The murders of two Black transgender women in the early days of the new year struck an ominous tone in the wake of two of the deadliest years on record for transgender Americans, Gay City News reported. Amariey Lej, 20, and Duval Princess, 24, were the first two transgender individuals to suffer violent deaths in 2022and both women were shot to death. Lej was found dead on New Year's Day in Wilkinsburg, a borough of Pittsburgh, according to CBS affiliate KDKA; Princess, a hairstylist, was found dead by a security guard in a car at Highland Square shopping center in Jacksonville, Florida, on Jan. 3.
In New Jersey, Union County Commissioner Rebecca Williams, one of the state's highest-ranking LGBTQ elected officials, just got a promotion: She was chosen by her colleagues to be commissioner chair, InsiderNJ.com reported. Williams' oath of office was administered by Nick Scutari, the new president of the state Senate. In her new leadership role, Williams' goals include better internet connectivity for county residents and a renewed focus on mental health social-service programs.
Sean Meloya lifelong Democrat, Allegheny County native, and local and national LGBTQ advocateannounced a slew of new endorsements from local elected officials and community leaders and strong grassroots fundraising over the first seven weeks of his campaign in Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, a press release noted. Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O'Connor and community advocate Michelle Boylealong with community leaders Tracy Baton, Angie Valvano, Daniel Smith and Dr. Tyler Titusall voiced support for Meloy's candidacy. Meloy is a Democratic National Committee member from Pennsylvania and would be the first openly gay member of Congress from the Keystone State.
LGBTQ Victory Fundthe only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders to public officeendorsed Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in her race for governor of the state, per a press release. She announced her run after months of speculation and following a record fundraising month. Healeythe first out LGBTQ person elected to a state attorney general position in the U.S.could make history again with a victory in November, as no out lesbian has ever been elected governor in the country.
Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, who has voted to ban same-sex marriage, wants to represent Palm Springs, one of America's most LGBTQ-friendly cities, The Press-Enterprise reported. His record on LGBTQ issues as the Inland Empire's longest-serving Congress member concerns the city's mayor and LGBTQ advocates. "Ken Calvert has made it clear over the course of his career that not only does he not support full equality. … He's willing to take every single opportunity he has to attack our community," said Equality California Managing Director of External Affairs Samuel Garrett-Pate. In an emailed statement, Calvert said he "simply reject(s) any notion that I've attacked LGBTQ people."
An artist accused Lego of recreating a leather jacket he made for Queer Eye cast member Antoni Porowski without the artist's permission, claiming a toy leather jacket included in a Lego set based on the Netflix show is a "blatant copy" of his design, The Guardian noted. James Concannonwhose clothes have been regularly worn by Porowski on the popular programfiled a lawsuit against the Danish toy giant in a Connecticut district court last month. The lawsuit states that Concannon contacted Lego after seeing the toy jacket in the set, which went on sale last year.
The president of the University of North Dakota defended a proposal that would allow students to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, saying the intent is to align the Grand Forks-based school with existing laws and to better protect LGBTQ students from harassment and discrimination, the Federal News Network reported. University President Andrew Armacost's livestreamed presentation came after criticism from state lawmakers, North Dakota's two Roman Catholic bishops and Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski. The policy also says the university expects to use gender-inclusive imagery and language in signage, publications and marketing material.
Lambda Legal and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth District to affirm a U.S. District Court ruling blocking implementation of Arkansas's trans healthcare ban, a press release noted. The ban was passed over Gov. Asa Hutchinson's veto in April 2021. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuitBrandt v. Rutledgein May to block implementation of the plan, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas ruled in the ACLU's favor shortly before the law was to take effect.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced a billthe Preventing Violence Against Female Inmates Actthat would require the Bureau of Prisons to house inmates according to their assigned sex at birth and not their gender identity, The Advocate noted. In a transphobic press release, Cotton said, "A prison would be free to set up specific housing units for transgender inmates based on security, medical, or programming needs," but trans women could not be housed with cisgender women, nor trans men with cis men.
The Florida House Education & Employment Committeewhich has a Republican majoritypassed HB 1557, colloquially referred to as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, advancing the measure to the full House, the Los Angeles Blade reported. HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill, SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history and cultureas well as LGBTQ students themselves. The bill has garnered national attention; Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg's husband, Chasten, tweeted, "This will kill kids, @RonDeSantisFL. You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in. In a national survey (@TrevorProject), 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide last year. Now they can't talk to their teachers?"
The American LGBTQ+ Museum has named Ben Garcia as its first executive director, according to Al Dia News. Garcia comes to this role with over 20 years of experience in museum leadership. Most recently, he served as the deputy executive director and chief learning officer of Ohio History Connection. This space will be the first museum in NYC to focus specifically on LGBTQ+ history and culture in the city. The museum is slated to open in 2024 and will share a space with the New York Historical Society.
Gender Queer: A Memoir, a book about an author's journey to identifying as transgender, is returning to Wake County Public Libraries while the library system updates its policy for permanently removing books, WRAL.com noted. The North Carolina county's library managers pulled the book in December after some parents said it contained pornography; however, others, including Wake County librarians, pushed back on the removal.
The NJPCCformerly known as the New Jersey LGBT Chamber of Commercehas adopted its new name, complete with a new brand personality, logo, newly redesigned website and an upgraded association management tool to better enhance its members' experience and encourage those who qualify to become certified LGBT business enterprises (LGBT-BEs), OutInJersey.net noted. The branding transformation process was spearheaded by NJPCC President Stephen P. Blazejewski, who was recently appointed by its board of directors. He is the youngest president to preside over a chamber in the state.
Jon Davidsonthe onetime legal director at Lambda Legal and current chief counsel for the Freedom for All Americans Education Fundwill start working for the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project on Feb. 1, according to his personal Facebook account. In part, he said, "While I've found my legislative work at Freedom for All Americans very satisfying, I am thrilled to be returning to public interest litigation to defend and advance the rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. Given the waves of attacks on our communityespecially the horrific targeting of transgender young people by many state legislaturesI felt called to be on the litigation front lines once again and to help mentor the next generation of civil rights lawyers in what has been my life's calling."
The Sallie Mae Fund, the charitable arm of the consumer banking company Sallie Mae, awarded $125,000 grants to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and the Point Foundation, a scholarship fund that provides financial aid for LGBTQ+ college students, DiverseEducation.com noted. According to Sallie Mae, the grants are part of its $4.5 million commitment to increase higher education access and completion among minority students and underserved communities. In total, Sallie Mae has contributed $500,000 to HACU and the Point Foundation over the past two years.
Equality Virginia announced Narissa Rahaman as the organization's newest executive director, The Washington Blade reported. Rahaman, who was previously the Human Rights Campaign's associate regional campaign director, will succeed outgoing Executive Director Vee Lamneck on Feb. 2. Rahaman was born in Barbados and raised in Florida. Equality Virginia announced Rahaman will succeed Lamneck on the same day Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office amid concerns he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia.
Lusia Harriswho won three national championships at Delta State and scored the first points in Olympic women's basketball history in the 1970shas died at age 66, ESPN.com noted. Harris was the first Black woman inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1992. She was also drafted by the NBA's New Orleans Jazz in 1977, making her the first and only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team. Harris was also featured in a 2021 short film titled The Queen of Basketball (which Shaquille O'Neal co-executive-produced) that detailed her career.
Starbucks is facing criticism after the company announced it no longer requires U.S. workers to receive COVID-19 vaccines or test negative each week. According to NPR, the company is no longer requiring its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a plan it announced earlier this month. In a memo sent to employees, the Seattle coffee giant said it was responding to a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a six-to-three vote, the court rejected the Biden administration's plan to require vaccines or regular COVID testing at companies with more than 100 workers; Starbucks employs 228,000 people throughout the country.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents fired its president, Dr. Mark Schlissel, after investigating an anonymous complaint that he was having an affair with a subordinate, according to Inside Higher Ed. A letter the regents signed actually cited examples of what the board termed "inappropriate behavior," including, "On September 1, 2021, you wrote to the subordinate's official university email address and referred to her as 'sexier.'" In October, Schlissel announced that he would step down from the presidency in June 2023, a year earlier than the end of his previously announced term. Mary Sue Coleman, a former president at Michigan, will serve as interim president.