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National roundup: NYC speaker, 'Fire and Fury,' Grindr crime
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-01-09

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A gay member of the New York City Council was elected speaker of the legislative body, The Washington Blade reported. Corey Johnson, 35, is the first HIV-positive person to be elected speaker, which is the second most powerful elected official in city government after the mayor. Johnson—a GLAAD staffer who has also written for Towleroad—first rose to prominence in 2000 when the New York Times published a story about him playing on his high school's football team.

A paragraph from journalist Michael Wolff's new expose on the Trump administration, Fire and Fury, contains a shocking detail about the president's decision to ban transgender people from the military, according to LGBTQ Nation. In part, it reads, "The president had been presented with four different options related to the military's transgender policy. The presentation was meant to frame an ongoing discussion, but ten minutes after receiving the discussion points, and without further consultation, Trump tweeted his transgender ban." Despite Trump's ban, the Pentagon started accepting transgender recruits Jan. 1 after multiple federal courts ruled against the ban.

However, the Trump administration is expected to roll back Obama-era protections for transgender inmates, LGBTQ Nation noted. The move is expected to come in the form of a legal settlement to a federal lawsuit brought by cisgender female inmates in Texas who said their rights to rights are being violated by being housed with trans people. The lead plaintiff is Rhonda Fleming, a Trump supporter.

One of the four Texas men accused of using a dating app to assault and rob gay men has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, CBS News reported. Federal prosecutors say 21-year-old Nigel Garrett and three other Dallas-area men were charged with hate crimes, kidnappings, carjackings and using firearms to commit violent crimes. An 18-count indictment alleged the men arranged meetings at victims' homes through gay-dating app Grindr; investigators said most victims were tied up, assaulted and robbed at gunpoint.

In a case out of Colorado, a gay inmate has filed a federal lawsuit claiming prison guards knowingly set him up to be repeatedly raped by another inmate, according to LGBTQ Nation. "This is malice. This is sadistic. They set him up to be beaten and raped and that is exactly what happened to him," said Denver attorney David Lane, who is representing the inmate against the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, reported The Denver Post. The publication is not publishing the name of the 21 year-old plaintiff, as he is an alleged rape victim.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president/CEO of GLAAD, released a statement in response to the White House's plan to renominate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom after he failed to be confirmed by the Senate last year, per a press release. In part, Ellis said, "The idea that the same administration pushing the Muslim Ban is seeking to equitably promote religious freedom abroad is absurd. The renomination of Sam Brownback, is yet another example of President Trump using the Oval Office to target vulnerable communities."

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) issued a response after the Trump-Pence administration announced it would disband the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, led by Vice President Mike Pence, following numerous lawsuits and no real evidence of election fraud. In a press release, HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy said, "The Trump-Pence Administration's dangerous and false claims of election fraud were a farce from the start and a threat to the voting rights of all Americans, particularly citizens of color. Our government has an obligation to protect the right to privacy of all its citizens and ensure their fair and equal access to the ballot box. Mike Pence has failed miserably on all counts."

A Mississippi law that allows businesses to deny services to same-sex couples has caused a ripple effect and shaved three home games from the University of Southern Mississippi's baseball schedule, according to Inside Higher Ed. Stony Brook University, part of the public State University of New York system, was scheduled to play Southern Mississippi in February—but no longer will because New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned all non-essential travel to Mississippi following the passage of the new state law, the Sun Herald reported.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, announced that he will retire at the end of his term this year, ending months of speculation about the political future of the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, NBC News reported. ( His term ends in January 2019. ) His departure could clear the way for former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is said to be eyeing a bid for the seat, although other Republicans are certain to jump into the fray. Democrats Jenny Wilson and Mitchell Vice have already declared their candidacies.

Former Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann is considering a run for Democrat Al Franken's senate seat—and the conservative says she is waiting on a sign from God telling her to get back into politics, LGBTQ Nation noted. Bachmann told Christian broadcaster and end-times food buckets salesman Jim Bakker that she has "had people contact me and urge me to run for that Senate seat."

Chicago's North Park University, a Christian institution, has suspended its pastor after the Evangelical Covenant Church temporarily took away her credentials for officiating a same-sex marriage, Inside Higher Ed reported. Pastor Judy Peterson was placed on paid sabbatical, according to a statement from North Park. The university confirmed Peterson had her ordination credential suspended by the church, but redirected questions on why to Evangelical Covenant officials, who did not respond to request for comment. The Evangelical Covenant Church sent an email Dec. 29 on officiating same-sex marriages.

In Illinois, a federal judge has denied a residents group's request for a court order blocking a transgender student's limited use of a girls locker room at Fremd High School in Palatine, according to The Daily Herald. Although the student, identified as "Student A" in court documents, has since graduated Fremd, her representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois praised Judge Jorge Alonso's decision.

Author Jacqueline Woodson—whose professional accolades include a National Book Award, four Newbery Honors and a stint as the Young People's Poet Laureate—has been named the sixth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, for 2018—2019, according to Publishers Weekly. Her appointment became official at an inauguration ceremony on Jan. 9 at the Library of Congress, presided over by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Woodson identifies as queer and is raising two children, per the blog Mombian.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates has a new CEO: Erin Uritus, according to a press release. Uritus first became involved with Out & Equal as an ERG leader at Booz Allen, which sponsored her to attend her first Out & Equal Summit in 2002. She went on to join the Out & Equal board of directors, co-founded the Out & Equal DC Chapter Affiliate and was co-chair for the Out & Equal DC Summit in 2007.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hired a full slate of law clerks through 2020, in a clear signal to the Trump administration that she isn't planning on stepping down anytime soon, LGBTQ Nation noted. At 84, Ginsburg is the oldest member of the court. Ginsburg criticized Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, calling him a "faker" and charging that he had "no consistency" with what he said.

Out news anchor Blaine Stewart, of WKTR 3 News in Virginia, had a unique way of warning viewers to brace for more than eight inches—of snow, that is, even adding "that's too much, even for me," according to NewNowNext.com . This isn't the first time Stewart has used the weather forecast to make a sex joke. Last year, Virginia was expected to get hit with as much as 10 inches of snow, and he warned viewers that those were actual inches and "not Grindr inches."

CBS News has fired its political director, Steve Chaggaris, amid allegations of "inappropriate behavior" in his past, CNNMoney reported. Chaggaris was a longtime CBS News employee. In his latest role Chaggaris, among other things, oversaw coverage of the Trump administration and occasionally appeared on CBS programs. The decision to dismiss Chaggaris came six weeks after CBS fired Charlie Rose, the co-host of its morning show, after the Washington Post published detailed allegations of sexual misconduct by Rose.

Thomas S. Monson—who became the top leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( also known as Mormons ) in February 2008—had died at age 90, ABC News reported. Monson's presidency was marked by his noticeably low profile during a time of intense publicity for the church, including the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney for president; Monson also led the faith's involvement in the passage of gay-marriage ban in California in 2008.


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