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National roundup: NYC mayor's pro-gay move; trans suicide report
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2014-02-04

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will not march in the nation's largest St. Patrick's Day parade, skipping one of his city's signature celebrations because the event organizers refuse to let participants carry pro-gay signs, according to LGBTQ Nation. de Blasio will become the first mayor in decades to sit out the traditional march along Fifth Avenue. In the parade, groups such as colleges or firefighter groups that march can identify themselves; however, LGBT groups cannot.

According to a recent report from the Williams Institute, 51 percent of HIV-positive transgender and gender-nonconforming people have attempted suicide, an HIVPlusMag.com article noted. This result is 11 points higher than their HIV-negative peers. A research said that certain stressors—such as the denial of healthcare, employment discrimination and childhood bullying—may contribute to attempted suicide in the trans community.

Lambda Legal is urging the Social Security Administration ( SSA ) to grant benefits to 92-year-old transgender woman Robina Asti, who was denied survivor benefits after her husband's death, according to a press release. SSA denied her benefits after it determined that she was "legally male" at the time of their marriage, despite legal documents to the contrary. Asti—a World War II veteran and pilot—married her longtime sweetheart, Norwood Patton in 2004; in June 2012, Norwood passed away at age 97.

The National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender ( LGBT ) Bar Association announced it has selected Elliot Stultz—senior vice president, assistant secretary and deputy general counsel of Allstate Insurance Company—to receive its Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award during a Feb. 6 reception at Chicago's Metropolitan Club, according to a press release. Stultz is the executive sponsor of Allstate's LGBT resource group, ANGLES ( Allstate Network of Gay and Lesbian Employees and Supporters ), which includes approximately 200 members from Allstate's offices across the country.

A U.S. District Court ruled Jan. 29 that Lambda Legal will be allowed to proceed with its case on behalf of three same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry in West Virginia, according to an organizational press release. In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal argues that West Virginia's marriage ban unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples and their children and sends a purposeful message that lesbians, gay men, and their children are undeserving of the legal sanction, respect, protections, and support that different-sex couples and their families are able to enjoy through marriage. The court's order is at http://lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/mcgee_wv_20140129_memorandum-opinion-and-order.

In Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Diocese—who, last November, held a mass exorcism that coincided with gay marriage being signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn—has compared supporters of same-sex marriage to children in need of punishment by their parents, Rawstory.com reported. In an interview posted Jan. 27 on LifesiteNews.com, a website containing primarily anti-abortion content, Paprocki also said that gay marriage emanated from a "lie" but that his opposition was intended as a loving gesture.

Police have arrested a suspect in the beating of gay journalist Randy Gener on a New York City street, The Miami Herald reported. Leighton Jennings was arrested at a residence in Queens. The hate crimes task force has determined that the attack was not a bias incident. Gener, who was punched in the face, has undergone brain surgery and relatives say he remembers little about the attack.

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider its ruling upholding a California law that barred conversion therapy—which aims to change sexual orientation—to minors, according to CBS San Francisco. The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that a majority of its 27 judges voted against scheduling a new hearing. That leaves intact California's law—the first of its kind in the nation—barring licensed counselors from offering the treatment.

Weeks after 20 same-sex couples in North Carolina were told their health insurance coverage through Blue Cross and Blue Shield would be canceled due to a wording glitch, the health insurance provider has reversed its decision, Advocate.com reported. Earlier in January, the insurer advised the couples—who had married in states that recognize marriage equality—to reapply for insurance coverage as unmarried individuals. But now, same-sex couples who are married or domestic partners will be able to purchase family health insurance coverage, and those who applied as individuals can convert those plans to family plans.

A former pastor from Colorado Springs, Colo., was arrested on suspicion that he posed as a U.S. marshal in order to rob a gay man who thought he was meeting someone for casual sex, according to Advocate.com . Michael Abromovich allegedly posted an ad on Craigslist under the name "Mike," claiming he wanted to connect with other men for casual sexual hookups. Abromovich is accused of ordering the unidentified victim inside a hotel room, where he was held at gunpoint—alhough police now believe the weapon was a paintball gun—as Abromobvich took the man's laptop, iPad, iPhone, wallet and car keys, claiming they would be "sent to the lab to look for evidence."

A city council member in Shreveport, La., has stopped trying to repeal an LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance, following outcry from the public, including a transgender woman who dared him to stone her to death, Advocate.com reported. The council passed the ordinance in December by a vote of six to one. The one "no," Ron Webb, drafted a proposal to repeal the ordinance; however, at a city council meeting, several people spoke out against the proposal, including trans woman Pamela Raintree, who said, "Leviticus 20:13 states, 'If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death. I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn't just a smoke screen for personal prejudices."

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler ( D ) told national gay-rights activists that the state will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah during the 17 days they were recently allowed, according to The Washington Post. The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a stay on performing gay unions in Utah after a court ruling there struck down a same-sex marriage ban. In between, roughly 1,400 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples.

Three Florida mayors whose cities have Sister or Friendship City relationships with cities in Russia co-signed a letter to Russian President Vladmir Putin criticizing the anti-gay law and violence in the country that will host the Winter Olympics, according to a Equality Florida press release. Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman urged the Russian government to repeal the nation's controversial anti-gay law banning LGBT-related "propaganda."

For the first time ever, the board of governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association voted to endorse marriage equality—and called on the state to take action on pending legislation to grant same-sex couples equal marriage rights in Pennsylvania, according to The Philadelphia Gay News. On Jan. 27, the approximately three-dozen board members voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that calls for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Keystone State.

In an historic first, a state high court ruled Jan. 29 that a male-to-female transgender student who was accepted by school staff and students as a girl could not be barred from using the girls' bathroom at school. GLAD ( Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders ) took the appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on behalf of Nicole Maines ( identified in court papers as Susan Doe ) and her parents after losing in a state superior court. Although most students and staff seemingly handled the transition well, controversy erupted after one boy—prompted by his guardian—followed Susan into the girls' bathroom, claiming that he, too, should be allowed to use the girls room.

A Washington, D.C., Superior Court judge sentenced a 29-year-old woman to six-and-a-half years in prison for the March 2012 non-fatal shooting of a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant in the city's Columbia Heights neighborhood, The Washington Blade reported. Judge Michael Ryan's sentencing came three months after a jury found Lashawn Yvonne Carson guilty of aggravated assault while armed and six additional firearms-related charges.

According to a new Williams Institute study, LGBTQ youth in the United States—who number more than 3 million—could benefit from access to youth-mentoring programs, in particular more than 1.6 million at-risk LGBTQ young people, a press release stated. The study, "Ensuring LGBTQ Youth's Access to Youth Mentoring Programs," recommends policies and practices to break down the barriers LGBTQ youth face; the solutions include establishing LGBTQ-focused youth-mentoring programs and adopting new legal protections.

New York's Big Gay Ice Cream is expanding, opening shop in downtown Los Angeles this spring, according to the L.A. Times. After two successful Los Angeles pop-ups in the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, which drew throngs of fans, co-owners Douglas Quint and Bryan Petroff are opening their first ice cream parlor outside of New York. Quint and Petroff have been life partners for eight years, the New York Times noted.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ) filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination ( MCAD ) against Fontbonne Academy, a religiously affiliated college preparatory school in Milton, Mass., after the school terminated a man they had just hired as food services director upon learning he was gay and married to another man, Boston.com reported. Matt Barrett, a longtime food-industry professional, was offered the position on July 9, 2013, after three interviews. Barrett—who was born and raised in a Catholic family, and who lives in Dorchester with his husband—has worked in the food-services industry for 20 years.

An attempt to ban Virginia mental-health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors has been tabled in a House subcommittee, effectively killing the legislation, The Washington Post reported. Del. Patrick Hope ( D-Arlington ), with the support of progressive and gay rights groups, pointed to medical associations that disavow so-called conversion therapy. However, the legislators also heard from two men who argued that conversion therapy had helped them overcome same-sex attraction and should not be banned.

The Washington Blade reported that House Speaker John Boehner ( R-Ohio ) told attendees at his first-ever meeting with the LGBT Equality Caucus there was "no way" the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ( ENDA ) would pass this year, according to a gay lawmaker who attended the meeting. Rep. Mark Takano ( D-Calif. ), who's gay and one of the caucus co-chairs, volunteered the information about the meeting in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol. Despite his account of the meeting, Takano remained optimistic about the passage of ENDA at a later time, perhaps after Election Day this year.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues has released a new report entitled "Out in the South: Building Resources for LGBTQ Advancement in the U.S. South—Part One: Foundation Funding for LGBTQ Issues in the U.S. South," according to a press release. Among other things, the report finds that while more LGBT adults live in the South than in any other region of the country, the South only receives 3-4 percent of domestic funding for LGBTQ issues. Of the estimated 8 million "out" LGBT adults, nearly 2.7 million LGBT adults live in the South.

In Oregon, a federal jury found Saraya Gardner guilty of an obstruction-of-justice offense in connection with her husband's alleged assault on a gay man walking with his pink-dyed poodle last March in Hillsboro, according to OregonLive.com . The verdict came as jury selection was to begin in the trial for Gardner's husband, George Mason Jr. Mason is charged with a hate crime for allegedly punching David Beltier of Beaverton and hitting him on the back of the head with a metal tool. Police say Mason and Gardner had hurled anti-gay slurs at Beltier and his boyfriend as they crossed the street in front of Mason's SUV with their dog, Beauty, whose fur had been dyed pink with Kool-Aid for Easter.

An Alabama LGBT-advocacy organization and the state association of realtors are blasting an Alabama congressman for making statements they consider inappropriate and offensive, LGBTQ Nation noted. Equality Alabama Chairman Ben Cooper said in a statement that U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers ( R-Ala. ) told a realtors group in Montgomery how nice it was to be called "honey" and "sweetie" by a woman at an Alabama restaurant instead of in a D.C. men's room. The Alabama Association of Realtors issued a statement saying Rogers' remarks don't reflect the organization's views, and the group will work to prevent inappropriate remarks at future meetings.

A 30-year-old man suspected of starting a fire at a crowded gay nightclub in Seattle on New Year's Eve has been arrested, LGBTQ Nation reported. Seattle police Detective Mark Jamieson told The Associated Press that the man has been identified as Musab Mohamed Masmari. Approximately 750 people were celebrating the holiday in the nightclub Neighbours when an arsonist poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway and set it on fire.

It hasn't been marketed yet, but researchers from the University of Texas—in collaboration with Humberto Lara Villegas from the University of Monterrey, Mexico—have created a new vaginal cream that prevents HIV transmission, according to HIVPlusMag.com . The cream uses silver nanoparticles to block the virus from entering CD4 immune cells. The cream will now go into testing on mice that accept human cells, and later to live human clinical trials.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Mayer Brown filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four same-sex couples who wish to marry in Wisconsin or are seeking recognition for their legal out-of-state marriages, according to an ACLU press release. The plaintiffs include Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann of Milwaukee, who have been together 37 years; Carol Schumacher and Virginia Wolf of Eau Claire; Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson of Milwaukee; and Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning of Madison.

Survey results analyzed by psychologists at Boston's Fenway Institute, an advocacy group for LGBT individuals, found that gay and bisexual boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids ( AAS ) almost six times more than their heterosexual counterparts, according to Science 2.0. AAS use is associated with cardiovascular, neurological, endocrine and psychiatric complications. The authors speculate as to the causes of usage, saying it might be increased symptoms of depression, victimization, substance use and poor body image due to bullying, verbal and physical harassment.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) announced a Communications War Room for Americans for Marriage Equality—a coalition to advance marriage equality nationwide and provide up-to-the-minute information for lawmakers, legal experts, media and grassroots supporters, according to a press release. HRC is launching Americans for Marriage Equality to give national support and leadership to the next phase in the push to win marriage equality nationwide. The concept for Americans for Marriage Equality resulted from a successful coalition effort in 2013 designed to support marriage equality against the backdrop of two historic U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging DOMA and Prop 8.

Days after Willamette University kicker Conner Mertens became the first college football player to announce he's gay, his baseball-playing boyfriend has come out of the closet as well, according to Outsports.com . Chandler Whitney came out to his teammates on the Walla Walla ( Wash. ) Community College baseball team and, in the few days since he did, Whitney said he has experienced no change from his teammates. "I'd been planning to do it at some point anyway," Whitney told Outsports, "and seeing the reaction to Conner's story calmed me down."

Anti-gay activist and conservative commentator Robert Oscar Lopez has self-published his second book of fictional gay erotica, filled with what have been called "deeply disturbing depictions of gay sex and rape," according to a Media Matters report. In March 2013, Lopez began self-publishing a series of gay fiction novels titled Mean Gays; he started with Johnson Park and has now written The Melville Affair. According to universe.byu.edu, Lopez is an ex-gay, outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage who was raised by two lesbians.

North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Elmers was dismissive of a potential challenge from former American Idol star Clay Aiken, according to NewsObserver.com . In a recent radio interview on WMAL radio in Washington, Ellmers said of her Democratic rival's bid in the 2nd Congressional District: "Apparently his performing career isn't going so well and he's bored." Aiken is one of four candidates who are vying for a chance to run against Ellmers in November. The openly gay Aiken, who's also a father, has finished second on American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice.


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