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National roundup: Aetna, lesbian vet, Antonio Sabato Jr., Univ. of Iowa
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-01-23

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Hartford, Connecticut-based Aetna Inc. has reached a $17-million settlement in a federal class-action lawsuit filed after thousands of the health insurer's customers had their privacy breached in a mailing that revealed where to purchase HIV medications, The Hartford Courant reported. The lawsuit, filed in August, came a month after Aetna mailed a notice in envelopes with large, clear windows that revealed the recipients were prescribed HIV medications. If the courts approve the proposed settlement, all members of the class-action will receive $75 or at least $500 to those who received the mailing.

An appointee of President Trump has resigned from the federal agency that runs AmeriCorps and other service programs after remarks he made disparaging blacks, Muslims, gay people, women, veterans with PTSD and undocumented immigrants surfaced in the news media, The Washington Post reported. Carl Higbie lasted less than six months as the chief of external affairs in the Corporation for National and Community Service. According to the reporting and audio clips published by CNN, Higbie had a lengthy track record of making strongly racist and anti-Muslim statements before his appointment.

A 90-year-old lesbian veteran of the Air Force has finally been granted an honorable discharge after getting kicked out in 1955 during the "Lavender Scare," LGBT Nation reported. Helen Grace James received the news via a FedEx delivery on Jan. 17, notifying her of her status upgrade to "honorable," NBC noted. James sued the Air Force to gain the distinction, after being dismissed as "undesirable" because she was suspected of being gay.

One-time heartthrob actor Antonio Sabato Jr. has put his hat in the race in the run for Congress to represent part of Southern California, SDGLN.com noted. The 45-year-old conservative was an early supporter of Donald Trump and will run as Republican, but some in the GOP are calling for his disqualification due to some roles he's played in the past. Republicans who are also running for the spot have discovered the soap star once appeared nude and simulated gay sex in one of his movies and, therefore, want him disqualified.

A legal battle involving the University of Iowa is pitting LGBT rights against religious freedom, NBC News reported. Business Leaders in Christ ( BLinC ) is suing the public university for religious discrimination after it revoked the group's campus registration in November for denying a leadership position to a gay student. The group says its membership is open to everyone but says its leaders must affirm a statement of faith that rejects homosexuality. The University of Iowa, which did not respond to NBC News' request for comment, issued a statement asserting it "does not tolerate discrimination of any kind in accordance with federal and state law."

The Washington Senate has passed a bill seeking to ban therapists from trying to change a minor's sexual orientation, aka conversion therapy, according to a U.S. News & World Report item. The measure would deem it "unprofessional conduct" for a licensed health care provider to perform conversion therapy on a patient under 18. The Senate also passed a bill meant to address transgender bullying in schools.; under Senate Bill 5766, school districts must adopt or amend transgender student policies and procedures as well as develop a mandatory training class.

The Alabama Senate has voted to do away with marriage licenses, LGBT Nation reported. The bill removes the need for a license and a ceremony to solemnize the marriage. Instead probate judges—some of whom have refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples—could accept affidavits from couples as official records of marriage. The bill's Republican sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, has proposed similar bills in the past, none of which made it into law.

An anti-same-sex-marriage bill is now back in the Tennessee General Assembly, Fox17.com noted. The "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act" would proclaim that the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage doesn't apply in Tennessee, and government leaders don't have to abide by it. State Rep. Ryan Williams ( R-Cookeville ) is the sponsor.

Two LGBT journalists have won awards for their states' sportswriters of the year, Outsports noted. the National Sports Media Association ( NSMA ) named the Chicago Tribune's Chris Hine as the Illinois Sportwriter of the Year, while The Seattle Times reporter Stefanie Loh received the NSMA's Washington Sportswriter of the Year. The 2018 Hall of Fame inductees are Thomas Boswell, Woody Durham, Bryant Gumbel and Dick Weiss, while the 2018 national sportswriter of the year is Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Yahoo.

A group of Pennsylvania lawmakers is objecting to a bureaucratic change that replaced the terms "mother" and "father" with "parent," demanding that the state Department of Health immediately reverse its actions and maintain the old forms with gender-specific references, according to a Metro Weekly item that cites FOX43. Twenty-seven Republican members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, led by House State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe ( R-Butler ), signed onto a letter sent to Gov. Tom Wolf, arguing that the change is unlawful. Equality Pennsylvania's political action arm responded to the letter with a fundraising appeal to supporters, writing, "We ... know that families with two moms and two dads deserve equal recognition under the law. Equality PA PAC is working in 2018 to unseat as many of these anti-equality representatives as possible."

A gay couple is suing a printing company for sending them pamphlets about weakness of the flesh and "temptation" instead of the colorful customized wedding programs they ordered, according to the New York Daily News. On the eve of their wedding day, Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg—an Australian couple who were married last year in Pennsylvania—opened a package from Vistaprint and were horrified to find 80 copies of a pamphlet entitled, "Understanding Temptation: Fight the good fight of the faith." They said the pamphlets were discriminatory, and intended to intimidate them because of their sexual orientation.

The FBI is investigating after two banners were hung outside of the Unitarian Universalist Church in West Lafayette, Indiana, that seem to warn of a planned terrorist attack on Jan. 23, LGBTQ Nation reported. The two racist and anti-gay banners were posted after the church hosted a "Resistance Fair" the previous day. One banner read "Die Fucker Janury [sic] 23" and referred to the cities of Orlando and Las Vegas, while the other targeted singer Jackson Browne for his opposition to Trump and included a list of racial and anti-gay slurs after the singer's name.

San Francisco-based newspaper Bay Area Reporter ( BAR ) has a new owner, Michael Yamashita, Press Pass Q noted. Yamashita has been the publisher of the paper since 2013, and has served as the paper's general manager. Yamashita is now the first gay Asian-American publisher and owner of an LGBT newspaper.

The Gill Foundation announced that Eliza Byard has been appointed to the foundation's board of directors, LGBT Weekly reported. The Gill Foundation is one of the nation's leading funders of efforts to secure LGBTQ equality. Byard is the executive director of GLSEN, where she has been instrumental in creating safer schools for LGBTQ students.

Adam Rippon—an openly gay figure skater who will compete for the United States in the Winter Olympics next month—ripped the choice of Vice President Mike Pence to lead the American delegation to South Korea, citing what he says is Pence's stance on gay conversion therapy, The Salt Lake Tribune noted. Rippon, 28, added he would prefer not to meet the vice president, which is traditional, before the opening ceremonies. "The accusation is totally false with no basis in fact," Alyssa Farah, Pence's press secretary, stated, according to NBC News. "But despite these misinformed claims, the Vice President will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang."

Head & Shoulders announced that U.S. freeskier Gus Kenworthy is kicking off the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 as its newest ambassador, Business Wire reported. As the first openly gay action sports athlete, Kenworthy will be featured within the brand's "Shoulders of Greatness" campaign, which highlights all of the things people carry on their shoulders—pride, pressure, expectations—and how that motivates them to overcome any challenges and focus on achieving greatness.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation ( HRC ) announced LGBTQ advocates and allies who will be special guests and speakers at the organization's annual Time to THRIVE Conference on Feb. 16-18 at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek in Orlando, per a press release. They include HRC Youth Ambassador and author of I Am Jazz Jazz Jennings; Raikes Foundation co-founder Tricia Raikes; Rhode Island Teacher of the Year Nikos Giannopoulos; non-binary advocate Jacob Tobia; and HRC HIV 360 Fellow Daniel Downer. HRC's Parents for Transgender Equality Council, HRC's Youth Ambassadors and HRC's Welcoming Schools Program will also be featured at the conference.

New Yorker Rob Smith has launched The Phluid Project, a lifestyle brand he describes as "part fashion, part art, part community space, part conversation, part exploration and completely gender-free," according to Towleroad. The company plans to open its first store in New York City on March 1.

Wichita, Kansas-based Newman University has called off a scheduled art exhibit called "Rainbow in Reverse: Queer Kansas History," according to an Inside Higher Ed article that cites The Wichita Eagle. Some Roman Catholic leaders criticized the university for agreeing to the exhibit. A statement from the university cited "community concerns" and said that officials were concerned about "some confusion regarding the purpose and content of this particular exhibit."

The Smithsonian Channel will explore the life and death of a civil-rights icon with The Lost Tapes: Malcolm X, which will premiere Monday, Feb. 26, according to a press release. "The Lost Tapes" relives the pivotal years of this activist using rarely seen footage and audio tapes, including never-before-seen footage of Nation of Islam rallies and recordings made at the Audubon Ballroom on the day of his assassination. Previous installments of "The Lost Tapes" have included Pearl Harbor, the L.A. Riots, the Son of Sam and Patty Hearst.


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