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National roundup: La Raza move, Amtrak ruling, Olson authoring brief
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-05-24

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NCLR ( National Council of La Raza ) announced that it has moved its 2016 Northeast/Southeast Affiliate Leadership Convening scheduled to take place in Raleigh, North Carolina, this October to Miami, Florida, due to its opposition to North Carolina's controversial law HB2, according to a press release. NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguia said, in part, "HB2 is a solution in search of a nonexistent problem; it is unnecessary, offensive and violates not only our rights, but our values as Americans. By taking this action, we extend our support to the efforts of so many in North Carolina and the LGBT, civil rights and business communities to repeal this egregious law."

Federal safety regulators said that the engineer of the Amtrak train that careened off the rails near Philadelphia in May 2015 was likely distracted by radio traffic about an emergency situation on a nearby regional Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ( SEPTA ) train, ABC News reported. Seconds before the crash, which killed eight and injured about 200, 32-year-old Brandon Bostian accelerated to 106 mph—more than twice the speed limit. Gay Star News noted that Bostian has been vocal in his support of gay rights, even being interviewed at a marriage-equality protest in 2012.

The Human Rights Campaign announced that Theodore B. Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP will author an amicus brief on behalf of leading businesses in support of the Department of Justice's lawsuit challenging North Carolina's HB2 law, according to a press release. Among other things, Olson argued Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case upholding the overturning of California's Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriages; for his work to advance marriage equality, Time magazine, in 2010, named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Tennessee's controversial new law allowing mental-health counselors to turn away LGBT clients has prompted Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to ban publicly funded, non-essential travel by city workers to the Volunteer State, according to the Times Free Press. Kenney's order extends his previously issued directive aimed at Mississippi and North Carolina to Tennessee and Oxford, Alabama—all of which have enacted measures critics charge negatively impact LGBT persons.

U.S. Reps. Joseph Kennedy ( D-Massachusetts ) and Robert C. "Bobby" Scott ( D-Virginia ) introduced the Do No Harm Act, an amendment to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act ( RFRA ) that alters the law to clarify that it does not permit the use of religion to discriminate, force religious beliefs on another or impose dignitary harm on someone else, a Lambda Legal press release stated. Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Jennifer C. Pizer said, "Congress never intended RFRA to become, perversely, a tool for rejecting others. The Do No Harm Act is an urgently needed course correction." The Do No Harm Act is at http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/us_20160518_do-no-harm-act.

Ocean County Freeholder Director Jack Kelly's anti-gay stance in a decade-old public benefits case has come back to haunt him as he awaits state Senate confirmation to the New Jersey Parole Board, Asbury Park Press reported. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, recalled his role in the notorious Freeheld case 10 years ago. In the fall of 2005 and winter of 2006, Kelly sought to deny a terminally ill detective in the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office the right to leave her pension to her same-sex partner.

Sally Kern recently gave a farewell address to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in which she condemned gay rights, On Top Magazine noted. The Republican lawmaker is best known for repeatedly declaring that gay rights pose a greater threat to the nation than terrorists. Kern stood by her remarks during a speech on the House floor on May 11: "I didn't apologize in 2008 and I don't apologize today, either."

Oklahoma's Republican-dominated legislature has filed a measure calling for President Barack Obama's impeachment over his administration's recommendations on accommodating transgender students, Reuters reported. The impeachment resolution, introduced May 19, calls on the Oklahoma members of the U.S. House of Representatives to file articles of impeachment against Obama, the U.S. attorney general, the U.S. secretary of education and others over Obama's directive.

An anti-LGBT flier defaming a conservative candidate for the Texas House of Representatives is making the rounds in Houston, Advocate.com reported. Lawyer Briscoe Cain, 31, is hoping to best 72-year-old incumbent Wayne Smith; however, a flier insinuates that Cain is gay and sympathetic to LGBT causes. The people behind the flier pulled old pictures of Cain from social media, including one where he's shirtless and wearing a snorkel; images of men kissing are superimposed on the image. In addition, the document reads, "Houston voters want to keep men out of women's locker room and restrooms. District 128 voters should keep Briscoe Cain out of the men's restrooms as well."

First Lt. Megan Joyner's recent swearing-in ceremony makes her the first openly gay chaplain of the North Carolina Army National Guard, ABC11.com reported. She'll be able to perform ceremonies such as weddings and military funerals while also doing her most important job: counseling soldiers. "I'm not comfortable talking speaking specifically to [the anti-LGBT law] HB2, but the North Carolina National Guard is diverse and inclusive," Joyner said.

The San Diego Padres said it had disciplined an employee and stopped working with a contractor who was responsible for marring the performance of the national anthem by the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus, the L.A. Times reported. The choir's Saturday performance was drowned out by a recording of a woman singing the national anthem that was broadcast in the stadium. The incident generated outrage, partly because the chorus was singing during "Out at the Park," a special LGBT pride event at the stadium. Members of the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus accused the Padres of homophobia and called for an investigation by the team as well as Major League Baseball.

Honolulu has agreed to pay a lesbian couple from Los Angeles $80,000 after they sued the city's police department, saying they were wrongfully arrested for kissing in a grocery store last year, according to Cleveland.com . The settlement with Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero was announced in federal court in Honolulu, HawaiiNewsNow.com reported. The charges against the women were dismissed after they spent three days in jail. Meanwhile, Wilson and Guerrero are no longer a couple, and Harrison, a 26-year veteran, has retired from the police force.

A lesbian high-school student who was barred from her own school's prom for wearing a suit attended another school's prom instead on May 21, Tech Times noted. Aniya Wolf goes to the Bishop McDevitt High School, a private Catholic school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The school said that all female students must wear formal dresses and those who don't follow the strict dress code will not be allowed to enter. Brandon Carter, the principal of William Penn High School in York, extended a prom invitation to Wolf along with a message of full acceptance.

Faith in America is launching two projects to help LGBTQ youth, a press release stated. The first campaign will capture the stories of the dozens of faith leaders who have recently announced they're affirming of the LGBTQ community, while the second will spotlight Christian parents telling their stories of how and why they became affirming of their LGBTQ kids. To execute these campaigns, the organization is conducting an IndieGoGo fundraiser to raise $25,000; visit https://www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/lgbt-faith-media-campaigns.

A woman in Paintsville, Kentucky, said she was assaulted by a man for looking like a "dike," according to a Facebook post that's been shared more than 13,600 times, Attn.com reported. According to a May 11 statement, Brittany Nicole Wallace was viciously assaulted because of her appearance. He apparently told her that he would "beat me like the man I want to be," and that "people like me make him hate the world."

Anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis continues to maintain she's a victim—eight months after she was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to Advocate.com . On Truths That Transform, a religious program from D. James Kennedy Ministries, Davis said, "They didn't want to hear [her objections to the Obergefell marriage-equality case], though. They wanted to shove that paper down my throat and make me eat it for my dinner, you know?"

In a speech to this year's U.S. Military Academy graduates, Vice President Joe Biden praised the importance of diversity on the fighting field—and acknowledged West Point's first out class president, Gay Star News noted. Eugene "EJ" Coleman is the class president of this year's graudates. As Biden noted, the out first captain would have been kicked out of the military if "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was still on the books. "EJ would have been discharged from the Army, and we would have lost an incredible talent," Biden said. "I expect we're going to hear big things from you, pal," he added.

Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon, two longtime members of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Kentucky, saw a Catholic cemetery nix their proposed headstone, Advocate.com reported. The couple's proposed marker bore an image of the Supreme Court, in honor of last year's Obergefell decision established marriage equality nationwide. Not only are Bourke and De Leon devoted Catholics, but they were named persons of the year in 2015 by the National Catholic Reporter.

A state agency wants to remove a small-town judge in Wyoming from two posts because she told a reporter that her religious beliefs would prevent her from solemnizing same-sex marriages, The Daily Signal reported. In her full-time responsibilities, Municipal Judge Ruth Neely isn't authorized to preside over marriages. In part-time duties on the local Circuit Court, though, she could be asked to do so. Neely has asked the Wyoming Supreme Court to prevent the state Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics from ending her 21-year career as a municipal judge in Pinedale.

In Georgia, a Marietta church choir director says he was forced to resign from his job because he is gay, the Associated Press reported. Media outlets report Ira Pittman had worked at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church for more than 20 years—but one church member complained to church leaders that a December event was a "coming-out party." Pittman has now filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Coy App is now available iPhone and iPad, a press release stated. The app serves as a unique, all-inclusive video dating platform for people of all ages, sexualities and locations—including transgender people. Also, the app aims to completely eliminate catfishing by introducing a video feature, allowing users a glimpse into a potential partner's personality, voice and style.

The recently appointed Baltimore City Board of Liquor License Commissioners voted two to one not to renew the liquor license of The Drinkery, a mainstay of the Mount Vernon neighborhood since 1972, The Washington Blade reported. About 15 people who backed the effort to prevent the license renewal and two dozen in support of The Drinkery attended the hearing at City Hall. Among those present who supported the protesters was Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello, who had filed written testimony opposing the bar's license renewal.


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