President Joe Biden and his team recently named openly gay man Jeff Marootian as special assistant to the president on Climate and Science Agency Personnel, according to Instinct Magazine, citing The Washington Blade. Marootian is one of the cabinet members working under D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. If approved for the position, the current director of the D.C. Department of Transportation would advise Biden on several issues such as climate change, healthcare, immigration, environmental quality and racial justice. In a statement tapping Marootian and 13 others for staff positions, Biden said, "Delivering results to Americans grappling with the many challenges facing our country will require an experienced, innovative, and principled White House team. The policy leaders announced today are accomplished public servants who are ready to build back better for this country immediately."
The day President Joe Biden was sworn in, the White House website was updated to allow visitors to specify what pronouns they use, NBC News noted. The contact form at WhiteHouse.gov added a drop-down menu with pronoun options, including "she/her," "he/him," and "they/them." Users can also select "other," and write in their own selections or indicate they "prefer not to share" their pronouns.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visited the Washington, D.C-based Whitman-Walker Health HIV/AIDS clinicmarking a distinct change for a new administration within its first 48 hours after inauguration, The Washington Blade reported. Biden's visit was intended "to highlight and promote support services for cancer patients and caregivers, as well as hear about the impact of COVID-19 on access to health care, including cancer screenings and prevention efforts," per the guidance. At the clinic, she met with Whitman Walker Health CEO Naseema Shafi and Cancer Support Community CEO Kim Thiboldeaux.
New York City now recognizes LGBTQ-owned companies as minority-owned businessesmaking them eligible for billions in city contracts, as well as access to consulting, mentorship, educational programs and other resources, NBC News reported. The new designationannounced Jan. 19 by New York City's Department of Small Business Services, in partnership with the National LGBT Chamber of Commercewill fast-track LGBTQ-owned businesses into city certification programs, including the Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise, or MWBE, Program. The city follows similar efforts by other cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Nashville and Philadelphia; and states such as California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Margo St. Jamesa noted sex-positive feminist and pioneer of the sex-workers' rights movementdied Jan. 11 at age 83, according to The Bay Area Reporter. St. James had been living in a memory-care facility in Washington state and was moved to hospice care after a fall, according to her longtime friend Carol Stuart. St. James founded the sex worker activist group COYOTE (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics); organized the infamous Hooker's Balls in the 1970s; was almost elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1996; and is the namesake of St. James Infirmary, the nation's first health clinic for sex workers.
Alice Hoagland, the mother of openly gay 9/11 hero Mark Bingham, died at age 71 in her sleep, The Bay Area Reporter reported. Hoagland's sister, Candyce Hoglan, disclosed the news in a Facebook post Jan. 17. Hoagland was a former United Airlines flight attendant and became an advocate for airline security during the nearly 20 years following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Bingham was on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey to San Francisco. All 44 people onboard, including the four hijackers, died when the plane slammed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania; Bingham, 31, was among a group of passengers who turned the tables on the terrorists, forcing them to ditch the plane instead of their intended targetbelieved to be the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) as well as authorities in Athens are continuing to investigate the death of a 40-year-old transgender woman whose body was discovered in late December just a few hundred feet from her apartment, Project Q reported. A jogger found the body of Kimberely Patricia Cope on Dec. 27. A cause of death has not yet been determined, according to Natalie Ammons, the GBI's deputy director of public affairs. The autopsy findings will be turned over to investigators in Athens.
A coalition of service and advocacy groups filed suit against the Trump administration for rolling back religious freedom protections that required faith-based organizations providing critical, taxpayer-funded services (like food and shelter) to inform recipients of their legal rights to be free from discrimination, not to have to attend religious programming and to have the opportunity to get a referral for an alternative provider, a Lambda Legal press release noted. "This last-gasp effort yet again privileges religion and religious institutions over the needs of LGBTQ people, seniors, youth who are survivors of trafficking, survivors of interpersonal violence, and other vulnerable populations that our publicly funded programs are intended to serve, and who need these services to survive and thrive," said Lambda Legal Law and Policy Director Jennifer Pizer. The full complaint is at www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/mazon_ny_20210119_complaint .
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will decide if an evangelical Christian higher education institution can lawfully refuse a promotion based on a professor's beliefs, SouthFloridaGayNews.com reported. On Jan. 4, the highest court heard arguments virtually over a lawsuit filed against Gordon College by Margaret DeWeese-Boyd. The issue is about whether or not the school can deny the promotion by citing the "ministerial exception." When former associate professor DeWeese-Boyd was denied a promotion despite recommendations for one in 2017, she immediately filed a complaint against the school for discrimination based on her advocacy of the LGBTQ+ community; that year, the entire seven-member faculty senate at the college resigned after the promotion was rejected.
In Arkansas, a push to finally enact a hate-crimes law (which would impose up to 20 percent additional jail time or fines for targeting someone because of several factors, including race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity) is in jeopardy because of conservative opposition, NBC News reported. The bill's dimming prospects threaten a legislative priority for Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinsonwho, as a U.S. attorney, prosecuted racist militia members but without a hate-crimes law's specific penalties. Last June, Georgia became the latest state to enact a bill, leaving Arkansas, South Carolina and Wyoming as the remaining outliers.
Police are investigating vandalism and an explosion at a church in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County, CNN.com noted. Police were called to First Works Baptist Church, in El Monte, to what authorities called an "IED attack" at the site. The church is described as an "independent, fundamental" Baptist church on its website, which includes a doctrinal statement listing the church's beliefs. Among the beliefs listed is: "We believe that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty."
Gay philanthropist Jon Stryker has given $2 million for Spelman College's new queer studies chair, according to Project Q. The endowment officially establishes the Audre Lorde Queer Studies chair. Lorde was a Black lesbian poet and activist who donated her personal papers to the college before her death. Stryker personally chose her as the namesake of the chair. Among trusts created by Stryker, the Arcus Foundation specifically targets underfunded LGBTQ causes among its gifts.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation announced that the eighth annual Time to THRIVE Conference will take place virtually Feb. 9-11, a press release noted. Among those slated to speak are HRC President Alphonso David as well as advocates and allies such as Matthew Shepard Foundation co-founders Judy and Dennis Shepard, American Counseling Association CEO Richard Yep, Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride and HRC's Youth Ambassadors, among others. For information on how to register, visit TimeToTHRIVE.org .
Tiger King Joe Exotic was not among those receiving pardons from now-former President Donald Trump as he exited the White House, Deadline noted. (Exotic later tweeted, "I was too innocent and too GAY to deserve a Pardon from Trump.") Among those who did receive public pardons and commutations were Steve Bannon, Rep. Rick Renzi, Casey Urlacher (the mayor of Mettawa, Illinois, and brother of former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher), ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Aviem Sella (an Israeli citizen who was indicted in 1986 for espionage in relation to the Jonathan Pollard case), and rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black. However, Newsweek noted that, according to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, Trump does not have to reveal the names of the people he pardons: "Trump can pardon himself and his family, and keep that secret, until they are charged with federal crimes."
A far-right gay activist who boasted online about attending the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has had his home searched by the FBI, Metro Weekly noted, citing the
The Los Angeles Times. A home in Huntington Beach, California, that was registered to Kristopher Dreww (real name: Kristopher Martin) was searched Jan. 18. After posting online videos that he participated in the Capitol riots, Dreww tried to retract those claims after facing death threats, telling the Orange County Register that he was "scared," adding, "I fear for my life."
Kroger said it was immediately removing the Indiana Oath Keepers, a militia group with ties to the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol, from its Community Rewards program, WCPO.com reported. The Community Rewards program is a "customer-directed giving program in which thousands of IRS-approved 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participate," according to a company statement. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Oath Keepers is "one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the U.S. today."
Some retailers are dropping MyPillow products from their stores, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell told FOX 9. Bed Bath and Beyond, Kohl's, Wayfair and HEB dropped MyPillow because of public pressure on social media he claims is being perpetrated by "leftist groups." Lindell, an ally of now-former President Donald Trump, made repeated claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
Tom Brokaw is retiring from NBC News after 55 years with the network, according to Deadline. Brokaw, 80, was the anchor of NBC Nightly News from 1982 to 2004. Since then, he has been a part of NBC News special event coverage, serving a special correspondent and often providing commentary and analysis from an historic perspective.
Model, actor and adult performer Matthew Camp was a victim of arsonand a possible hate crime, according to out.com . His Poughkeepsie, New York, home was set on fire earlier this month. Camp was inside at the time of the attack, as was roommate Six Carter; they escaped uninjured. Camp alleged on social media that this was a hate crime as a result of his sexuality as well as his status as a sex worker.