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National roundup: Cleveland's pro-gay move; Hawaii's pro-trans law; trans teen's suicide
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2015-05-12

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The Cleveland City Council approved a resolution supporting marriage equality in Ohio, On Top Magazine noted. Fourteen of the council's 16 members approved the resolution. "We're a city that recently held the Gay Games," Councilman Joe Cimperman told colleagues, "and showed everyone across the planet, from Paris to Zurich to San Francisco, why we're a welcoming city." Other Ohio cities that have approved similar non-binding resolutions include Cincinnati, Columbus and Athens.

The Hawaii Legislature passed a bill that could make it a lot easier for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates—joining a growing number of states to make the change, according to The Huffington Post. The bill removes the requirement of gender-reassignment surgery. The measure now goes to Gov. David Ige.

Just days after Racine, Wisconsin, teen Cameron Langrell announced to friends and classmates online that she identified as a transgender girl, switching her Facebook gender identifier to "female," the 15-year-old took her own life at home on May 1, according to Advocate.com . The artistic freshman had faced incessant bullying at Horlick High School, family and friends told Racine's Journal Times. Langrell's death is the 10th reported suicide of a trans youth in the United States this year, in an "epidemic" that trans advocates say sees far more casualties than make headlines.

In Nebraska, a gay teacher whose Omaha Catholic school contract is not being renewed has found a new job, the Associated Press reported. According to local media reports, Matthew Eledge, an English teacher and speech coach, will join the Millard North High School faculty next school year. Deacon Tim McNeil, with the Archdiocese of Omaha, said the teacher's contract was not renewed because he was in breach of the code of conduct and morality clause.

A new poll reveals that more Americans feel comfortable with a presidential candidate who identifies as gay or lesbian than with one who identifies as an evangelical Christian, according to The Huffington Post. The latest WSJ/NBC poll listed a series of qualities in a potential presidential candidate and asked respondents whether they'd "be enthusiastic," "be comfortable with," "have some reservations about" or "be very uncomfortable with" a candidate with each of those qualities. Sixty-one percent said they would be either enthusiastic about or comfortable with a gay or lesbian candidate, while the number was 52 percent for an evangelical candidate.

A San Diego man authorities said intentionally spread HIV to his former boyfriend, and possibly several others, has been sentenced to six months in jail, LGBTQ Nation reported. Prosecutors said that Thomas Guerra—who pled no contest last month to a misdemeanor state health-code violation—claimed to be HIV-negative and urged his boyfriend to have unprotected sex. His now ex-boyfriend tested positive for HIV in May 2013.

On May 6—just hours after music legend Elton John urged Congress to bolster its fight against AIDS—the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation, in collaboration with AIDS United, released a guide on HIV prevention and care, as well as a unique online Q&A feature. This new resource is supported in part by a grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The guide, "A Handbook To Understanding Health and HIV," lays out facts and debunks myths about HIV and AIDS; it's at http://www.hrc.org/whatdoido.

Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement ( TQLM ) issued an item that one of its own, Jerssay Arredondo, was not allowed in the first-ever White House LGBTQ Leaders of Color Summit because of it called "unjust screening methods that excludes undocumented people." Familia: TQLM, El/La Para TransLatinas, The TransLatin@ Coalition and GetEQUAL jointly stated they stand in solidarity with Arredondo and the more than 267,000 LGBTQ undocumented immigrants in the country. Out of principle, Familia:TQLM Steering Committee members made a choice to not attend the summit inside the White House.

Even after an anti-discrimination bill was pulled off the floor of the South Carolina House, supporters of gay rights are pleased that this has been a surprisingly quiet legislative session for them, according to the Associated Press. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford managed to get a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation as well as race, religion, age and sex for hiring, housing and services in places like restaurants to the House floor. However, a 79-34 vote sent it back to committee without debate. South Carolina Equality Board Chairman Jeff Ayers said he is impressed that bills reducing LGBT rights haven't made it out of committee.

An Austin, Texas, fast-food restaurant is accused of anti-transgender discrimination for turning away a University of Texas ( UT ) student who identifies as genderqueer and was wearing women's clothing, according to Towleroad. When Tyler Grant approached the Whataburger restaurant near the UT campus, a security guard asked Grant to put on shoes. After Grant complied, the security guard said, "Wait, you're a dude?" Whataburger issued a statement saying Grant was turned away because the student's clothing was too revealing; however, Grant is alleging discrimination.

Police are investigating after video was posted online showing a man bash two others over their heads with a wooden chair at the Dallas BBQ restaurant in the Chelsea area of New York City, NBC New York reported. John Snipes, one of the men hit with the chair, told DNAinfo he was attacked after two men hurled anti-gay slurs at him and his boyfriend after they spilled a drink. Snipes' tooth was knocked loose and the cartilage in his ear was torn during what he called a bias attack. NYPD is reportedly gathering information on the case and investigating it as a possible hate crime.

In West Virginia, Marshall University running back Steward Butler was dismissed from the team after being arrested on accusations he assaulted a same-sex couple in Huntington, CNN reported. The 23-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, was booked on two counts of battery. According to a Huntington police report, Butler punched two men who exchanged a kiss on a downtown Huntington street on April 5. The victims, Casey Williams and Zackery Johnson, told police Butler stepped out of a car after seeing the men kiss.

Vermont state police suspended Corporal Jon Graham for posts to his personal Facebook page that appear to mock Muslims, transgender people and more, WPTZ.com reported. A Facebook user complained to the police about posts on Graham's personal page. One message called early indications of Olympic champion Bruce Jenner's transgender identity evidence of the "decline of America." Some feel that Graham is under added scrutiny because of his trusted position in the community.

Transgender Law Center, Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP, and the Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver filed suit against Barnes & Noble, Inc. for alleged discriminatory treatment of a transgender employee, Victoria Ramirez, who worked for six years at two Barnes & Noble stores in Orange County, California, according to a press release. Among other things, Ramirez's manager reportedly berated her about her long hair, makeup and nail polish, saying her appearance was inappropriate for a "family store" and that she should "think of the children." Barnes & Noble, Inc. will have 30 days to respond after service of the complaint.

A 70-year-old teacher at a Missouri high school had to retire early and faces disciplinary action to boot, after he showed a class full of "sleepy" seniors a decades-old public service announcement that depicted gay men as depraved sexual predators, The New York Daily News reported. The video, an early example of the "stranger-danger" genre, hastened Ken Simon's retirement, much to the dismay of students who staged protests outside the school. "Boys Beware," a 1959 film produced by the police department in Inglewood, California, depicts gay men as child predators who lure young men into "intimate relationships" by offering rides, money, fishing trips and pornography. Two students lodged complaints with the school's administration over the video's subject matter, sparking Simon's suspension fewer than three weeks shy of his retirement from a 47-year-career at Raymore-Peculiar School District.

In Chicago, the organization Amigas Latinas is folding after 20 years of offering a wide range of support, education and advocacy for Chicago-area LBTQQ Latinas, a press release stated. At its peak, Amigas Latinas offered monthly platicas ( chats ) in members' homes, covering topics that ranged from identity, relationships, and family issues to mental health, domestic violence, and legal issues, as well as support groups, workshops, educational training, public programs and events. On July 10, founders, former board members, past and current Amigas Latinas members, friends and families will come together to celebrate the organization's history.

A day after 17 million people watched former Olympian Bruce Jenner tell ABC News' Diane Sawyer that he identifies as a woman, a crowd of Utah high school students watched as their transgender fellow classmate was crowned prom queen, ABC News noted. Although Maka's mother, Toni Brown, was thrown "into a little bit of a tailspin" after Maka's announcement that she's transgender, she quickly got behind her daughter, who is a circus performer and plans to pursue that as a career after graduation. Maka Brown, 18 and a senior at Salt Lake School for Performing Arts, is believed to be the state's first transgender prom queen, The Daily Caller noted.

A billboard near downtown Dallas advertising no-strings-attached sex for men is getting a lot of negative attention from some in the gay community, ArkLaTex.com reported. Their complaint is that the ad is in poor taste. Others say that's not so, and that it reflects what's happening in our society today. The billboard advertises gay hookup site Squirt.org .

In New Hampshire, students at Dartmouth College launched a petition drive demanding the newly elected student body president ( who is gay and Black ) resign after they say he was disrespectful to the plight of U.S. Blacks and other marginalized groups, The Daily Caller reported. The controversy began when a group of demonstrators protesting police brutality in Baltimore assembled outside the sorority Kappa Delta Epsilon, which was hosting an invite-only Kentucky Derby party that president Frank Cunningham attended. Confrontations reportedly ensued, and protesters have launched a petition effort demanding that Cunningham immediately resign for allegedly intimidating a smaller woman and for "appropriating" the words "I can't breathe." Cunningham has apologized.

A transgender inmate who is suing the state Department of Corrections has been transferred from Georgia State Prison in Reidsville to a medium-security lockup in Columbus, Macon.com reported. The inmate, Ashley Alton Diamond, sued the prison system in February, in part, over concerns for her safety. Recently, the U.S. District Court in Macon was told of a May 3 episode at the prison in which Diamond claims she was given a "sexually explicit and threatening" note while attending church, according to a status report filing.

Even though an Ohio Boy Scouts council adopted a diversity statement, the organization—the Simon Kenton Council—isn't standing by Westerville resident Brian Peffly, a gay man who was notified in March by the national Scouts office that he could no longer serve as a volunteer, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Peffly, 35, had just recently rejoined his Westerville troop as a leader when he acknowledged being gay in a WBNS-TV ( eport in April 2014 about the Boy Scouts removing a gay troop leader in Seattle. The Boy Scouts of America now permits gay youths to be Scouts, but it has retained the ban for adult leaders and volunteers.

Chelsea, one of New York's premier gayborhoods, has the highest syphilis infection rate of any area in the nation, according to NewNowNext.com . With 93.3 cases diagnosed per 100,000 people, according to DNAinfo.com, the infection rate in Chelsea is six times higher than the citywide average, and handily surpasses San Francisco's 60 cases per 100,000. Because syphilis is difficult to detect early on, sufferers are more likely to inadvertently spread it.

Noted homophobe Bryan Fischer is denouncing conservative commentator Guy Benson, who recently came out as gay, with Fischer saying "'gay conservative' is an oxymoron" and that Benson is seeking to turn the Republican Party "into a sodomy-promoting political machine," Advocate.com noted. Benson, a Fox News contributor and political editor for conservative site Townhall, identifies himself as gay in an upcoming book and discussed the topic with BuzzFeed. In the interview, Benson said he is more concerned about other issues, such as foreign policy, than he is about LGBT rights, but he is a supporter of marriage equality and thinks the Republican Party's opposition to same-sex marriage is off-putting to many.

Three-time Republican presidential hopeful Alan Keyes made what some have called a bizarre link between same-sex marriage and climate change, The Huffington Post noted. Keyes—who ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008, and also challenged Barack Obama for an Illinois Senate seat in 2004—argued that those in the "'global climatological change movement,' or whatever they're calling it these days" should oppose same-sex marriage. He added that both threaten to destroy humanity.

A Nebraska woman identifying herself as the "ambassador" for plaintiffs "God and His Son, Jesus Christ," is suing all gay people on Earth for breaking "religious and moral laws," MSNBC reported. In the suit, entered into the docket as Driskell v. Homosexuals, Sylvia Ann Driskell of Auburn, Nebraska, asks in a seven-page, neatly handwritten petition that U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard decide once and for all whether homosexuality is or isn't a sin. The suit cites no court cases at all, quoting Webster's Dictionary and numerous Bible verses, instead, to bolster Driskell's central contention that homosexuality is a sin.

The American Bar Association ( ABA ) Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity will sponsor its first-ever LGBT Advocacy Day on May 18-19, a press release stated. ABA members will have the opportunity to attend a White House briefing and meet members of Congress, build relationships with new members of Congress and educate members and their staffs on issues supported by the ABA that are of importance to the LGBT community. Among the legislative initiatives the group will be advocating for during visits to Capitol Hill offices on May 19 are the Jury ACCESS/Non-Discrimination Act and the International Human Rights Defense Act.

An anti-LGBT video game uploaded to the digital game store Steam has drawn widespread condemnation after encouraging players to shoot gay and transgender people to earn points, The Huffington Post reported. The game, called "Kill The Faggot," is modeled after a first-person shooter. Players earn points for killing gay characters, and receive a bonus if they hit a transgender person, which prompts a message reading "Transgender Kill" to flash on the screen. The project was created and uploaded by Randall Herman, a California video game developer and Christian shoe promoter.


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