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National roundup: Idaho trans suit, skydiver case, Aaron Hernandez
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-04-25

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Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit challenging Idaho's refusal to allow transgender people to correct the gender on their birth certificates, according to an organizational press release. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho on behalf of F.V., a transgender woman. The lawsuit, among other things, argues that denying transgender Idahoans the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates discriminates against them and invades their liberty under the U.S. Constitution.

In a case filed by a now-deceased gay skydiver who alleged sexual-orientation discrimination in the workforce, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the legal arguments that anti-gay discrimination is prohibited under current federal civil-rights law, The Washington Blade reported. The 2nd Circuit case was filed by Donald Zarda, a gay skydiver who alleged he was terminated from his position at Altitude Express for disclosing his sexual orientation to his client. The three-judge panel cited a 2000 decision in the Simonton case, a 2nd Circuit ruling that determined Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of the 1964—which bars sex discrimination in the workforce—doesn't apply to sexual orientation.

A relationship with another man emerged as a possible motive for murder as the family of disgraced ex-Patriots star Aaron Hernandez won a court battle to preserve evidence in his prison suicide, The New York Daily News reported. The 27-year-old former NFL player, the father of a 4-year-old daughter, was a bisexual who penned a suicide note to his prison boyfriend before hanging himself in a Massachusetts' jail cell, Newsweek reported. In another revelation, the magazine also reported that Hernandez was locked up because of a murder that may have been motivated by a desire to keep his bisexuality a secret. Hernandez's sexuality was reportedly known to friend Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of the football star's fiancee.

SAGE is launching a 30-day campaign to tell the Trump administration that LGBT elders must not be erased from an important national survey on aging, according to a press release. The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants is used to determine what services will be provided to older Americans in need—and, according to SAGE, Trump wants the survey to stop gathering information about LGBT elders. The organization is urging people to use the hashtag #WeRefuseToBeInvisible on social media, and to sign a letter at http://bit.ly/WeRefuse2BInvisible.

At a New York fundraising event for The Center, an LGBT-rights organization, Hillary Clinton told the audience that "we may not ever be able to count on [the Trump] administration to lead on LGBT issues," the Associated Press reported. "We've learned something important," Clinton said in her speech after accepting The Center's Trailblazer Award in recognition for her work for LGBT equality. "That the progress that we fought for, that many of you were on the front lines of, and that we've celebrated—and maybe even taken for granted—may not be as secure as we once expected."

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey ( R-Pennsylvania ) had previously been denounced for being out of touch with constituents—which made a recent tweet about Chechnya all the more surprising, PhillyVoice.com reported. Regarding the reported situation regarding the Russian republic and gay men, Toomey posted a link with a Washington Post article and stated, "Russia needs to stop horrendous #humanrights violations and 'honor killings' against gay men in #Chechnya: wapo.st/2oEl9nf.&; Toomey is not recognized as the most pro-gay advocate; he previously denounced the Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same-sex marriage across the nation in 2015.

In Florida, detectives were looking for the killer of Chayviss "Chay" Darice Reed, a transgender woman who was shot dead in Miami-Dade's West Little River neighborhood, Local10.com reported. Reed's social-media profiles said she loved the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, and was passionate about spoken word, fashion and cosmetology. Transgender people are at a higher risk of homicide than other members of the LGBTQ community, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) denounced the Alabama state Senate and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh for passing House Bill 24, a bill that would allow state-funded adoption and foster agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples, a press release noted. HRC Alabama called upon Gov. Kay Ivey to not sign this bill, which HRC said "would most harm the children in Alabama's child-welfare system." HRC added that more than 50 faith leaders have joined an open letter to legislators in Montgomery opposing the bill.

In New Jersey, a police officer who claimed he was fired for being gay will receive $750,000 from the borough and get his job back, NJ.com reported. Matthew Stanislao was reportedly fired from his post as a patrol officer in October 2014 and filed the lawsuit a week later, claiming a hostile work environment. Stanislao alleged that his colleagues made derogatory comments and made lewd gestures referring to his sexuality and that he was never recognized for his service. Stanislao will be reinstated with back pay on or before May 5.

Declarations in the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy's recent document "The Gift of the Priestly Vocation" have been called "disrespectful," "ambiguous" and "insulting" by the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, The National Catholic Reporter stated. In a statement released April 19, the 1,200-member Ohio-based organization charged that "the terms 'homosexual tendencies' and 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies' are ambiguous and disrespectful of the personhood of those who identify with a homosexual orientation." The terms appear in the Dec. 8, 2016, document's section titled "Persons with Homosexual Tendencies."

Donald Trump is continuing his trend of appointing anti-LGBT politicians to senior positions, this time eyeing Scott Garrett to head the Export-Import Bank, NewNowNext noted. Garrett held a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for New Jersey's 5th District since 2003, but lost his bid for re-election in 2016 when his obsession with hating gay people led to him to utter controversial homophobic remarks. Also, the politician boycotted and refused to pay his dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee because of its support of gay candidates.

The ACLU of Northern California, the ACLU of Southern California, the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP filed a lawsuit against Dignity Health for denying care to a transgender patient, a press release noted. Filed on behalf of Evan Minton, the suit argues that withholding medical care because of a patient's gender identity is sex discrimination in violation of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act. Minton, 35, is a transgender man who was scheduled to receive a hysterectomy in September at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a hospital in the Dignity Health chain; however, the hospital canceled the procedure—reportedly after discovering Minton is transgender.

A man accusing Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of sexually abusing him about 30 years ago has revealed his identity, CNN reported. Delvonn Heckard, 46, filed a lawsuit against Murray this month under the pseudonym "D.H." In the lawsuit, he said the mayor "repeatedly raped" him when he was a 15-year-old boy and the mayor was 32 at the time; Heckard said Murray also paid him for sexual acts. Murray has denied the charges.

A man has claimed he was beaten and threatened with a gun at the Memphis Zoo because he's gay, NewNowNext noted. Reginald Buckner was hanging out near the dining area at the zoo with some friends when two women came over asking if they could use his cell phone. When Buckner said no, the women asked if he and his friends were gay, and he told the women that they were. He said that the women were then joined by a group of men and the verbal homophobia quickly spiraled into physical violence. Buckner, 23, was punched in the face and on the back before one of the attackers revealed a gun; he was eventually sent to the emergency room and was treated for bruising on his back, a swollen face and a black eye.

A federal appeals court ruled that two Texas couples who fought to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage should receive more than $600,000 in attorneys fees and other costs, DallasNews.com reported. Mark Phariss and husband Vic Holmes as well as Cleopatra DeLeon and wife Nicole Dimetman waged a legal battle to do away with Texas' anti-gay-marriage laws. The funds will come out of state coffers.

Three more Pennsylvania high school students are joining one who last month sued his school district, saying its transgender-friendly policy constitutes sexual harassment and a violation of privacy, NBC Philadelphia noted. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative group representing the students, says the three unnamed plaintiffs joined the federal lawsuit against the Boyertown Area School District on April 18. The district says its policy allowing students to use facilities corresponding to their stated gender identity are legal.

Lambda Legal issued a release mourning the passing of former board member Joan Garner. Garner—the first openly gay Fulton County ( Georgia ) Commissioner and former Lambda Legal board member—passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. Lambda Legal Southern Regional Director Simone Bell said, in part, "This is a sad loss for the city of Atlanta and Fulton County. Our hearts go out to all who knew her and were touched by her loving spirit. Joan was a trailblazer in our movement for equality in Georgia and across the South. In her work with many organizations and communities, including being a founding Member of SONG ( Southerners On New Ground ), she served as a mentor to me and countless others who wanted to devote their lives to justice."

Fox News' Shepard Smith delivered the keynote address at a diversity conference at The Meek School of Journalism and New Media, The Daily Mississippian reported. It Starts with ( Me )ek was a five-day campaign of events geared toward overcoming stereotypes in regards to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability and mental illnesses. Smith moderated a panel of LGBT Meek School alumni who discussed their experiences as students and later as professionals in the workplace. He also told his personal story in his lecture titled, "My Journey from Farley Hall to Major News Events Around the World."

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation announced the selection of 10 young leaders for the second year of its fellowship program focused on elevating the work of young people on the front lines of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, a press release noted. The HRC Foundation's HIV 360 Fellowship Program—made possible with the support of the Elton John AIDS Foundation—provides individualized training and support to innovative young professionals and nonprofit leaders as they tackle the challenges facing communities hit hardest by HIV, including Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, transgender women of color, and LGBTQ people living in the U.S. South.

Equality California will honor California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Washington Post columnist/MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Capehart, local business leader Michael Dunn and transgender reality TV star/writer Jazz Jennings at the 2017 San Francisco Equality Awards on May 6, according to a press release. In addition to this year's Equality Awards recipients, the program will also feature as a special guest California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was the recipient of an Equality Award in 2014.

Guy Anthony and George Johnson have founded the Black, Gifted and Whole Foundation to "empower, educate and mobilize Black gay men by acknowledging, celebrating and affirming their whole selves," according to an Out.com article. Following through on that promise, their foundation recently launched their HBCU Scholarship Ambassador Program to provide scholarships and mentoring for students attending historically Black colleges and universities. The foundation will award up to five students across the country who have been accepted to a HBCU with their Presidential Scholarships; see http://blackgiftedwhole.org/.

The owner of two popular gay sports bars plans to open a "contemporary pub" with a roof deck on New York City's Ninth Avenue, drawing the anger of neighbors who say the venue would have a "ruinous" effect on the neighborhood, DNAInfo reported. Bob Fluet—who co-owns Boxers HK at 742 Ninth Ave.and Boxers NYC at 37 W. 20th St.—plans to open a "contemporary pub," with tables on its first and second floors and its roof deck. Within the past week, however, anonymous fliers have been posted around the neighborhood warning residents that the new eatery would likely bring "excessive noise from rooftop drinking," "rowdy patron behavior," "loud music" and "dangerous street behavior."

After riots and violent protests in and around their campus during the past three months, officials at the University of California at Berkeley nixed a planned speech by conservative firebrand Ann Coulter because of safety concerns, The Washington Post reported. University officials made the decision after assessing the violence that flared on campus in February, when the same college Republican group invited right-wing provocateur and Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos to speak.


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