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National roundup: Cakeshop case, another trans murder, LGBTQ gun club
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-10-31

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Lawyers advocating for the gay couple who insist they should be able to purchase a wedding cake from a baker under Colorado law—regardless of religious objections—filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, according to The Washington Blade. In the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, a pair of opening briefs was submitted by Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which argues the court should uphold lower court decisions for Colorado's Anti-Discrimination Law, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the same-sex couple in the lawsuit, Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

In a related matter, some tech companies have signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a same-sex couple in the case of the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for said couple ( Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ), TechCrunch.com noted. TechCrunch has confirmed that the list includes Apple, Yelp, PayPal, Salesforce and Affirm. The brief is being circulated by the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), which expects more companies to be announced this week. Earlier this year at least 54 tech companies mobilized in support of Gavin Grimm, the transgender Virginia high school student who alleged that his school board violated Title IX when it did not allow him to use the boy's restroom.

The friends of Corpus Christi, Texas, transgender woman Stephanie Montez were left aghast as their search for her revealed that the sheriff had identified her as a "man in a dress" in a police report, PlanetTransgender.com noted. PFLAG Corpus Christi will be hosting a Trans Rights Rally on Nov. 4 to bring attention to the murder of Montez and the lack of LGBT protections in their city and state. In Texas, gender identity isn't covered under hate-crime law—and, in Corpus Christi, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is included in anti-bias statutes.

In upstate New York, LGBTQ people are taking up arms in fear of the rising tide of right-wing violence, according to the founder of the Trigger Warning Queer and Trans Gun Club in Rochester, Towleroad noted, citing WHAM.com . Jake Allen said, "Queer and trans people are often depicted as weak and defenseless. One of the biggest things was that I'm fearful of the rise in violence coming from the far right." Allen added that there is another Trigger Warning chapter in Atlanta and that he has received inquiries from people in about 10 other cities, Democrat & Chronicle reported.

In Virginia, an unidentified trans woman was recently denied entrance into the theme park Busch Gardens, GayRVA.com reported. The security guard refused to allow the woman and her girlfriend, Bria Gibson, to enter the park, on the basis that the woman was "wearing a costume." After Gibson exchanged the shorts she was wearing for her girlfriend's skirt, the two were then allowed to enter. Busch Gardens PR stated, "We welcome transgender guests in our parks. ... Unfortunately, we misapplied the park's policy of not allowing costumes in the park. We will take steps to evaluate future application of this policy."

Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on behalf of William "Liam" Pierce, after the Iberia Parish sheriff's office rescinded a job offer as a sheriff's deputy because he is HIV-positive, according to a Lambda Legal press release. Kenneth D. Upton Jr.—senior counsel at Lambda Legal—said, "Hiring should be based on a candidate's qualifications to do the job, not unfounded fears about HIV. This is illegal discrimination, plain and simple." The complaint is at https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/la_pierce_20171024_complaint.

OutServe-SLDN and the Military Partners and Families Coalition ( MPFC ), an advocacy and outreach organization for LGBT military families, are joining forces, according to a press release. The existing operations of MPFC will be incorporated into OutServe-SLDN, creating the nation's largest organization focused on the support of the LGBT military community including service members, veterans and military families. MPFC was formed in 2011 by military partners and family members who facilitated implementation of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ( DADT ); Service Members Legal Defense Network ( SLDN ) was founded in 1993 in direct response to the policy of DADT, and has offered direct legal services to LGBT members of the armed forces, reservists, and veterans.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos joined activist/athlete Billie Jean King, multi-platinum selling band DNCE, Gold Star father Khizr Khan and more at Human Rights Campaign's ( HRC's ) 21st annual HRC National Dinner, a press release noted. Bezos and two-time Emmy Award-winning actress Uzo Aduba were honored and U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris spoke at the event.

A Kentucky Family Court judge who refuses to hear adoption cases involving gays and lesbians will resign amid an ethics and misconduct inquiry, USA Today reported. Judge W. Mitchell Nance submitted a letter of resignation to Gov. Matt Bevin, saying he will retire Dec. 16. In April, Nance drew national attention when he said he would no longer hear adoption cases involving "homosexual parties" because he believes allowing a gay person to adopt could never be in the child's best interest.

In Florida, two men have been arrested in the 2016 death of a Tampa drag queen, Fox13.com reported. Haines City police and the State Attorney's Office have charged Re'shaunte Anglin, 18, and Ray Leon Walker, 22 in the shooting death of 32-year-old Shavon Shawn ( stage name: Mercedes Successful ). Anglin was already serving a sentence in Polk County Jail for battery on a detention officer, attempted robbery and escape, after he attacked a Juvenile Assessment Center employee and fled. Walker was also serving a sentence in Polk County Jail on separate charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and violating probation.

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, in a tight re-election bid, angrily responded when asked he should have recused himself from a recent city planning board decision involving the Flagship Resort, a donor to his campaign, Philly.com reported. Guardian, a gay Republican, was on a radio-talk show when he received the call from Mark Padula, the former Republican Committee chair in Atlantic City who once supported Guardian. "You want to take me out for being mayor, but I'm the best mayor and you're a bigot, Mark," Guardian said. "That's why you have a 4-foot-by-8-foot sign in your yard with myself and my partner, John Schultz, and Gary Hill, because you want to tell people that I'm gay. ... Do you hate gay people, Mark?" Guardian faces Democratic Councilman Frank Gilliam on Nov. 7.

Gay rights have emerged as a contentious issue in the Raleigh, North Carolina, mayoral race, creating some of the most heated rhetoric of the contest to date, IndyWeek.com reported. Incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Democratic challenger Charles Francis both refer to themselves as strong supporters of LGBTQ rights and people—but both have faced criticism of their records on the issue. Equality NC's political action committee rescinded its endorsement of Francis, whom the group had co-endorsed along with McFarlane. Recently, the Human Rights Campaign gave Raliegh ( under McFarlane's leadership ) a score of 60 ( out of 100 ) in its municipal index. The Democratic runoff between McFarlane and Francis will take place Nov. 7.

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund ( TLDEF ) is joining forces with Lambda Legal to collaborate on one of TLDEF's signature programs, the Name Change Project, a press release noted. The Project provides free legal name-change services to low-income transgender people through partnerships with some of the nation's most prestigious law firms and corporate law departments. TLDEF will continue to run its program in New York City, while Lambda Legal will work with TLDEF to continue developing the initiative in Atlanta and throughout Georgia.

The Freedom for All Americans ( FFAA ) and Freedom for All Americans Education Fund ( FFAA EF ) boards of directors have selected Masen Davis to serve as the organization's new CEO, a press release noted. Davis is a strategist and national leader who has spent the last two decades working to advance LGBTQ equality, including in his leadership roles as executive director of the Transgender Law Center and co-director of Global Action for Trans* Equality.

Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer announced she is running for the state Senate, The Washington Blade reported. "I am running to serve my district, my county and state in Annapolis because I believe I can contribute constructively to make Maryland a place that will attract a new generation, with ideas to propel us into national leadership, for the next generation economy," she wrote in her Huffington Post blog. Beyer would be the first openly transgender person elected to the General Assembly if she wins her race.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) announced its opposition to Donald Trump's nomination of Scott Garrett as president of the Export-Import Bank, a press release noted. According to the release, "Garrett is the second Trump-Pence nominee with a significant anti-LGBTQ record shamelessly chosen to replace an openly LGBTQ public servant." In 2015, Garrett pushed for the exclusion of openly LGBTQ candidates and refused to support the National Republican Congressional Committee because it "actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries."

A Pennsylvania Senate committee has added an anti-transgender amendment to a bill aimed at renewing the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, through 2019, Metro Weekly reported. If the bill is not approved by Dec. 31, the entire CHIP program will lapse. As a result, lawmakers in the Keystone State may be forced to approve a ban on providing health care for transgender youth in order to salvage the program for an estimated 176,000 children whose parents make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase private insurance.

A Missouri LGBT-rights organization hailed a ruling from a state appeals court that validated claims of workplace discrimination against an openly gay Missourian, the Springfield News-Leader reported. A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District found in favor of Harold Lampley, a gay man who claims his employer—a division of Missouri government—discriminated against him "because his behavior and appearance contradicted the stereotypes of maleness held by his employer and managers." PROMO, a Missouri organization advocating on behalf of LGBT people, called the ruling "a huge historic step forward."

Republican Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore once argued that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage was "even worse" than its ruling in the 19th-century Dred Scott case, which found that African-Americans were not citizens and, therefore, property, The Hill reported. The podcast was produced by the Christian Emergency League, which describes itself as a group of pastors and theologians. It was uploaded by liberal super PAC American Bridge and first reported by Talking Points Memo.

Maryland authorities say former school employee Carlos Deangelo Bell, 30, who was arrested three months ago for allegedly sexually abusing 10 of his male students, may have victimized up to 42 underage boys—and even intentionally transmitted the HIV virus to some of them, according to People.com . Five of the 206 new charges accuse Bell of attempting to transfer the HIV virus to some of his victims; the indictment also says none of the alleged victims tested positive. Bell had worked as an indoor track coach at Maurice J. McDonough High School in Pomfret and La Plata High School in La Plata.

Condemning the nastiness of Republican politics in the era of President Donald Trump, Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake announced he will serve out the remainder of his term but will not seek re-election in 2018, AZCentral.com reported. He told The Arizona Republic ahead of his announcement that he had become convinced "there may not be a place for a Republican like me in the current Republican climate or the current Republican Party."

Lady Gaga and former Vice President Joe Biden appeared in a public service announcement together to discuss sexual assault, according to Page Six. The minute-long video, posted to Lady Gaga's Twitter account, showed the singer and the politician sitting side by side. Biden began speaking first, calling Lady Gaga "a great friend and a fierce advocate." Gaga spoke next, referring briefly to her experience with sexual assault and its aftermath.

U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa Scott Brown admitted that he is under investigation by the State Department for making inappropriate comments during a Peace Corps event in Samoa earlier this year, The Hill noted. Brown said he is under investigation for comments made at a reception, where he told attendees that they looked "beautiful" and that they should work for the hospitality industry. ... [Wife] Gail and I both walked in and said, 'You guys are beautiful, you look really handsome sir, you guys are great.' And apparently somebody took offense to that."

An Illinois judge is facing sexual-assault charges after a man testified he offered discounted legal fees in exchange for gay sex, NewNowNext.com noted. The unnamed accuser says in October 2016, shortly before Ron Duebbert was elected judge in St. Clair County, Duebbert proposition and fondled him before offering a $100 discount on legal fees if they had sex. The victim, now 25, made the allegations as part of a motion to vacate a guilty plea to felony charges of aggravated fleeing from police. Duebbert has reportedly claimed the allegations are part of a Democratic effort to unseat him because he is Republican and gay.

After a year of planning, surveys and multiple listening sessions, Montgomery County, Maryland, is getting its own LGBTQ community center, MetroWeekly.com reported. While there's currently no brick-and-mortar building, the newly launched MoCo Pride Center will serve as a virtual resource for LGBTQ people in the nearby Maryland suburbs. Before it was established, local residents were forced to travel to Baltimore or D.C. in order to participate in LGBTQ clubs, support groups, forums, or social events.

The findings of a new study—presented at the 2017 AASLD Liver Meeting in Washington, D.C.—show that incidence of the hepatitis C virus ( HCV ) is increasing among gay and bisexual men living with HIV in the San Diego area, according to Plus Magazine. This is the largest analysis of its kind done in the United States to date, according to the official report from NAM aidsmap. Acute HCV was predominantly seen among HIV-positive MSM, although a small number of cases was reported among HIV-negative gay men as well.

UCLA graduate students have adapted William Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet" and put a brand-new "inclusive" spin on it, making a short film called Romeo and Julio—a gay, Latino love story, TheBlaze.com noted. Oscar Emmanuel Fabela—the project's developer, co-producer and star—told The Daily Bruin, in part, "This story, being put through an immigrant, gay lens, still works. We can use this over 400-year-old text and change nothing but the pronouns, and it's still relevant."

Family, friends and colleagues of the late Cassandra Q. Butts ( who pursued social justice ) are supporting, in her memory, an endowed fellowship within the Women's Law & Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center, in partnership with the National Health Law Program ( NHeLP ), according to a press release. This fund will support the Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program, of which she was an alumna. One fellowship will be awarded annually in perpetuity to support the work of a law-school graduate committed to advancing women's access to comprehensive health care.

Kid Rock quashed his highly publicized but hardly serious bid to run for Senator in an interview with Howard Stern's SiriusXM radio show, Variety noted. "F— no, I'm not running for Senate. Are you kidding me?" Rock said. "Who couldn't figure that out? I'm releasing a new album. I'm going on tour too. Are you f—ing s—ting me?"

Five women have alleged that Mark Halperin, one of the country's most prominent political journalists, sexually harassed them during his time at ABC News, The Washington Post reported. NBC News said in a statement: "Mark Halperin is leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood." In a statement to CNN, Halperin apologized for his actions and said he would be taking a "step back" from his daily work to "properly deal with this situation." Also, Penguin Books has pulled a book Halperin was planning to write with John Heilemann about the 2016 presidential race.


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