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National roundup: Calif. pro-LGBT bill; Sanders video; bisexual teen's death
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-02-23

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Equality California is sponsoring two bills authored by Assemblymember Evan Low ( D-Silicon Valley ) that would prohibit the use of state funds to support entities that allow discrimination by creating exemptions based on religious beliefs, a press release stated. AB 1887 would ban state-funded travel to any state with a law in effect that sanctions or requires discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. AB 1888 would require all institutions receiving CalGrant dollars to certify to the California Student Aid Commission that they do not discriminate on the basis of, among other things, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Ahead of primary contests in Nevada and South Carolina, Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign team launched a gay-inclusive video highlighting the differences of Americans under the theme of being able to win "together," The Washington Blade reported. The 60-second ad initially features images of faces of diverse people that are later split down the middle as the voiceover from Sanders is heard criticizing political forces that he says are attempting to split the country. Although Sanders is heard enumerating "gay" and "sexual orientation," characteristics of other people in the LGBT community—such as "bisexual," "transgender" and "gender identity"—are omitted.

A bisexual Alabama teenager was found shot to death in a rural area—three days after making a frantic phone call to his mother in which he said someone was trying to kill him, The New Civil Rights Movement reported. The body of 19-year-old Nicholas Hawkins was found wrapped in a bloody blanket at an illegal dumpsite near Dora, 25 miles northwest of Birmingham. Hawkins said Joshua Adam Reese ( who had been free on $50,000 bail after being charged with attempted murder in 2013 ) was trying to kill him, but gave no further details before the call cut off, AL.com noted. Reese has not yet been charged in connection with Hawkins' death, and it's unclear if the teen's sexual orientation was a motive for the murder.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has vowed legislative action against a pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinance that the Charlotte City Council passed Feb. 22, ABC11.com reported. The ordinance would give members of the LGBT community recourse if they feel they are denied rights—including the right of what restroom to choose. "The only issue I think the state needs to be involved in is the issue regarding locker rooms and restrooms, that's the one that draws concern that has ramifications beyond city limits," McCrory said. "The City Council's vote sends a clear message that discrimination has no place in Charlotte," said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse in a statement.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) released a statement regarding Donald Trump's win in South Carolinain the Feb. 20 presidential primary. "Just this week, Donald Trump proudly said that he could be trusted to reverse nationwide marriage equality, and tonight he's one step closer to the Republican nomination," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "Donald Trump's calculated efforts to use division, fear and bigotry to score political points are dangerous and have no place in our country in the year 2016. Hillary Clinton is the candidate we can count on to defeat Trump—or whichever one of these backwards anti-LGBT candidates emerges as the Republican nominee."

The pro-LGBT Ali Forney Center has learned that New York State Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order staying the foreclosure auction of the anti-gay ATLAH church on Feb. 24, pending a hearing on April 21, according to a press release. "This development gives us more time to research the conditions of the ATLAH building and assemble the most advantageous financial package possible prior to making a bid for the building at auction" said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center. "While we are excited at the possibility of acquiring the building at auction, we were anxious at needing to rush quickly into this process. The temporary restraining order allows us time to gain more knowledge and strengthen our position."

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ) has announced a new name: GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ), a press release stated. The Boston-based GLAD helped bring marriage equality first to Massachusetts, and then to the nation with the 2015 Supreme Court victory in Obergefell v. Hodges. ( Three GLAD attorneys have argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. )

Pro-LGBT Sen. Claire McCaskill has been diagnosed with breast cancer, CNN reported. The Missouri Democrat announced her diagnosis on social media. She said in a post on Tumblr that "my prognosis is good and I expect a full recovery." She said she'll be in St. Louis for the next three weeks receiving treatment—and will post on her Senate website how she would have voted on any matters before the Senate.

Immigration activists are celebrating a victory after a judge granted bond for Christina Lopez, an undocumented transgender woman detained at Santa Ana City ( Calif. ) Jail, OC Weekly reported. She's been held for more than a year and a half and, supporters say, is being denied proper medial treatment for hepatitis C. Judge Carlos Maury set the bond amount on Thursday in his Los Angeles courtroom at $10,000 with conditions for the 35-year-old Anaheim resident.

Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Zubik v. Burwell and six related cases, according to a press release. The brief urges the court to reject arguments made by religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations who argue that it burdens their religious beliefs simply to notify the federal government that they are opting out of providing their employees' insurance coverage for contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ). "The argument the employers make in these cases is almost breathtaking in its overreach," Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer said. "Once a business or social service agency has opted out of providing contraception coverage, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not permit that organization to continue to object to their employees' independent conduct."

In Texas, two Corpus Christi men were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, after they were both convicted of hate crime offenses in the assault of a gay African-American man, KRISTV.com reported. Ramiro Serrata Jr., 23, and Jimmy Garza, 33, pleaded guilty last September to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes and one count of a hate crime violation of the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Act, for causing bodily injury because of the victim's sexual orientation. Both men were also ordered to pay $10,800 in restitution, serve three years of supervised release and register as sex offenders.

Georgia telecom firm 373K is leaving its current location in Georgia after the state's lawmakers passed an anti-gay religious-freedom bill, according to NewNowNext.com . The First Amendment Defense Act would allow people and businesses to discriminate against LGBT people throughout Georgia, and 373K's founder, Kelvin Williams, is staunchly against it. "It makes no sense. It's absolutely unnecessary," said Williams. "We are a startup and we are trying to get the best talent we can. And I don't want to be in a state where it is hard to attract the best talent."

A survey by Public Policy Polling ahead of the Feb. 20 South Carolina Republican primary showed 31 percent, or nearly one in three S.C. respondents who say they support Trump, want the United States to bar gay people from entering the country, Advocate.com reported. That's nearly twice the percentage of supporters of any other Republican candidate; in second position, 17 percent of those in Marco Rubio's camp want to keep gay immigrants out of the country. Anti-Muslim sentiment was even stronger, though; 80 percent of Trump's supporters opposed letting Muslims immigrate to the United States, followed by 52 percent of Rubio's.

Hours after a federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters who carried out the Dec. 2 terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, out Apple chief executive Tim Cook declared that he would fight the government's "unprecedented" demands, The Washington Post reported. In an open letter, Cook stated, in part, "Now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone." The order asked Apple to disable the feature that wipes the data on the phone after 10 incorrect tries at entering a password.

A major report offers an analysis of how LGBT people—and particularly, LGBT people of color—face higher rates of incarceration and unfair treatment and abuse in the criminal-justice system, a press release stated. "Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails LGBT People" documents how stigma and discrimination, enforcement of laws and policing strategies mean that LGBT people are disproportionately likely to interact with law enforcement and to have their lives criminalized. The report is at www.lgbtmap.org/criminal-justice.

A lesbian fighting for joint custody of a child borne by her ex-partner when they were together won a court ruling in Kentucky that lets her case go forward, Courier-Journal.com reported. The woman, identified in the court opinion as Amy, asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to block adoption proceedings by her ex-partner's husband while she seeks shared custody of the child, identified as Laura. In a unanimous ruling, the state's high court sided with Amy.

Corinne Pena, 35—Philadelphia woman who had married her wife in May—was found dead on Valentine's Day on a rural roadside in Pennsylvania, according to Philadelphia Gay News. Police are still in the process of determining her whereabouts prior to her arrival in the township. Her death is being considered suspicious and police are awaiting toxicology results.

In Philadelphia, a private-practice attorney set to represent the man accused of killing a psychiatrist in a Gayborhood hotel abruptly backed out of the case, citing a failure to be paid, Philadelphia Gay News reported. At a Feb. 16 status hearing, public defender Francis Carmen agreed to be reappointed to represent Manuel Baez, the 27-year-old homeless man arrested in connection with the death of Dr. Howard Baker, 75, of Lower Merion Township. However, private attorney Paul Michael Dimaio said Baez's father hadn't paid him, and Carmen has said he's fine with taking the case again.

At least two anti-gay protesters were waiting for grieving students returning to an Arizona school for the first since two female classmates died in what is being viewed as a murder-suicide, DailyNewsX.com noted. The deaths of May Kieu and Dorothy Dutiel—two 15-year-old girls who were in a relationship—inspired a massive memorial to the two girls at the high school, where balloons and flowers lined a fence.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) released a statement after new polling shows that a majority of residents in all 50 states support a bill like the bipartisan Equality Act, which was would extend existing civil rights protections to LGBT people. HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said, "Americans across the country get it, and understand that everyone should be able to live free from fear of discrimination and be able to have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families, including people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender." Nationally, support for a bill like the Equality Act topped 70 percent, which includes a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Bill Cosby's attempt to halt a Pennsylvania sexual-assault case against him has been denied, Deadline noted. On Feb. 12, Cosby and his lawyers filed a direct appeal to the state's superior court to appeal Judge Steven O'Neill's ruling Feb. 3 that the case involving a trio of felony second-degree aggravated indecent assault charges ( filed by lesbian Andrea Constand ) could go forward. If convicted, Cosby could get up to 10 years in prison and pay a $25,000 fine.

A recently published academic paper theorizes that gays and lesbians are overrepresented on college faculties—and in mortuaries as well as law offices—because gay people like to work alone but also possess high degrees of social acumen, The Daily Caller reported. The paper, printed in Administrative Science Quarterly, is entitled "Concealable Stigma and Occupational Segregation: Toward a Theory of Gay and Lesbian Occupations." The authors are Andras Tilcsik of the University of Toronto, Michel Anteby of Boston University and Carly R. Knight of Harvard University. The goal of the paper is to explain why gay people appear to have a disproportionate presence in certain occupations, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Lambda Legal sent a letter to the Horry County ( S.C. ) School District, urging school officials to reverse their decision to suspend a Socastee High School transgender student and to adopt inclusive bathroom policies that respect the gender identities of its students and are in line with federal law, a press release stated. The letter says, in part, "Our schools' first job is to provide safe and affirming environments for all our children to learn and thrive. For a student to have to withdraw from school because of discriminatory bathroom policies is appalling." The full letter is at http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/sc_ltr_20160216_socastee-hs-title-ix-violation.

Talking with FOX10 Phoenix, former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said President Obama should fill the seat on the Supreme Court bench that has been vacated following the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia, according to ABC News. "I think we need somebody, there, now, to do the job, and let's get on with it," said O'Connor, splitting with Republicans who have advocated that the president hold off on filling the seat until the next president is in the White House. Although O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, said "it is unfortunate" that a vacancy was created in an election year, the process should not be stalled as a result.

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association ( NLGJA ) announced that ABC News Correspondent Gio Benitez and ESPN Senior Writer & ABC News Contributor LZ Granderson will co-host its 21st annual New York Benefit: Headlines & Headliners on Thursday, March 31, a press release stated. Each year, the star-studded event raises tens of thousands of dollars for the organization's programs, including those that provide scholarships to aspiring LGBT journalists. More than 350 journalists, news executives, dignitaries and allies attend this event each year. "Headlines & Headliners" is chaired by CNN executive producer Javier Morgado.

GLSEN will honor George Stephanopoulos and Ali Wentworth, Ilene Chaiken and Optimedia at GLSEN's Respect Awards: New York on Monday, May 23, according to a press release. The GLSEN Respect Awards, introduced in 2004 and held annually in Los Angeles and New York, showcase the work of students, educators, individuals and corporations who serve as exemplary role models and have made a significant impact on the lives of LGBT youth. See http://www.glsen.org/article/2016-glsen-respect-awards-new-york.

Gay People's Chronicle ( GPC ), based in Cleveland, Ohio, has ceased publication, Press Pass Q noted. Its last issue was volume 31, issue 13, dated Dec. 25, 2015. Charles Callender founded Gay People's Chronicle in 1985. Distribution of the Gay People's Chronicle—between 11,000 and 15,000 copies—primarily spanned Greater Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. The publication is currently for sale.

Nicholas Wiltgen, a senior digital meteorologist with the Weather Channel who was openly gay, was killed at the scene of a car crash in Atlanta, according to a Washington Blade item that cites AJC.com . Wiltgen, 39, crashed his car into a wall in a parking garage and his vehicle ended up in the basement of the adjacent hotel. AJC.com added that the death has been ruled a suicide. Al Roker, co-anchor of NBC's TODAY Show, was among those expressing condolences.

Dr. Sharon Katz has started Diverse Families ( www.diversefamilies.com ) so that every child can have a doll family that looks like his or her own unique family, a press release stated. Dolls, representing a variety of non-specific ethnicities, can be purchased in any combination to match one's own family, or they can be made to match photos.

Dr. Neil Clark Warren—the 81-year-old co-founder and current CEO of online dating site eHarmony—recently talked with CNNMoney about same-sex marriage. In 2005, the company was sued for discrimination of same-sex couples; to settle a lawsuit, eHarmony launched Compatible Partners, a site for gay and lesbian singles, in 2009. Warren said, ""We didn't want to pretend to be experts on gay and lesbian couples. We're not anti-gay at all. ... It's a different match." He added, "We've had quite a number of same-sex marriages." The company says it has matched 2 million couples that have led to marriages.

Atlanta has a new LGBT publication, Goliath Atlanta Magazine, which co-publisher William Duffee-Braun called "the next chapter of gay Atlanta," according to Press Pass Q. Goliath Atlanta bills itself as "the ultimate creative cultural guide for the discerning gay man. Through its diverse blended journalism consisting of fashion, local interests, and must-attend gay event coverage, Goliath Atlanta is the leading publication for the modern gay Atlantan."

The National Organization of Women ( NOW ) will be celebrating its anniversary at the 50th-anniversary gala and NOW Conference on June 24-26 in Washington, D.C., a press release stated. NOW's celebrations will recognize not only its history of cutting-edge activism on behalf of women, which include some of the most significant victories of the 20th century, but also the important work ahead as the organization pushes forward with its cutting-edge, intersectional and multi-agenda advocacy for the 21st century.

Path2Parenthood ( P2P ) and California Cryobank announced that their Gay Women's Gathering: An Evening on Lesbian Pregnancy series is coming back to Houston, and that Dallas will be added to the national event roster, a press release stated. Gay Women's Gathering, Houston will take place on Wed., March 9, at the Montrose Center. Gay Women's Gathering, Dallas will take place Wed., March 16, at the Cathedral of Hope.


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