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National roundup: Texas race, another trans murder, World AIDS Day events
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-12-05

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The Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Carol Donovan told CBS11 that Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has turned in her resignation to Judge Clay Jenkins effective Dec. 8 and will run for governor. However, hours later, Jenkins tweeted he had received no such notification. The openly lesbian Valdez, 70, took office in 2005, and won her fourth term last year with more than 58 percent of the vote.

Another transgender woman of color has been murdered in a year that has been the deadliest yet on record in the United States, LGBTQ Nation noted. Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, 31, was found dead in a hotel room in Oklahoma City. Initially, it was unclear if Stevenson's gender identity had something to do with her death, officials say. Police are urging anyone with information in this crime to call the city's homicide tip line at 405-297-1200. Also, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help cover burial costs; it's at https://www.gofundme.com/burial-fund-for-brooklyn-breyanna.

This year, for World AIDS Day, the Elton John AIDS Foundation ( EJAF ) has partnered with Kwippit, the new mobile messaging app, to raise awareness about the global AIDS epidemic as well as dollars for the foundation's work. Every day during December, one new celebrity-designed heart will be released by Kwippit to users who have subscribed to the special Elton John AIDS Foundation channel on the Kwippit mobile app for an annual fee of $0.99. Celebrity participants include Elton John ( who contributed six designs that will be released throughout the campaign ), Boy George, Andy Cohen, Chris Colfer, Ellen DeGeneres, Beth Ditto, Ansel Elgort, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Colton Haynes, Cheyenne Jackson, Billie Jean King, Heidi Klum, Andy Roddick and more. To participate in this special digital art campaign and support the effort to end AIDS, visit https://kwippit.com/.

In connection with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Transgender Law Center ( TLC ) released three new videos created by trans people of color living with HIV, a press release noted. The videos from Positively Trans members Aryah Lester, Arianna Lint and Marcus Ecks—developed at Story Center workshops—provide a more personal look at the lives and stories behind data showing the epidemic's disproportionate impact on transgender communities. Their videos are, respectively, at youtu.be/0oLBl0tRPA8, youtu.be/cvDn84Yx2ak and youtu.be/plNXLSjeHpc. The full library of Positively Trans videos and research reports is at https://transgenderlawcenter.org/programs/positively-trans.

SAGE, the nation's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elders, renamed its SAGE Midtown SAGE Center The Edie Windsor SAGE Center in a Dec. 7 event. "Edie Windsor brought so much light to our community, with her pink lipstick smile, her iconic hat tilted just so, and her willingness to be a beacon of hope for us all," said Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, in a pre-event press release. "That's why we are proud to dedicate The Edie Windsor SAGE Center in honor of a woman who loved us and fought for LGBT equality and LGBT elders with all her might."

MSNBC host Joy Reid issued an apology for a series of blog posts nearly a decade ago—mostly critical of former Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida—that have been criticized as homophobic and "anti-gay," NBC News noted. A Twitter user noted Reid repeatedly referred to Crist as "Miss Charlie" during 2007-09 in her posts and speculated that his 2008 marriage to a woman was a fraud and part of a "veep marketing strategy." "Among the frequent subjects of my posts was then-governor Charlie Crist, at the time a conservative Republican, whose positions on issues like gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples in Florida shared headlines with widely rumored reports that he was hiding his sexual orientation," Reid wrote in her apology.

The New York City Council passed a bill meant to end conversion therapy—a practice that aims to turn gay people straight, Metro.us reported. Sponsored by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the bill will ban anyone from charging somebody money for a service that intends to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill goes further than some other conversion therapy bans that have been instituted across the country; such bans often only prohibit the practice on minors, while this New York City ban extends to adults as well.

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sarah Sinnott, whose former partner sought to block her relationship with the daughter they jointly brought into their family through adoption, according to a GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ) press release. After the couple split, the couple continued to jointly parent for three years before Sinnott's former partner stopped allowing Sinnott to see and help care for their daughter. A lower court—the Vermont Superior Court, Family Division—declined to accept Sinnott's filing, holding that Vermont law did not recognize parentage other than by married parents or those with a genetic relationship to their child.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding a company's refusal to print T-shirts for a gay-pride festival due to religious beliefs, U.S. News & World Report noted. Lexington's Gay and Lesbian Services Organization tried to order the T-shirts for the city's 2012 Gay Pride Festival; however, an owner of Hands On Originals, Blaine Adamson, refused the order, citing his Christian beliefs. The Lexington Human Rights Commission ruled that the company violated the city's fairness ordinance; however, the Fayette Circuit Court and the appeals court backed the company.

In New York, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit against Oswego County and the Oswego County Department of Social Services ( DSS ) on behalf of Sean Simonson, a retired transgender county employee, a press release noted. Simonson was denied health insurance coverage for his transition-related care by his county-provided health-insurance plan. Following the filing of a charge of discrimination against Oswego County in October 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( EEOC ) issued a determination finding reasonable cause to believe that Oswego County and DSS discriminated against Simonson "due to his sex ( transgender status/gender identity ) in violation of Title VII," on June 26, 2017.

In Florida, self-proclaimed prostitute Peter Avsenew was found guilty in the 2010 killing of Kevin Adams and Steven Powell, two men he met on Craigslist, Local10.com reported. Jurors spent hours listening to testimony from Avsenew's mother and rewatching surveillance video of the three men shopping for a security system at Brandsmart USA. The couple was found shot to death and wrapped in blankets in their Wilton Manors home on the day after Christmas in 2010.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) issued a statement after Senate Republicans passed legislation that it said was "carefully crafted to undermine the Affordable Care Act ( ACA ) and other vital health care programs," in a press release. "With thoughtless disregard for their constituents, 51 Senate Republicans just voted for reckless legislation disguised as 'tax reform' that threatens millions of Americans' health care and programs crucial to the LGBTQ community," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "This widely unpopular and dangerous bill was drafted behind closed doors, not made available to the American people until a few hours before the vote, and rushed through without any meaningful debate. History will judge how these senators voted today, and the American people will remember at the ballot box."

The D.C. Office of the Inspector General issued a report saying it found that Courtney Snowden, the city's deputy mayor for greater economic opportunity, violated D.C. personnel rules in 2015 when she reportedly instructed her staff to engage in babysitting duties for her 8-year-old child, The Washington Blade reported. Snowden, a lesbian who has worked on LGBT rights issues in previous private sector roles, is Mayor Muriel Bowser's highest-ranking openly LGBT appointee.

More than 40 organizations sent an open letter to the media—including the presidents and editors-in-chiefs at CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, AP, Washington Post and Reuters—calling for fair and accurate reporting on religious exemptions, according to a GLAAD press release. GLAAD Presdient/CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said, "The ... Supreme Court case [Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission], recent federal guidance from the DOJ about this issue, and related legislation [are] not only factually inaccurate and a disservice to the public, but a direct result of anti-LGBTQ organizations pushing this clever and biased branding." The National Black Justice Coalition, the National LGBTQ Task Force and Planned Parenthood were among the other groups signing the letter.

A new survey shows Democrats Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa in a closer-than-expected race for California governor—with Republicans so far behind that for the first time they may not make the statewide ballot next November, MercuryNews.com noted. ( Incumbent Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown will be ineligible to run for re-election due to term limits. ) Newsom, the state's lieutenant governor, leads the governor's race with 23 percent of likely voters voicing support for him, according to the poll. However, it found former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa is quickly catching up, as 18 percent of likely voters are backing him. About a third of likely voters were undecided for the elections ( primary: June 5; general: Nov. 6 ).

A review of the anti-LGBTQ policy is threatening to splinter Southern Baptist organizations, IntoMore.com noted. As the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship weighs embracing LGBTQ hiring, some organizations with overlapping membership are threatening to kick out CBF-affiliated churches. Chris Sanders, interim executive coordinator of CBF in Kentucky, could not be reached for comment—but told The Courier-Journal that CBF was surprised by the Kentucky Baptist Convention's mid-November vote to monitor the CBF.

One Iowa Action, an affiliated advocacy arm of One Iowa, announced details for its first Speakers Bureau trainings on its new website ( oneiowaaction.org ), a press release noted. The site also includes the organization's legislative priorities, upcoming details for other events, ways for LGBTQ Iowans and allies to engage with the organization and the Iowa Legislature, and a blog that will be updated with content from One Iowa Action staff and guest writers.

A Key West, Florida, exhibit memorializing iconic playwright Tennessee Williams, who called Key West home from the late 1940s until his death in 1983, has expanded to become the Tennessee Williams Museum under new dual leadership, a press release noted. The museum evolved from the popular Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit following its merger with the Key West Art & Historical Society, and is to debut Friday, Dec. 15, at 513 Truman Ave. Williams lived in Key West as an openly gay man with his partner Frank Merlo, and had a pivotal influence on the island's literary culture.

West Hollywood, California, will have an AIDS monument by the end of 2019, according to a Washington Blade article. "STORIES: The AIDS Monument"—designed by Australian artist Daniel Tobin, of Urban Arts Project—is meant to embody the history of a city originally created to protect the LGBTQ community, and one also profoundly impacted by the viral epidemic.

NBC News is bulldozing and erasing all memory of Matt Lauer from 30 Rock by demolishing his office, ripping off his name plate from the building and destroying all pictures of the now-former anchor, Page Six noted. Network insiders said Lauer's office on the third floor of 30 Rock was one of many undergoing renovation, but now they have instead started tearing it apart. Meanwhile, NBC News HR staff continue to comb through his work email to find possible further evidence of sexual harassment.


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