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National roundup: Filibuster; NYC mayor's order; Bernie's HIV/AIDS plan; LGBT crimes
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-03-15

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After more than 36 hours of non-stop debate, Republicans who control the Missouri Senate shut down a Democrat-led filibuster of a controversial same-sex marriage proposal, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Republicans used a parliamentary maneuver, known as the previous question, to end the blockade that had put a national focus on a GOP-sponsored measure to shield clergy, wedding vendors and religious organizations from penalties if they oppose same-sex marriage. The proposal, which passed the Senate 23-9, moved to the House for further action. Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation, said in a statement, "We call on House Speaker Todd Richardson to do the right thing and stop this dangerous bill from moving forward any further."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order that guarantees people access to single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity at city facilities—including offices, pools and recreation centers—without the need to show identification or any other proof of gender, the Associated Press reported. "Access to bathrooms and other single-sex facilities is a fundamental human right that should not be restricted or denied to any individual," de Blasio said. "Every New Yorker should feel safe in our city—and this starts with our city's buildings."

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has released a plan to combat HIV/AIDS in a blog post on his campaign website, according to a NewNowNext item. "One of the great moral issues of our day," his post begins, "is that people with HIV and AIDS are suffering and, in some cases, dying in America because they can't afford to pay the outrageous prices being charged for the medicine they need to live." Among other things, he plans to expand the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and establish a Medicare-for-all single payer system.

The United States Senate Armed Services Committee backed the nomination of Eric Fanning, an openly gay individual, to be secretary of the Army and forwarded the recommendation to the full Senate for a final vote. In a statement, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn said, "OutServe-SLDN will continue to work with our Senate allies, and petition Senator [Pat] Roberts, for a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. We urge the Senate to move to confirm Eric Fanning quickly. We are far past the time for a confirmation vote." Fanning was nominated for his 25-plus-year career within the Department of Defense and the knowledge that he possess about military policy and national security.

Christopher ( "Christian" ) Brian Colbert, 43—a former scene photographer with LGBT publication Dallas Voice—has confessed to killing his former landlord and disposing of his body, Gay Star News reported. Police say he then stole his victim's identity and sold his home. Ronald Shumway, 57, disappeared in April 2015; human remains encased in concrete were discovered last September in the back yard of the home. The Dallas Voice added that Colbert is already faces charges of tampering with a governmental record, securing execution of a document by deception and money laundering stemming from last June.

A bisexual man charged with shooting a gay man he taunted on a street was found guilty of murder as a hate crime despite his assertions that he couldn't be a bigot because of his own sexual orientation, reported ABC News ( citing the Associated Press ). A Manhattan jury deliberated over two days before finding Elliot Morales guilty in the May 2013 shooting of Mark Carson in the Greenwich Village neighborhood. Morales, who represented himself, faces 20 years to life in prison; his sentencing is set for April 11.

The family of a man who endured a brutal assault wants his attacker to be charged with murder following the victim's suicide, LGBTQ Nation reported. Mitchell Pope, 33, who suffered severe head injuries, committed suicide 18 months after the attack. On Oct. 13, 2014, Pope was savaged by a man who called him a "f*cking f*ggot" in the lobby of his Brooklyn apartment. Pope's mother said her son was never the same after the attack.

Prosecutors are seeking a court order to obtain a DNA sample from a Lucedale, Mississippi, man charged in the slaying of a transgender teen, The Clarion-Ledger reported. Joshua Vallum, 28, faces first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, of Theodore, Alabama. Officials say Vallum beat Williamson to death with a hammer in May 2015.

Philadelphia police have charged two people in connection to the murder of a transgender woman in Frankford, Pennsylvania, 6ABC.com reported. Police say 25-year-old Maya Young was found with multiple stab wounds to the neck and chest. Following an investigation, police arrested 24-year-old Tiffany Floyd and 19-year-old Jose Pena.

A recent study has said that people in Buffalo, New York, use anti-gay words in their tweets more often than people in any other city in the United States, BuffaloNews.com reported. Arlington, Texas, and Riverside, California, came in a relatively close second and third. With the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year legalizing same-sex marriage across the country, an increase in anti-gay language might not be surprising, said Matthew Crehan Higgins, senior director of the Pride Center of Western New York.

As a growing number of anti-LGBTQ Religious Freedom Restoration Acts ( RFRA ) and religion based anti-LGBTQ legislation are being introduced, Faith In America has welcomed noted activist and faith organizer Eliel Cruz as its newest executive director, according to a press release. Cruz brings five years of faith organizing work to Faith In America, having led a nationwide non-profit creating unofficial gay-straight alliances on Christian campuses organizing student leaders to mobilize on their perspective campuses.

Among the more than two dozen laws that Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently signed are clergy rights on same-sex marriage, boycotting anti-Israel companies and making airport travel more convenient for disabled vets, CBS Miami reported. Scott put into law language that specifies clergy will be able to refuse to officiate same-sex weddings—a right many said is already protected under state law and the U.S. Constitution. "It's totally unnecessary and it's also motivated by a disapproval of same-sex couples," said Carlos Guillermo Smith, spokesman for the gay rights group Equality Florida.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley has apologized for anti-gay opinion pieces she wrote as a college student in 1992, when she referred to homosexuals as "queers" and "degenerates," The Associated Press reported. Bradley—who faces state Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in the April 5 election for a 10-year term on the state's highest court—said what she wrote as a student at Marquette University does not reflect her worldview or current work as a judge. The liberal group One Wisconsin Now revealed the writings.

Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski has apologized after a video surfaced of him apparently bashing gay marriage and same-sex rights while speaking to a group of Latino pastors, ABC15.com reported. "I never thought I would see the day that men and men would be married. Or where people are allowed to go into the same bathroom as my daughter," he initially told the pastors. "This world is changing and it's time for us to take the leadership and change it back to the way it should be." He later released a statement saying his comments were "misconstrued." Mayor Greg Stanton also spoke out against the councilman's comments.

A volunteer police force in Dallas' Oak Lawn gayborhood has beefed up in recent months following a string of assaults against members of the LGBT community, NewNowNext reported. As of December, at least 14 gay men have been attacked and/or robbed while walking near the "main drag" of gay bars on Cedar Springs Road. City Councilman Adam Medrano announced the Dallas Police Department's "Volunteers on Patrol" program was officially implemented in the neighborhood back in December, when residents first reacted to the outbreak of violence.

In Colorado, a bill aimed at stopping conversion therapy from being used on teenagers and children moved forward, passing seven to six in a state House committee, CBS Denver reported. The bill now goes to the House floor. A similar bill failed last year in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Three senior football players at a suburban Philadelphia high school have been charged with assaulting a freshman with a broom handle on what the team called "No Gay Thursday," CBS Philadelphia noted. "No Gay Thursdays" was a tradition started by the football team at least three or four years ago, in which behavior the team normally considered to be "gay" was considered "not gay" on Thursdays, according to Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan. After the charges were announced, longtime head football coach John Vogan was suspended from all coaching duties pending the outcome of an investigation by the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.

Donna Red Wing—executive director of the LGBT group One Iowa—has been appointed to the Des Moines Civil and Human Rights Commission, a press release stated. The commission's mission is to advance justice and equality for all people in Des Moines. It addresses illegal discrimination that occurs in Iowa's capital city in the areas of employment, housing, municipal practices and public accommodations by educating the public and by receiving, investigating and resolving discrimination complaints.

The owners of a Texas bakery at the center of a discrimination case say they're getting abusive phone calls from people angry they told a gay couple they wouldn't make them a wedding cake, NewNowNext.com noted. Edie Delorme, co-owner of Kern's Bake Shop in Longview, claims she's been deluged with harassing calls—including one in which the someone threatened to sexually assault her 17-year-old son.

Out gay Fox News contributor Guy Benson recently said that "so-called open-minded" supporters of same-sex marriage need to be more tolerant of anti-gay activists, according to Instinct Magazine, citing Towleroad. While speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference ( CPAC ), Benson said that gay-rights activists "are hounding heretics ruthlessly from their midst to the point that if you're a Democrat, if you're a liberal and you might hold traditional views on marriage, you probably don't want to talk about it very much for fear of the wrath and judgment of your fellow so-called open-minded leftists."

In Pennsylvania, a trans man ( identified only as "John Doe" ) is taking on his state Medicaid program's exclusion of coverage for gender-affirming surgery, Advocate.com reported. He has filed a lawsuit contending that the Affordable Care Act ( also known as Obamacare ) requires the state-funded health-care provider to cover a hysterectomy the man's doctors have deemed medically necessary.

The organizers of a Catholic charity gala in Asheville, North Carolina, cancelled a performance by an Emmy Award-nominated blues singer Kat Williams after learning that she's in a same-sex marriage, according to Gay Star News. Williams was due to perform at the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte's annual Gala For Hope, for which she has performed at twice before, on March 12. Williams told WLOS-TV, "This is the sad part; they're doing it in the name of God. And I'm having a problem with that."

Mary Lou Bruner—a Republican who is the leading candidate to take a seat on the policy-setting Texas State Board of Education—has stated that President Obama was once a gay prostitute and that Democrats killed President John F. Kennedy Jr., The Washington Post reported. She also has posted items like "School shootings started after the schools started teaching evolution."

Portland-area radio host Michael Castner surprised fans of his daily KEX ( 1190 ) show by issuing "an announcement four decades in the making," and coming out publicly as gay, according to NewNowNext.com . Castner told listeners he's "kept quiet for a lot of years" but felt compelled to come out after realizing a majority of the GOP candidates currently running for president have anti-gay views, platforms and plans to legalize anti-gay discrimination. fter his show, Castner took to Twitter to thank everyone for the overwhelming support.

In Illinois, former state treasurer Dan Rutherford's employee—whose accusation of sexual harassment pretty much ended Rutherford's 2014 gubernatorial bid—has named four others who allegedly complained of unwanted advances in an updated federal court filing, the Associated Press noted. Edmund Michalowksi's February 2014 lawsuit during then-Treasurer Rutherford's primary campaign for governor tanked his hopes as the most viable Republican alternative to eventual Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rutherford attorney Dan Fahner criticized the filing, Michalowski's fourth, and said "he has changed his story yet again, making different allegations."

Miami Beach Gay Pride will entertain an expected record crowd during its three-day weekend of fun under the Miami Beach sun from Friday, April 8 to Sunday, April 10. Singer, songwriter, record producer, DJ and club promoter Ultra Nate will take the main stage on the evening of April 10.

In a recent Dear Abby column that The Chicago Sun-Times ran, a woman questioned the writer about gay porn being on her fiance's phone. ( The fiance said he was curious. ) Abby ( Abigail Van Buren ) responded that she took the question to porn entrepreneur Larry Flynt and Jack Drescher, M.D.—with Drescher saying "what is important is that you and your fiance are able to talk about sex honestly and openly." Flynn reportedly added that "while CURIOSITY is normal, not many heterosexual men make a habit of viewing gay male porn sites. He added that if your fiance is a regular consumer of this kind of entertainment, he may have latent homosexual tendencies."

A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that Americans do not have the constitutional right to engage in BDSM sex, LGBTQ Nation reported. In Judge T.S. Ellis' decision in John Doe v. The Rector & Visitors of George Mason University, et al, he cited and dismissed previous Supreme Court rulings on sodomy laws and same-sex marriage; instead, he used a case about physician assisted suicide to bolster his ruling. The case in question didn't actually argue that there is a constitutional right to engage in BDSM, but the judge made it a large part of his ruling. Instead, the case was about a college student seeking readmission to the university after being expelled for allegedly stalking and assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

The "dreamy mugshot guy" with piercing blue eyes and a teardrop tattoo may become an actor, Newser noted. Fewer than two years after his mugshot went viral, Jeremy Meeks was released from prison, where he was serving time for weapons charges; he is entertaining multiple job offers, including acting jobs, reported the Los Angeles Times. The husband and father of three previously told ABC News that he'd be interested in joining the cast of "a show like Sons of Anarchy."


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