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NATIONAL Teachers, GLAAD talks HRC, 9/11 items, Dr. Rachel Levine
by Windy City Times staff
2021-09-12

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In North Carolina, a former teacher won a lawsuit against Charlotte Catholic High School and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte after he lost his job following an announcement on Facebook that he planned to marry his longtime partner, who is also a man, WCNC.com reported. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn Jr. said the school and the diocese violated workplace sex-discrimination laws in firing Lonnie Billard, a former drama and English teacher. The case now moves to a trial to determine how Billard will be compensated.

In Iowa, more than 100 students walked out in protest over Winterset's school district placing seventh-grade literacy teacher Lucas Kaufmann on leave because of his sexual orientation, The Des Moines Register reported. Kaufmann was placed on leave following a presentation about himself to his class that featured the LGBT Pride flag, according to a Change.org petition. When asked by students, Kaufmann said he was bisexual. More than 1,700 people have signed the online petition. See https://www.change.org/p/government-officials-from-making-a-political-statement-out-of-winterset-school-employee-attempt-to-create-a-safe-person-for-lgbtq-students?redirect=false.

A Missouri teacher resigned after parents complained about a Pride flag in his classroom and the district told him to take it down, USA Today reported. John M. Wallis was recently hired to teach speech, theatre and world mythology at Neosho Junior High School. He has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. In a recent tweet, he stated, in part, "The use of the pride flag in my classroom was compared to hanging the Confederate flag in my classroom."

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis issued a statement about the change of leadership at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which recently fired President Alphonso David. In part, Ellis said, ""The LGBTQ movement is [composed] of many organizations and individuals working alongside one another for decades to support our community and forge a path to full equality and acceptance. We are a strong, effective, and intersectional coalition of advocates. This must continue to be a time of action and unity for LGBTQ people and all social justice movements and, with news of a leadership change at HRC, one of the leading organizations in our movement, we cannot be deterred." David was fired for advising now-former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the latter's sexual-harassment scandal, media outlets reported.

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, the Catholic LGBTQ organization New Ways Ministry is urging individuals and organizations to come together to help canonize one of the most widely-known victims of the disaster—Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM—as a saint, per a press release. Known as "Victim #1" because he was the first recorded casualty in New York City, Judge was on the scene at the World Trade Center because he was the chaplain for the N.Y.C. Fire Department. Judge, whose identity as a gay priest was revealed publicly after his death, was not associated with New Ways Ministry, though the priest was active in ministering with LGBTQ Catholics in New York City during the 1980s and 1990s.

Also in connection with Sept. 11, PFLAG National Executive Director Brian K. Bond issued a statement. It read, in part, "Twenty years ago, undeniable acts of heroism occurred in the face of vicious cruelty. The terrorist attacks on 9-11 upended the world as we then knew it. Yet, the story did not end there. Valiant firefighters, paramedics, and police rushed to the front lines to help, including Rev. Mychal Judge. And passengers like Mark Bingham, who were trapped on a suicide mission to harm, fought back and in doing so saved the lives of countless others. These are just two of the patriotic heroes of that day who were LGBTQ+, and also only two of the victims who lost their lives in the terrible tragedy of 9-11."

qFLIX Philadelphia: The LGBTQ+ Film Festival will present the 2021 Marsha P. Johnson Image Award to Dr. Rachel L. Levine, the transgender assistant secretary of health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Levine will be the first recipient of this award. It will be presented to her on the opening night of qFLIX Philadelphia 2021, Sept. 26, at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, on the Avenue of the Arts, Philadelphia. Johnson (1945-92) was a Black transgender woman who was a force behind the Stonewall Riots and surrounding activism that sparked a new phase of the LGBTQ+ movement in 1969.

Brett Mathews—a Utah man who fought the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that targeted gay service members and allowed his conflict with his conservative Latter-day Saint family to be chronicled in an acclaimed documentary—has died at age 49, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. Mathews died Aug. 24 at his home in Tooele "suddenly and accidentally," according to an obituary written by his family. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," enacted under the Clinton administration in 1993, was repealed in 2010 by an act of Congress signed by President Barack Obama.

The U.S Department of the Interior's National Park Service provided the City of Atlanta with a nearly $25,000 Federal Historic Preservation Grant to preserve LGBTQA+ history in the Metro Atlanta area, The Signal reported. The competitive grant, supported by the National Park Service's Underrepresented Community Grants program, will fund a Historic Context Statement for areas critical to the LGBTQA+ community in Atlanta.

The Abbey—the famous gay bar in the West Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles—filed a lawsuit against Haely White, a comedienne who publicly accused its bartender of drugging her drink, Newsweek noted. In early August, White said via social media that she was "severely drugged by a bartender" during her July 29 visit to the bar; she told her social=media followers to "spread the word" and boycott the bar, according to the bar's lawsuit. Security footage from White's July 29 visit reportedly showed that neither Abbey personnel nor any other person had tampered with her drink, the bar added.

The Miami Beach Pride committee delivered its message days before the big event: There must be masks and vaccinations, SouthFloridaGayNews.com reported. "We need to remind them, we need to encourage them," Pride committee chair Bruce Horwich said. "All of our staff and volunteers will be vaccinated, or they will be masked completely for anything they do inside or outside." This year's festival, taking place through Sept. 19, is the first held in person since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Miami Beach Pride usually is held in April. An estimated 140,000 attended the most recent in-person festival in 2019.

If an LGBTQ history exhibit was removed from the Missouri Capitol because it didn't get pre-approval from a specific board, then every exhibit on display that didn't get approved must also be removed, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade argued in a letter to state officials, KCUR.org reported. That would mean, she said, that there would be no exhibits on display. Recently, Kansas City Sen. Greg Razer, the only openly gay member of the Missouri Senate, demanded an explanation after "Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights," was removed from the state Capitol (in Jefferson City) following Republican complaints, a WIBW.com item noted. The exhibit has been relocated to the Lohman Building near the Capitol.

LGBTQ people in Texas and elsewhere are voicing concerns about the looming impact of Texas' restrictive abortion law, Gay City News reported. Barbie Hurtado—an organizing and training manager for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, a policy and political arm of Planned Parenthood clinics in the area—said the law will have a disparate impact on queer undocumented communities, which continue to face obstacles in healthcare access. In addition, Jennicet Gutierrez, a founding member and community organizer of LGBTQ advocacy group La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (TQLM), ripped the legislation as "horrific."

The Virginia House Democratic Caucus received a $50,000 donation from Equality Virginia's Political Action Committee ahead of the November election, The Washington Blade reported. "This incredible investment from Equality Virginia is crucial to keeping LGBTQ+ advocates in control of the House of Delegates," Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) stated in a press release. Since 2019—when state Democrats claimed both General Assembly chambers and the governorship for the first time in 20 years—Virginia passed a historic wave of LGBTQ rights legislation that included adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's nondiscrimination law, modernizing HIV laws and banning both so-called conversion therapy and the LGBTQ "panic defense."

In Michigan, a new bookstore in Holland is causing controversy with the LGBTQ+ community, WOODTV.com reported. On social media, several comments noted the faith-based organization behind the Family Central bookstore, Focus on the Family, has supported anti-LGBT policy and rhetoric as well as things like conversion therapy. Several also criticized downtown Holland's decision to promote the business.

The National LGBTQ+ Bar Association announced that Paul Thaler is its new director of development, a press release noted. Among Thaler's past positions was a turn as the organization's director of external affairs; he is also experienced in private practice and has been a career development officer at a law school.

Facebook apologized after its artificial-intelligence technology mislabeled a video featuring Black men in altercations with white police officers and civilians as "about primates," The New York Daily News noted. After social-media users finished the clip, published by the Daily Mail, they received a prompt asking if they would like to "keep seeing videos about Primates." In 2015, Google similarly had to apologize after its Photos application mistakenly identified Black people as "gorillas." Later the same year, Microsoft offered a mea culpa after its AI chatbot Tay began spouting racial slurs and had to be pulled offline.

In New Jersey, Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch, Jr., joined by a dozen community leaders, announced the rollout of a public awareness campaign aimed at informing the public about the FBI's role in investigating hate crimes, and encouraged people to report hate crimes that they have witnessed or experienced to 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov, a press release noted. Continuing until early November, residents and commuters in New Jersey will see the "Protecting Our Communities Together" messages on New Jersey Transit buses, in rail stations, on trains, on billboards along major state roadways and in digital ads on various websites. The message will also be carried through outreach efforts and community partnerships.

Babette Josephs—a progressive and a representative of the 182nd Pennsylvania House District during 1985-2012—died Aug. 27 of cancer in Eugene, Oregon, Jewish Exponent reported. She was 81. Josephs was a longtime fighter for reproductive and LGBTQ rights, racial equality and environmental sustainability. She served 14 consecutive terms, making her the longest-serving woman in the state House of Representatives. She was one of only a handful of Democratic Socialists of America members to be elected to state government.

The city of Portland announced it intends to ban trade and travel to Texas in response to the Southern state's new abortion law, The New York Post reported. Mayor Ted Wheeler announced that the city council intended to vote on an emergency resolution on Sept. 8 to stop "the City's future procurement of goods and services from, and City employee business travel to, the state of Texas." Texas has banned all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is typically about six weeks after conception and before most women are aware that they are pregnant.

The Biden Justice Department sued the state of Texas over its new six-week abortion ban, saying the state law is unconstitutional, CNN.com reported. Announcing the lawsuit at a news conference in Washington, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Texas law's "unprecedented" design seeks "to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible."

On The Late Late Show With James Corden Thursday, Dr. Phil McGraw gave his thoughts on the current vaccine debate happening in the United States, Yahoo! noted. "I've talked to so many people who aren't taking it because they think they're being injected with a tracking device," McGraw said. "Are you f***ing kidding me?" He added that he tells reluctant families, "Look, it's more than about you. Maybe you get the vaccine for other people and not for yourself. You get it so you don't make other people ill."


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