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The 15 gayest cities; Connecticut's pro-trans move
National roundup: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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The Advocate has compiled its list of the United States' 15 gayest cities. Among the municipalities listed are Pittsburgh; Orlando, Fla.; Arlington, Va.; Salt Lake City, Utah; Atlanta, Ga.; and Seattle, with Washington, D.C., taking the top spot. Despite Out Traveler voting Chicago's Boystown as the "Incomparable Gay Neighborhood," the city didn't make this list.

As mentioned, Chicago's Boystown was voted "Incomparable Gay Neighborhood" in Out Traveler magazine. Boystown, centered around Halsted Street, was the nation's first officially-recognized gay village in the United States and is the home to a large Pride celebration ( 1 million attendees at 2013's parade ), as well as August's Market Days. A remodeling of the famous Hydrate nightclub and an LGBT-inclusive comedy festival are on the horizon. San Francisco's The Mission was runner-up, incidentally, as Boystown also beat areas in cities ranging from Los Angeles to Madrid.

Connecticut will become the fifth state to require health-insurance providers to cover treatments related to gender transition, reported. ( The previous four are California, Colorado, Oregon and Vermont. ) Insurers will still be allowed to evaluate the medical necessity of any given treatment on a case-by-case basis, much like they would evaluate any other insurance claim. The lifetime cost of an employee going through treatment can typically range from $25,000 to $75,000.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a last-ditch request from Catholic groups to block a birth-control mandate in the new health care law ( the Affordable Care Act ) for religious organizations, just hours before it was to have gone into effect, according to . Sotomayor issued the stay at the request of an order of Catholic nuns in Colorado, part of a larger effort by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation to halt provisions that require companies—regardless of religious beliefs —to provide contraceptives and related drugs to their employees.

In Kansas, two married same-sex couples are suing to overturn a state policy preventing them from filing joint state income-tax returns, arguing that the requirement is discriminatory and puts the couples "in second-tier" unions, LGBTQ Nation reported. However, the attorney representing the couples said the lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court is not a broad attack on the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages that are legally granted in other states. Rather, the suit—filed on behalf of Michael Nelson and Charles Dedmon of Alma and Roberta and Julia Woodrick of Lawrence—is limited to the Kansas Department of Revenue. The plaintiffs allege the department is violating state tax laws that tie the Kansas income tax code to the federal code, noting that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes unions from states in which gay marriage is legal, allowing joint filing.

Portland teen Duncan McAlpine Sennett has become an Internet sensation for using his bar mitzvah speech to support same-sex marriage, according to . A YouTube video featuring Sennett, 13, calling for marriage equality had garnered more than 146,000 views as of Jan. 2. Sennett, a student at da Vinci Arts Middle School, spoke Nov. 9, 2013, to Congregation Beth Israel in northwest Portland as part of the traditional Jewish right of passage.

The Supreme Court put a stop to same-sex marriages in Utah on Jan. 6, pending the state's appeal of a federal district court's order that had legalized the unions, according to USA Today. The high court, acting on a petition sent to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, ruled that gay marriages cannot continue during the appeals process. The case is pending before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. has pulled a book telling parents to ignore their gay kids and "help" them with their sexuality, Gay Star News noted. Written by radical anti-LGBTI leader of Mission: America Linda Harvey, the book claims to "help" teens realize their "bright future" regardless of "same-sex attractions or gender confusion." Entitled Maybe He's Not Gay: Another View on Homosexuality, the book insists "as more and more young people announce this is their identity, it's time to take a closer look."

A New Year's Eve celebration at a crowded Seattle gay bar went awry after an unknown suspect allegedly set fire to the venue shortly after midnight, according to The Huffington Post. A staircase at Neighbours ( in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood ) was doused in gasoline and set afire, bringing a New Year's Eve drag show to an immediate halt. The fire was extinguished after nearly 700 revelers were evacuated to a nearby alley. No injuries were reported in the blaze.

Father Robert Nugent, SDS—a co-founder of New Ways Ministry, an organization that cares for gay and lesbian Catholics—has passed away, according to The Huffington Post. The New Ways website stated that "Nugent's three-month battle with cancer ended Wed., Jan. 1, 2014, at 2:10 pm, Central Time, in Milwaukee, Wis." Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry's executive director, said of Nugent, "During a time of intense homophobia in both church and society, he exhibited uncommon courage and foresight in welcoming and affirming the goodness of God's lesbian and gay children."

Clay Aiken—Congressman? According to The Washington Blade, the former American Idol runner-up is considering a Congressional run. Two Democratic sources told the Blade Aiken is considering a challenge to Rep. Renee Ellmers ( R-N.C. ) in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. Aiken, who came out as gay in September 2008, has spoken out about politics in recent years, focusing mainly on gay rights issues.

Robert W. Wilson—an openly gay retired hedge-fund founder who became a major philanthropist, donating about $600 million to causes that included environmental conservation, the American Civil Liberties Union and Roman Catholic education ( although he was an atheist )—died Dec. 22, 2013, in Manhattan at age 87, according to The New York Times. Wilson was found dead in an inner courtyard of the San Remo building on Central Park West. Authorities said he left a note indicating that he had leapt to his death. Wilson had reportedly suffered a stroke last June.

In South Carolina, the Rock Hill man who made national headlines when he fell victim to a 2011 mob attack was arrested on drug charges, according to . Joshua Kelly Esskew, 22, was charged with marijuana possession; however, when asked to leave the car he occupied with a woman, he reportedly uttered "racial and sexual slurs." On April 9, 2011, five men beat Esskew outside a convenience store because, he claimed, he "walked gay."

The Mountain States Conference ( MSC ) has approved a license for a woman who will become the Mennonite Church USA's first openly gay pastor, according to The Christian Post. In its decision to grant Rhoda Good a license, the MSC empathized with those who disagreed with its decision but said that it felt it had acted in way consistent with its Christian values. Good—who the MSC recognized as one "whose gifts and call to ministry are clearly affirmed"—received her M.Div. in spiritual formation/direction from Eastern Mennonite University, and joined the pastoral team at First Mennonite Church of Denver in 2012.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has said the United Services Automobile Association ( USAA ) will offer insurance coverage to people who had previously been denied after their same-sex Massachusetts marriages to eligible policy-holders ended, reported. Same-sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts in 2004, when USAA still based spousal eligibility on the federal Defense of Marriage Act recognizing only heterosexual marriages. The agreement also calls for USAA to pay the state $50,000.

Truth Wins Out issued a statement lauding "the demise ... of the notorious Mormon 'ex-gay' organization Evergreen International, which will be merged into North Star, an ambitious 'ex-gay' organization that markets itself to a younger demographic." The statement added that "a group spokesperson, Jeff Bennion, is a controversial figure who claimed [recently] that 'it would have been wrong to ordain a Black person' prior to 1978." The Salt Lake Tribune noted that North Star's president, Ty Mansfield, said the group takes no stand regarding changing or diminishing sexual orientation. Evergreen President David Pruden will continue as executive director of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality.

Even though New Mexico has approved marriage equality, the sovereign Navaho nation ( whose borders spill into the northeastern part of the state ), such unions are banned. According to The Washington Post, however, some Navojo hope to change that. The Dine Marriage Act—which the Navajo Nation Council passed in 2005—defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, and declares polygamy, unions between family members and same-sex marriages "void and prohibited." However, even though Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly backs same-sex marriage, it would take "an action by the Navajo Nation Council to repeal the act," council spokesman Jared Touchin stated.

Liz Cheney has quit the Republican Wyoming Senate primary and abandon her effort to unseat incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi, according to USA Today. Her effort to replace Enzi, a Senate veteran, angered and upset many Republicans and her campaign reportedly faced several problems. In November, Cheney said she opposed same-sex marriage, sparking a public feud with her sister, Mary, who is a lesbian and married.

Utah's Weber State University says it will extend insurance benefits to spouses of employees in same-sex marriages, according to LGBTQ Nation. The university's announcement follows U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby's ruling striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. Weber State, along with many other state schools and agencies, participates in the state's Public Employees Health Program.

In California, organizers behind the Tet Parade, an annual tradition in Orange County's Little Saigon that celebrates the Vietnamese new year, have voted to include an LGBT group to march in the festivities, reported. The Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California voted 51-36 to include the group. Having openly LGBT people in the event has been a tense issue for several years.

In Manhattan, a man was killed and his newlywed husband was critically injured while apparently trying to escape a large blaze that broke out in their 42-story apartment building, NBC New York reported. The men—27-year-old Daniel McClung and 32-year-old Michael Todd Cohen—were found in a stairwell near the 31st floor of The Strand condominium, suffering from smoke inhalation and burns. McClung, a playwright, died while Cohen was last listed in stable condition at a hospital.

As of Jan. 1, Illinois' medical marijuana pilot-program laws officially went into effect; however, individuals who would qualify for the state's program may have to wait another year or more before they're able to utilize those laws, according to a Huffington Post item. State officials say they're taking the necessary time to thoroughly investigate the best way to implement a matter of such complexity. The state's delay means the "four-year program" has been cut down to three years or fewer.

Hal Faulker, 79, has been given an honorable discharge from the Marines—58 years after being given an "undesirable discharge" with his papers being stamped "homosexual," according to a Passport Magazine item. Faulkner joined the Marines in 1953 and served in the Philippines; three years later, he was kicked out because of his sexual orientation. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Faulkner told his family he wanted an honorable discharge; the Marine heard of his limited time frame and granted him his wish.

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