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National roundup: World AIDS Day, mayor harassed, ex-pol comes out
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-11-29

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In honor of World AIDS Day ( Dec. 1 ), The Advocate ( with the support of Michael J. Libow and in conjunction with The NAMES Project Foundation ) is bringing three installation panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Los Angeles for display at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and The Beverly Hills Public Library, a press release stated. The panels will be on display at these venues through Dec. 4. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was originally sewn together by friends, lovers and family members as a memorial to those who had died of AIDS.

In honor of World AIDS Day, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the SAG-AFTRA National LGBT Committee was slated to hold a panel discussion on the current state of the AIDS epidemic in the United States on Nov. 30, a press release stated. Speakers included actors and activists alongside entertainment industry executives and medical professionals. There was slated to be a special address from Elizabeth Taylor's granddaughter, Naomi Wilding; SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris; and SAG-AFTRA National LGBT Committee Co-Chair Jason Stuart.

A campaign sign for Mayor Alex Morse was defaced in Holyoke, Massachusetts—marking the second time in a week that the openly gay mayor has been targeted for his sexuality, according to a Boston.com item that cites The Republican. Morse previously received an anonymous letter at his home that read, "Alex, you are one of the most selfish people I know due to your 'gay' lifestyle. You are going down." "I'm a very strong person, so I don't get personally upset about it," Morse, 27, told The Republican. "I think it's important that people be aware of this kind of action."

Now-former Alaska Sen. Johnny Ellis recently came out as gay, according to ADN.com . Ellis has been through two bouts of prostate cancer but says he is now cancer-free, although, multiple sclerosis has taken his mobility. He said he does not have AIDS ( which was a rumor ) and is coming out partly to clear the air. Ellis, 56, spent his life as a closeted gay man, hiding the truth even from close friends so they wouldn't have to lie or worry about revealing it unintentionally. Ellis announced his retirement this past June after serving 29 years in the Alaska state legislature.

A federal lawsuit seeks to enable trans people born in New Jersey to change the gender on their birth certificates without undergoing gender-confirmation surgery, Philadelphia Gay News noted. The plaintiff, "Jane Doe," is a New Jersey trans woman with gender dysphoria who wishes to change the gender on her birth certificate without undergoing the surgery. The defendants are state Registrar Vincent T. Arrisi and state Health Commissioner Cathleen D. Bennett, along with the agencies they head: the New Jersey Office of Vital Statistics and the New Jersey Department of Health, respectively.

On Nov. 1, as part of its work to improve the lives of LGBT older people, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders ( SAGE ) launched the country's first hotline dedicated to LGBT elders, a press release stated. The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline is operated by the GLBT National Help Center and staffed entirely by LGBT volunteers. This new national program responds to the fact that many LGBT people live in parts of the country that lack community supports targeted to their needs.

A sophisticated explosive device stuffed into an envelope sent to Philadelphia Center City resident James Alden may have been placed by someone in a domestic dispute, Towleroad reported. The device sent Alden to surgery with wounds on his face, torso and hand, and created an explosion that was heard for blocks in the neighborhood. According to ABC 6, sources say among the people they are looking at is someone intimately known to Alden and his 32-year-old partner.

Erie County ( N.Y. ) Legislator Patrick Burke is trolling the vice president-elect by introducing a law banning conversion therapy under his name, The Advocate noted. Known as the Prevention of Emotional Neglect and Childhood Endangerment—or PENCE, for short—the legislation, if passed, would make the New York county just one of a few municipalities to block the practice. Currently, five states and Washington, D.C., prohibit the use of conversion therapy outright.

Hillary Clinton's campaign said Nov. 26 that it intends to back the statewide election recount effort in the battleground state of Wisconsin spearheaded by third-party candidate Jill Stein, NBC News reported. Reports indicate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is now more than 1.7 million votes ahead of Republican opponent—and president-elect—Donald Trump, NewNowNext noted. According to the Cook Political Report, Clinton received 63.6 million votes, more than any U.S. presidential candidate in history except Barack Obama. She is only the fourth presidential candidate in history to lose the presidency despite winning the popular vote.

In Nashville, friends and family honored murder victim Deon Brown in a vigil, NewsChannel5.com reported. The 24-year old found dead in a locked Western Express trucking lot, a victim of a brutal murder. Friends of Brown have stated that he identified as a gay male, although at the time of his death he was reportedly dressed in feminine attire, according to a New York City Anti-Violence Project press release. Friends and family spoke out in the press, urging this to be investigated as a hate crime.

In Indiana, a priest allegedly stopped a Decatur man was allegedly stopped from singing at his grandmother's funeral because he attended a gay-pride rally, WANE.com reported. The whole thing stemmed from a picture shared on Conner Hakes' Facebook page, which was uploaded by a friend last year. Hakes said he and his family have been longtime members of St. Mary's of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur. When Hakes sought permission to sing at his grandmother's funeral, Father Bob J. Lengerich denied that request, saying he was concerned Hakes was gay and openly advocating for LGBT rights.

A Republican politician who sent sexual text messages to a teen boy said in a new interview that he is "not gay," The Huffington Post reported. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, President Mike Yenni, who is married to a woman, admitted last month to exchanging "improper texts" with a boy who was 17 at the time, calling it a "bad decision" and saying he regretted his actions. ( He was the mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, when the exchange took place. ) Yenni's text messages have fallen under investigation before, when, as the chief administrative officer in Kenner, he allegedly used his city-funded BlackBerry to sext multiple men and a woman.

A high school referee claims Texas prosecutors maliciously prosecuted him for having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old male student, knowing his independent-contractor status gave them little chance of convicting him, according to Courthouse News. Brian Ortiz filed the federal complaint against Montgomery County, District Attorney Brett Ligon and two assistant district attorneys. Ortiz ( 25 at the time ) was arrested in February 2013 and charged with improper relationship between an educator and student—a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

HIV-positive people who smoke cigarettes could be putting themselves at huge risk, and smoking could be more harmful than the virus itself, PinkNews reported. The study also found that those who do not adhere to medication or those not receiving care also have a lower life expetancy if they smoke, the study found. "Smoking is now the leading killer of people with HIV who are on anti-retrovirals," said Dr. Krishna P. Reddy, the author of the study and a Harvard Medical School instructor.

A Texas lawmaker is facing criticism over a bill that would require public school employees to out LGBT students to parents, News10.com reported. Texas state Rep. Konni Burton ( R ) filed the bill; according to the bill, any teacher or school employee who failed to disclose information about a student—even if the student didn't wish to have information about them disclosed—could be disciplined. Burton said she filed the bill after parents and community members had concerns over new guidelines by the Fort Worth School District regarding transgender students; said guidelines would allow teachers and staff to withhold personal information about a student from their parents.

GreatNonprofits has named the 2016 top-rated charities for LGBTQ issues, according to a press release. The top ones are Free2Luv ( Seattle ), Seacoast Outright ( Portsmouth, New Hampshire ), LGBT Center of Raleigh ( Raleigh, North Carolina ), CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers ( Fort Lauderdale, Florida ) and Equality Florida, Inc. ( St. Petersburg, Florida ). The full list is at http://greatnonprofits.org/awards/browse/Campaign:Year2016/Issue:13.

Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Yvette Brown, a Black woman who was allegedly subjected to discriminatory treatment by a Westchester dentist, Dr. Benjamin Kur, because of her HIV status, according to a press release. When Brown confirmed that she is HIV-positive, Kur reportedly screamed at her, and called her "disgusting" and a "criminal." Also, he allegedly threatened to call her insurance to drop her coverage. Brown, 48, has been living with HIV for more than 24 years.

Eight years ago, three volunteer firefighters in Secaucus, New Jersey, resigned after an alleged bias incident in which members of the department allegedly threw bottles and shouted at a same-sex couple living next door. Now, one of those volunteers ( Charles Snyder ) is now a full-time member of the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue squad—which services five towns in Hudson County—and has been promoted to captain, The Hudson Reporter noted. Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, who is also a volunteer fireman in town and a former fire chief, declined to comment on Snyder's new promotion.

Columbia University has suspended its entire men's wrestling team over a series of "racist, misogynistic, and homophobic" texts, according to a Queerty item that cites The New York Times. Administrators are currently investigating the texts, which date as far back as 2014 and were sent back and forth between members. One of the texts refers to a student as a "gay fuck," while another reads, "We got a missing fa*got no Jews back at Claremont." Also, after a social event was canceled over fears of sexual assault, one person wrote, "I hope someone gets sexually assaulted."

Natalie Woods, who is lesbian, was sitting at a Texas restaurant called Snuffer's, when she overheard a family at a nearby table bashing their gay nephew. Instead of calling them out directly, Woods decided to respond by picking up their check and leaving them a nice note, AOL News noted. "Happy holidays from the very gay, very liberal table sitting next to you. Jesus made me this way," Woods wrote. "P.S. Be accepting of your family."

Deputies in Indiana are investigating after an Episcopal church was vandalized, CBS News reported. St. David's Episcopal Church. Rev. Kelsey Hutto discovered the graffiti. Spray-painted in black on the outside of the church were a swastika, the words "Heil Trump" and a gay slur. The Episcopal Church blesses same-sex marriages and ordains gay priests.

In Philadelphia, as a result of this year's Mummers Parade, performers involved in the New Year's Day event have undergone training about the effects of cultural appropriation, the proper use of satire and issues that are sensitive to the LGBT community, the Philadelphia Gay News noted. The 2016 parade was the subject of controversy after homophobic and transphobic displays by the Finnegan New Year Brigade. One particular skit targeted Caitlyn Jenner.

A gay couple living in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, were the victims of a hate crime after they came home to find a box on their doorstep with a derogatory note and a "Donald Trump" knife pierced into the note and parcel, Fox17.com noted. The men each returned home from work to find a box that had been delivered on their doorstep. On the box, was a note reading "F**s go back to Cal!" The note was being held in place by a knife stabbed into the note and box which has a picture of president-elect Donald Trump on the handle.

The 2017 edition of the Atlanta-based Burly Bakers calendar is out, according to NewNowNext. The bakers pose beside recipes for items such as blackberry shortbread bars, red velvet cupcakes and apple pecan crumb pie. Each calendar sale benefits Open Hand Atlanta; visit burlybakers.com/products/2017-burly-bakers-wall-calendar.


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