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National: Trump setback, Rosie O'Donnell, Zach Wahls
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-12-26

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A new ruling ( issued Dec. 22 ) dealt another blow to the Trump administration's efforts to bar transgender people from joining the military starting Jan. 1, The Hill reported. The new D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals order came a day after the Virginia-based 4th Circuit similarly rejected the Trump administration's request to block a ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly allowing the enlistment. A panel on a federal circuit court of appeals was asked to stay that order but rejected it. Trump announced over the summer transgender troops would no longer be allowed in the military.

Rosie O'Donnell caused an internet meltdown after she made a tongue-in-cheek offer to pay GOP senators $2 million each to vote against President Trump's tax bill, Newsweek noted. The former View co-host made the proposal to U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Jeff Flake; the bill passed 51-48 on Dec. 20, along party lines. Some irate with the social media post said it violates the law for bribery of a federal official.

Zach Wahls—a writer and vocal advocate of LGBTQ rights who first gained national attention six years ago, when he presented a pro-marriage equality speech to the Iowa House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee—is campaigning for a seat in the Iowa Senate, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Wahls, 26, a Democrat, announced he will seek the seat that Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, will be leaving. Also, Wahls will receive his master's degree in public policy from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in spring 2018.

Pro-LGBT Catholic organization DignityUSA reacted to the open letter titled "Created Male and Female" posted on Dec. 18 on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ( USCCB ). Rejecting the legitimacy of transgender identities as a "false idea," the letter maintains that sex and gender "cannot be separated" and argues that the "movement" to accept transgender people is "deeply troubling," a DignityUSA press release noted. "This is a heinous and immensely damaging letter that we condemn in the strongest terms," stated DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke.

Catholic organizations have announced a new initiative, #CatholicToo, to create a space for women to share their stories about the effects of sexism and misogyny within the Church and to take action to end it, according to a joint press release from the Women's Ordination Conference, FutureChurch and Call to Action. "Telling our stories, telling the truth about women's experience of abuse in the Church," said Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, "is a crucial step that must be undertaken if we are to transform our Church into an institution that reflects and honors the presence of God in all human beings." See CatholicToo.org .

Echoing the high-profile gay wedding-cake case before the U.S. Supreme Court ( Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ), the state of California sued a Bakersfield bakery to stop it from discriminating against same-sex couples, Courthouse News Service noted. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an ex parte application for a temporary restraining order against Cathy's Creations dba Tastries and its owner, Cathy Miller, on behalf of Eileen and Mireya Rodriguez-Del Rio. Kern County Superior Court Judge David Lampe rejected a motion for a restraining order, but set a Feb. 2 hearing for a motion for a preliminary injunction.

A Kentucky Family Court judge who refused to hear adoption cases involving gays and lesbians has been found guilty of misconduct by the state's Judicial Conduct Commission, according to the Courier Journal. The commission issued a public reprimand against W. Mitchell Nance, who announced his intention to resign earlier this year amid the ethics and misconduct inquiry. That resignation was set to become final Dec. 16.

A Texas man who sued over the right to marry his partner in 2013 is running as a Democrat in 2018—and would become the state's first openly gay senator if he won, according to U.S. News & World Report. Mark Phariss said he's encouraged by recent high-profile Democratic upsets in states such as Virginia and Alabama. The Dallas attorney is vying for a seat in the city's northern suburbs that have long been a Republican stronghold. Also running for the same Senate seat is Angela Paxton—the wife of Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

A study suggests that LGBQ teens are more than three times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers, according to Reuters. In a national survey of almost 16,000 youth, about 25 percent of LBGQ teens said they had attempted suicide at least once in the previous year—compared with roughly 6 percent of heterosexual teens, researchers report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Overall, 89 percent of the participants identified themselves as heterosexual in the 2015 survey; another 2 percent identified as gay or lesbian, while 6 percent said they were bisexual and 3.2 percent said they were questioning or unsure about their sexual identity.

Palm Beach County commissioners voted to ban gay conversion therapy for minors—becoming the first county in Florida to do so outright, the Orlando Weekly reported. Citing a lawsuit by members of the Maitland-based Liberty Counsel, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, against the city of Tampa, Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman reportedly recommended that the commission not vote in favor of the proposed ordinance. However, a five-to-two majority in favor of the conversion ban decided otherwise.

Speaking of the Sunshine State, a Florida state representative is trying to introduce a law that would allow for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, SouthFloridaGayNews.com reported. Jay Fant has introduced a bill called the "Free Enterprise Protection Act," which would protect businesses "because it practices freedoms of speech or religion," according to ThinkProgress. Fant said he was inspired to make House Bill 871 by the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission Supreme Court case currently being heard.

The prospect of a lesbian unseating a Republican incumbent in a red-leaning Virginia district now seems unremarkable, according to a Washington Post article. Nurse practitioner Dawn Adams will take her seat as the first openly gay woman to serve in the Virginia General Assembly in a couple weeks. However, she received little national attention after the Nov. 7 Democratic sweep that also saw the ascension of the first transgender, Latina and Asian American women to the legislature. LGBTQ-rights activists say the relatively muted response to Adams' win reflects how rapidly attitudes have changed in Virginia.

The vice chair of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents announced Thursday he would resign after an uproar over a comment on public affairs television that appeared to liken gay people to pedophiles, KRMG reported. Following a two-hour closed-door meeting of the board, Vice Chair Kirk Humphreys said he does not want to be a distraction and announced plans to step down before the start of the spring semester in 2018. Humphries said the board asked him to step down during the private meeting. The LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma had called for Humphreys to resign.

A federal judge sided with Mayor Kasim Reed's decision to fire former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran over a self-published religious book that attacked LGBT people and called for celebrating their deaths, Project Q reported. However, while U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May agreed with the city that Cochran's firing did not violate his Constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and due process, May did rule that the city's policies requiring pre-clearance for outside employment were unconstitutional.

Kentucky same-sex couple Billy Hamilton and Patric Z. Rodriguez of Mayfield claim they were mistreated by Graves County deputies in a February incident that led to Hamilton being charged with harassing communications, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, Advocate.com reported. Amongo other things, the couple, who have been together 28 years, say they don't blame the entire sheriff's department for the treatment they received, but think it's the actions of just a few. Interestingly, Hamilton was an information technology professional with two of The Advocate's former parent companies, LPI Media and PlanetOut.

Missouri high-school football player Jake Bain has come out publicly in a article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Outsports noted. He was Missouri's Class 3 Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, state champ as a junior and team captain as a senior. Now he's headed to Indiana State to play Div. I football for the Sycamores next year.

Steven Crowder, a former Fox News contributor and host of the right-wing podcast Louder with Crowder, went "undercover" to an LGBT community center to expose a conspiracy of transgender people abusing government funds for nefarious purposes, LGBTQ Nation reported. He didn't find that, so he reportedly edited the video to make it look like transgender people are conning Medicaid out of money. In the state of Vermont, only one party has to consent to being recorded; YouTube removed the video at the Pride Center's request, citing privacy concerns.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) announced key national and in-state staff to lead HRC Rising, a grassroots campaign to accelerate progress in states to resist the politics of hate, fight anti-LGBTQ legislation and fuel pro-equality candidates and initiatives, a press release noted. HRC has begun recruiting at least 45 full-time political, field, grassroots organizing, volunteer engagement, communications, and digital staff—and the organization has announced its first 12 staffers.

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who announced plans earlier this month to resign his seat, will leave the Senate on Jan. 2, CNN reported. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will join the Senate the following day. Franken has been accused by multiple women of touching them inappropriately. Franken apologized for some of the accusations but in his resignation speech said that his response to those women's accounts "gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven't done."

Kansas City TV meterologist Gary Lezak thanked the public for its "incredible" support after he came out as gay, the Kansas City Star reported. Although he's been out to colleagues and friends for years, a Facebook post from him was his first public acknowledgment to the people who watch him on Channel 41. Lezak and his partner, Andy Caraway, received overwhelming support in comments and messages following Lezak's announcement.

As 2017 comes to end, gay app Hornet identified the top 10 people, places and things that were the most influential on the LGBTQ community in 2017—but in the worst ways, according to a press release. Among the items and people on the list are Chechnya, ghosting, Kevin Spacey, Caitlyn Jenner and President Donald Trump. The full list is at https://hornetapp.com/stories/tag/worst-2017/.

Former President Obama is appearing in a new public service announcement for the Obama Foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance, which also features Chance the Rapper and NBA star Steph Curry, CBS News reported. "I want you to know, you matter. There is nothing, not a single thing, that's more important to the future of America than whether or not young people all across this country can achieve their dreams," says Obama in the minute-long video clip "We Are the Ones."

The University of Virginia says it will not recognize a conservative club because the organization limits its membership to those who affirm conservative principles, The Washington Times reported. In a letter, lawyers for Young America's Foundation said the university's policy is "unconstitutional" and violates state law. Business Leaders in Christ sued the University of Iowa after the small student ministry was kicked off campus for denying a leadership position to a gay student who did not adhere to the club's scriptural beliefs.


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