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National roundup: Supreme Court and marriage; trans-inmate motion
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 4750 times since Tue Mar 10, 2015
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The Human Rights Campaign announced that more than 200,000 people from all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands joined as signatories on its unprecedented "The People's Brief" in support of marriage equality, according to a press release. Authored by attorney Roberta Kaplan—who successfully defeated the key section of The Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court in 2013—the item has more signatories than any other amicus brief that has ever been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In related news, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that, on April 28, it will hear two and a half hours of oral argument on whether states can ban same-sex marriage. Audio transcripts of the argument will be released later that day, instead of at the end of the week ( the usual process ), USA Today noted. The case is coming to the high court because the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which includes the four states, became the only federal appeals court to uphold bans against same-sex marriage in November.

Among the amicus, or friend-of-the-court briefs, that have been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of marriage equality is one signed by more than 200 mayors—and among them is one new to the cause, Dallas' Mike Rawlings, reported. Rawlings had previously said he personally supports marriage equality, but he had been reluctant to make a political stance on it. In 2013 he declined to back a Dallas City Council resolution supporting equal-marriage rights, saying the symbolic resolution was a distraction.

Lambda Legal filed an emergency motion in federal court asking that the court compel the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ( TDCJ ) to place Passion Star, a transgender woman currently incarcerated in TDCJ's male facilities, in safekeeping to protect her from further sexual assault and threats to her life, according to a press release. Now 31, Star ( as a teenager ) pled guilty to aggravated kidnapping based on allegations that her boyfriend refused to return the used car they were test driving to the dealership, instead driving for several hours with the car salesman in the passenger seat and Star in the back. Star was sentenced to 20 years in prison and transferred to the custody of TDCJ, where she has been housed in male facilities.

The U.S. Army issued a directive March 6 that protects transgender soldiers from being dismissed by mid-level officers by requiring the decision for discharge to be made by the service's top civilian for personnel matters, USA Today reported. The new policy is the latest indication that the military's ban on transgender troops may be eased or even lifted. Last month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told troops he was "very open-minded" about transgender troops, adding that nothing but a person's ability to serve should keep them from serving. President Obama confirmed these statements. Pro-LGBT organizations praised the development, but some added that more needed to be done.

California Gov. Jerry Brown introduced several firsts to the state's judicial system during his third term, including its first openly lesbian appeal justice, Courthouse News Service noted. Brown made 237 judicial appointees between 2011 and 2014, with nearly 40 percent of them minorities. Of the 76 judges he appointed in 2014, 35 were minorities. Notable appointees included Therese M. Stewart, the first openly lesbian justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal; and Paul Lo, the first Hmong-American judge ever appointed in the nation.

In the latest development in the tug-of-war over marriage equality in Alabama, the state's supreme court ordered all the state's probate judges on March 3 to stop issuing marriages licenses to same-sex couples, according to NBC News. Several state and federal judges have gone back and forth over the issue, with the U.S. Supreme Court recently refusing to block a U.S. District Court judge's ruling overturning the ban—a move that allowed gay marriage to begin there on Feb. 9. However, the state supreme court's decision threw the issue into question once more after a challenge was brought by the state and a county probate judge, among others.

The National LGBTQ Task Force has announced the individuals selected to participate in this year's Transgender Leadership Exchange, a unique six-month leadership development program for transgender and gender non-conforming community leaders, according to a press release. The 22 community leaders selected to participate in the program represent a wide range of backgrounds and include campaign organizers, policy advocates, faith leaders, higher education professionals and community center workers. Angelica Ross and Jakob Hero will facilitate the program.

The National LGBTQ Task Force has announced that the 28th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change ( "Creating Change" ) will take place Jan. 20-24, 2016 at the Hilton Chicago. Close to 5,000 LGBTQ community leaders and activists from across the country are expected to attend the conference. For more information about the conference and to register, visit .

Rachel Maddow started a recent program focusing on the recent controversies surrounding Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, TheWrap noted. In his book Killing Kennedy, O'Reilly says he was at the doorstep of George de Mohrenschildt—an associate of John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald—in Florida when he committed suicide; however, audio tapes have shown that O'Reilly was actually in Texas at the time. "The Fox News Channel now has a problem, right?" Maddow said. "Even on a business level, a media level with the face of their network, their flagship anchor having all this stuff trailing him around with no plausible explanation for what exactly he said and did and why they haven't tried to at least fix it."

The Army Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered the military to stop using male pronouns when referring to Chelsea Manning in all legal papers filed in her appeal, according to a press release. This order cameafter the military filed an opposition to requests by Manning's attorneys to use her legal name and female pronouns when referring to her in court documents. Nancy Hollander, lead counsel in Manning's appeal, said, "Though only a small step in a long legal fight, my co-counsel, Vincent Ward, Captain Dave Hammond and I are thrilled that Chelsea will be respected as the woman she is in all legal filings."

The LGBTI community is represented on Time Magazine's newly-released "30 Most Influential People on the Internet" list by transgender activist Janet Mock and YouTube star Tyler Oakley, according to Gay Star News. They are part of a list that includes such A-listers as President Barack Obama; singers Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber; Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow; and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. Also on the list is powerful right-wing conservative blogger Matt Drudge whose site, The Drudge Report, racks up almost 1 billion page views every month.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson—a potential Republican presidential candidate—apologized for commenting on CNN that prisoners' changes after they leave jail proves being gay is a choice, but said that the science is still murky on the issue, according to CNN. In a statement, Carson said he "realized that my choice of language does not reflect fully my heart on gay issues." Asked by Chris Cuomo whether being gay was a choice, Carson initially replied, "Absolutely."

A new report released by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law documents ongoing and pervasive discrimination and harassment by law enforcement in the LGBT community, especially among LGBT people of color and transgender individuals, according to a press release. Among the key findings was that nearly half ( 48 percent ) of the LGBT violence survivors who interacted with police reported that they had experienced police misconduct, including unjustified arrest, use of excessive force and entrapment. The report is at

In Connecticut, an all-male fraternity with 148-year-old roots at Wesleyan University took the school to court over the push to let women in its frat house, according to Courthouse News Service. The Gamma Phi chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, two of its members and the Kent Literary Club, the entity that owns DKE's fraternity house, filed the complaint against Wesleyan. Among the complaint's claims is that the school is discriminating by already offering housing for various protected-class traits such as gender, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.

The Rev. Ann Kansfield was appointed the department's first female—and first openly lesbian—chaplain for the Official Fire Department, City of New York ( FDNY ) at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new FDNY facility in the Canarsie section, according to the New York Daily News. Kansfield, who is pastor of the Greenpoint Reformed Church, said she is "excited to work in a department where everyone is able to be the people that God made them to be." Kansfield was sworn in by FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro on a family Bible held by her wife, Jennifer Aull; their 4-year-old daughter, Grace, also attended.

Ohio gay-rights activist Adam Hoover, 20, has been charged with making false claims on social media for allegedly lying about his own kidnapping, The Washington Times reported. His tweets went viral on social media as people scrambled to help him. Hoover, the co-president of Marriage Equality Ohio, had his story picked up by The Huffington Post before police found him and determined that the kidnapping was a hoax.

Paul Detric, a reporter for Reason.TV, attended this year's Conservative Political Action Conference ( CPAC ) and used the gay hook-up app Grindr to try and track down gays attending the event, The Huffington Post reported. The most compelling response in the series of interviews was possibly from one attendee who admitted that he feels conservative ideology is behind the times. He said, "Especially for conservatives to be able to win an election, they're going to need to get younger voters. To do that they need to start being more socially liberal—essentially, they need to shift libertarian."

An Indiana bakery that drew protests last year after the business' Christian owners declined a request from a gay man to make a cake for his same-sex wedding has decided to close shop for good, The Christian Post noted. "We have decided not to renew our lease so we are now closed. We want to thank everyone for your patronage, support and friendship. It has been a true pleasure to serve you. Eph 2:8," notes a message on 111 Cakery's website. Randy McGath, 48, who co-owns the bakery, told USA Today that the business was still profitable but his wife, Trish, 45 ( who did most of the baking ) wanted to spend more time with their four grandchildren.

The Southern Poverty Law Center ( SPLC ) has announced a settlement of its federal lawsuit alleging that gay students were routinely bullied in a south Mississippi school district, the Associated Press reported. The SPLC sued the Moss Point School District in December 2013 on behalf of Destin Holmes, now 18, but it also said other gay and transgender students, or those who are perceived to be, were subjected to mistreatment. The district has agreed to adopt and implement new anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies and procedures, as well as equal educational opportunity policies to ban bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Milwaukee-based pro-transgender and pro-SOFFA ( significant others, family, friends and allies ) organization FORGE has put together a page devoted to ending trans-related domestic violence, according to a release. Topics covered on the page include emergency shelters, safer dating tips and links to similar organizations. See .

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, Equality California ( EQCA ) and Transgender Law Center issued a joint statement applauding the introduction of a California bill that prohibits state agencies from doing business with companies that discriminate against their employees based on gender identity, according to a press release. Introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno, Senate Bill 703 builds on existing California law that prohibits employers from discriminating based on gender, including gender identity, in employee benefits. Said EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur: "This legislation closes an outdated gap in state law that has allowed some private companies to treat transgender people unfairly."

Planet Fitness is trending after one of its Michigan gyms canceled a woman's membership after she would not stop complaining about a transgender woman in the locker room, reported. The incident first occurred on Feb. 28, when Yvette Cormier first took her complaint to the front desk. After she was told by the front desk that the individual identifies as a woman, Cormier then took her complaint to the gym's corporate office. True to its slogan "Judgement Free Zone," Planet Fitness said it would not tell the person to stay out of the women's locker room.

In Beaverton, Oregon, students at Five Oaks Middle School who put up banners with messages that promote tolerance of gay students are upset after the school's principal took them down, reported. The signs featured the school's mascot, a falcon, in rainbow colors along with the phrase, "Born gay, follow the ray. Born straight, refuse to hate." A spokeswoman for the Beaverton School District said the principal took down the signs because the group that put them up did so without getting permission and going through the proper channels of review.

In Florida, the transgender community of Tallahassee took a stand against a discriminatory bill that would criminalize the community's public bathroom use, reported. Trans Lives Matter Tallahassee, along with representatives from Students for a Democratic Society, Dream Defenders, the Center for Participant Education and The F Word, gathered to protest House Bill 583 on the steps of the Old Capitol building. HB 583—which would criminalize the use of public facilities that do not match one's biological sex—passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on a nine-to-five vote; the majority of the votes came from House Republicans, noted.

In New York state, a former general manager at the Red Robin restaurant at the Palisades Center mall has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit, claiming that he was fired from the company's West Nyack franchise location because he is gay, reported. Brian Stone wants the Colorado-based restaurant chain to give his job back, pay his legal fees and pay him damages "for pain and suffering, anxiety, humiliation, physical injuries and emotional distress" after being fired in October after eight years as a Red Robin general manager.

The National Coalition for LGBT Health announced that its 13th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week will be held March 23-27, according to a press release. This year's theme is "Time to Come Together: Trust, Transparency, Truth." Through the week, the coalition will bring together national and state LGBT organizations, health centers, health departments, universities, health organizations, clinical and behavioral health providers, and LGBT individuals and allies to raise awareness of LGBT health equity.

A Texas lawmaker, currently in his fifth marriage, has submitted a hand-written complaint against a Texas judge—the wrong judge, as it turns out —over a recent ruling allowing two women to get married after 30 years, according to Raw Story. Tony Tinderholt, 44, a former member of the U.S. Air Force and Army, wrote a two-paragraph complaint to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, stating that District Judge David Wahlberg failed to give notice to the state attorney general's office when lifting a stay on the two women's marriage. However it was Probate Judge Guy Herman, not Wahlberg, who ruled the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.

The New York pastor who made headlines last year for claiming that Starbucks flavored its coffee drinks with "sodomites' semen" now admits he's "absolutely" been tempted by what he calls the "gay lifestyle," The Huffington Post noted. In an interview with The Young Turks, James David Manning of ATLAH World Missionary Church says he witnessed a lot of same-sex activity and even what he describes as a "same-sex marriage" during his years in a Florida correctional facility. When the Turks team asked if he'd personally experienced same-sex attraction during his incarceration, Manning said there was "no doubt about it," but quickly clarified that he "didn't yield to temptation."

This article shared 4750 times since Tue Mar 10, 2015
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