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National roundup: Transgender Freedom Project, N.C. news, HIV-ravaged town
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-04-12

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Freedom for All Americans launched the Transgender Freedom Project ( TFP ), a multi-year initiative aimed at building public support for transgender people and transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, according to a press release. The TFP has three main goals: amplifying the stories of transgender Americans in the media and in statehouses, developing winning campaign strategies in partnership with other organizations, and equipping policymakers and advocates with tools and resources that advance transgender protections.

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC announced that executives from GE, the PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, Oracle, Whole Foods Market, InterContinental Hotels Group, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, LabCorp., American Society of Interior Designers, BD, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc., Dr. Bronner's and Herbalife have signed onto an open letter that now includes more than 130 leading CEOs and business leaders urging Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the radical provisions in the anti-LGBT law that was passed March 23. An updated letter to the governor is at http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east 1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/NC_CEO_Letter_&; 3 ).pdf.

The University of North Carolina system announced that it has chosen to follow House Bill 2, an anti-LGBT law that would prevent transgender students, employees and visitors from using the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity, according to a Lambda Legal press release. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and Equality NC released a joint statement. In part, they said, "It's incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety and well-being of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender. By requiring people to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity, this policy not only endangers and discriminates against transgender people—it also violates federal law."

Family Equality Council announced that it is postponing its Family Weekend in the South gathering—a sold-out, first-of-its-kind event planned for June 17-19 at the Camp Kanuga retreat in Hendersonville, North Carolina—due to the state's passage of the law HB2, according to a press release. Interim Co-Executive Director and Director of Public Policy Emily Hecht-McGowan said, "Even though Camp Kanuga is an incredibly welcoming and affirming partner, given the hostile climate under this new law, we could not guarantee the safety of our families as they traveled to and from our event. We do not want to put our children in harm's way. We are committed to serving our families in the South, but we also need to be reasonably confident that we don't put their safety, security and dignity at risk."

Republican Presidential candidate John Kasich has said he would not have signed a transgender "bathroom bill" into law, PinkNews reported. The Ohio Governor commented on a number of bills passed recently, and which were signed into law in North Carolina and Mississippi. Speaking to John Dickerson on Face the Nation, Kasich said: "I believe that religious institutions ought to be protected and be able to be in a position of where they can live out their deeply held religious purposes. But when you get beyond that, it gets to be a tricky issue. And 'tricky' is not the right word, but it can become a contentious issue."

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hinted she might veto a proposed bill that targets transgender people, according to On Top Magazine. Republican Senator Lee Bright introduced Senate Bill 1203, which seeks to prohibit transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. "I don't believe [such a bill is] necessary," Haley said. "When I look at South Carolina, we look at our situation, we're not hearing of anybody's religious liberties that are being violated, and we're again not hearing any citizens that feel like they're being violated in terms of freedoms."

Nearly 200 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Austin, Indiana—which has a population of only about 4,000—where health officials say an opioid drug use epidemic helped spread the virus, Time noted. Austin, where drug use is rampant and many live in poverty, is now in recovery after the crisis brought much-needed services, health officials told USA Today. There have been only 14 new HIV cases since July 2015.

United States Sens. Susan Collins ( R-Maine ), Elizabeth Warren ( D-Mass. ), Mark Kirk ( R-Ill. ), Tammy Baldwin ( D-Wis. ), Chairman Lamar Alexander ( R-Tenn. ) and Ranking Member Patty Murray ( D-Wash. ) introduced the Advancing NIH Strategic Planning and Representation in Medical Research Act, according to a press release. Among other things, the bill aims to promote the inclusion of women and minorities in research, and aims to improve research for sexual and gender minorities.

April 10 was observed as National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, as it has since 2013. Among the facts on the official website are that today's young people are the first generation who have never known a world without HIV and AIDS and that, every month, 1,000 young people are infected with HIV. See http://amplifyyourvoice.org/nyhaad/.

Tennessee lawmakers advanced a bill that would require students to use school bathrooms that correspond to their gender at birth, after dropping consideration of the measure last month, The Huffington Post reported, citing The Tennessean. The House education committee passed the bill eight to four, moving it to the finance committee for further consideration. The Human Rights Campaign lambasted the development, with President Chad Griffin saying, "Tennessee lawmakers must not be paying attention to North Carolina and the national backlash caused by a similar legislative attack on transgender people."

Hanna Reno, a junior currently attending Basehor-Linwood High School in Kansas, is sharing her story about two classmates who allegedly threatened to slash her throat and strongly suggested she commit suicide, LGBTQ Nation reported. In order to spread awareness about the prevalence of bullying and the many forms it can take, Reno is sharing the Facebook message she received from her two classmates, which included song lyrics that "addressed things like my sexuality… him wanting to kill me, and him wanting me to kill myself." Reno's father claims he immediately alerted police and high school administrators about the incident, leading to the offenders being suspended for "severe disrespect and intimidation of another student."

Gay U.S. Air Force Lt. Joshua Seefried—who is facing sexual-assault charges—confirmed that he waived his right to a pre-court martial evidentiary proceeding known as an Article 32 hearing at an arraignment on April 4 at Andrews Air Force Base, The Washington Blade reported. The charges stem from allegations by a gay U.S. Marine lieutenant that Seefried performed sexual acts on him in a New York hotel room in 2012 while the Marine was intoxicated and unable to give consent. The judge presiding over the Monday, April 4 arraignment, Lt. Col. Andrew Kalavanos, set a tentative date of July 18 for a pre-court martial motions hearing; he noted that the court martial has been scheduled to begin on Aug. 22.

Gay man Lincoln Parkin, 22, was found dead April 6 in Utah, Gay Star News noted. Medical examiners are still investigating the case, though Lincoln's father, Brent Parkin, believes that his son's death was self-inflicted. "I think he got out of balance physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially," he said. "He got pretty extreme with his diet, he got to the point where he felt like God wasn't there for him, and he isolated himself." In October 2012, ACLU of Utah awarded Lincoln a $1,000 scholarship for his work in advocating for the LGBT community.

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and its partners in the National Business Inclusion Consortium ( NBIC ) will host the inaugural NBIC Best-of-the-Best Awards—recognizing outstanding achievement in cross-segment diversity and inclusion—on April 26, a press release stated. The event will recognize Massachusetts Gov. harles Baker; House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi; and former U.S. Congressman and author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Anthony "Tony" Coelho. In addition, Sen. Charles Schumer will deliver the evening's keynote address and Washington Post/MSNBC contributor Jonathan Capehart will be the master of ceremonies.

Wisconsin voters elected Rebecca Bradley to a full term on the state Supreme Court on April 5—a significant victory for Gov. Scott Walker ( R ) and conservative groups in the state that threw their support to her, The Huffington Post reported. The contest jumped into the headlines in recent weeks after the progressive group One Wisconsin Now unearthed controversial columns Bradley wrote while a student at Marquette University in the early 1990s. In one of her college columns, Bradley criticized people trying to bring attention to the AIDS epidemic, hitting "their misdirected compassion for the degenerates who basically commit suicide through their behavior."

In Massachusetts, Medway High School students responded to anti-gay graffiti by draping rainbow-colored streamers over the atrium at the front entrance, The Milford Daily News reported. Just hours before Easter, someone spray-painted the words "gay sin" on the Summer Street entrance sign. The sign was covered with a blue plastic tarp for much of the week.

A United Methodist pastor who recently came out as gay may be a step closer to a church trial—just weeks before the United Methodist Church's General Conference is expected to take up the question of gay clergy and gay unions, ReligionNews.com reported. Bishop Scott Jones of the Great Plains Conference rejected a proposal to resolve a complaint lodged against the Rev. Cynthia Meyer, who came out to her Edgerton, Kansas, congregation during a Jan. 3 sermon. Meanwhile, the church's top policymaking body, the General Conference, meets in Oregon May 10-20 and is expected to reconsider its rules on gay pastors and same-sex marriage.

Former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert apologized in a court filing for "misconduct" he committed—without specifying what exactly he was sorry for, CNN reported. However, a Chicago Tribune investigation has uncovered new details of the case: At least four people have made what law-enforcement sources say are credible allegations of sexual abuse against Hastert. ( The Tribune determined the identities of three of them, all men, whose allegations stretch over a decade when they were teenagers and Hastert was their coach. ) Hastert is slated to be sentenced April 27 after pleading guilty last October in a hush-money case for structuring money transactions in a way to evade requirements to report where the money was going.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) named Jay Brown as the organization's new communications director, a press release stated. In this role, Brown will serve as an organizational spokesperson and lead a team responsible for advocating for LGBT equality in the media as well as supporting and amplifying HRC programs. Liz Halloran, who has led communications for the HRC Foundation, has also been promoted, to deputy communications director.

The chair-elect of the county Republican Party in Austin, Texas, is vowing to out Republican politicians who portray themselves as Christian conservatives but are, in fact, closeted gay people, The New Civil Rights Movement reported. Conspiracy theorist Robert Morrow—who believes Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush are all either gay or bisexual—recently won his race for Republican Party chair in Travis County, which is home to the state capital. In an interview with Time Warner Cable News, Morrow said he won't refrain from criticizing other Republicans even though he'll be a GOP official after taking office in June.

PFLAG National held its eighth annual Straight for Equality Gala at the New York Marriott Marquis, according to a press release. This year's honors went to Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth, speaker/author Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, and Wells Fargo. ( Actor/comedian Alec Mapa once again hosted the evening. ) Straight for Equality—a nationwide outreach and education project created by PFLAG National—aims to educate, engage and empower allies to advocate for and support people who are LGBTQ.

The LGBT Technology Partnership ( LGBT Tech ) filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC ) regarding the agency's set-top box proposal, a press release stated. The organization is concerned that the proposal permits third parties to gather, use and disseminate private information about viewers, including sensitive personal and aggregate information from members of the LGBT community. The full comments are at http://lgbttechpartnership.org/lgbt-tech-fcc-set-top-box/.

The openly lesbian mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah's largest city, took a shot at the wave of anti-LGBT laws being passed based upon so-called "religious freedom" grounds, calling their supporters "desperate," reported Raw Story, citing KHOU. Speaking at the National Center for Lesbian Rights' annual Palm Springs Garden Party, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski told attendees, "We all have religious freedom. We live in America." Biskupski, a Democrat, was elected Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor about the time the Mormon Church issued a policy banning baptisms for children of same-sex parents.

The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles ( GMCLA ) announced its lineup of honorees and guests for the 5th annual Voice Awards Celebration, to be held on Saturday, April 23. Film company Focus Features will receive the Visionary Voice Award while Trevor Project Executive Director/CEO Abbe Land will be honored with the Good Neighbor Voice Award and Subhi Nahas will receive the Outspoken Voice Award ( from special guest Paula Abdul ). NCIS star Pauley Perrette and television personality Ross Mathews will host the festivities.

George Mason University touted a plan to rename its law school after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—but the new moniker was quickly scrubbed after its acronym became the butt of jokes on social media, according to NBC News. The Antonin Scalia School of Law had prompted some backside-related ribbing with the trending hashtag #ASSLaw, as well as another unsavory acronym. The Fairfax, Virginia-based law school announced yet another new moniker: the Antonin Scalia Law School. An official name change ceremony isn't expected until the fall, after Virginia's higher education oversight agency agrees to the renaming.

A trans woman has claimed to be the first person to have both ears surgically removed, for cosmetic reasons, in her quest to become a dragon, Gay Star News noted. Eva Tiamat Baphomet Medusa, or "Tiamat" for short, is a 55-year-old trans woman from Arizona who has undergone a series of procedures to become a "mythical beast." She has had her nose radically altered, tooth extractions, eye coloring, a forked tongue and a full-face tattoo.


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