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National roundup 2019, highlights and lowlights

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In the last Windy City Times print issue, the publication covered 10 of the most important LGBTQ events that happened nationally in 2019. However, media outlets reported a lot more that occurred, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

—Turning 50: Cities around the country marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion at New York's famed gay nightclub.

—Death in Colorado: Alana Chen—a 24-year-old woman who shared her story to The Denver Post about undergoing conversion therapy through the Catholic Church after coming out to a priest—was found dead. Chen said earlier in 2019 she hoped to educate readers about the harm the therapy caused her. Authorities said Chen's death was "not considered to be suspicious."

—Sad trend: Continuing a sad trend, at least two dozen transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means in 2019—and, again, the vast majority were people of color.

—Pivotal: The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases of workers that were fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The implications of the impending rulings could have a monumental effect on the national landscape regarding LGBTQs and employment.

—Seeing the light: Lori Lightfoot made national headlines as the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Chicago—the largest U.S. city to date to have such a leader.

—Just Jussie: Out gay actor Jussie Smollett also made national news by claiming to be the victim of a hate-based attack on Jan. 29. However, by the time the year ended, it was alleged that he orchestrated the incident; then, the charges were dismissed. At this point, the city is pursuing repayment of more than $130,000 spent on the investigation—and Smollett has countersued.

—Military ban: In April, President Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military took effect. ( People in the military who came out as transgender between 2016 and the date the ban took effect can remain in the forces under a grandfather clause. )

—Hey, Wisconsin: An insurance exclusion for transgender surgery for Wisconsin state employees was removed. In August 2018, the state's Group Insurance Board reversed itself to vote in favor of hormone and gender-surgery coverage for state employees.

—Drag legend dies: Hector Xtravaganza, a pioneering figure in New York City's ball culture world, died at age 60. Xtravaganza, a founding member of the House of Xtravaganza, was among those featured in the groundbreaking 1990 ball-culture documentary Paris is Burning.

—New York, New York: On Jan. 15, the New York legislature passed two pro-LGBTQ bills—the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act ( GENDA ) and a law banning so-called "conversion therapy."

—Stalled: The nomination of lesbian attorney Chai Feldblum for a third term on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission died in the Senate when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ( R-Kentucky ) declined to allow a vote to break a hold placed on the nomination by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee ( R-Utah ).

—The Buck stops here: Forty-one LGBTQ and allied organizations released a statement to demand a thorough investigation by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office of the second death of a Black man at the West Hollywood home of Ed Buck, a prominent LGBTQ political donor/activist, within two years.

—Goodbye, Dolly: Broadway legend Carol Channing—known for her signature lead role in the Jerry Herman musical Hello, Dolly! and who continued performing into her 90s—died of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, California, at age 97.

—Herman dies: Speaking of Hello, Dolly!, Jerry Herman—who was behind that musical as well as Mame and La Cage aux Folles—died at age 88.

—Texas first: For the first time in Texas history, the state legislature had an LGBT Caucus. State Rep. Mary Gonzalez—a four-term representative who identifies as pansexual and is the dean of the delegation—filed paperwork to create the caucus.

—Siperstein dies: Barbra "Babs" Siperstein—the first openly transgender member of the Democratic National Committee—died at 76. She served on the DNC's Executive Committee from 2011 to 2017.

—The Pete goes on: South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced Jan. 23 that he was in the early stages of a presidential run, forming an exploratory committee that would investigate the viability of such a bid. Now, he has made history as the first openly gay Democratic presidential candidate.

—Front end: Best-selling novelist Patricia Nell Warren died at 82. Warren's 1974 novel, The Front Runner, told the story of an affair between a closeted coach and his out star athlete. LGBTQ running groups all over the nation are named Front Runners after the book.

—Who is John Presloid?: Openly gay research assistant John Presloid opened eyes when he appeared on the game show Jeopardy!—and won $94,200 in five appearances.

—Net loss: Pro-LGBTQ organization Athlete Ally dropped lesbian tennis icon Martina Navratilova from its advisory board after the 18-time Grand Slam champion wrote an op-ed in London's Sunday Times. Navratilova criticized the rules regarding transgender women in athletics in her op-ed and called their participation in female events "cheating and unfair."

—I love a parade: Despite its longtime reputation as an LGBTQ enclave, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just hosted its first-ever gay Pride Parade last year, on Feb. 23. More than 100,000 people attended.

—Denied: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Phyllis Young—who runs the three-room Aloha Bed & Breakfast in Honolulu—who turned away a lesbian couple due to her Christian beliefs. A state court ruled that Young violated Hawaii's public-accommodation law—which, among other things, bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation—when she would not allow Diane Cervilli and Taeko Bufford to reside at the B&B in 2007.

—Filmmaker passes: Pioneering experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer—whose works involved a distinctive lesbian perspective—died of ovarian cancer at age 79.

—Jail time: Transgender ex-Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning once again found herself in jail—this time for refusing to testify about her disclosure of military and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks in 2010.

—A tale of numbers: The third annual LGBT Real Estate Report found that housing discrimination—and the fear of it—continues to have a profound impact on LGBT homeownership levels that are currently at 49 percent, far below the national average of 65 percent.

—Grilled chicken: Newly released tax documents showed that Chick-fil-A was still giving money to anti-LGBTQ organizations—years after promising to stop. However, conservative groups also railed against the fast-food chain once it was discovered that it also donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

—The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Charles Rhines, a gay man on death row who said anti-gay bias motivated his jury's decision to give him the death penalty. According to the appeal, some jurors said that, because the man was gay, a life sentence in prison with other men would not be a punishment. Rhines was later executed.

—Take me to church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( also known as Mormons ) said it would allow children of LGBTQ parents to be baptized and blessed in the church. The church will also update its handbook to no longer categorize same-sex marriage as an act of abandonment of the church and its values.

—No therapy: Conversion therapy was banned in several states last year, including New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado and Maine.

—The spirit of giving: Organizers behind Give OUT Day—the only national day of giving for the LGBTQ community—announced that the campaign raised in excess of $1.1 million for more than 475 participating nonprofits.

—Get out the vote: In Tampa, Florida, Jane Castor easily beat her opponent in the mayoral runoff and became the first openly LGBTQ person elected mayor of a top 100 city in the Southeastern United States.

—Mass exodus: Most of the staff of the National Center for Transgender Equality ( NCTE ) departed. Leaders offered buyout packages to all staff in a four-and-half-hour meeting last week, sources said. The offer came after staffers wrote a letter demanding that Executive Director Mara Keisling and Deputy Executive Director Lisa Mottet resign within 18 months, citing a racial divide between NCTE and leaders within trans people of color.

—Introduction: Sen. Edward Markey ( D-Massachusetts ) and Congressman Joe Kennedy III ( D-Massachusetts ) introduced the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act, which would ban the use of the gay and trans "panic" defenses.

—Rapinoe's run: Out lesbian activist/soccer player Megan Rapinoe had a year that was nothing short of amazing. Not only did she lead the U.S. women's national team to a World Cup win, but Sports Illustrated magazine named her its Sportswoman of the Year—and she even parlayed her exposure into a TV appearance on The L Word: Generation Q.

—Arrest: Oregon authorities arrested a man in connection with the death of gay actor Dennis Day, an original member of Disney's The Mickey Mouse Club. The former Disney star was 76 when his husband, Ernie Caswell, first reported him missing in 2018.

—Amazon action: Amazon took down several gay-conversion books after sustained pressure from activists The books were written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a vocal proponent of so-called gay conversion therapy who died in 2017.

—Keeping it brief: The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Transgender Law Center filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court highlighting the stories of more than 30 transgender people who have experienced discrimination in the workplace for being transgender. In the brief, civil rights attorneys argued that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is a form of sex discrimination and is thus illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

—Under pressure: After a week of protests in Puerto Rico's capital city, San Juan, Gov. Ricardo Rossello resigned. There were group messages between him and his inner circle that included homophobic and misogynistic language as well as jokes about Hurricane Maria victims.

—Plans thwarted: Las Vegas resident Conor Climo, a man who authorities say worked as a security guard, was arrested and accused of plotting to firebomb a Las Vegas synagogue or a LGBTQ-centered nightclub/bar.

—Beloved: Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison died at 88. Morrison was the first Black woman to receive the Nobel literature prize, awarded in 1993. Her novel Beloved—in which a mother, Margaret, makes a tragic choice to murder her baby to save the girl from slavery—won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.

—Cabin departure: Jerri Ann Henry—the first woman executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans—resigned following the group's controversial endorsement of President Donald Trump for the 2020 election.

—Space case: Anne McClain, a former U.S. Army pilot who flew more than 800 combat hours during Operation Iraqi Freedom before joining NASA in 2013, was accused of identity theft and improper access to estranged spouse Summer Worden's private financial records—while aboard the International Space Station.

—Ben there, done that: Housing and Urban Development ( HUD ) Secretary Ben Carson made dismissive comments in a recent internal meeting that multiple people present interpreted as an attack on transgender people.

—Landmark: The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project noted that the James Baldwin Residence, located at 137 W. 71st St., was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

—Anti-LGBTQ ruling: On Sept. 16, the Arizona Supreme Court narrowly ruled that the owners of Phoenix's Brush & Nib Studio do not have to create invitations for same-sex marriages.

—Pro-trans ruling: A California appeals court approved a lawsuit filed by a transgender man who claimed staff at a Catholic hospital violated his civil rights by refusing to allow him to undergo a medical procedure as part of his transition.

—It's a wrap: In a sudden move on Oct. 11, Shepard Smith said that after more than two decades at Fox News, he was stepping down as chief news anchor and leaving the network. In 2017, Smith came out as gay.

—Over the Hill: U.S. Rep. Katie Hill, D-California, announced her resignation from Congress days after she admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer before coming into office. News of Hill's resignation came after the House Committee on Ethics announced it was opening an investigation into allegations Hill ( who identifies as bisexual ) engaged in an improper relationship with a congressional staffer in possible violation of House rules. Also, a conservative blog released intimate photos of Hill, alleging she and her husband had a separate relationship with an unnamed female campaign staffer.

—Shakeup: Phillip Picardi and Zach Stafford, the respective editors-in-chief of Out magazine and The Advocate—two LGBTQ brands owned by Pride Media—announced Dec. 11 that they were leaving their posts. On Dec. 31, Nico Lang, the deputy editor of Out magazine, left the position as well.

—Cartoonist dies: Howard Cruse—a pioneer in the LGBTQ cartooning movement and the author of Stuck Rubber Baby, a 1995 award-winning graphic novel about the intersection of race and sexuality in the South—died Nov. 26 at age 75.

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