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National roundup: Genderqueer baseball exec, letter to Sessions, Ark. bill
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-03-07

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The Sonoma Stompers announced that Jen Ramos, a baseball writer and data journalist from Northern California, would be the team's new assistant general manager—making Ramos possibly the first genderqueer executive in professional sports, ThinkProgress noted. Ramos is an experienced data analyst and prospect evaluator with a master's of science in journalism from the University of Southern California and digital media experience with the NHL's San Jose Sharks. The Stompers are an independent baseball club in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Club league.

Tammy Baldwin ( D-Wisconsin ), Mazie Hirono ( D-Hawaii ) and Richard Blumenthal ( D-Connecticut ) led a group of 25 U.S. senators in sending a letter to the Trump administration, urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to make combatting hate crimes a major focus at the Department of Justice and request full funding for the Justice Department's Community Relations Service and Civil Rights Division, according to a Baldwin press release. Some of the other senators who signed the letter include Bernie Sanders ( I-Vermont ), Kirsten Gillibrand ( D-New York ), Elizabeth Warren ( D-Massachusetts ), Sherrod Brown ( D-Ohio ), Tim Kaine ( D-Virginia ) and Al Franken ( D-Minnesota ).

Equality California announced that a poll that Tulchin Research conducted in January has found that 12 percent of California voters identify as being members of the LGBT community. "This poll gives us new data indicating that the number of LGBT people who are part of the California electorate is significantly higher than previously estimated," said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. Tulchin Research pollsters believe that the wording of the question and the anonymity of completing a survey online—rather than disclosing personal information to a stranger over the phone—contributed to higher numbers identifying as LGBT.

An Arkansas lawmaker backed away from a broad "bathroom bill" targeting transgender people that had drawn opposition from the state's Republican governor—but said he will propose another measure giving schools legal protection over their restroom policies, CourierNews.com reported. Republican Sen. Greg Standridge said he's withdrawing his one-sentence bill to address gender identity and bathroom privileges. The measure had faced criticism from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson and tourism groups who warned the move was unnecessary and would hurt the state.

The Virginia House of Delegates approved a religious-freedom bill that critics contend would allow anti-LGBT discrimination in the state, The Washington Blade reported. Lawmakers approved House Bill 2025 by a 57-37 vote. The measure—which state Del. Nick Freitas ( R-Culpeper ) introduced—would not require any person, religious organization or affiliates to "participate in the solemnization of any marriage" if it conflicts with "a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman."

The Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts of America has agreed to pay $18,000 and issue an apology to a 9-year-old transgender boy from Secaucus who was thrown out of a Cub Scout pack last year, NorthJersey.com reported. Joe Maldonado was allowed back into Scouting earlier this year when the national office of the Boy Scouts issued a statement saying it would begin accepting transgender children.

Lena Dunham ( of the TV show Girls ) has pledged to match donations to a Detroit LGBT homeless youth center, up to $50,000, according to NewNowNext. The Girls creator urged her 5 million Twitter followers to give money to the Ruth Ellis Center after the Trump administration repealed federal guidance for trans students. The issue is a personal one for Dunham: Her sibling, Grace, came out as gender nonconforming after struggling with labeling.

The Texas Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that conservatives hope will provide an opening to challenge the landmark 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, ABC News reported. The all-Republican court initially refused to hear the lawsuit, which challenged Houston's decision to offer same-sex spousal benefits to municipal employees. But the court reversed itself last month amid pressure from Texas' governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and leading religious and conservative activists.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) was among the many groups condemning President Trump's executive order that revises the previous travel ban. In a press release, NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq., said, "The administration's continued attempts to scapegoat Muslims, refugees, and immigrants are despicable, cowardly, and a threat to the values that the American people hold dear. These policies serve no purpose other than to terrorize immigrant communities and create discord and fear."

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation launched a campaign during the Christian holy season of Lent to tell the stories of LGBTQ people of faith and their allies, a foundation press release noted. The Lenten Devotional campaign is being led by The Rev. Dr. J. Edwin Bacon. For the next 47 days following the start of Lent, HRC will share devotionals from faith leaders, LGBTQ people and allies. These stories will be posted on the HRC website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Also, HRC announced that Academy Award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker and advocate Dustin Lance Black will address the organization's Spring Equality Convention in Washington, D.C., according to a press release. Black—who won an Oscar for his 2009 screenplay Milk about San Francisco Supervisor and trailblazer Harvey Milk—recently created, directed and wrote the ABC docudrama When We Rise. The HRC Spring Equality Convention, March 9-11, is an annual event consisting of training, workshops, a lobby day, and other events for volunteers and leaders of the organization.

A federal district court ruled in favor of the transgender sister of the singer who performed at President Trump's inaugural festivities seeking to use the bathroom at her Pennsylvania school consistent with her gender identity—but not on the same terms as the contention in similar litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court, South Florida Gay News reported. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak issued a preliminary injunction in favor of trans women Juliet Evancho ( the sister of Jackie Evancho ) and Elissa Ridenour as well as a trans male plaintiff identified as A.S. But Hornak, an Obama appointee, declined to rule in favor of Evancho and fellow plaintiffs on the basis of the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—which forms the basis of the litigation pending before the Supreme Court and the Obama-era guidance the Trump administration rescinded.

In Georgia, an Athens man was arrested for attacking a person who he called an anti-gay slur, LGBTQ Nation reported. Chad Andrew Weaver, 24, called the victim a "faggot," which resulted in an argument. Weaver punched the victim in the face, at which point they started to fight. Weaver ended up on top of the victim on the sidewalk and onlookers had to separate them.

The San Francisco Symphony—which canceled an upcoming pair of concerts in North Carolina to protest HB2—will hold a pride concert on April 4 in its place, The New York Times noted. The concert, to be held at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, will feature music by composers including Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell, Meredith Monk and John Cage. Audra McDonald will perform a selection of songs by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Kander and Ebb; she will also narrate Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait."

Grindr may not be liable in a legal challenge after more than 400 men turned up to have sex with a man after someone posed as him using fake profiles, PinkNews reported. Matthew Herrick, 32, alleges that he has had dozens of reports of fake profiles ignored by the gay dating app, saying "my entire life has been stolen from me." He accuses Grindr of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false advertising and deceptive business practices for allowing him to be impersonated and turned into an unwitting beacon for stalkers and harassers.

The Factory—a 1920 building that once housed both a former gay club and a movie camera manufacturer—has been deemed eligible for the U.S. National Parks Department's National Register of Historic Places, according to a Curbed LA item that cites WeHoville. Located on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood, the building is planned to become part of a new development called Robertson Lane that will bring a hotel and retail to the site. From the mid-1970s until 1993, the gay club Studio One took up residence in the space.

Former NBA All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire said he would go out of his way to avoid a gay teammate in the locker room, USA Today reported. "I'm going to shower across the street, make sure my change of clothes are around the corner," Stoudemire, 34, who now plays for Hapoel Jerusalem of the Israeli Basketball Premier League, told Israeli website Walla Sport. "And I'm going to drive—take a different route to the gym." Stoudemire has a history of homophobic remarks. As a member of the New York Knicks in 2012, he was fined $50,000 after he tweeted a gay slur at another Twitter user.

South Carolina's first openly gay legislator hails from the unlikeliest of places—an ultraconservative part of the state that is home to the Christian fundamentalist school Bob Jones University, Business Insider reported. Republican state Rep. Jason Elliott, a 46-year-old divorce attorney, said his sexual orientation was not an issue in his campaign and is irrelevant to his job at the Statehouse, as his focus will be on improving education, increasing jobs and repairing the state's roads and bridges.

An Alabama movie theater has decided to pull its scheduled screenings of Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast because of the film's inclusion of a "homosexual character," TheWrap noted. "If we can not take our 11 year old grand daughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it," a staff member for the Henagar Drive-In Theatre posted on Facebook on March 3. Director Bill Condon told Attitude Magazine that Beauty and the Beast would feature an "exclusively gay moment" involving Josh Gad's character, LeFou, the buddy of vain villain Gaston.

Gay Philadelphia actor, musician and performance artist Sean "Sebastian" Cummings against taco bar Loco Pez ( where he once worked ), alleging that homophobic language was rampant in the restaurant, PhillyMag.com reported. The lawsuit also alleges that a manager at Loco Pez would simulate fellatio and that he once "made what appeared to be an offensive comment in Spanish about gay people as he stood behind another man, pretended to 'hump' him, and laughed while he made the comment."

To celebrate its 40th year of LGBTQ awareness, Pride Fort Lauderdale ( formerly South Florida Pride ) is taking its annual festival from the cozy confines of Holiday Park to Fort Lauderdale Beach, Miami New Times reported. This weekend's Pride Fort Lauderdale will be an expanded version of the free celebration of the LGBTQ community, supporters and friends. This year's event is shaping up to be the biggest yet. But it also comes on the heels of actions by the Trump administration that LGBTQ advocates say discriminate against trans children.

To mark Women's History Month and International Women's Day, Brawny has launched a celebratory campaign called #StrengthHasNoGender to highlight strong and resilient women past and present who have overcome adversity and broken down barriers. In addition, for the first time ever, Brawny is introducing a special design for its paper towel packages featuring a woman in place of the iconic Brawny Man. Developed with agency Cutwater, the campaign also includes the Breaking Barriers digital anthem video to highlight the journey and accomplishments of women over time including Harriet Tubman, Amelia Earhart and Serena Williams, MediaPost noted. The commemorative packaging will be available in Walmart stores during Women's History Month ( March ).

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, was among many who criticized President Trump's address to Congress. Henderson said, in part, "When he was elected, Donald Trump promised to be a president for all Americans, yet he continues to pursue policies that put the powerful above the people, and to attack the most vulnerable in our society. Tonight's address, sadly, continues that trend."


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