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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Stoli, L.A. Center partner; Mississippi city makes history
National roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2014-01-28

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The U.S. distributor of Stolichnaya ( Stoli ) vodka has entered into a partnership with the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center by investing in the center's program for the development of LGBT leaders, LGBTQ Nation reported. Under the agreement, Stoli Group USA will donate $300,000 to support the Center's Leadership LAB ( Learn, Act, Build ), a program that helps current and future LGBT leaders and allies throughout the country and around the world develop critical leadership skills.

In Mississippi, the Starkville City Council passed a resolution supporting diversity in all forms, including sexual orientation, WLOX.com reported. According to Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, it's the first time any municipality in Mississippi has recognized the dignity of its LGBT residents. Starkville's Resolution Supporting Equality states that "discrimination against a person on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity and expression, age, marital status, sexual orientation, familial status, veteran's status, disability, or source of income to be anathema to the public policy of the City."

A Kansas judge has ruled that a man who provided sperm to a lesbian couple in response to an online ad is the father of a child born to one of the women and must pay child support, according to an LGBTQ Nation item. Topeka resident William Marotta had argued that he had waived his parental rights and didn't intend to be a father. However, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi rejected that claim, saying the parties didn't involve a licensed physician in the artificial insemination process and thus Marotta didn't qualify as a sperm donor.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that his office has concluded the state's bans on marriages for same-sex couples are unconstitutional, and he will no longer defend legal challenges to the bans now pending in federal court, according to press releases from Lambda Legal and the ACLU. The legal move follows the inauguration of Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, who replaced Republican Governor Bob McDonnell earlier this year, and Herring, who replaced former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The previous administration had staunchly defended the marriage ban.

Gay men and lesbians may not be excluded from juries based on their sexual orientation, the federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled, according to The New York Times. The decision arose from questioning of a juror at the 2011 trial of an antitrust dispute between two giant drug companies. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit became the first federal appeals court to bar such strikes. Its decision is at odds with one from the federal appeals court in St. Louis, making review by the U.S. Supreme Court more likely.

In Illinois, state Rep. Josh Harms, R-Watseka, introduced new legislation meant to broaden exemptions for religious organizations once the marriage-equality law SB10 takes effect. Although SB10 states that religious organizations cannot be legally compelled to perform same-sex marriages, opponents of the bill maintained that the bill would open the doors to widespread litigation if church-owned facilities did not allow them to take place there.

A new report from the Human Rights Campaign shows that President Obama's usage of words such as "lesbian," "gay," "bisexual" and "transgender" in his public statements is contributing immensely to the political mainstreaming of LGBT people and marriage equality within society, according to a press release. Among other findings is that, while on the 2012 campaign trail, Obama used the word "gay" 62 times at rallies and fundraisers, while GOP contender Mitt Romney spoke about marriage equality only once. The full report is available online at www.hrc.org/ObamaReport.

The Defense of Marriage Act and anti-gay legislation during the Sochi Olympic games are chief among diversity law issues that will be explored at the 2014 American Bar Association ( ABA ) Midyear Meeting Feb. 5-10 in Chicago. Among the programs on the schedule are "Hot Topics in Diversity Law," "DOMA Overruled: Implications for Health Care Plans and Other Employee Benefits" and "Olympian Troubles: Responses to Russia's Anti-Gay Legislation During the Sochi Winter Olympics." In addition, the Stonewall Awards will take place Feb. 7, as three lawyers who have advanced LGBT legal issues will be recognized.

Lesbians Who Tech is hosting its inaugural summit in San Francisco's historic Castro Theatre Feb. 27-28, according to a press release. Sponsored by Google, the Lesbians Who Tech Summit will bring hundreds of members from the organization's eleven chapters across North America and Europe. Among the slated speakers are National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Kate Kendell and Re/Code Co-Executive Editor Kara Swisher. See http://lesbianswhotech.org/summit/.

In Massachusetts, former Republican state Sen. Richard Tisei announced he will run for the state's 6th Congressional District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. John Tierney, according to The Boston Herald. Tisei, who is openly gay, could face a tough road this time—although a ballot without President Obama on it could work to his advantage, campaign experts say. Tisei narrowly lost to Tierney two years ago.

An Iowa man who pleaded guilty in 2009 to criminal transmission of HIV will have his case heard before the Iowa Supreme Court, according to The Des Moines Register. Nick Rhoades, 39, was arrested after he had sex with a man who went to police after finding out about Rhoades' HIV-positive status. Although Rhoades insisted he wore a condom, his lawyer advised him to plead guilty in a Black Hawk County District Court. Rhoades was initially sentenced to 25 years in jail, but that was changed to time served.

In Idaho, Republicans have stopped Democrats' hopes of including protections for Idaho's gay and lesbian residents in state law, according to the Associated Press. Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said Friday he had been informed by House and Senate Republicans that they would block the proposal from reaching a hearing. For eight years, Democrats have sought to include "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" in the Idaho Human Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin and disability.

Representatives of the Missouri Baptist Convention's Christian Life Commission filed a lawsuit challenging a recent executive order from Gov. Jay Nixon allowing same-sex couples legally married in another state to file joint tax returns with the state's department of revenue, according to ABP News. Nixon, a Democrat serving his second term, issued an executive order Nov. 14 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that part of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denied same-sex couples legal rights that are available to heterosexuals.

Openly gay NBA player Jason Collins was invited to sit with Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden during President Obama's State of the Union address Jan. 28, according to Advocate.com . A news release described Collins as the first man to come out in major pro team sport and recalled President Obama saying he "couldn't be prouder" of Collins. For her part, Michelle Obama tweeted congratulations when Collins' news first broke. ( "We've got your back!" she wrote. )

At one point during the Indiana House Elections committee meeting hearing testimony on the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, gay veteran Scott Spychala was tossed out, according to Nuvo.net . Spychala was ousted for turning his thumb down as the committee's chairman, Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, lectured the audience. Spychala, who works with American Veterans for Equal Rights, said he served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

In Michigan, Dave Agema said he regrets some of his controversial Facebook posts about gays and Muslims but he will not resign as Michigan's Republican National Committeeman despite pressure from other GOP leaders, The Detroit News reported. Among other things, two articles Agema reposted on Facebook accused gay people of a "filthy lifestyle" and questioned if Muslims contribute to U.S. society. Agema also said he dug up his own research and posted links to studies on his personal website to offer evidence on the risk of homosexuality.

Illinois Republican officials want Chicago-area Congressional candidate Susanne Atanus to leave the GOP race after she blamed bad weather on legalized abortions and gay rights, but she said she won't back down, according to SFGate.com . Jack Dorgan, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said the 55-year-old's comments to a newspaper's editorial board were "offensive." Atanus, of Niles, is running against David Earl Williams III in the March primary for the 9th Congressional District; the winner will face incumbent U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, in the November general election.

New York City police are investigating the beating of an openly gay journalist as a possible hate crime, according to LGBTQ Nation. Police say Randy Gener, 45, was on his way home from a party in midtown Manhattan in the early hours of Jan. 17 when he was attacked, brutally beaten and left for dead in a pool of his own blood—one block from his apartment. Gener is an award-winning arts journalist who has worked for several national media outlets, including the New York Times and the New York Daily News.

The Indiana House, on Jan. 28, approved a proposal to change the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The vote on House Joint Resolution 3 was 57-40. The bill now goes to the state Senate. Marriage-equality supporters scored an important victory Jan. 27, as the Republican-dominated House voted 52-43 to remove language from the proposed ban that would have prevented same-sex couples from obtaining any form of recognition for their relationships, including civil unions and domestic partnerships. This potentially thwarted the effort to put the ban on marriage for same-sex couples on the Indiana ballot this November.

Kansas and South Dakota have proposed bills that would create a blanket "license to discriminate," inviting anyone in the respective states to use religious beliefs as a legitimate reason to refuse service to same-sex couples, according to ThinkProgress.org . In South Dakota, Senate Bill 67 would allow businesses and individuals to ignore any marriage with whom they simply don't agree. Kansas' proposed legislation, House Bill 2453, offers a a more specific outline for the various forms of discrimination that would be protected. For example, in the definition of "religious identity," it includes any "privately-held business operating consistently with its sincerely held religious beliefs."

A biennial report from the Movement Advancement Project ( MAP ) shows that when it comes to a lot of rights for LGBT individuals, many states are lagging behind despite the advances regarding same-sex marriage. MAP's 2014 Momentum Report shows, for example, that no new states passed laws explicitly protecting LGBT students from bullying. Similarly, more than half of states still lack legislation protecting LGBT residents from employment discrimination—and no new states passed such legislation in the last two years ( although Delaware updated its law to include transgender workers ).

Willamette University freshman kicker Conner Mertens has come out as bisexual, becoming the first active college football player to come out as LGBT, according to an LGBTQ Nation item. Outsports.com originally reported that Mertens, who is set to be the frontrunner for the team's placekicker position in 2014, first came out to head coach Glen Fowles, and then asked for some time to announce it to his teammates. Willamette is a private university in Salem, Ore.

A Connecticut physical therapist has filed a sex-discrimination complaint against the West Hartford senior living center where she works, saying she is being illegally denied health benefits for her wife, LGBTQ Nation noted. Kerry Considine, 36, filed the complaint against Brookdale Senior Living on Jan. 17 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Considine said she sought the benefits for her wife, Renee, after they were married in November.


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