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  WINDY CITY TIMES

NATIONAL Pro-trans ruling, nightclub incidents, HIV outbreak
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-03-13

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In Michigan, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a woman who said she was illegally fired by a Garden City funeral home after disclosing she was transitioning from male to female and dressed as a woman, The Detroit Free Press noted. The court stated that R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home discriminated against director Aimee Stephens by firing her in 2013. The decision returns the case to a federal judge who had dismissed the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A gay man has been killed in a brutal attack outside a nightclub, according to PinkNews. Ta'Ron Carson, 24, left Aura in Kansas City near closing time and said goodbye to his friend—when a black SUV pulled up, and two armed people got out and shot him to death. Police are investigating if the homicide was a hate crime.

In Columbus, Ohio, a man is in jail after police say he threatened to kill people at a gay club using a social-dating app, NBC4i.com reported. The threat had police on high alert near gay bars. Court records showed Me'shach Miller said, in part, he would kill 85 people at a gay club, using a gay slur. Police tracked Miller down through the app.

An armed man was arrested March 5 after spewing homophobic slurs and brandishing a handgun outside a gay-friendly nightclub in Raleigh, North Carolina, NewNowNext.com noted. Grayson Pittman was carrying a backpack containing a gun, a knife, and a Taser, when he approached the bar Ruby Deluxe. The 27-year-old reportedly got into an altercation with the door man, and pulled his firearm and went on an anti-gay rant after being denied entry. At that point, the staff called police. North Carolina's hate-crimes statute does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

At least 125 people, including some high school students, have tested positive for HIV, syphilis or both in a growing cluster of sexually transmitted infections in Milwaukee, NewNowNext.com reported. Most are men, and 45% tested HIV positive; a dozen are high school students, though that number could rise as more people come forward. In a statement, Milwaukee Public School System officials said they were working with the city's health department "to share information with young people in middle schools and high schools to keep them healthy and to protect their health."

Out lesbian and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez will face off against Andrew White, the son of Gov. Mark White, will face a May 22 runoff for the Democratic nomination for governor, Statesman.com noted. Late in the vote-counting, Valdez had 42.4 percent of the vote and White had 27.7 percent; a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. The winner will face current Gov. Greg Abbott in the general election.

And speaking of Texas, an astonishing eight out of 10 Victory Fund-endorsed candidates won their primaries or advanced to runoffs in that state on March 6, according to an organizational press release. Some of the candidates include Gina Ortiz Jones ( for U.S. Congress ) and Fran Watson ( for the Texas state Senate ), state Supreme Court candidate Steven Kirkland, state House candidate Julie Johnson, and judicial candidates Jim Kovach, Jerry Simoneaux and Beau Miller.

Three young men have been charged with killings—and all appear to have links to the same white supremacist group: the Atomwaffen Division, NPR reported. One case is in Orange County, California, where prosecutors say 20-year-old Sam Woodward fatally stabbed 19-year-old gay man Blaze Bernstein on Jan. 2. According to the news outlet ProPublica, Woodward was an Atomwaffen member who attended one of its training camps; group members are supporting him on social media.

After deliberating only 28 minutes, a Philadelphia jury issued a first-degree murder conviction for Charles N. Sargent, who fatally stabbed trans woman Diamond Williams in 2013, Philadelphia Gay News reported. Common Pleas Judge Diana L. Anhalt sentenced Sargent, 48, to life imprisonment for the murder conviction, plus six to 12 years for related crimes. Sargent brought Williams to his home, punctured her cranium with a screwdriver, dismembered her corpse with an axe, and scattered her body parts in a vacant lot and the Schuylkill River.

In California, state Sen. Scott Wiener announced a resolution that would ban medical professionals from performing surgeries on intersex babies until children grow up and can consent to it themselves, SFWeekly.com reported. Called SCR 110, it references a statement made by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission more than 10 years ago, which called for an end to the medical interventions. Some of the most vocal advocates of the resolution are intersex adults, many of whom were forced to undergo genital surgeries at a young age.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) responded to a bill introduced by Sen. Mike Lee ( R-UT ) called the First Amendment Defense Act ( FADA ), which seeks to permit discrimination by individuals, many businesses, and non-profit organizations against same-sex couples, single parents and unmarried couples, according to a press release. Under FADA ( which has 21 GOP Senate co-sponsors ), individuals, many businesses and non-profit organizations using taxpayer funds could openly violate non-discrimination policies or refuse to serve same-sex couples. HRC Government Affairs Director David Tracy said, "Supporters of this legislation are using religious liberty as a sword to hurt LGBTQ families rather than staying true to our long tradition of it serving as a shield to protect religious expression from government overreach."

The chairperson of United Lutheran Seminary's trustees, the Rev. Elise Brown, has resigned amid criticisms that she didn't tell fellow trustees or the seminary community that the school's president had previously directed an organization that urged gay people to change/resist their sexual orientation, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. A statement did not indicate any change in the status of the seminary president, the Rev. Theresa Latini. But the board said it would be "assessing and making decisions regarding seminary and board leadership" before meeting March 14.

New Hampshire's Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals, according to The Huffington Post. The bill, which passed 195-129, bans discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity. It now goes to the Senate, where supporters said they expect it to pass. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has suggested he will sign it.

Leaders in Starkville, Mississippi, voted to permit a gay-pride parade, reversing a previous denial and moving to defuse a lawsuit alleging discrimination and free speech violations, a Star-Telegram item noted. Mayor Lynn Spruill broke a 3-3 tie to allow the parade to go forward, after an alderman who previously had opposed the parade abstained, saying the city needed to move past the dispute. Aldermen had voted 4-3 to reject the application last month. The parade will be held March 24.

Emmy-winning Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon is looking to throw her hat in the ring for governor against Andrew Cuomo in September's Democratic primary, Deadline noted. Nixon has started to build a staff for a competitive campaign. The team is said to include Rebecca Katz and Bill Hyers, who both worked on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's first campaign.

Equality Florida honored the student leaders and advisors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Gay/Straight Alliance on March 10 at its annual Miami gala, according to a press release. Emma Gonzalez—president of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas GSA, an openly bisexual Latina activist, and one of the many students and young people advocating for gun control in the wake of the mass shooting at the school—provided brief remarks at the event. Also, a moment of silence was held in remembrance of the 17 lives taken in the Parkland, Florida, massacre.

More than half of transgender teachers face harassment or discrimination in the workplace, NPR reported. The survey of 79 trans and gender-nonconforming teachers from the U.S. and Canada found that the harassment they face varies widely, from 20 percent who reported verbal harassment, to 17 percent who said they'd been asked to change how the present themselves, such as their clothing, to two teachers who said they'd been fired.

The founder of Gays for Trump has thrown his hat in the ring for a seat in the North Carolina state legislature, Gay Star News reported. Peter Boykin, who owns internet radio station MAGA ( Make America Great Again ) One, is running for the state's House of Representatives in the November election. He is a Republican candidate in the 58th House District, which covers much of Greensboro and traditionally leans Democratic.

A book about same-sex marriage has sparked tensions in Athens, Georgia, leading to a dispute between an indie bookstore and a private school, Publishers Weekly noted. Avid Bookshop abruptly pulled out of a multi-day book fair at Athens Academy after the school demanded that the bookstore remove copies of Newbery medalist Richard Peck's The Best Man from its display. he dispute began when the school received complaints from parents about the book, which follows a middle-schooler who becomes the best man at the wedding of two men who have been his role models. Ultimately it was agreed that the book would remain on a table behind the displays.

In Coming Out Stories, a new video series from People magazine and Entertainment Weekly, 16 LGBTQ people from all walks of life share how they opened up to friends, family and the world and how their lives changed. Love, Simon director Greg Berlanti ( the producer behind TV's Riverdale and Supergirl ) tells his own coming-out story in the series, as does co-star Keiynan Lonsdale. Others sharing their stories include Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Grey's Anatomy actress Sara Ramirez, retired NBA player Jason Collins, social-media star Tyler Oakley and transgender New York City firefighter Brooke Guinan.

An openly gay Methodist minister in Cincinnati is waiting to learn his fate from a board of church leaders who may ultimately send his case to a church trial that could strip him of his ministry for marrying his longtime partner, ABC News reported. The United Methodist Church's North Central Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals met March 9 as part of a process to determine whether the Rev. David Meredith will be disciplined, possibly even be defrocked. Meredith has led the congregation at Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati as an openly gay man since 2012.

Bank of America has chosen former America's Next Top Model contestant Kim Stolz to head its U.S. prime brokerage sales team, NewNowNext.com reported. The 34-year-old lesbian previously led Bank of America's equity derivatives hedge fund sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The company fired former brokerage head Omeed Malik in January after sexual-misconduct allegations from numerous female subordinates.

It turns out that Bill Cosby sexual-assault accuser Andrea Constand $3.5 million in hush money in 2006, Page Six noted. While the civil settlement, hashed out at the same time the comedian avoided prosecution, is widely known, the amount has never been publicly revealed. The revelation comes as the disgraced funnyman, 80, faces an April retrial on three counts of aggravated sexual assault of Constand. Several media outlets have noted that Constand is an out lesbian.

Two former employees have filed complaints against Infowars founder/right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, accusing him of making racist and anti-Semitic comments as well as grooming a man for gay sex and groping a female staffer, according to a Queerty item. Video editor Rob Jacobson filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, accusing Jones of singling him out for being Jewish and for referring to him as a "beefcake" over a four-year period. Another employee, Ashley Beckford, has claimed Jones and producers repeatedly made comments about her race, calling her a "coon" and creating a a "hostile, sexually offensive work environment."

A research team led by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing ( Penn Nursing ) investigated and found that sex communication with parents throughout adolescence that excludes GBQ males' same-sex concerns is a missed opportunity for targeted sexual risk reduction, according to a press release from the university. This is particularly important considering male-to-male HIV sexual transmission accounts for 92 percent of new HIV infections among all adolescent males between ages 13 and 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ) stated. The findings are set for publication in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Adolescent Research, and are available online at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0743558418757464.

Running back Derrius Guice said in an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio that an NFL team asked him at the Scouting Combine if he likes men, according to ProFootballTalk.com, which confirmed via a source with knowledge of the situation that the question was asked. Two years ago, cornerback Eli Apple faced that question in a pre-draft interview with the Falcons. Regarding Guice's situation, "the fact that Derrius Guice was asked by an NFL team—and a prospective employer—about his sexual orientation is absurd and inappropriate," said Human Rights Campaign Director of Public Education and Research Ashland Johnson in a press release.

A woman who said she was injured by a drag queen's breast is suing the Hamburger Mary's restaurant in Tampa, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Neldin Molina of Denver said she went to the restaurant May 30, 2015, for a friend's birthday, unaware that there would be a performance. During the show, Molina said a performer grabbed her head and "wiggle[d] her breast against" Molina's face and head "at least 8 times." Molina said the performer then "violently" pounded her head against the performer's chest "up to 9 times." Molina, who is seeking $1.5 million, said she later suffered "excruciating cervical pain and uncontrollable headaches."

The IBA ( Independence Business Alliance ) and DVLF ( Delaware Valley Legacy Fund ) recently announced changes to their LGBT Business Scholarship program, including a substantial increase in funding, Philadelphia Gay News noted. The IBA/DVLF 2018 LGBTQ Business Scholarship Award has been doubled to $5,000. Additionally, the scholarship is now open to full-time graduate students in addition to full-time undergraduates. See https://www.thinkiba.com/programs/scholarship-program/.

Genetic testing company 23andMe has been given federal approval to sell at-home kits that test for three breast-cancer gene mutations, CNNMoney reported. A spokeswoman for 23andMe said the test for the three BRCA1/BRCA2 breast cancer gene mutations will be added "in the coming weeks" to the broader Health + Ancestry services, with no increase to the existing $199 cost. However, the test can only detect three out of more than 1,000 known BRCA mutations, according to the FDA.

Former FBI director James Comey is set to make an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, according to Billboard.com . Host Stephen Colbert tweeted the announcement, revealing that Comey will be a guest on the April 17 episode of the show. The interview comes at a time the Mueller inquiry, triggered by President Donald Trump firing Comey last May, steps into gear.

Underwear/swimwear company Andrew Christian has removed the head of Topher DiMaggio from its online modelling shots after the disgraced adult porn star was accused of rape, PinkNews reported. Last month, gay porn star Tegan Zayne accused DiMaggio of engaging him in anal sex without his consent. DiMaggio denied allegations about the incident, which Zayne said took place two years ago.

Savannah PRIDE, the organizers of Savannah's annual LGBTQ Pride Festival, will be presenting the first-ever MERMAID FEST on March 23-24, on Tybee Island, Georgia, according to a press release. MERMAID FEST will be a celebration of the surf, sand and sun in the Savannah area. Events/highlights include live music, parties, club crawls, beach games, mermaids and mermen. See PrideSavannah.com/mermaidfest.

Martin Shkreli—the former pharmaceutical executive who has been publicly criticized for sharply increasing the price of a lifesaving HIV drug and derisively referred to as the "Pharma Bro"—was sentenced to seven years in prison for defrauding investors in two failed hedge funds and a drug company he once ran, NPR noted. It's less than half of the 15 years prosecutors were seeking, but it far exceeds the minimum 18-month sentence Shkreli's attorneys were hoping for their client.


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