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NATIONAL Tenn. law, banned books, rainbow complex, journalists quit
by Andrew Davis
2023-12-01

This article shared 7634 times since Fri Dec 1, 2023
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Under pressure from a lawsuit over an anti-LGBTQ+ city ordinance, officials in Murfreesboro, Tennessee removed language that banned homosexuality in public, MSNBC noted. Passed in June, Murfreesboro's "public decency" ordinance listed various "indecent" behaviors in the Murfreesboro city code, including "homosexuality," alongside "acts of masturbation" and "sexual intercourse." However, local officials have used the "public decency" ordinance to remove at least four books with LGBTQ+ themes from libraries.

And in a related matter, the public library in St. Marys, Kansas, removed all youth-oriented LGBTQ+ books from its shelves to secure its lease for another year, according to The Advocate, citing the Kansas Reflector. The decision was in response to pressure from the city commission reportedly influenced by the Society of St. Pius X, an anti-LGBTQ+ religious group. The commissioners, all members of the society, have made it clear that their religious views heavily influence their decisions regarding the library's content.

Also, the ACLU of Alaska, the Northern Justice Project and parents of a district middle schooler have sued the Mat-Su School District for removing 56 books in April under the direction of the Mat-Su School Board, Alaska Public Media noted. The plaintiffs' attorneys noted that many protagonists in the challenged books are people of color or LGBTQ+ characters. This fall, the board appointed a Library Citizens Advisory Committee to review the books; the committee has reviewed 12 books so far—eight of which they recommended should be kept in high school libraries but removed from middle and elementary schools. The district has until the start of 2024 to respond to the lawsuit.

A house-turned-apartment complex is bringing smiles to lots of people in Omaha, Nebraska thanks to its rainbow paint job and the owner's young daughters who chose the colors, USA Today reported. Owner/realtor Ryan Basye had painted an office down the street from the house, in the Dundee neighborhood, bright red; when choosing his next project, his girls' suggestion reminded him of the 2022 anti-gay comments of a property owner on that same street—and he decided to go with the rainbow hues, anyway. "This place is right by an elementary school so we get lots of kids walking by with smiles on their faces," Basye said. "It has been about 99% positive."

At least three LGBTQ+ journalists have resigned from the New York Times Magazine after publicly criticizing the outlet's coverage of Israel's siege on Gaza, with an additional contributing photographer canceling a major project in solidarity, the website them noted. Jazmine Hughes—who has been with the Times since 2015 and won numerous national awards, including a 2023 National Magazine Award for profile writing—resigned after she was found to have violated the newsroom's policy on public protest. Contributor Jamie Lauren Keiles and poetry editor Anne Boyer also resigned, while photographer Nan Goldin went on her Instagram Stories to announce she had canceled a project with the publication.

The Arkansas Department of Education released a video promoting Cornerstone Christian Academy (CCA), a K-12 private school in Tillar that does not allow LGBTQ+ students, per The Arkansas Times. A student handbook states, in part, "Students will NOT be permitted to attend CCA who professes any sort of sexually immoral lifestyle or an openly sinful lifestyle including but not limited to: promiscuity, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc." Also, the publicly funded promo for a private school is made even more awkward given this school's religious affiliation: Cornerstone uses a Bob Jones University curriculum known for teaching "young-Earth creationism"—the belief that the planet and universe are only a few thousand years old.

Quechee, Vermont's Mid Vermont Christian School (MVCS), a private religious institution, has sued the state for religious discrimination after being banned from participating in all state-run athletics this year after refusing to play against a team with a transgender player, USA Today noted. In February, the school's girls basketball team forfeited a game against Long Trail School, who had a transgender student on its roster, the Burlington Free Press reported. In a statement at the time, MVCS head coach Vicky Fogg said, "We believe playing against an opponent with a biological male jeopardizes the fairness of the game and the safety of our players."

A Vatican official said that Pope Francis has removed some of the Vatican privileges of conservative U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, including a large subsidized apartment and his salary, Reuters reported. The official quoted the pope as saying that Burke, one of his fiercest critics, was "working against the Church and against the papacy" and that he had created "disunity" in the Catholic Church. On Nov. 11, the pope dismissed another conservative critic—Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas—after Strickland refused to step down after a Vatican investigation.

In Maine, Lois Galgay Reckitt—a state representative from South Portland and a longtime activist for women's rights—died at age 78 of colon cancer, per the Portland Press Herald. In an oral history project for the University of Southern Maine in 2020, Reckitt said she was arrested twice for civil disobedience in the 1980s. Once was when she protested apartheid at the South African embassy in D.C.; the other time, she was arrested in front of the White House for protesting then-President Ronald Reagan's administration's response to the AIDS crisis, which she viewed as anemic.

Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law could extend to nonprofits, The Advocate noted. A new bill filed by Republican Florida state Rep. Ryan Chamberlin would bar any contractor or organization receiving state funds from activity that considers individuals gender identity or sexual orientation. Chamberlin holds the seat previously held by Florida Rep. Joe Harding, the author of Florida's "don't say gay" law. Harding resigned his seat last year and was sentenced to prison time after pleading guilty to wire fraud, money laundering and lying to investigators.

In Idaho, Reading Time with the Queens received this year's Human and Civil Rights award from the city of Pocatello's Human Relations Advisory Committee for its work providing educational spaces for children amid community backlash, The Idaho Capital Sun noted. Each month, the nonprofit organizes a 45-minute program during which drag artists read picture books, sing songs, teach sign language, and create crafts with children and families in Pocatello and Idaho Falls.

Call it a comeback: After getting shut down, feminist news/opinion site Jezebel has been acquired by the Atlanta-based pop-culture publication Paste Magazine, according to Variety. Just weeks ago, private-equity backed G/O Media, announced it was shuttering Jezebel—and laying off the staff—after failing to find a buyer. Paste co-founder/Editor-in-Chief Josh Jackson said the purchase of Jezebel marks a significant step for his company in broadening its reach.

In Oklahoma, nonprofit organization Other Options helped Oklahomans living with HIV spend Thanksgiving with love, KOCO noted. The organization returned with its Cookie and Scotty's Thanksgiving annual event for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. "A lot of our clients, especially in the '80s and '90s, were kicked out of their households for having HIV, so they can't go home, so we try to provide that home for them," said Executive Director Cher Golding. Other Options delivered hundreds of meals to families impacted by HIV.

In Arizona, transgender people hoping to update their birth certificates to reflect who they truly are must submit either a court order or a doctor's note—but the state law outlining those requirements is currently being challenged by a trio of transgender minors, The Arizona Mirror reported. In November 2020, three trans minors and their parents sued the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) over the process for editing sex markers on birth certificates. In August 2023, United States District Court Judge James Soto agreed to raise the case's classification to a class-action lawsuit, saying trans Arizonans across the state likely faced the same frustrations as the three minors. ADHS Director Jennie Cunico expressed sympathy for the plight of trans Arizonans, but said the policy is constitutional.

The four-judge New York Appellate Division, 2nd Department, unanimously ruled that New York's Marriage Equality Law (MEL)—which made it legal for same-sex couples to marry in New York as of July 24, 2011—should be applied retroactively to a lesbian couple's 2005 religious marriage ceremony, Gay City News noted. The law is being applied in deciding if assets acquired between those two dates should be considered marital property for purposes of equitable distribution in a divorce proceeding. Robin Mackoff and Linda Bluemke had a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony in 2005, which was performed and "solemnized" by a rabbi in the presence of about 100 guests.

The onePulse Foundation—formed shortly after the 2016 shooting at the Orlando gay club to create a permanent museum at the site there—has been formally dissolved as its financial records are being scrutinized, Yahoo! News noted. The mass shooting remains the deadliest attack on LGBTQ+ people in U.S. history as 49 people, most of them Latino or queer, were killed.

In Missouri, Aaron Schekorra has started Queerly Caffeinated—a coffee brand that launched in October and which will support Springfield-based LGBTQ+ organizations, per the Springfield News-Leader. Also, while with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, Schekorra established Own Your Pride in June 2022; the online pop-up shop offers various LGBTQ+-related merchandise, including Pride flags, buttons, stickers and T-shirts. See queerlycaffeinated.com .

Charles Moran, the president of the LGBTQ+ group Log Cabin Republicans, suggested to Business Insider that people should give U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson a chance despite the politician's extensive anti-LGBTQ+ past. Moran said that his group has met with Johnson's senior staffers, adding, "The most important thing that came out of it was just kind of a framework on how the speaker views things going forward." Moran also said that Johnson's past anti-LGBTQ+ statements were "out of line," but also said, "I don't think during that time [early 2000s], President Obama or then-Vice President Biden were supportive of LGBT equality."

In June, Pittsburgh's Bishop David Zubik canceled a Mass for Pride Month hosted by the pro-LGBTQ+ group Catholics for Change in Our Church (CCOC)—and as a result of the meeting, the Pittsburgh Diocese itself held an inclusive Mass in October at Kearns Spirituality Center with the theme "The Church Welcoming—No Exceptions," according to a New Ways Ministry item that cited Crux. After the first Mass was canceled, the organization hosting the Mass met with Zubik, and both sides agreed to reschedule the event under a broader theme to highlight all who are marginalized by the Church.

In Oregon, registered sex offender Robert Earl Houchins received a jail sentence for attacking a group of naked cyclists in a violent hate crime, per The Advocate. Houchins was sentenced to 36 months in prison by a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge after he pled guilty last month to attacking a group of naked bicyclists in Portland with a pipe because he thought they were gay. In a plea bargain with the Multnomah County District Attorney's office, Houchins was allowed to plead guilty to a first-degree bias crime and an attempted second-degree assault charge. He had originally been charged with eight felonies, including an Assault II charge that carried a mandatory prison sentence of five years and 10 months.

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown has temporarily suspended Zainab Chuadry's membership from the new Commission on Hate Crimes Response and Prevention (CAIR) in light of antisemitic comments she made, WMAR reported. Chaudry was representing the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an important voice for Muslim Marylanders in the effort to fight hate crimes.

The historic independent business known as Village Apothecary continues to fight for its customers 40 years after it first opened its doors at the eruption of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Greenwich Village—the neighborhood that was the site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Gay City News noted. The business was founded in 1983 by the late Micheal Konnon, an out gay Greek American pharmacist. The apothecary has worked with organizations such as the Gay Men's Health Clinic, God's Love We Deliver, People With AIDS Coalition and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, among others.

Ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been hit with a sexual-assault lawsuit by his former executive assistant, CBS News noted. Brittany Commisso, who worked for Cuomo starting in 2017 and who has accused him of groping her, filed the lawsuit under the Adult Survivors Act. Cuomo ultimately resigned as governor in August 2021 following sexual-misconduct allegations by Commisso and several other women; he has denied the claims.


This article shared 7634 times since Fri Dec 1, 2023
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