On Feb. 21, the LGBT National Help Center officially launched its newest program, the LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline, per a press release. The hotline focuses specifically on the concerns of those who are struggling with coming out issues (regardless of age, or how each person defines that process). All services are free and confidential. Staffed by all LGBTQIA+ volunteers, the toll-free phone number is 1-888-OUT-LGBT (1-888-688-5428), with a dedicated website at www.LGBTcomingOUT.org .
A California bill aims to expand pharmacists' ability to provide pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP) to prevent HIV, POZ noted. Specifically, the bill requires insurers to cover the costs of the pharmacists' services and allows pharmacists to prescribe up to a 90-day supplyand even more if certain conditions are met. The proposed legislation, SB 339, was introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D—District 11) of San Francisco and is co-sponsored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D—District 26) of Santa Clara County. Wiener and Low, who are both gay, also recently introduced a constitutional amendment to repeal Prop 8the state's same-sex marriage ban that remains on the books despite being ruled unconstitutional years ago.
Rep. Chris Pappas (D-New Hampshire) has married his partner, lawyer Vann Bentley, The Hill noted. "Vann and I are excited to share that we're married!" Pappas, the first openly gay man to represent New Hampshire in Congress, wrote on Twitter. He added, "We feel so fortunate to have found each other and to be building our life together, and we're grateful for the love and support of family and friends." According to his website, Pappas serves on the House committees on small business, veterans' affairs, and transportation and infrastructure.
Pose star and trans activist Angelica Ross staged a protest against Creating Change at the conference's closing plenary in San Francisco on Feb. 20, unhappy with alleged anti-trans incidents at the host hotels and problems with the conference itself, per The Bay Area Reporter. Attendees at the National LGBTQ Task Force's signature event received a push alert on the conference's app stating that the time of the closing plenary had changed; what they got were transgender conference workers and attendees rising in protest. The Creating Change 2023 Trans Action Collective was organized "in direct response to the ongoing exclusion and erasure of trans, non-binary and intersex people in this space," Ross read from the collective's statement, as transgender activists stood by her.
In Manhattan, community members gathered for a Trans Day of Love event on Feb. 15 at Judson Memorial Church, Gay City News noted. The event was produced by activists Qween Jean and Gia Love and featured speeches, performances, food and more. Qween Jean became known for leading a weekly "Stonewall Protests" demonstration in 2020 and 2021 during which folks would gather to stand up for trans rights and injustice.
Indiana legislators filed a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this session, WFYI reported. Advocates are raising concerns about what they're calling a "slate of hate" targeting gender-affirming care bans for transgender youth, limits on classroom conversations and identification laws. Before this year, lawmakers hadn't filed more than seven anti-LGBTQ+ bills in a single session; this year, there have been more than two dozen filed. More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been filed across the country.
Yet another state legislative body has voted against gender-affirming care, according to NBC News. A bill criminalizing gender-affirming healthcare for minors overwhelmingly passed the Idaho House, despite warnings from opponents who said it would likely increase suicide rates among teens. GOP state Rep. Bruce Skaug claimed the legislation was needed to "protect children," and that puberty blockers and hormone treatment could cause permanent harm. However, every major medical organizationincluding the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Psychiatric Associationsupport gender-affirming care for youth.
A resolution by Sen. Sarah Eckhardt seeking to designate a Texas LGBTQ Chambers of Commerce Advocacy Day was not considered in the Senate because of a lack of bipartisan support, The Austin American-Statesman reported. Primarily symbolic, the resolution would have recognized Feb. 14 as a day for LGBTQ+-owned and -allied businesses to celebrate their economic successes and advocate for legislation at the Capitol.
North Carolina's GOP-controlled Senate passed a bill that would limit LGBTQ+ school instructionincluding requiring public-school teachers, in most cases, to alert parents before they call a student by a different name or pronoun, WFAE reported. The proposal, which passed the Senate 29-18, would also ban instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms, except for "student-initiated questions."
The Republican-controlled Mississippi Senate passed a bill that would ban gender-affirming care in the state for anyone younger than 18, WAFB reported. House Bill 1125 will go to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who is running for re-election and has indicated he will sign it into law; in 2021, Reeves signed a law to ban transgender athletes from competing in girls' or women's sports. Human Rights Campaign Mississippi State Director Rob Hill said in a press release, "Politicians who don't have an ounce of medical training are interfering with our rights as parents and acting as if they know how to raise and support our children better than we do. Attacking LGBTQ+ Mississippians will not solve any problems or make life easier for working folks in this state."
LGBTQ Victory Fundthe only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ+ leaders to public officeendorsed Fabian Nelson, 37, for the Mississippi House of Representatives, District 66, per a press release. If elected, Nelson would be the first out LGBTQ+ person ever elected to the Mississippi state legislature. Mississippi and Louisiana are the only U.S. states to have never elected an out LGBTQ+ person to the state legislature.
Penn State University Libraries' Madlyn L. Hanes Library at Penn State Harrisburg is hosting a traveling exhibition titled "Out on Campus: A History of LGBTQ+ Activism at Pennsylvania Colleges and Universities" through March 3 on the library's first floor, PSU.edu noted. Among other things, visitors will learn about the largest documented LGBTQ+-rights student demonstration on a college or university campus in the nation before the Stonewall Uprising in 1969 and about the first known openly transgender student government president in the nation.
Hours after a Rainbow flag was set on fire at an NYC restaurant, community members gathered to raise a new flag in a demonstration of resilience as the NYPD continues to search for the individual who allegedly carried out the crime, Gay City News reported. Out gay Councilmember Erik Bottcher of District 3, where the crime took place, climbed a ladder and hoisted the new flag above The Little Prince restaurant at 199 Prince Street. New York City police were searching for the woman seen on video setting fire to a Pride flag in front of the Manhattan restaurant Little Prince, ABC News noted. The woman got out of an SUV before igniting the flag, which read "Make America Gay Again." The fire spread to the building, causing exterior damage.
Media Matters for America published an article stating that Metawhich confirmed last July that use of the word "groomer" to baselessly describe LGBTQ+ people violates its hate-speech policieshas profited from more than 200 ads that contain the harmful messaging, including 63 new ads that garnered nearly 1 million impressions. Right-wing media's misuse of the term "groomer" has helped fuel a recent rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and coincided with a push to enact legislation that strips away the rights of LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender people
Openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon returned to the show CNN This Morning after participating in formal training before his return, per The Hollywood Reporter. Lemon stepped away from the show amid controversy over his comments about Nikki Haley, a GOP presidential candidate who called for competency tests for politicians 75 and older. "It is important to me that CNN balances accountability with fostering a culture in which people can own, learn and grow from their mistakes," CNN CEO Chris Licht said.
And speaking of Haley, she criticized the so-called Don't Say Gay measure signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year, saying it doesn't go "far enough," The Hill reported. "Basically, what it said was you shouldn't be able to talk about gender before third grade," Haley said at a town hall in Exeter, New Hampshire, according to Fox News. "I'm sorry, I don't think that goes far enough."
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California, announced she will join the competitive 2024 Democratic race for the Senate seat held by retiring U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, CNBC reported. Lee's announcement makes her the third major Democratic candidate in the running for the seat that the 89-year-old Feinstein has held since 1992, following U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. If elected in 2024, Lee would become the only Black woman serving in the U.S. Senate.
In Illinois, Chillicothe resident Tyler Massengill pled guilty to arson at a Planned Parenthood in Peoria., 25NewsNow reported. Massengill faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years in prison and could receive up to 20 years in prison. The charges also carry up to three years of supervised release and a possible fine of up to $250,000.
A man was convicted of federal hate crimes and firearms charges after going on a self-described "mission" to kill all of the LGBTQ+ people in his Montana town, LGBTQ Nation noted. John Russell Howald fired what the Department of Justice (DOJ) said was an "AK-style assault rifle" at the home of a lesbian in his town of Basin on March 22, 2020; she was not harmed even though Howald fired multiple rounds while carrying two pistols and three rifles. Howald faces the possibility of life in prison; Flathead Beacon reported that he is already serving 10 years on state charges of criminal endangerment for the same crime.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's office is advising state agencies and public universities against using diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in hiring, claiming that doing so violates federal law, according to a memo the American-Statesman obtained. Gardner Pate, Abbott's chief of staff, wrote in the Feb. 4 memo that it's "inconsistent with the law" for state agencies to fund DEI positions with taxpayer money. However, Michael Green, director of the Workplace Law Program at Texas A&M University, said that while there might be some specific instances of DEI initiatives causing problems for certain groups, those policies are about providing fairness for everyone.