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NATIONAL Marriage proposal, Creating Change, mural erased, 'Queer Santa'
by Windy City Times staff

This article shared 654 times since Tue Jan 5, 2021
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A COVID-19 vaccine appointment at a Canton, South Dakota, hospital turned into a marriage proposal for one healthcare couple, noted. Robbie Vargas-Cortes, 31, a paramedic and EMS supervisor, was scheduled to get his vaccination on December 23rd, and knew his boyfriend of five years, Eric Vanderlee, was one of the vaccine administrators at Sanford Canton-Inwood Medical Center. Vanderlee, a registered nurse, told CNN he had no idea the proposal was coming. Vargas-Cortes—whom Vanderlee vaccinated after accepting his proposal—said he had the ring for three years, and was waiting for the right moment to pop the question.

The organizers of the Creating Change Conference announced the full slate of workshops and other sessions organized for the 33rd annual LGBTQ-focused event, a press release noted. There will be programs covering topics such as activism, faith and fundraising, and workshops like "Sex in the Time of COVID." Slated to be held virtually Jan. 28-31, the conference will include four plenary sessions, 16 day-long institutes, and 48 workshop and caucus sessions.

In Philadelphia, the mural on 204 S. 12th St. that honored the legacy of LGBTQ pioneer Gloria Casarez was painted over on Dec. 23, The Pennsylvania Capital-Star noted, citing Philadelphia Gay News. The building and the surrounding complex—which includes the former 12th Street Gym as well as the Henry Minton House (a former home to Black abolitionists)—is being demolished to make way for a 31-story residential building. A coalition of activists from the LGBTQ community, African-American community, and allies and neighbors had been petitioning the developer, Midwood Investment & Development, to save or preserve the mural; however, efforts were unsuccessful.

"Queer Santa"—a 77-year-old lesbian named Linda Warren—provided "holigay" gifts to LGBT+ kids who have been rejected by their families, PinkNews noted. Warren handed out gifts for the 22nd year as part of her "holigay" celebration at The Center on Colfax, an LGBT+ youth center in Denver, Colorado. Warren originally felt uncomfortable with the title of "Queer Santa," given to her by the kids, because of the time she grew up in; however, "I had to finally realize that the children of this day in time have taken that word back, and they will not let people make fun of us by using queer," Warren said.

A group of friends who worked with Dr. Anthony Fauci during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s hosted a surprise Zoom birthday party for the nation's top infectious diseases expert, The Hill reported. Treatment Action Group (TAG) co-founder Peter Staley tweeted that he and "a small gang of Tony Fauci's HIV/AIDS comrades managed to surprise him" on his 80th birthday. Barbra Streisand, who Fauci "goes on and on about," recorded a personalized message for his birthday and sent signed CDs and an LP to him.

Clean Virginia has partnered with Emmy-winning comedian/actress Wanda Sykes and Emmy-nominated artist Molly Crabapple to produce "Beyond the Vampire Squid: A Story About Power in Virginia," an illustrated video calling for energy reform in Virginia, noted. The video uses illustrations depicting Virginia's top utility monopoly Dominion Energy as a vampire squid—a reference first used by Rolling Stone reporter Matthew Taibbi to describe Goldman Sachs' role in the 2008 financial crisis. Originally from Portsmouth, Virginia, and Gambrills, Maryland, Sykes attended Hampton University and has been active in voter-engagement efforts in Virginia.

According to a recent poll that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to conduct, voters who prioritize LGBT issues at the ballot box increased significantly in the last two years, On Top Magazine noted. Voters who prioritize LGBT issues at the ballot box, referred to as equality voters by HRC, increased from 29% in the 2018 midterm elections to 37% in 2020. Among equality voters, 79% supported Biden, while only 19% supported Trump.

The National LGBTQ Task Force announced the appointment of Tiffany Tran as senior legislative manager and Cathy Renna transitioning to communications director after serving as interim director since May, a press release noted. Before joining the Task Force, she worked in the California state legislature as a field representative to Assemblymember Jose Medina.

After coming very close to winning a third term on the Orleans Parish School Board in November, anti-LGBTQ businesswoman Leslie Ellison lost a recent runoff in New Orleans' District 4—to gay adjunct community college professor J.C. Romero, according to . Ellison has a history of anti-LGBTQ activism; eight years ago, she urged Louisiana lawmakers to allow charter schools to deny admissions to gay students.

In Minnesota, the Duluth City Council unanimously voted to establish a Nonbinary, Queer, Trans, Two-spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Intersex and Asexual Commission, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Trans Plus co-founder Sean Hayes spoke in support of the commission, saying it could prove useful, as "Homophobia and transphobia are alive and well here in the Northland." Ordinance co-sponsor and Council President Gary Anderson said, "As a gay man in this community, this is personally very important to me."

On Dec. 13, the L.A.-based Tom of Finland Foundation (ToFF) presented awards to individuals who have demonstrated their vast commitment to our community, a press release noted. These awards were given on the final day of ToFF's 25th Art & Culture Festival: Plugged In, which marked both the 36th year of the Foundation as well as the 100th birthday of Tom of Finland. This year's honorees included Dan Savage, Annie Sprinkle and Bruce LaBruce; past award recipients include H.R. Giger, Herb Ritts, Clive Barker, Camille Paglia, Larry Flynt and Rob Halford, among others.

Three LGBTQ Yeshiva University alumni and one student reflected on their experiences in the "Orthodox World" at a school-sponsored panel Dec. 20, reported. Held over Zoom and attracting almost 700 students, faculty members, administrators and alumni, among others, the program was the first of its kind since December 2009, when the New York City-based university held a similar "gay panel," as it was called, of students and alumni. The panelists spoke about struggling to accept their LGBTQ identities, facing discrimination and homophobia on campus, and hoping for greater support and acceptance in the Orthodox community.

In New York, Buffalo's oldest gay bar, The Underground, is facing permanent closure after being turned down for a Back to Business grant, reported. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz announced in October that $20 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding would be used to help small businesses in Erie County. Because Poloncarz stressed that minority-owned businesses would be given priority in the grant program, The Underground owner Nicholas Tiede felt good about his chances; however, he said there was nothing for the LGBT community. A GoFundMe page for the venue has been set up at

One of the oldest gay bars in the country is facing a very uncertain future unless it can quickly raise some additional funds, according to Queerty. Twin Peaks Tavern, in San Francisco's Castro district, is one of the city's most famous gay bars and has a history stretching back almost 50 years; the spot opened in 1935 but was taken over by lesbian friends and relaunched in 1972. Owners have raised $78,000 of a $100,000 target, but unless they can get more money quickly, Twin Peaks' closure could be permanent.

Major League Rugby player Devin Ibanez came out as a gay man on his social media platforms, The Washington Blade noted. Sharing pictures of embracing and kissing partner Fergus Wade, the former New England Free Jacks athlete said, "[A]s of now, I am the only openly gay rugby player to earn a contract with an MLR side. I hope that I will meet others like myself playing a high level of rugby and hoping to inspire the next generation of proud LGBTQ rugby players."

The Los Angeles LGBT Center received a $100,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation to support the Center's Culinary Arts program—an intergenerational training program for low-income LGBTQ seniors and LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, noted. The 300-hour program engages students from the Center's Senior Services programs to learn basic culinary skills alongside youth ages 18—24.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis extended his executive order providing one-time, $375 stimulus payments to Coloradans who have filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Denver Post reported. The extension keeps the previously allocated $168 million available to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for such payments through Feb. 28.

A controversial statue depicting Abraham Lincoln standing over a half-dressed, formerly enslaved man has been removed from its longtime location in Boston's Back Bay, months after the city's Art Commission voted to take it down amid a nationwide reckoning on racial justice, The Boston Globe reported. On Dec. 29, workers took the "Emancipation Group" statue from its perch in Park Square next to the Park Plaza Hotel.

President Donald Trump's favorite newspaper has turned against him, according to . The New York Post—in an editorial that got the front-page, giant-font treatment—told Trump he needs to give up his baseless fight to overturn the presidential election result. "Mr. President ... STOP THE INSANITY," read the front page of the tabloid, famous for outlandish headlines. "You lost the election — here's how to save your legacy."

Also, President Donald Trump is spending his final days in office attacking leadership within his own party—this time the second-highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, noted. Trump, back at the White House after his Mar-a-Lago holiday with no public events on his schedule, attacked Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is the number-two Senate Republican. Thune, the Senate majority whip, had been one of the top Republicans to speak in favor of accepting the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden's victory, drawing Trump's ire.

The homes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were vandalized over the weekend after Congress adjourned without securing $2,000 stimulus checks, USA Today reported. Messages like "where's my money" and other expletives were written with spray paint across the front door and bricks of the Kentucky Republican's house in Louisville. Meanwhile, at the San Francisco home of Pelosi, a Democrat, vandals painted graffiti on the garage door and left a pig's head on the sidewalk.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has filed paperwork is exploring a run for mayor of New York, ABC News reported. Yang made his exploration formal by filing paperwork with the New York City Campaign Finance Board indicating he has formed a mayoral campaign committee, Yang for New York, Inc. One of his potential foes— Staten Island Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Max Rose—has bowed out of the contest, according to Politico. Rose, an Army veteran, had set his sights on City Hall after losing his bid for re-election to a second term in Congress, defeated by Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican.

Omni Hotels & Resorts—the international luxury hotel chain owned by billionaire Robert B. Rowling—is being accused of misusing millions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funds meant to keep workers on payroll, NPR reported. Unite Here, a service workers union with more than 300,000 members in North America, said several Omni hotels where it represents workers took Paycheck Protection Program loans but never paid hundreds of workers. Unite Here said 32 Omni hotels received about $76 million in loans from the program, known as PPP; about $23 million of that went to seven hotels in cities including Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

The leader of the Proud Boys, Henry "Enrique" Tarrio, was arrested in Washington, DC, for allegedly burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church last month during protests in the city after a "Stop the Steal" rally, reported. The DC Metropolitan Police Department charged Tarrio with destruction of property related to a banner that was burned Dec.12 outside a church.

The "Soho Karen"—who police said assaulted a Black teen she falsely accused of taking her cellphone in a New York City hotel—has been identified as 22-year-old Miya Ponsetto, Yahoo! News noted, citing The New York Post. Surveillance footage of the incident released showed Ponsetto tackling the 14-year-old to the ground. The Daily Mail reported that Ponsetto was arrested twice in 2020, for public intoxication and drunk driving.

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