next three or four months about Ravi's fate.

In an interview with Playboy, lesbian pundit Rachel Maddow weighed in on a variety of political topics. When asked, as a liberal, if she still feels hope, Maddow responded, in part, "I'm a liberal, but the thing that interests me most in American politics is center-right to far-right politics, because ( a ) it's a laugh a minute and ( b ) there's no stasis. There's no solid core moving forward. You never know who's going to come along." Other topics included Donald Trump and what it would mean to have a woman president.

While Donald Trump told Fox News Sunday that he disagrees with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality and would appoint justices willing to overturn the decision, he was singing a different tune in New Hampshire when questioned by a lesbian journalist, LGBTQ Nation reported. In an interview with Bay Windows publisher Sue O'Connell—who identified herself as a lesbian—Trump said he would not stand in the way of growing LGBT acceptance: "We're going to bring people together, and thats your thing and other people have their thing. We have to bring all people together and if we don't we're not going to have a country anymore." Trump has been mostly silent on LGBT issues, but has previously indicated support for nondiscrimination laws.

Common Pleas Judge Steven O'Neill refused to throw out the sexual-assault case lesbian Andrea Costand filed against Bill Cosby, NBC Philadelphia reported. In another setback for the defense, the judge also denied a request to disqualify newly elected District Attorney Kevin Steele from the case. Cosby, 78, was arrested in December and charged with drugging and violating former Temple University athletic department employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. The TV star could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

A South Dakota lawmaker said transgender people are "twisted" and need psychological help, ArgusLeader.com reported. State Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, told constituents that he planned to vote for a bill that would bar transgender students from using bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities of the gender with which they identify if they don't correspond with their biological sex. "I'm sorry if you're so twisted you don't even know who you are," Omdahl said of transgender individuals.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio ( R-Fla. ), on Feb. 8, faced tough questions from a New Hampshire voter over his stance on same-sex marriage, The Huffington Post reported. Timothy Kierstead, who is gay, confronted the 2016 Republican presidential hopeful at a campaign stop in Manchester, asking him, "Why do you want to put me back in the closet?" Rubio responded that he only believed in heterosexual marriage, adding, "I think that's what the law should be. And if you disagree you should have the law changed by a legislature." When Kierstead reminded Rubio that the Supreme Court last year legalized gay marriage nationwide, Rubio ended the conversation.

GayRVA—a gay news website in Richmond, Virginia—was tipped off by a local college student that a member of the GOP from southwestern Virginia was using Grindr in search of a hookup, Metro Weekly noted. The site posted screenshots of the lawmaker's conversation with the student, with GayRVA editor Brad Kutner posting an open letter to the lawmaker criticizing him for past votes on LGBT issues. Kutner decided not to reveal the lawmaker's identity, remarking in an editor's note that outing someone can seem "tacky or vengeful."

Denise Juneau—the first Native American woman to win a statewide elective office in the country—is now the first openly gay candidate in Montana for a statewide office, according to a Great Falls Tribune item. She is running for the lone House of Representatives seat against GOP incumbent Ryan Zinke. "Lola and I wish her and her partner all the best," Zinke emailed. "It's important to have somebody strong and loving by your side during campaigns."

During an interview with New Republic, feminist icon Gloria Steinem saidyoung women support presidential candidate Bernie Sanders because they want attention from men, The New Republic reported. Maher then joked that he wouldn't be allowed to say such a thing because chalking young women's politics up to their desire to meet boys actually is a profoundly sexist thing to do. Steinem once declared Sanders an "honorary woman" to endorse him in a 1996 race against a Republican woman. Steinem has since apologized.

A Bucks County, Pennsylvania, woman convicted of misdemeanor charges in a 2014 beating of a gay couple in Center City learned her fate, NBCPhiladelphia.com reported. Kathryn Knott, 25, was sentenced to five to ten months in jail for her role in the attack. Knott is the only defendant of three arrested in the assault who did not take a plea deal. Two men also arrested in the attack, Philip Williams and Kevin Harrigan, both pleaded guilty to assault and conspiracy charges and are serving probation and community service.

A pastor convicted of helping a Virginia woman flee the country rather than share custody of her daughter with her former Vermont same-sex partner has been ordered to federal prison after a court rejected an appeal of his 2012 conviction, the Associated Press reported. U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions III ordered Mennonite pastor Kenneth Miller to report on March 22 to begin serving a 27-month sentence for his conviction of aiding in international kidnapping.

In Florida, the Palm Bay City Council has rejected an ordinance that would have protected LGBT individuals from discrimination, the Associated Press noted. Mayor William Capote and three councilmembers voted against the measure following a six-and-a-half-hour meeting. Councilmember Michele Paccione voted in favor of the proposal, saying she has friends who've been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Also in Florida, three teenage boys have been arrested and charged with kidnapping an adult Grindr user at gunpoint and robbing him, according to LGBTQ Nation. The teens used the gay meetup app in order to find their mark—a 31-year-old victim from West Palm Beach. The suspects are being held at Boynton Beach's Juvenile Assessment Center.

A Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) report says that a patchwork of state and local non-discrimination laws continues to leave millions of LGBT people—including those who are legally married—without reliable protections from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. HRC's State Equality Index, issued in partnership with the Equality Federation, also reveals that, in many states, opponents of equality are stepping up efforts to sanction discrimination against LGBT people by proposing state-level laws that would undermine existing protections, erode marital rights of legally joined same-sex couples, target transgender people, and limit the ability of cities and towns to pass their own inclusive laws. The index is at http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/state-equality-index.

The top Army and Marine Corps generals told senators that it will take up to three years to fully integrate women into all combat jobs, adding that women also should have to register for the draft, The New York Daily News reported. The military service leaders repeatedly vowed that they will not lower standards to bring women into the more grueling jobs. However, they warned that inherent physical differences and different injury rates between men and women will have an impact on how the integration moves ahead.

The National LGBTQ Task Force has launched an income-tax preparation guide for LGBTQ people, according to a press release. The new publication is part of the organization's "Queer Our Taxes" effort, a public-education and advocacy campaign focused on securing economic justice for LGBTQ people. To learn more about Queer our Taxes, and to download the new taxpayer guide, visit queerourtaxes.org .

Recent updates from a long-running CDC study show meth use among gay men in NYC has doubled since 2011, LGBTQ Nation reported. Meth use among the men in NYC surveyed dropped from 13.8 percent to 5.8 percent from 2004-2008, and down even further, to 4.3 percent, by 2011. However, the use more than doubled from 2011-2014, up to 9.2 percent.

Republicans in the Georgia Senate reportedly engaged in legislative trickery recently, holding a hearing on one of the most anti-gay bills in the legislature with little notice and then adjourning just minutes after it started, according to Project Q. No action was taken on Senate Bill 284—dubbed the First Amendment Defense Act of Georgia by sponsor Sen. Greg Kirk—but the hearing caught opponents by surprise. The bill would allow religious organizations and businesses to opt out of serving same-sex couples and non-discrimination ordinances in 60 jurisdictions around the state. The legislation would also allow religious organizations involved in adoptions to discriminate against LGBT couples.

Hawaii is the latest state to try to ban gay conversion therapy for minors, KHON2.com reported. If it becomes law, House Bill 1675 or Senate Bill 2615 would make it illegal for teachers to try to change someone's sexual orientation. Several states—like Illinois, California and Oregon—have passed similar laws. Opponents of the bill claim it's flawed.

Giant Food Stores Co. recently replied to an antibias complaint filed by trans man Sam Melrath by denying most of the allegations in his complaint, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Between 2011-13, Melrath worked as a bagger at a Giant store, but he claims his employment became intolerable because management continually pressured him to appear as a female. In an 11-page reply brief filed Jan. 29, Giant denied any wrongdoing in the matter. A pre-trial conference is set for Feb. 18 in the chambers of U.S. District Judge J. William Ditter at the U.S. Court House in Center City.

In response to a story from The New Civil Rights Movement, the Michigan House will remove language from a bill that reaffirms the state's unconstitutional sodomy ban, according to Equality Michigan. The language, which states sodomy is illegal, was kept intact in a bill designed to protect animals against abuse. The Michigan Senate passed a bill reaffirming the unconstitutional state ban on anal sex, Gay Star News noted. SB 219, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, would make anal and oral sex felonies punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

Former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli refused to testify before a congressional committee investigating drug price hikes, CNBC reported. He cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination over and over again as members sought to ask him about his company's dramatic increase of the price of its medication ( namely, Daraprim ) by more than 5,500 percent. ABC News added that Shkreli later tweeted, "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."

A national program that provides free name-change services to low-income trans people is expanding its services in Philadelphia, noted Philadelphia Gay News. The program, known as The Name Change Project, is run by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund ( TLDEF ), based in New York City. Michael D. Silverman, founder of TLDEF, said he's "thrilled" with the expansion in Philadelphia.

With a new home line, Target is continuing its evolution into a more gender-neutral store, according to an OregonLive.com item that cites the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune. The home-decor line, called Pillowfort, will debut later this month, replacing Target's longtime house brand, Circo. This move by Target follows its decision in August to remove the "boys" and "girls" signs in its toy and bedding departments.

Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown threw his support behind Republican Donald Trump for president, Wall Street Journal noted. rown said he doesn't take endorsing lightly, but decided to back the celebrity television personality because he was the one candidate who "has actually been a change agent."


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