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National roundup: Eventful TDOR item, Trump delay, captive lesbian couple
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-11-28

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Organizers and participants of Washington, D.C.'s, annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20 said they believe the event succeeded in honoring transgender people who lost their lives to violence—despite the disruption of the proceedings by a single protester who demanded that D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham leave, The Washington Blade reported. With nearly 200 people looking on at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, activist Ashley Love—who describes herself as a trans and intersex journalist—began shouting at Newsham to get off the stage, saying the event was not a "prop for the police department." Newsham left the church through a stage door and Love returned to her seat; he had been scheduled to speak at the event, but he did not return to do so.

In a press release, Equality California lauded U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis in the District of Maryland, who issued a preliminary injunction in Stone v. Trump, a case brought by the ACLU to challenge Trump's transgender military ban. This new ruling affirms the nationwide preliminary injunction issued in Doe v. Trump on Oct. 30. Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said, "President Trump's ban violates constitutional protections and causes serious harms both to our nation's military and to transgender Americans. Today's ruling brings us closer to a permanent end."

On a related note, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a Trump administration request in Doe v. Trump to delay the Jan. 1, 2018, effective date for transgender enlistment. Doe v. Trump—filed by the National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders ( GLAD )—was the first of four federal lawsuits to challenge President Trump's transgender military ban and the first to secure a nationwide injunction halting the ban. "Judge Kollar-Kotelly has once again confirmed that there is no legitimate reason to bar transgender people from military service," said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. "We are pleased that Judge Kollar-Kotelly confirmed her prior ruling that, on January 1, transgender people who can meet the same qualifications as others will be eligible to enlist."

A married lesbian couple in Indianapolis say that they were held captive without food or water, raped and beaten by four others, LGBTQ Nation reported. They escaped when an opportunity presented itself and called the police. Kenneth Braswell, Thomas Bell, Jose Nieves and Melissa Richards are facing charges of rape, kidnapping and criminal confinement.

In Georgia, the man accused of killing gay-rights activist Barney Simms by gunning him down in Simms' front yard pled guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison, ProjectQ reported. The 18-year-old killer, Eric Banks Jr., pled guilty as his trial was about to open in a Fulton County courtroom. Banks shot Simms twice in the back outside his southwest Atlanta home on April 9, 2016; police said the motive was robbery.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC ) prevailed as a Pennsylvania federal judge slapped a Pittsburgh-area medical clinic with a statutory maximum fine after agreeing that a gay former employee was subjected to harassment and discriminatory treatment based on his sexual orientation, Law360.com reported. Scott Medical Health Center PC was ordered to pay some $55,000 in back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages to onetime employee Dale Massaro.

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association approved a new policy that makes it easier for student athletes to change documentation to better reflect their gender identity, according to a Refinery29.com item that cited the Associated Press. Previously, students needed a doctor's note or other official documentation in order to participate in activities that correspond with their gender identity ( for example, girls' basketball or boys' basketball ). Now, students will simply need to notify the school administration of their identity.

Ben Dillingham—who was one of the first openly gay power brokers in San Diego, and a City Hall insider who cleared the path for pioneering local and state office-holders—died at 72 of pancreatic cancer, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Dillingham became the top aide for Mayor Maureen O'Connor after her election in 1986, and later became a leader in community organizations dedicated to LGBT rights and to the fight against AIDS, which claimed the lives of three of his partners.

Woodbury, New Jersey, officials are vowing to repeal an obscure anti-cross-dressing law on the books that recently was brought to their attention, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Although police don't enforce the law, violators face up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Woodbury Mayor Jessica M. Floyd said she expects the ordinance will be repealed shortly.

An openly gay former humanitarian officer in the Israel Defense Forces said he was shouted down, mocked and laughed at while he was giving a speech at a public university, Fox News noted. Hen Mazzig—a 28-year-old Israeli writer and international speaker—said he felt harassed by the Students for Justice in Palestine during a speech at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Among other things, he said the group reacted angrily when he said that in Gaza, gay Palestinians are being killed. Neither the Students for Justice in Palestine nor the university had responded to requests for comment.

Philadelphia citizens will be able to report hate crimes via a new hotline, Philadelphia Gay News noted. District Attorney Kelley B. Hodge announced the launch of hotline at a press conference. A victim and witness-services coordinator will staff the line, which is 215-686-8931. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not have an LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes statute, though the city did adopt such a measure three years ago.

A Letter to Harvey Milk—which won Most Promising Musical in 2012 at the New York Musical Theatre Festival—is hitting the off-Broadway scene this winter, Gay Star News noted. The new musical will premiere at the Acorn Theatre in New York on Feb. 21, ahead of a March 6 opening night. The story takes place in San Francisco circa 1986, eight years after the assassination of Harvey Milk; it follows Harry, a widower and kosher butcher. Milk was the first openly gay person elected in California.

A Republican elected official in Virginia told a lesbian couple's daughter that she "deserved" a father, LGBTQ Nation reported. After Rose BruMar, 15, told Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, "One of my moms doesn't like you," Lawson told the media, "She told me things about her family life, and I told her in a very polite way, I said I believe children deserve a mother and a father. It was not a debate about anything." Now, the mothers want the county's board of supervisors to censure Lawson.

Charlie Rose, who was fired this week by CBS News and whose program was canceled by PBS in the wake of sexual-misconduct allegations from multiple women, had accolades from two universities rescinded, The New York Post reported. Panels at both Arizona State University and the University of Kansas met and came to the same decision on the same day. Eight women who worked for or wanted to work for Rose told the Washington Post that the veteran newsman groped them, openly walked around nude or said sexually inappropriate things on the job.

Ronan Farrow continues to embarrass NBC News for refusing to run his bombshell that would have outed now-disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator months before Weinstein was exposed by other publications, Page Six noted. This time, Farrow celebrated Thanksgiving by posting a still photo from an interview he conducted with a Weinstein accuser that never aired on NBC. NBC—which has been under fire for weeks since it spiked Farrow's initial Weinstein bombshell ( which he later took to the New Yorker )—has declined to comment on Farrow's status at NBC News.

Author Roxane Gay will speak at Loyola University Maryland's annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Convocation on Jan. 15, 2018, according to the school's website. In her lecture, "Roxane: With One N," she will discuss social issues as it relates to her ongoing work in feminism, body image, and/or social justice.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has stepped down as the ranking Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee following sexual-harassment accusations, NBC News reported. The 27-term congressman said he denied the allegations, but was stepping down because of the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation.


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