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National roundup: Sting operation, lesbian police chief, Advocate turns 50
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-06-27

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A four-day sting operation at several parks in Florida's Volusia County resulted in the arrest of 17 men for lewd activity and one for battery—but some, including LGBTQ-rights group Lambda Legal, are raising concerns over how police and local media have handled the arrests, NBC News reported. Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation Susan Sommer told NBC Out that "entrapment is definitely a law enforcement tool used against gay men." An indecent-exposure conviction is considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida and punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of $1,000 or both.

Police Chief Erika Shields came out as a lesbian in a new magazine profile, becoming the first-ever openly gay top cop at the Atlanta Police Department, Project Q reported. Mayor Kasim Reed named Shields the city's new chief in December to replace a retiring George Turner. Shields' sexual orientation wasn't mentioned during the transition. Shields said in December that she's proud of the progress Atlanta police have made in repairing relationships with LGBT residents since police raided the Eagle in 2009.

The Advocate—the longest-running LGBT publication in the country—is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Press Pass Q reported. The most recent issue, number 1091, features covers representing five decades of LGBT history, including the battle for trans rights, the fight for marriage equality and the work of AIDS activists. The Advocate started as the newsletter of Personal Rights in Defense and Education ( PRIDE ), a gay-liberation group formed after police raided the Black Cat bar in Los Angeles.

A week after a gunman opened fire at a GOP congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, one of the heroic Capitol Police officers, Special Agent Crystal Griner, was released from the hospital and threw the first pitch at the Women's Congressional Softball Game, Patch.com reported. Griner was shot in the ankle June 14 while exchanging gunfire with the shooter at the congressional baseball game. According to a White House pool report, President and First Lady Melania Trump "met with Capitol Police Officer Crystal Griner and her wife, [receiving a] bouquet of flowers" after the shootout.

The Village Voice, in partnership with NYC Pride, held the first annual The Village Voice Pride Awards, a press release noted. Honorees inclued activists Edie Windsor, DeRay McKesson and Gavin Grimm; designer Patricia Field; and the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBTQ youth, among others. A few of the attendees included Bob the Drag Queen, retired NBA player Jason Collins, the cast of the now-cancelled Netflix series Sense8 and Broadway actor Gideon Glick. Alan Cumming hosted the event, while Tegan and Sara performed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a summary action, reversed a decision of the Arkansas Supreme Court, in Pavan v. Smith, making clear that states cannot deny accurate, two-parent birth certificates to children born to married same-sex spouses, a Lambda Legal press release noted. Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the same-sex families and praised the court's action.

The man who sued Seattle Mayor Ed Murray accusing him of paying him for sex when he was a teenager has dropped the lawsuit, NBC News reported. Lincoln Beauregard, a lawyer for accuser Delvonn Heckard, wrote that his client was "delaying" his lawsuit until the mayor was out of power. Murray said he felt vindicated and would consider options for getting back into the race for re-election.

A U.S. appeals court lifted an injunction that blocked a Mississippi law allowing businesses and government employees to deny services to LGBT people by citing religious beliefs, NBC News reported. Opponents said they would likely seek to overturn the decision, arguing that the measure allowed for sweeping discrimination against the LGBT community. A three-judge panel at the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that blocked the 2016 law, known as House Bill 1523 and backed by Christian groups, from taking effect

A week before gay pride festivities kicked off in Seattle, a man said his neighbor carved an anti-gay Bible verse into a fence, King5.com reported.Seattle Police are investigating to see if it's a hate crime or just an act of free speech. Shaun Shaffer and his roommates decorated their home with four Pride flags; he said he later saw a neighbor carve the Biblical verse Leviticus 20:13— "If a man has sexual relations with a man ... both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death"—carved into his fence.

A 12-year-old girl who came out as a lesbian in front of her Mormon church congregation in Utah was told to sit down halfway through a speech in which she said she was not a "horrible sinner," The Independent reported. Speaking at the church's monthly Fast and Testimony session, the girl, Savannah, said she was a child of "heavenly parents" who had "made me to be gay", according to a video taken by someone in the audience that more than 200,000 people have seen. However, as she was speaking at the church near Salt Lake City, the microphone was turned off and she was asked to sit down.

MoveOn.org has a new "Pride in Resistance" video campaign that celebrate LGBTQ leaders who oppose Donald Trump and the Republican agenda, a press release noted. The video series, launched in celebration of June's Pride Month, celebrates leaders in the LGBTQ movement and highlights the impact of Trump Administration policies on the LGBTQ community. The video with The Victory Fund's Aisha Moddie Mills is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2_QphelVn4.

A former offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots is opening up about his personal life in a new interview with Outsports, WBALTV.com noted. Ryan O'Callaghan spent five seasons in the NFL, saying he had always used football as a way to hide his true self from the world. He said he even contemplated suicide; eventually, opened up about his struggles to a Susan Wilson, a consulting psychologist with the NFL. Since his last NFL game in 2011, O'Callaghan has moved back to his hometown of Redding, California.

The body of gay former Washington, D.C., council member Jim Graham laid in state at the John A. Wilson Building, which serves as D.C.'s city hall, on June 23, The Washington Blade noted. Graham, who served as the Council's Ward 1 representative from 1999 to 2015, died June 11 following complications associated with an intestinal infection; he was 71. In her own statement, Mayor Muriel Bowser pointed out how Graham emerged as a strong advocate for all city residents.

Lambda Legal asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to reopen the case of Dana Zzyym, the intersex citizen and U.S. Navy veteran denied a passport because the U.S. State Department continues to refuse to recognize a gender marker that is neither "M" ( male ) nor "F" ( female ), a press release noted. In October 2015, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit, asserting that the department violated the due process and equal protection components of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as the federal Administrative Procedure Act, by denying Dana a passport that accurately reflects their gender. The vourt issued its ruling in favor of Zzyym on Nov. 22, 2016.

In New York state's Blauvelt State Park, derogatory slurs and the "F" word were scribbled on painted concrete slabs promoting gay pride, LoHud.com reported. This was days after swastikas and the word "HATE" were found spray-painted on a sidewalk, real estate and traffic signs, and a fence, in Nanuet. Orangetown Town Supervisor Andy Stewart said the county sheriff's office discussed the trend of hate graffiti, particularly swastikas, during a recent Association of Town Supervisors meeting.

A Brooklyn financier was found naked and dead in his apartment—after a gay bondage hookup went wrong, New York Post reported. Neil Rodney Smith, 57, CEO of the investment firm Infraccess, was discovered lying on his back in bed with a wet towel stuffed in his mouth and a pillow over his face inside the apartment. Among other things, police are reviewing surveillance camera footage of a male visitor from outside the home.

On June 20, there was a celebration at the Alice Austen House in Staten Island for the formal announcement of the designation of Alice Austen House as a national site of LGBTQ history, a press release read. Alice Austen House is a nationally landmarked museum devoted to the U.S. street photographer Alice Austen ( 1866-1952 ), who was in a loving and devoted relationship with Gertrude Tate for more than 50 years. Nearly 30 of those years were lived together at the Austen family home that serves as the museum.

A New Jersey college professor who appeared on the show Tucker Carlson Tonight to defend a Black-only Black Lives Matter event has been fired after the college's president said she made racially insensitive comments on the show, Fox News noted. Essex County College in Newark announced Lisa Durden's firing. On his June 6 show, Carlson and Durden, who is black, got into a heated exchange over the appropriateness of allowing only blacks to attend a Black Lives Matter event in New York City on Memorial Day.

Legendary gay-rights activsit Cleve Jones, who's also a union leader with UNITE HERE, was honored at the VH1/Logo Trailblazer Honors on June 23, according to a press release. Jones received his award alongside pop legend Cyndi Lauper in a program featuring Nancy Pelosi, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, UNITE HERE Vice President Maria Elena Durazo and others. This was the fourth annual Trailblazer Honors event, and it was held at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City.

McDonald's is giving its iconic fries the rainbow treatment to celebrate Pride Month, NewNowNext.com noted. The fast-food chain unveiled a special-edition fry container recently that features the rainbow Pride flag on the back. The rainbow boxes are currently available in the Bay Area and Washington D.C., where the corporate giant sponsors Pride events.

A party to launch gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos' long-delayed book was axed after the venue's owner realised what the event was, PinkNews reported. The ex-Breitbart editor's 'Coming out Conservative' night at New York Pride was cancelled at the last minute. The owner of New York dim sum restaurant Jue Lan Club said he had no idea what the event was when they took the booking. The restaurant is based in New York City's Chelsea area, which has a considerable LGBT population.

Gilt City is marking Pride Month with the launch of an exclusive LGBTQ Pride T-shirt and curated Gilt City Pride Collections, benefitting The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide-prevention services to LGBTQ youth, and Gilt will donate all of the net proceeds from the sale of the T-shirt and $1 for each order placed from the Gilt City Pride Collections ( up to $10,000 total ) to the organization. The exclusive unisex tee reads "My Pride won't let me hide," and is $24; visit www.gilt.com/sale/women/mm/gilt-pride-1.


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