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National roundup: Trans survey, Gates ends term, UNC defies HB2
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-05-31

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Trans United Fund ( TUF ) announced an update to its distribution of the first-ever trans-focused questionnaire to presidential candidates, a press release stated. TUF said that no Republican candidate's campaign responded and both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns committed to complete the survey. However, only the Sanders campaign had followed through on that commitment, and the group called on Clinton to complete the questionnaire by May 27 and for representatives to meet with advisory committee members.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation and HRC-welcoming schools released a resource for school officials to effectively and respectfully follow recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on the rights of transgender students, according to a press release. The guide provides the backdrop for the May 13 federal guidance clarifying that transgender students have the right to be free from discrimination in schools, and answers questions school officials may be asked by parents, guardians and other community members. See HRC.org/resources/a-guide-for-schools-on-department-of-education-guidance.

Robert Gates finished his two-year term as Boy Scouts of America's president by arguing the Scouts had overcome that challenge and were ready to reverse years of membership declines, ABC News reported. In a speech to the organization's leaders, the former U.S. secretary of defense defended the compromise last year to allow openly gay adult leaders to serve in the Scouts, but give churches sponsoring troops the right to use sexual orientation as a guideline for selecting leaders. Gates called the move a "difficult decision," but one that has been accepted by "the overwhelming preponderance of sponsoring institutions and volunteer leaders."

The University of North Carolina has told a federal court that it will disobey the anti-LGBT HB2, and that trans people can use whichever bathroom they choose, PinkNews reported. An affidavit was written by university president Margaret Spellings, who said: "I have no intent to exercise my authority to promulgate any guidelines or regulations that require transgender students to use the restrooms consistent with their biological sex." Lawyers from the university went on to say that HB2 has no enforcement mechanism, and that the university would not change "any of its policies or practices regarding transgender students or employees."

Vermon Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed a bill that bans "gay conversion" therapy on anyone under 18 years of age—a therapy intended to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, WPTZ.com reported. Shumlin said the practice was common when he was growing up. It was once taught in prestigious behavioral-science programs, including the University of Vermont, although it's not clear whether it is still used in the state today. Melissa Murray, executive director at Outright Vermont, said she's not convinced conversion therapy isn't still used in pockets of Vermont.

The U.S. House reversed itself and approved a measure aimed at upholding an executive order that bars discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors, ABC News reported. More than 40 Republicans helped Democrats power the gay-rights measure over the opposition of GOP conservatives who dominate the chamber. The 223-195 tally reversed a vote the previous week on the LGBT-rights measure.

The Republican split over LGBT issues increased after a lawmaker quoted scripture as he called colleagues sinners, the New York Daily News reported. Several Republicans walked out of a GOP policy meeting in the Capitol after conservative Rep. Rick Allen of Georgia blasted his fellow lawmakers and opened the session with a Bible passage condemning homosexuality, TheHill.com reported. Allen angered his fellow GOPers when he suggested they'd sinned for backing an anti-discrimination proposal protecting LGBT individuals.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in an open letter, despite tension with the Clinton family that goes back over two decades, because he really hates Donald Trump, TheWrap noted. Brown and the Clinton family have a ton of history, dating back to 1992, when Brown opposed Bill Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

The Philadelphia couple at the center of a much-publicized gay bashing in 2014 have filed a civil lawsuit against the three people who attacked them, Metro Weekly reported. Andrew Haught and Zachary Hesse filed the suit in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court against Kathryn Knott, Philip Williams and Kevin Harrigan, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. The lawsuit claims that Knott, Harrigan and Williams intentionally attempted or threatened to inflict injury on Hesse and Haught, and that the three assailants made the victims fear for their safety.

Lambda Legal and the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court against a southern California barbershop alleging the business violated California's civil-rights laws when it denied Kendall Oliver, who is transgender, a haircut based on religious objections, a press release stated. According to the release, Oliver made an appointment for a haircut at The Barbershop in Rancho Cucamonga. However, when they showed up for their appointment, Kendall was perceived as female and was informed that The Barbershop would not cut women's hair.

Eric Fanning, recently sworn in as the first openly gay secretary of the Army, will be honored at this year's Capital Pride Heroes Gala, Metro Weekly reported. Fanning will receive the Paving the Way award, honoring "those in public life who have shown courage and leadership in helping to advance the cause of LGBTI rights." He joins eight other individuals being honored at the awards at the gala, taking place June 1 at the Carnegie Library.

Edmund White, Stephen King, Amy Tan and Junot Diaz are among the writers who signed an "Open Letter to the American People" on Lit Hub, listing all of the reasons why they "as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States," Newser reported. Among other things, the literati are against the idea of a President Trump "because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response."

The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus released a statement thanking the Padres for responding to the controversy that took place at Petco Park, where their voices were replaced by that of a female anthem singer and then taunted by fans as they were led off the field, Towleroad noted. The chorus also said that it doesn't "wish to see [the fired DJ] lose his job with the San Diego Padres and kindly ask the Padres to reinstate him. Everyone deserves a second chance."

The National LGBTQ Task Force's Executive Director Rea Carey released a statement after Baltimore police officer Edward Nero was acquitted on charges in the police-involved death of Freddie Gray. Carey said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with Freddie Gray's family, friends and community. Police-related killings of young Black men have become a regular occurrence across our nation. The frequency of police violence underscores the urgency of reform. We must intensify our efforts to reform policing and the broken criminal justice system, which disproportionately targets and harms Black people. Together we can and must create a nation that truly delivers freedom, justice, and equality for all."

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation announced it is pulling its 2017 Time to THRIVE conference for educators, counselors and other youth-serving professionals out of Nashville because of recent actions by Tennessee lawmakers in passing a law targeting LGBTQ youth, a press release stated. Time to THRIVE has been relocated to Washington, D.C., and will be held April 28-30, 2017, in a move co-presenters the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association approve.

In West Hollywood, California, Brandon Ackridge has called for more security around the area's gay bars after claiming that he was drugged and beaten, leaving him in hospital. Ackridge told NBC Los Angeles that after only having two drinks Saturday night he blacked out after leaving Micky's bar, and woke up in the intensive care unit with his face and body covered in bruises. "The doctor said when he did my blood test the things that showed up in my blood were consistent with date-rape drugs," he said. Ackridge's apparent assault comes just a month after Chris de la Cruz was allegedly attacked a few blocks away.

In Tennessee, Memphis Police officer Davin Clemons, a TACT officer who serves as the department's LGBTQ liaison, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department ( MPD ) alleging discrimination based on his sexual orientation, disability and religion, MemphisFlyer.com reported. Clemons is responsible for helping to build trust between the LGBTQ community and the police department—but Clemons alleges that role has backfired, causing some superior officers to discriminate against him because he is gay. After being appointed as liaison in August 2014, Clemons claims he was harassed, reprimanded and humiliated by other officers.

Out gay PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel has admitted to The New York Times that he bankrolled Hulk Hogan's ( real name: Terry Bollea ) case against Gawker Media, Towleroad noted. In 2007, Gawker had published a story revealing Thiel was gay. Publicly confirming his funding of the Bollea case after a report by Forbes, Thiel told the New York Times "it's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence." Judge Pamela Campell recently denied motions from Gawker to have the verdict reversed or reduced, upholding a jury verdict of $140.1 million in damages against Gawker Media, CEO Nick Denton and former editor in chief A.J. Daulerio.

In Texas, a gay student and her mother are upset after they say school officials bullied her into removing a pro-LGBT shirt, AJC.com reported. Ali Chaney, who identifies as gay, is an eighth-grader at SC Lee Junior High School in Copperas Cove, Texas. She recently wore a shirt that read, "Some people are gay. Get over it." Chaney then told KCEN she was called into the principal's office and asked to change her shirt. District spokeswoman Wendy Sledd said the shirt was a distraction and violated the school's dress code.

Anti-gay preacher Brother Dean Saxton—carrying a "you deserve rape" sign—was attacked with a baseball bat, PinkNews reported. Brother Dean Saxton, who lives in Glendale, Arizona, is seen in a video published on YouTube saying, "The Bible says it's not okay to be gay." As he makes the hate speech, various students and teachers approach him and denounce what he is saying, peacefully challenging him on his views—and then a student attacks Saxton while he is still on camera. Tabitha Brubaker, 19, was arrested and charged with felony assault and marijuana possession after the attack.

More than a decade after he was first accused of sexual misconduct, Bill Cosby will go to trial, CNN reported. Cosby faces three counts of felony indecent assault from a 2004 case involving Andrea Constand, an employee at his alma mater, Temple University; she was the first of more than 50 women who have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct. Constand, who sued Cosby for sexual assault but settled with the comedian the following year, filed subsequent papers blasting Cosby's "narcissistic view of the world," according to TheWrap. The papers say despite the comedian's claims that he could read women, he didn't realize that Constand is a lesbian.


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