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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Drag/gaming venue in Vegas; trans woman pleads manslaughter
NATIONAL ROUNDUP: Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times.
2012-05-09

This article shared 5480 times since Wed May 9, 2012
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Promoted as "the nation's first drag queen-staffed bar and gaming venue," Drink & Drag held its grand opening in Las Vegas May 5, according to a press release. The 22,000-square-foot venue features 12 bowling lanes, billiards, 100-inch projector HD console gaming, interactive gaming chairs, air hockey, table-top board games, jewel-encrusted chandeliers, drag performances and more. Drink & Drag General Manager Tyler Caiden said, "After witnessing the recent mainstream popularity in Middle America of drag-focused TV shows, like 'RuPaul's Drag Race' and 'Drag U,' we decided it was the right time to offer that real-life experience on Fremont Street."

In Minnesota, transgender woman CeCe McDonald has accepted a second-degree manslaughter plea in a case that has attracted national attention, Advocate.com reported. In 2011, McDonald was at a bar when three people—one man and two women—allegedly began hurling racist and transphobic slurs at her. A fight ensued, resulting in one of the men being stabbed to death—and McDonald was charged with his murder. The plea she accepted would mean almost three and a half years in prison.

AIDS Walk New York—advertised as the "world's largest AIDS fundraising event"—will take place May 20 that starts and ends in Central Park, according to a press release. More than 45,000 people are expected to attend the walk, which benefits 42 local AIDS service organizations. Among the celebrities slated to participate are talk-show host Wendy Williams, singer/Broadway actor Nick Jonas, designer Jason Wu, Glee's Dot-Marie Jones and former Ugly Betty star Michael Urie.

The National LGBT Bar Association will present the legal department of GlaxoSmithKline with the Out & Proud Corporate Counsel Award May 10 in Philadelphia, a press release stated. "GlaxoSmithKline is a noted leader in transgender diversity policies," said D'Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar. "The company is a true advocate of inclusiveness both within and outside of the workplace."

In North Carolina, anti-gay minister Sean Harris has backtracked—somewhat—from comments to his congregation advocating the attacks of young boys who act effeminately, Advocate.com reported. The comments, uploaded to the Internet, angered many; however, the congregation at Fayetteville's Berean Baptist Church reportedly told Harris they knew he wasn't serious. Harris told a newspaper he wished he had said it differently but added that "the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behavior is ungodly."

In a groundbreaking move, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has announced that every federal prison in the United States will appoint an LGBT representative to its long-standing affirmative employment program, according to an Equality Florida press release. With the addition of an LGBT rep to BOP's program, each of the more than 120 BOP facilities will hold at least one event each year that will educate and inform the staff about LGBT diversity issues.

In San Diego, Superior Court Judge Joan Weber ruled that prosecutors in a case involving a group of same-sex marriage activists stepped over the line by dismissing a potential juror because of his sexual orientation, according to U-T San Diego News. The case focuses on whether six activists unlawfully blocked the operation of the county clerk's office during a protest in August 2010. Prosecutors disagreed with Weber's ruling, saying the potential juror indicated in a questionnaire that he has protested in support of gay-rights issues.

At the event Out on the Street—which featured Wall Street execs talking with LGBT attendees—Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said that the firm lost a client after he endorsed marriage equality in a video for the Human Rights Campaign, according to the Huffington Post. Blankfein's video provoked some people, including liberals who feel Wall Street firms do not represent everyday people and marginalized groups. At the conference, Blankfein called Wall Street "among the most egalitarian places. The market doesn't care whether you're Black or white, tall or short, gay or straight."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's newly released budget includes cuts of $7 million to the city's Runaway and Homeless Youth Services and plans to eliminate 160 youth shelter beds. Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center (which helps LGBT homeless youths), responded in a statement, "Mayor Bloomberg's plan to throw 160 homeless children out of their shelter beds and into the streets is cruel, reckless and contemptible. These cuts create an even bigger crisis for the LGBT teens who are thrown out of their homes and forced to endure homelessness on the streets of our city. The LGBT community needs and demands political leaders who will protect our children."

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) commended former Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and former Justices David Baker and Michael Streit—the three Iowa Supreme Court Justices who received the 2012 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award May 7 for their judicial independence, according to a press release. The justices ruled in favor of marriage equality three years ago and, as a result, came under fire by conservative forces during their retention elections. "Even with their jobs on the line, the justices stood firm for an independent judiciary," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "They put principle over politics, and are supremely deserving of this award.

Charges have been filed against 13 people in the hazing death of gay Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, according to Advocate.com . Champion died Nov. 19, 2011, after a ritual called "crossing bus C," in which band members are forced to walk between band members each kicking or punching him. This case is one of the biggest criminal cases ever that involves hazing.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is condemning a legal opinion from Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning in which he says Omaha's sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections are improper, according to a press release. HRC State Legislative Director Sarah Warbelow said, "Bruning's opinion is motivated by politics rather than sound law. ... Fortunately, the attorney general's opinion is purely advisory and is not binding on the municipalities or the courts."

Clothing company Gap has unveiled a new ad featuring a same-sex couple, according to OUT.com . Corporations such as J.Crew and Ray-Ban have also recently shown ads with male couples. The New York Times profiled Gap, Inc., noting that the brand is attempting to recapture the sense of "cool" the company brought in the '90s.

In Tennessee, a high school journalism instructor has angered locals, including one school board member, by publishing a profile of an openly gay graduating student in the yearbook, the Huffington Post reported. In the profile, student Zac Mitchell talks about everything from being bullied to cross-dressing and being "hit on by straight guys." Because of the piece, Loudon County School Board member Van Shaver is calling for a criminal investigation of the yearbook's faculty adviser, James Yoakley. Shaver blogged, "What I am intolerant of is an adult, a teacher no less, inflicting their personal beliefs and sexual orientation decisions on impressionable students."

The Huffington Post ran an article on the late artist Keith Haring, who would've been 54 on May 4. The openly gay Haring—who is remembered for his dancers, barking dogs and flying saucers—died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 31. The Brooklyn Museum is showing Haring's earliest work through July 8. Google replaced its logo with Haring drawings May 4 (a Google doodle).

The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted May 2 in Tampa, Fla., to maintain the denomination's position that homosexual acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching," according to the Huffington Post. In separate votes, nearly 1,000 delegates defeated two "agree-to-disagree" proposals that sought to add more ambiguous statements about homosexuality to the Book of Discipline. With nearly 8 million members in the U.S., the UMC remains the country's largest mainline Protestant denomination; however, it is shrinking in this country as well as Asia and Africa.

Friends of Dharun Ravi, the former Rutgers University student accused of bullying gay roommate Tyler Clementi, say that Ravi is not homophobic or hateful, according to the Huffington Post. Ravi spied on Clementi, 18, with a webcam, watched with another student and tweeted about it; Clementi took a fatal leap from the George Washington Bridge days later. Some of his friends (including high school classmates) are part of a campaign to show Ravi's actions as a bad prank that went awry. Ravi is to be sentenced May 21 after being convicted on charges including intimidation and invasion of privacy.

Eleven state Democratic Party chairs from across the country have joined in support of marriage equality in the party's national platform, LGBTQ Nation reported. Among the 11 are California's John Burton, Oregon's Meredith Wood Smith, Texas' Boyd Richie, Jay Jacobs of New York and Mike Tate of Wisconsin. Jacobs said, "Marriage equality is simply the right thing to do, and that's why I strongly believe that the Democratic Party should stand united for a freedom to marry plank in our national Democratic Party platform."

The conservative group One Million Moms (which actually has about 46,000 members) is on the attack against JC Penney again, this time over the company featuring a lesbian couple in its spring catalog, according to LGBTQ Nation. In a section of the catalog entitled "Freedom of Expression," there is a depiction of "Wendi and her partner Maggie and daughters" that shows the adult women wearing wedding bands. Earlier this year, Moms launched a campaign against JC Penney because Ellen DeGeneres was hired as a spokeswoman.

An Ohio school district may have violated federal law when it dismissed a transgender Wilmington College student-teacher who was working at Hillsboro High School, LGBTQ Nation reported. The student-teacher was dismissed on his second day at the school because of an alleged violation of the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators. However, a U.S. Department of Education spokesman said that Title IX federal law "prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes on the basis of failing to conform with gender stereotypes."

In what some consider to be a stunning about-face, a GOP-controlled Colorado state House committee has approved a civil-unions bill, according to LGBTQ Nation. The bill—sponsored by gay Denver Democrats Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Mark Ferrandino—passed through the House Judiciary Committe 6-5 with support from Republican Rep. B.J. Nikkel. Nikkel, who voted against the bill last year, said, "It was simply the right thing to do."

In her memoir—Queer and Pleasant Danger: The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She is Today—transgender writer Kate Bornstein talks about, among other things, leaving the Church of Scientology. In a radio interview with Sirius XM's Michelangelo Signorile, Bornstein said she entered the church in the 1970s because "I wanted to not want to be a woman. ... I wanted this to stop. I didn't want to be a freak." Bornstein stayed in the church for 12 years, leaving when members suspected her of being a "spy." At the end of her book, Bornstein writes a letter to daughter Jessica (whom she hasn't seen in 30 years) and two grandchildren.

Robin MacCormack, Boston's first liaison to the gay community, was discovered dead by police in his Dorchester apartment with a self-inflicted gunshot wound April 6, according to the Boston Globe. The remains of MacCormack, 63, have gone unclaimed by his family, who say they don't know what his wishes were; attorney Joe Donnellan and retired Boston Police Sergeant Herb White—who both knew MacCormack for a long time—are working on a memorial. Mayor Kevin H. White appointed MacCormack as liaison in 1979.

Vice President Joe Biden has acknowledged the marriage-equality movement, saying he is comfortable with the idea of "men marrying men" and "women marrying women," the Chicago Tribune reported. Biden said this on the TV show Meet the Press—but he wouldn't confirm that the White House might fully back same-sex marriage. Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement, "We are encouraged by Vice President Biden's comments, who rightly articulated that loving and committed gay and lesbian couples should be treated equally. Now is the time for President Obama to speak out for full marriage equality for same-sex couples."

In New York, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos is recommending the state investigate the Long Island Association for AIDS Care (LIAAC), saying the group failed to cooperate with a county audit, according to LIBN.com . Maragos is asking the attorney general and state comptroller to look into LIAAC, which he said "was not adequately forthcoming with requested documents and records" required under its contract with Nassau. Maragos said the group, which provides AIDS outreach and prevention, reported that CEO Gail Barouh earned $432,832 in 2009 for work at LIAAC, BiasHELP of Long Island and the Long Island Network of Community Services.

Gay men Zachary Koval (28, of Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Mark Kostedt (23, of Maryland Heights, Mo.) are finalists in People for the Ethical Treatment of America's (PETA's) "Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door" contest, according to a press release. These two openly gay men have beaten out hundreds of other entrants from across the U.S. to become two of 10 male contestants to advance to the final round in PETA's contest. Two winners (one male and one female) will each receive a free trip to Hawaii, courtesy of the PETA Member Advantage Program. Online voting runs at features.peta.org/sexiest-vegetarian-2012/Finalists.aspx through May 14; the winner will be announced May 21.

In Florida, the first White House LGBT Conference on Aging took place at the University of Miami's Clinical Research Building May 7, the Miami Herald reported. Approximately 160 individuals attended the event, which Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, opened. Other speakers included Kathy Greenlee, a lesbian administrator at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department; and Rafael Bostic, a gay assistant secretary for policy development and research for the Department of Housing & Urban Development.

Author Maurice Sendak, best known for writing and illustrating the kids' book Where the Wild Things Are, died May 8 at the age of 83, according to People.com . He died of complications of a recent stroke at his Connecticut home. The New York Times described Sendak as "lower class, Jewish, gay." In a 2008 piece he told the publication, "All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew." Sendak had a companion of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007; there were no other immediate family survivors.

Josh Dixon may become the first openly gay gymnast to compete on the U.S. Olympic team, Outsports.com reported. The Stanford graduate took a big step toward that goal at the U.S. Men's Qualifier May 5 in Colorado Springs, Colo., finishing second out of the 72 competitors. Dixon came out to another member of the gymnastics team his sophomore year at Stanford, after that student came out to him.

In Virginia, a former manager of several Burger King restaurants claims that he was fired because he's HIV-positive, according to the Huffington Post. Christopher Peña, who had been with the chain seven years, claims the dismissal violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which bans discrimination based on disability and covers people who are HIV-positive. Peña's attorney, Victor Viramontes, said that discrimination against HIV-positive Latinos is a serious problem in the workplace.

In Iowa, Catholic Bishop Martin Amos overruled school officials and will not let the pro-LGBT Eychaner Foundation present the Matthew Shepard Scholarship to student Keaton Fuller at a school ceremony May 20, according to the Washington Post. Fuller was supposed to receive the honor at Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton, Iowa; however, that presentation has been cancelled. Fuller—believed to be the first out gay student at a Catholic high school to attend multiple school dances with a partner of the same sex—said in an open letter that he felt "invalidated and unaccepted."

A group of California legislators is considering banning so-called reparative therapy, according to the Huffington Post. Supporters say the legislation, which is before its final committee, is necessary because such treatments—which aim to change sexual orientation—are ineffective and harmful. Conservative religious groups, however, say the ban would interfere with parents' rights to seek the right psychological care for their children. In 2009, the American Psychological Association said mental-health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy.


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