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National roundup: N.C. trans bills, murder suspect talks, Hillary Clinton
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-10-24

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Transgender people in North Carolina will not be barred from using public restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity under a consent decree proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein, the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU ) of North Carolina and LGBT North Carolinians, according to a joint press release from the ACLU and Lambda Legal. If entered, the consent decree would alleviate some of the results that transgender North Carolinians have had to deal with from the so-called "bathroom bill" saga.

Also, in a separate action, Cooper issued an executive order that provides nondiscrimination protections for LGBT state employees and affirms equal rights for transgender North Carolinians. However, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof said in a statement, "While this executive order may represent some narrow improvements for LGBTQ North Carolinians, by no means does it offer full protections or rectify the tremendous harm caused by HB 2 and continued harm from HB 142. Governor Cooper and state lawmakers must show leadership on the real solution for North Carolina—statewide, LGBTQ non-discrimination protections."

Nearly one month after being charged for fatally stabbing his classmate, 18-year-old Abel Cedeno is telling his side of the story, NewNowNext.com reported. The teen is accused of murdering 15-year-old Matthew McCree and seriously wounding 16-year-old Araine LaBoy in September after reportedly experiencing years of anti-gay bullying. Cedeno told Gay City News that he was desperately defending himself from McCree's repeated punches, adding that he was more concerned that the bullies had gang connections.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has joined the lineup at the Oct. 28 national dinner for the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), The Washington Blade noted. HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement his organization welcomes Clinton at the 21st annual dinner, which will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Clinton is set to make an appearance at the event as she promote her book What Happened, which seeks to explain her loss in the election against then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

LGBTQ students enrolling in undergraduate or graduate programs for the 2018-19 academic year are encouraged to apply online for a Point Foundation Scholarship, PR Newswire noted. Applications open online at PointFoundation.org/apply on Nov. 1; students may submit the application until 11:59 p.m. PST on Jan. 29, 2018. The selection process for awarding Point Foundation Scholarships requires candidates to demonstrate academic excellence, leadership skills, community involvement, and financial need. Attention is given to applicants who lost financial and social support as a result of revealing their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

A gay male couple from Washington, D.C.— James D. Walton, 53, and Richard G. Chittick, 58—were struck and killed by a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban SUV driven by a 61-year-old man who lost consciousness behind the wheel and hit the two men while they were standing with their bicycles on a sidewalk in Dewey Beach, Delaware, according to The Washington Blade. The driver of the SUV, who was said to have suffered an "acute medical event," was taken to a nearby hospital.

At a busy and sometimes tense fall meeting, the Democratic National Committee officially banned donations from some corporate sources—then approved a number of new DNC members who have been denounced by activists as corporate shills, The Washington Post reported. The most controversial nominees were Citigroup lobbyist Manny Ortiz and Dewey Square group strategist Minyon Moore; on the flip side, there were ousters of longtime DNC members who had backed Sen. Bernie Sanders ( I-Vt. ) for president.

All five of the former living U.S. presidents made a rare appearance together in the name of hurricane relief, Time.com reported. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended "Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal," a benefit concert at the Reed Arena at Texas A&M University in College Station that has already raised more than $31 million for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. ( Current President Donald Trump appeared via a pre-taped video. ) The concert, hosted by country singer Lee Greenwood, featured performers including Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Moore and Yolanda Adams. Lady Gaga made a surprise appearance.

The murder trial of a man accused of brutally abusing and killing an 8-year-old boy because of the boy's perceived sexual orientation has begun in Los Angeles, with a prosecutor detailing the "systematic torture" of the boy, according to The Huffington Post. Gabriel Fernandez was repeatedly beaten, sustaining a fractured skull and broken ribs, and suffered burn marks, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami told a jury. Isauro Aguirre, 37, the boyfriend of the boy's mother, is charged with murder and facing the death penalty in the case; the mother, 32-year-old Pearl Fernandez, also is charged with capital murder and will be tried separately.

Cleveland State University ( CSU ) students gathered on campus to protest a flyer that was posted on a Cleveland State University billboard that encouraged LGBTQ students to commit suicide, Cleveland.com reported. The crowd harshly criticized CSU President Ronald Berkman for his response about the flyer. Berkman's initial statement was criticized because it didn't address the content of the poster but said the university "will continue to protect free speech to ensure all voices may be heard." Berkman issued a second response saying he "wanted to acknowledge that yesterday I failed to express my personal outrage over a recent incident involving an anti-LGBTQ+ poster."

The New York LGBT Network praised and applauded Justice Paul G. Feinman, the first openly gay judge to be sworn into the New York Court of Appeals—the state's highest court, a press release noted. "This historic day will serve as a groundbreaking moment for so many young LGBT people in our community who may have never have thought it was possible to obtain such a prominent position while also being able to stay true to oneself," said Dr. David Kilmnick, President and CEO of the New York LGBT Network.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion to defend a Maryland school board's policies that prevent discrimination, harassment and stigmatization of transgender and gender nonconforming students in the school system, LGBT Weekly noted. A federal lawsuit against the Frederick County School Board was filed anonymously by a non-transgender student and her mother, who claim that allowing transgender students restroom and locker-room access infringes upon student privacy rights. The motion to intervene in the pending lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, ACLU of Maryland, and Free State Justice on behalf of James van Kuilenburg, an honor student at Governor Thomas High School who is transgender.

GLAAD called for a full apology from Georgia state Rep. Betty Price for suggesting that those Georgians living with HIV/AIDS should be "quarantined" during a House Committee meeting, a press release noted. "We have come a long way in how we understand and talk about HIV as a nation, and comments like those made by Georgia state Rep. Betty Price fly in the face of that progress, and of basic decency," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president/CEO of GLAAD. "This language coming from anyone is totally unacceptable, but coming from a medical doctor and a Georgia State Representative it is reprehensible. GLAAD is calling for a full apology for these remarks on behalf of all people affected by this harmful statement."

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced that city employee medical benefits, for the first time, will provide coverage for gender-reassignment surgery, TribLive.com reported. Peduto—who was joined by Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman and Pennsylvania's physician general—said the city has considered offering the benefit for years. Pittsburgh's medical package for the last few years has offered mental health and hormonal therapy benefits to transgender employees.

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery announced that former President Barack Obama has chosen gay artist Kehinde Wiley to paint his official portrait, LGBTQ Nation reported. Wiley is best known for his vibrant paintings of young African-American men. Amy Sherald, first-prize winner of the Portrait Gallery's 2016 Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, will paint Michelle Obama's portrait.

Claiming victory for LGBTQ members of the United Methodist Church nationwide, officials told The Cincinnati Enquirer that two of three charges against a Clifton, Ohio, congregation's openly gay pastor, David Meredith, were not certified. Meredith appeared recently before the Methodist Committee on Investigation in Columbus, Ohio. Several complaints were filed against Meredith last year after he married his significant other of 29 years; Meredith and Jim Schlachter were married in a Methodist church by a Methodist minister. Meredith was not charged with being a self-avowed practicing homosexual or with immorality.

A federal lawsuit filed by parents of a student who allegedly suffered pervasive anti-LGBT harassment in Bangor, Pennsylvania, because she was perceived to be a lesbian has been settled, according to Philadelphia Gay News. In December 2015, Tammy and Russell Bittenbender filed a lawsuit alleging their daughter suffered extensive anti-LGBT abuse while she was a student at the Bangor Area School District. Terms of the settlement, announced Oct. 12, were unavailable.

In West Virginia, the Morgantown City Council passed a law that provides employment, housing and other protections for members of the LGBT community—becoming the 11th municipality to do so, West Virginia Public Broadcasting noted. The seven-member council members voted unanimously in favor of a measure that expands its Human Rights Commission. Andrew Schneider, of LGBT advocacy group Fairness West Virginia, spoke to the council and said Morgantown's action provides a pathway for the rest of the state to follow suit.

To promote Spirit Day ( Oct. 19 ), Kellogg Company launched a video featuring its beloved characters Tony the Tiger; Julius Pringles ( "Mr. P" ); Ernie Keebler; Toucan Sam; Snap, Crackle & Pop; and Cornelius ( "Corny" ), the Kellogg's Corn Flakes mascot, according to a GLAAD press release. ( The video is at www.youtube.com/watch. ) Just a few of the celebrities taking part in Spirit Day included Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel, Britney Spears, Whoopi Goldberg, Olivia Newton-John, Nico Tortorella, Cameron Esposito, Asia Kate Dillon, Steve Howey, Mario Lopez, Kyle MacLachlan and Monica.

A federal lawsuit against convicted Philadelphia-area gay basher Kathryn Knott, her cop father, and the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, district attorney—alleging they teamed up to retaliate against a woman posting negative comments about Knott—will proceed, Advocate.com noted. Kathleen O'Donnell is claiming she was fired from her job because of the Knotts conspiring with the district attorney's office to punish her for her posts, the Philly Voice reported.

Boxers PHL—a Philadelphia Gayborhood sports bar that claimed anti-LGBT bias motivated city officials to order the removal of its roof deck—recently agreed on a $47,500 city payment to settle its federal lawsuit, Philadelphia Gay News reported. On Sept. 26, the case was officially resolved after a settlement conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge Marilyn Heffley. Located at 1330 Walnut St., the LGBT venue claimed it was treated in a homophobic manner when city officials ordered its roof deck removed.

A former contractor worker at Tesla's factory is suing the automaker and the staffing agency that hired him in a wrongful termination that alleges he was fired after complaining to management about anti-gay harassment, Fortune reported. ( The Guardian initially reported this. ) The case was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in California. Tesla and West Valley Staffing Group are listed as defendants in the lawsuit. In a statement, Tesla said, in part, "First, as one of the most highly reported-on companies in the world, anyone who brings claims against Tesla is all but assured that they will garner significant media coverage. Second, in the history of Tesla, there has never been a single proven case of discrimination against the company."

A hookup between two men on the gay-dating app Jack'd in New York City has left one dead, according to an Oxygen.com item that cited the New York Daily News. David Haigh, 42, of Pennsylvania went to Brooklyn to meet 41-year-old James Johnson. Haigh was hanging out with Johnson and then went back to his apartment. Haigh reportedly felt threatened and then admitted to repeatedly stabbing Johnson in his chest and body. Prosecutors have charged him with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

The organization Brotherhood of the Phoenix has changed its name to Fellowship of the Phoenix, a press release noted. In accordance with the name change, LGBTQ+ adults of all gender identities will be invited to attend regular public rituals and the Novitiate program. Fellowship of the Phoenix ( which is now also in Seattle ) was founded in Chicago in 2004 as a neo-pagan order for men who love men.

Fran Fried—a transgender activist who competed on the TV game show Jeopardy! recently—did not win despite going into the "Final Jeopardy" round with $12,300, the Hartford Courant noted. Fried competed on the show with Carlos Nobleza Posas of Salt Lake City and Manny Abell of Lacey, Washington, who was the defending champion. All three got the final answer wrong ( and all bet big ), with Fried and Posas ending with no money and Abell emerging the champion with $1.

A former Philadelphia district attorney who refused to prosecute Bill Cosby now plans to sue one of the comedian's alleged sex-assault victims, Page Six reported. The ex-DA, Bruce L. Castor Jr., claims Andrea Constand ( noted as an out lesbian in other media outlets ) tried to derail his career when she sued him for defamation in 2015 during his re-election bid for district attorney, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Castor lost the race to Kevin Steele; as district attorney, Steele oversaw a criminal trial against Cosby earlier this year that ended in a hung jury.


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