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National roundup: Task Force's call, N.C. law, Hillary and AIDS activists
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The National LGBTQ Task Force is calling on Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to resign. A press release from Executive Director Rea Carey stated that "the governor signed a law, HB 1523, that legalizes discrimination against LGBTQ people. This new law may also lead to discrimination against unmarried people raising children, unmarried people having sex, and others." Carey added, "Contrary to what the Governor has said, this law makes a mockery of the basic American idea that we are guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom from religion. We believe that what he did makes his position untenable." A petition is at

Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement in response to Louisiana Governor John Edwards' executive order that protects state workers and contractors from being harassed or fired due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. She said, "Governor Edwards' leadership stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous arguments that we've heard from Republican leaders in North Carolina, in Mississippi, in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. ... Discrimination is neither a 'right' nor a 'liberty.' Hatred holds our nation back, and creates divisions where none should exist."

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has been under fire for saying he supports the ability of North Carolina lawmakers to pass a law restricting bathroom access for gay and transgender people. Cruz said during taping of a MSNBC town hall in Buffalo, New York, that states can pass such laws because "men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls." Democratic National Committee Communications Director Luis Miranda said in a statement, "If Ted Cruz claims to value all human life, it should extend to all the LGBT members of our American family. Republican governors in North Carolina, Mississippi, and elsewhere are learning this lesson in the form of tremendous backlash for signing anti-LGBT discriminatory measures."

Hillary Clinton will meet with AIDS activists May 13, according to . In response to a letter from a national coalition of AIDS advocates and advocacy groups, the Clinton campaign said, in part, "Secretary Clinton is delighted to accept your invitation and is available to meet on May 13th in New York City to discuss how we can build on this agenda [of an AIDS-free generation]." Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have not yet responded to their invitations, PinkNews noted.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ), the Tennessee Equality Project, the ACLU of Tennessee and the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition hand-delivered to Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate President Ron Ramsey a letter from 60 major CEOs and business leaders urging the state's elected officials to scrap discriminatory, anti-transgender legislation, a press release stated. Major executives are increasingly speaking out because they know the legislation is bad for business and bad for Tennessee. They have been joined by country music stars including Emmylou Harris, Chely Wright, Ty Herndon and Miley Cyrus, who are publicly condemning these discriminatory bills, as are Country Music Television and its parent company, Viacom.

For the second consecutive year, Apple CEO Tim Cook topped Out magazine's power list, according to a press release. Ellen DeGeneres maintained her second-place position on the list from last year and was also recently named one of Forbes most powerful women in the world. MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, CNN host Anderson Cooper and American Horror Story's Ryan Murphy round out the top five. A few others in the top 50 include Caitlyn Jenner ( eight ), CNN's Don Lemon ( 13 ), filmmakers Lana & Lilly Wachowski ( 22 ), social-justice activist DeRay Mckesson ( 23 ), RuPaul Charles ( 39 ) and social-media star Tyler Oakley ( 48 ).

Prominent gay civic leader, volunteer and neighborhood activist Barney Simms, 70, was gunned down in the front yard of his southwest Atlanta home, according to Project Q. His front door was unlocked and his black Lexus, later recovered in neighboring East Point, was missing, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Simms, a longtime member of Antioch Baptist Church North, was a longtime executive with the Atlanta Housing Authority until he retired in 2012 and sometimes tangled with LGBT bars over their liquor licenses when he served on and later presided over the Atlanta License & Review Board.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) stated that men can contract Zika through unprotected sex with other men who are infected with the virus, according to . The CDC said a case of sexual transmission that occurred in Dallas in January involved two men. It was only the second reported case of sexual transmission of Zika ever, and the first in which sexual spread was observed between two men. The new findings were published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Two people, including a transgender woman, were beaten with a crowbar or tire iron, shot and killed after being attacked by a group of people in Houston, Project Q reported, citing KHOU. Willie Sims and Shante Thompson were attacked by a group of people, beaten and shot. Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith said the killings could be the result of the anti-LGBT rhetoric that culminated with the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance last November.

Leaders at a pro-equality church in Hillsborough, North Carolina, said an act of vandalism—someone setting the church's gay-pride flags on fire—won't stop them from showing support to all members of their community, WSOC reported. Officials said they raised the flags a few weeks ago after Gov. McCrory signed House Bill 2 into law.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) released a statement after news reports that the Department of Justice ( DoJ ) and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia announced they have opened a joint investigation into the Georgia Department of Corrections' ( GDC ) treatment of transgender and gay prisoners. "We are pleased to see that the troubling scourge of violence and abuse suffered by transgender and gay inmates in Georgia is finally getting a full investigation by the DoJ. We have long known that transgender people in particular experience unacceptably high rates of abuse and mistreatment while in confinement facilities," said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.

In New Jersey, a woman's defense attorney said the woman accused of starting fires in her apartment was burning love letters from her boyfriend after she discovered he was gay and cheating on her, reported. Lakishette Williams, 25, appeared for a bail reconsideration hearing, four months after she was charged with aggravated arson for the incident. Police said at the time that they pulled Williams from her apartment and found that she had started fires in two rooms.

Also in New Jersey, transgender students at the Pascack Valley Regional High School district will be able to use restrooms or locker rooms based on their gender identity under a new policy, according to . After a contentious meeting, the board voted six to one to approve the policy, which also calls for staff to address transgender students based on a "gender identity that is consistently asserted at school."

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales canceled a trip after Mississippi enacted anti-LGBT legislation, CBS News reported. The city of Pascagoula, Mississippi, has a world-famous shipyard, building vessels for the U.S. military and private companies. When the ships are launched, dignitaries of all kinds normally flock for the commissioning ceremonies, but the state's new anti-gay laws are apparently changing that. "The First Lady and I were invited by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy to help christen the USS Portland in Mississippi. We will not be taking that trip unless that discriminatory law is repealed," said Hales in a statement.

In Florida, Miami and Wilton Manors authorities have ordered the removal of ads for gay hook-up app Squirt—after complaints from one resident, PinkNews reported. The company said the ads "were removed after pushback from conservative city officials due to allegations of community backlash"—despite "the only complaint [coming] from a single resident. Michael Rajner, on March 8 during a commission meeting." According to the Broward Palm Beach New Times, gay Wilton Manors resident Michael Rajner—who previously tried to get his dog elected mayor—was the only person to actually complain.

Out & Equal Founder & CEO Selisse Berry was a recipient of the University of Toronto's SDS Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies Trailblazer Award, according to a press release. Berry was recognized for her continued work toward LGBT workplace equality. The Bonham Centre Awards, established in 2008, recognizes individuals and groups that have significantly advanced human rights issues surrounding sexual education.

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