Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced his appointments of three Vermont Superior Court judgesElizabeth Novotny, of Jericho; Heather Gray, of Quechee; and Justin Jiron, of Underhill, a press release noted. Novotny is a Vermont lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in the private and public sector, and who is general counsel to the Mosaic Learning Center. Also, she is currently on the board for Outright Vermont, a non-profit organization that serves Vermont's LGBTQ youth. According to Outright Vermont's website, Novotny resides with her wife, two teenage sons and their pets. The three Superior Court judge designates will be sworn in within the coming weeks.
A group of LGBTQ Lutheran clergy (Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, or ELM) suspended the membership of Bishop Megan Rohrer, alleging "racist words and actions," according to The Bay Area Reporter, citing The Christian Post. Rohrer made history earlier this year when they were elected the first trans-identified bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA. According to the Post article, Rohrer terminated the employment of the Rev. Nelson Rabell-Gonzalezof Mision Latina Luterana, in Stocktonon Dec. 12. A statement from ELM co-chairs the Rev. Michael Wilker and Margarette Ouji on Dec. 20 said, "This is a response to an existing pattern of behavior from Bishop Rohrer that misaligns with ELM's mission, vision, and values, specifically as it pertains to being an anti-racist organization."
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the nation's first out gay individual in that position, reduced the sentence of semi-truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, who was convicted of killing four people in the April 2019 explosive crash on Interstate 70, The Denver Channel reported. Polis reduced his sentence from 110 years to 10 years. The sentence given to Aguilera-Mederos drew outrage from around the country and among truck drivers, with about 5 million people signing an online petition seeking clemency for him. Polis also made news for pardoning 1,351 Coloradans convicted of marijuana possession, per The Denver Post. He also pardoned 15 people convicted of other crimes who served their sentences for crimes, including burglary, assault and arson.
Also, a Republican candidate for Colorado governor made bizarre and false claims about Polis, including that he's not really gay, was once married to a woman whom he abused and sexually assaulted a female colleague, The Advocate noted, citing The Colorado Times. Danielle Neuschwanger, one of several candidates running in next year's Republican primary, made the remarks at an event in Canon City.
In Maplewood, New Jersey, Dean Dafis was sworn in Jan. 1 as the first LGBTQ mayor in the town's history, patch.com reported. In Maplewood's form of government, the voters elect five town committee members who choose a mayor from among themselves each year. "I'm especially proud to be Maplewood's first out LGBTQ-identifying mayorthe only one in the county at the moment, and among only a handful of LGBTQ Mayors across the state!" Dafis noted. "It's a triumph for our LGBTQ youth, many of whom are struggling quietly with coming out even right here in our rainbow communityto see themselves in leadership, out and proud." He added, "As as a first-generation Greek American, my appointment is also a triumph for my parents and all self-made immigrant families in America who sacrificed too much for their children's betterment and opportunity. I owe everything to them."
The Hideaway Cafe, a northern Virginia spot, received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's first LGBTQ-owned Business Achievement Award, NVDaily.com reported. The award, part of the chamber's Dream Big Awards, recognizes a LGBTQ-owned small business that represents the significant contributions made by LGBTQ-owned businesses. The Dream Big Awards program included nine different Business Achievement Awards to recognize the excellence of leading businesses in each of the following categories: community support and leadership, emerging, green/sustainable, minority-owned, LGBTQ-owned, veteran-owned, woman-owned, young entrepreneur and small business of the year.
The Cleveland Rape Center received a $1.3-million award from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Cleveland19.com . Advocates with the center plan to, among other things, work with the LGBT Center to identify possible victims and make sure they are being referred to healing spaces. The center will also use this money to train law enforcement, medical providers and others to better serve the LGBTQ+ community.
In Texas, the Houston-area Magnolia Independent School District dropped its dress code policy that punished boys and non-binary students for wearing their hair too long, according to LGBTQ Nation, citing The Texas Tribune. Parents and the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the school last October after the school punished several students, including a Latino 11-year-old boy who wore a ponytail to represent his culture. Of the seven students involved in the lawsuit, six identified as boys and one identified as non-binary.
A California man who allegedly belongs to a neo-Nazi group was charged with a hate crime for allegedly attacking a neighbor while shouting homophobic slurs at the victim, Metro Weekly noted. Robert Frank Wilson, 40, of Chula Vista, pled not guilty to a charge of battery with a bias enhancement for attacking the victim due to their real or perceived sexual orientation, for an incident that occurred Nov. 10, according to the San Diego County district attorney's office. If convicted, Wilson could face up to three years and six months in prison, although prosecutors must prove that Wilson's actions were motivated by prejudice or hate because of the victim's sexual orientation.
Two Florida lawmakers are working to close a loophole in the state's hate-crime law that allowed a man who vandalized gay Pride display in Delray Beach, Florida, to avoid such charges over the summer, the Los Angeles Blade noted. State Sen. Tina Polsky (D) and state Rep. Emily Slosberg (D) sponsored S.B. 1208 in the Senate and H.B. 883 in the House, respectively; the bills would let prosecutors pursue hate-crime charges when such a crime involves defacing properties owned by local governments or organizations. During the summer, Alexander Jerich, 20, was accused of using his vehicle to leave tire marks across a Pride mural; however, he was charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving, but not a hate crime.
In North Carolina, the Raleigh Police Department is hiring its first LGBTQ liaison, The News & Observer reported. Raleigh scored 69 points out of 100 in the Human Rights Campaign's 2021 Municipal Equality Index. City Council member Jonathan Melton, who is gay, said not having a liaison has hurt Raleigh's performance on the equality index for many years.
A 30-year veteran referee who has officiated for USA Swimming quit in protest over the inclusion of 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in women's swimming competitions, The Washington Blade reported. In separate interviews with Fox News; its subsidiary right-wing anti-LGBTQ online sports outlet, OutKick; and the right-wing conservative newspaper The Washington Times, Cynthia Millen said she felt compelled to quit because she was opposed to biological men competing against women. NCAA requires transgender athletes to undergo, for transgender women, a year of testosterone-suppression treatment; Thomas fulfilled the requirement, and neither the NCAA nor USA Swimming has commented on her season.
In Pennsylvania, a new Pennridge School District policy limiting student access to books and educational resources related to gender identity has ignited a battle over civil rights and safety in the Bucks County community, WHYY.org reported. The conflict came into public view when district leaders removed at least one book about LGBTQ identities, Heather Has Two Mommies, from all district elementary school libraries and sent an email notifying school officials that all books about gender identity should be removed from the shelves.
In a related matter, Republican Oklahoma state Sen. Rob Standridge introduced a bill that would give individual parents the power to demand the removal of any book from school shelves that they believe contains LGBTQ content, according to LGBTQ Nation. The bill, SB 1142, states that schools should be banned from carrying texts that cover "the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature." Standridgea pharmacist and business owner, according to the Oklahoma Senate websitenamed specific books that concern him, including Trans Teen Survival Guide and A Quick and Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns, calling them "overly sexualized."
An employee at gay nightclub The Heat, in San Antonio, Texas, was shot after several patrons at the bar got into a fight and one of them pulled a gun, The Advocate noted, citing WOAI. Police told the outlet that a fight had broken out among some club patrons and those individuals had been kicked out because of it. The club's owner, Randy Cunniff, told WOAI the fight happened outsideand not in his club, as authorities said.
In Portland, Derek Palmer (Raven & Rose) and Truman Cox (The Benson) are teaming to bring Sissy Bar to the city in 2022, according to Eater Portland. Palmer and Cox are using the word "sissy" because that's what they were called growing up, when they were often bullied. "We wanted a name that was overtly queer, that people can chuckle about a little bit," Palmer said. "It's catering to the people who feel like outcasts." The venue will be a video bar with various themed parties, ranging from Xanadu parties to Cher nights.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health named Sarah MacCarthy, Sc.D., as the first holder of the Magic City LGBTQ Health Studies Endowed Professorship, a press release noted. The professorship is the first of its kind in the country as well as in the Deep South, a region where LGBTQ individuals are limited in their ability to access quality services. MacCarthy joins UAB as an associate professor in the School of Public Health's Department of Health Behavior focused on LGBTQ health.
Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah said that former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not face criminal charges in connection with two of the harassment allegations against him, NBC News noted. Rocah said in a statement that her office "has determined that, although the allegations and witnesses were credible, and the conduct concerning, we cannot pursue criminal charges due to the statutory requirements of the criminal laws of New York." The district attorney's investigation looked at allegations from a report by the state attorney general's office that concluded that Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women while he was governor; two of the alleged incidents happened in Rocah's district. The Nassau County district attorney previously made a similar announcement.