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National roundup: Trump's anti-trans loss, marriage fight, gay mayors
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-01-02

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The Trump administration abandoned its bid to prevent openly transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, the Pentagon announced Dec. 30, Newsweek noted. In July, the Trump administration attempted to delay an Obama-era Department of Defense ruling allowing openly transgender U.S. residents to enlist in the military starting Jan. 1. Trump's 2017 announcement no social media that the administration "will not accept or allow ... Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity" in the U.S. military met with several federal-court challenges—with two federal appeals courts upholding rulings that the Trump administration could not enforce the ban.

A gay couple has lost another legal fight over getting the state to recognize their marriage from the early 1970s, according to a Washington Blade item that cites KIMT 3 News. James Michael McConnell and Pay Lyn McConnell, also known at Richard John Baker, first applied for a marriage license in Hennepin County in May 1970. It was denied because they were both men, a decision that the Minnesota Supreme Court supported at the time. There have been a number of legal losses to uphold the marriage since then—including the Minnesota Court of Appeals upholding a rejection of a November 2016 petition.

A Long Beach State University graduate is the first gay mayor of the northern California city of El Cerrito, the Long Beach Patch noted. Gabriel Quinto, who has served on the city council since 2014, is also the first Filipino to lead the city, according to the East Bay Times. During his swearing-in ceremony in December, Quinto said, "As the first LGBT mayor in the city's 100-year history, I am honored to represent you."

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he and his boyfriend are engaged to be married, SFChronicle.com noted. The 35-year-old Democrat announced on Facebook that he and Chasten Glezman, a middle-school teacher, are engaged, writing, "He said yes!" Buttigieg campaigned for chairman of the Democratic National Committee last year, but dropped out just ahead of the voting in July.

In Oregon, a court of appeals has reversed, on a technicality, the conviction of an Oregon man convicted on manslaughter in the fatal shooting of his gay cousin in 2013, according to NewNowNext.com . A three-judge panel ruled that Multnomah County police continued to interrogate Brandon Hickman even after he requested an attorney—a violation of his rights. Hickman reportedly shot his cousin, 37-year-old Makeitho "Tito" De Monz Herring, in a Portland parking lot; prosecutors said they believed Hickman, now 33, was homophobic and killed his cousin because Herring threatened to reveal a secret sexual relationship between the two.

Oregon's Court of Appeals has upheld a decision to require the owners of a now-closed Gresham bakery to pay a lesbian couple $135,000 in damages for refusing to make them a wedding cake, The Portland Tribune reported. Sweet Cakes owners Aaron and Melissa Klein's refusal to bake the cake for Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer in January 2013 made national headlines, and prompted Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian to award the damages to the Bowman-Cryers for emotional distress.

Victory Institute released its "Out for America" report and interactive "Out for America" map to provide the most comprehensive look ever at LGBTQ elected officials in the United States, per a press release. The report provides demographic information for the nearly 450 known LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S. and documents what the organization says is a severe underrepresentation of LGBTQ people in key positions of power. The full report is available at VictoryInstitute.org/OutForAmerica/report, while the map is at OutForAmerica.org .

Starting Jan. 1, Illinois is barring a rare criminal defense allowing the use of a victim's sexual orientation as justification for violent crime ( the "gay-panic" defense )—a ban gay-rights advocates say they will attempt to replicate in about half a dozen states in 2018, USA Today noted. Illinois is only the second state, after California ( in 2014 ), to prohibit the tactic. Advocates hope to make inroads regarding the ban of the defense in New York, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey and Washington.

The state of Alabama certified Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of this month's special Senate election after a judge denied Republican Roy Moore's effort to halt the process via a last-ditch lawsuit charging widespread voter fraud, Politico reported. Jones won the election with 673,896 votes, or just under 50 percent of the total votes cast in the Dec. 12 special election for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to official results released Thursday. Moore received 651,972 votes, or 48.3 percent. The remaining 22,852 voters wrote in other candidates.

Vice President Mike Pence's neighbors hung a "Make America Gay Again" banner outside his Aspen-area residence that he's renting, according to CNN. The neighbors posted the words, which were written on a rainbow flag, on a stone pillar that sits at the end of the driveways to both homes, Pitkin County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Buglione told The Aspen Times. Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said when a man who lives in the home hung the banner, the Secret Service didn't stop him. President Donald Trump has joked that Pence "wants to hang" all gay people, according to The New Yorker.

A gay porn star has been jailed after he was found to be running what is thought to be the "largest secret steroids lab" in the United States, PinkNews reported. Tyler St. James ( real name: Joel Logan Pasternak ) was found to be the ringleader of the illegal steroid production in Tennessee. The performer—who frequently worked with sites including Men.com and Jet Set Men, and whose parents helped run the operation—was fined $2.8 million and sentenced to nine years in federal prison. The 28-year-old pleaded guilty to "'federal indictment charging them with conspiring to manufacture and distribute anabolic steroids."

Vincent Leggett, a Philadelphia-based drag performer, said he'll no longer entertain at a South Jersey salon due to alleged racial bias at the establishment, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Leggett wore a Kwanzaa-themed outfit on Dec. 20 at Louis Christian/Robert John Salon in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; however, he said a salon co-owner told him not to wear it for a Dec. 22 follow-up party there. On Facebook, salon co-owners Robert John and Louis Christian said, "As gay men, we are very comfortable with drag. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for all of our clients who were guests at our holiday party."

A rural central Kansas school district has stopped letting high school seniors personalize their parking spaces after one student painted his spot with a gay pride rainbow flag that was immediately vandalized, U.S. News & World Report noted. The school board for the 500-student Marion-Florence School District voted four to three recently to put an end to the homecoming week tradition, which had created challenges in the past. Superintendent Aaron Homburg told The Associated Press that last year one student wasn't allowed to paint a Confederate flag and another was stopped from painting a marijuana leaf.

In New York City, local leaders snipped a rainbow-colored ribbon to celebrate the opening of North Brooklyn's first medical facility dedicated to treating the LGBTQ community, the Brooklyn Paper reported. The opening of Pride Health Center at Bedford-Stuyvesant's Woodhull Hospital is an inclusive step toward making sure no patients fall through the cracks in getting the treatment they need, according to Councilman Robert Cornegy ( D—Bedford-Stuyvesant ).

Miss Gay America pageant co-owners Michael Dutzerand and Rob Mansman are launching the Miss Gay America Excellence Foundation "to mentor LGBTQ youth and work with youth centers to provide supportive, self-affirming, highly positive experiences," QNotes reported. Miss Gay America 2017 Suzy Wong will be directing the promotional efforts of the Excellence Foundation. Last summer, Dutzer and Mansman contributed $5,000 to Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation—and made Gaga the first-ever honorary Miss Gay America.

Openly gay luger John Fennell won't be competing for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in Februar, after a freak accident in his World Cup qualifying run ended his hopes, Outsports reported. Fennell, who competed for Canada in the 2014 Olympics, had the fastest start of the day and was in eighth place headed to the final stretch when the runner on his sled snapped and fell off the item. He still finished 21st—but only the top 15 qualified for the World Cup.

In Reston, Virginia, homicide detectives charged a 17-year-old Lorton boy with the murders of Scott Fricker and his wife, Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, after the parents exposed the boy ( who was dating their daughter ) as a neo-Nazi, The Mercury News reported. The teen, who shot himself and is in critical condition at a hospital, was charged with two counts of murder. Kuhn-Fricker had recently alerted the principal of the Fairfax County private school that her daughter and the boyfriend attend. She included numerous images from the boy's Twitter account, retweets praising Hitler, supporting Nazi book burnings, calling for "white revolution," making derogatory comments about Jews and featuring an illustration of a man hanging from a noose beneath a slur for gay people.

Rodrigo Alves, known around the world as "Human Ken Doll," is set to go under the knife for a 60th time—and, this time, the Brazilian-born plastic-surgery obsessive wants to have six ribs removed in the quest for the beauty, PinkNews noted. He believes the highly dangerous procedure will will help him feel more confident in couture blazers, after concerns his physique had become "shapeless and big." Instead, a top Hollywood surgeon will remove four floating ribs in a procedure set to take place in January.

Crystal meth—a chemical high popular in the early 2000s, particularly in the gay-party scene—is staging a comeback in South Florida, The Miami Herald reported. In the last couple of years, it has racked up more overdose victims, created a new wave of addicts and spurred bigger police probes into trafficking of the highly addictive drug. And now, the meth being seized in South Florida is high-grade crystal concocted in "super labs" south of the United States border, then smuggled in as part of Mexican cartels' efforts to expand into East Coast markets, according to law enforcement authorities.

William Graham, the son of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, committed suicide in Los Angeles on Dec. 20 in a death that mirrored his father's more than 50 years ago, Newsweek reported. William ( who fatally shot himself at age 69 ) had struggled for years with a heart ailment that was "painful and debilitating," said brother Donald E. Graham, CNNMoney noted. Katharine—portrayed by Meryl Streep in the current movie The Post—passed away in 2001.


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