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NATIONAL Virginia items, Marriott CEO, Black LGBTQ+ icons, trans kids' book
by Windy City Times staff

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Virginia lawmakers are about to roll back a state law that allows faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ families, reported. The legislation has spurred heated debate, with representatives of Catholic charitable organizations arguing that being forced to serve same-sex couples would violate their faith and civil-rights advocates decrying the existing rules as state-sanctioned discrimination. Virginia Catholic Conference Executive Director Jeff Caruso said he is aware of at least three agencies that rely on the so-called conscience clause (which gives agencies the right to refuse any placement that "would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies") and receive taxpayer funding for foster care, adoption and post-adoptions services: Commonwealth Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia and the Barry Robinson Center.

Also in Virginia, a proposal from trans delegate Danica Roem (D) to ban the use of LGBTQ "panic" defenses has advanced in both the state's House of Delegates and Senate, LGBTQ Nation noted. Having passed the House already, the proposal has passed the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee and now only needs to pass through the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee before making it to the Senate floor. Roem made history when she became the first transgender person elected to a state legislature in 2017 and soundly defeated a challenger in 2019 that attempted to weaponize her gender identity to garner conservative votes.

The American Civil Liberties Union responded to the Gloucester County School Board's request to the Supreme Court to again take up Gavin Grimm's case. In a press release, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project Senior Staff Attorney Josh Block said, "It is disappointing that after six years of litigation, the Gloucester County School Board is still digging in its heels. Federal law is clear: Transgender students are protected from discrimination. Gloucester County schools are no exception," while Grimm said, "I graduated four years ago — it is upsetting and disappointing that Gloucester County continues to deny who I am. Trans students in Gloucester County schools today should have the respect and dignity that I was denied." The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit have both ruled that the school board violated Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause by prohibiting Gavin from using the same restrooms as other boys and forcing him to use separate restrooms because he is transgender.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has passed at 62, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David tweeted about the passing of Sorenson, saying, "We share our deepest condolences on the loss of Arne Sorenson. He was a committed champion of LGBTQ equality who believed that greater inclusion and equity benefits everyone—and who turned that belief into action at Marriott and beyond. He will be deeply missed." IGLTA: International LGBTQ+ Travel Association also extended its sympathies to Sorenson's family and the Marriott team.

Coinciding with Black History Month, Out Magazine ran a piece called "13 Black LGBTQ+ Icons Who Helped Change the World." They include Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, dance icon Alvin Ailey, activist Angela Davis, author/activist Audre Lorde, civil-rights activist Bayard Rustin, writer/activist Barbara Smith, author/activist James Baldwin, writer Langston Hughes, actress/trans-rights activist Laverne Cox, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, blues singer Ma Rainey and trans activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

Call Me Max—a book about a transgender boy—has prompted a school district in Utah to suspend its book program after the story was read to third-graders, Newsweek reported. The Kyle Lukoff book was read to a class last month after a student brought a copy of the book to the Horizon Elementary School, in Murray. After some students went home and talked to their parents about the book and the class discussion, a few families called the district, angry that the book was shared without their permission, according to Murray School District officials.

Thirty-seven national organizations joined together recently to call on Michigan lawmakers to adopt the citizens' bill for LGBTQ equality being advanced by Fair and Equal Michigan, reported. These organizations join more than 20 Michigan-based businesses and organizations that joined in support of the equal rights campaign last year, along with 21 mayors representing 2 million Michigan citizens. Just a few of the groups are GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, TechNet, Transgender Law Center and Campus Pride.

Black, openly LGBTQ Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta announced that he plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat that's coming open with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey's decision not to seek re-election in 2022, reported. In a video, Kenyatta vowed to tackle poverty across the state, fight against corporate interests and ensure an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenyatta, a Democrat who represents the 181st Legislative District, joins Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who kicked off his Senate campaign earlier this month.

Openly gay Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims (D-182nd District) announced that he is running to be the state's next lieutenant governor, reported. Sims announced his candidacy in a video posted to his Twitter account in which he discussed how his experience in the General Assembly, as well as lessons from his military officer parents, would make him the right person for the job. Sims has served in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives for 10 years and is a member of several committees in the General Assembly, including Game & Fisheries, State Government and serves as the co-chair of the the LGBTQ Equality Caucus.

Republican Richard Grenell—the out former U.S. ambassador to Germany—is reportedly laying the groundwork for a run for California governor if a bid to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is successful, LGBTQ Nation noted. Republicans are pouring money into the effort over Newsom's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In Kentucky, nearly half of the Diocese of Lexington's priests signed a pledge to uphold the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states "LGBT people should be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity," reported. Diocese of Lexington LGBT Ministry Director JR Zerkowski stated that the pledge is a "living document" in that more signatures will be added over time. With the Diocese of Lexington Bishop Stowe's blessing, Zerkowski began an LGBT ministry at the Historic St. Paul Catholic Church following the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 people in Orlando.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center issued a press release lauding the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-California) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey). In part, Los Angeles LGBT Center CEO Lorri L. Jean said, "This legislation provides a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, including almost 300,000 LGBT people. It also includes legal protection and a path to citizenship for an estimated 81,000 LGBT Dreamers in the U.S., including 39,000 who have participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. More than numbers, this fight is about the lives of our families and friends, neighbors and co-workers."

Forty-five years after it was founded in January 1976, members of D.C.'s Gertrude Stein Democratic Club—the city's largest local LGBTQ political group—voted in a Feb. 8 Zoom meeting to change its name to the Capital Stonewall Democrats, The Washington Blade reported. Among the reasons some members gave for changing the name was that some historians have reported that Gertrude Stein—a U.S. expatriate writer and artist living in France beginning in the early 1920s and who was widely known as a lesbian "married" to lover Alice B. Toklas—allegedly became a Nazi sympathizer during World War II when the Germans occupied France. However, some dispute that report.

MasterClass—the streaming platform where anyone can learn from the world's best across a wide range of subjects—announced that award-winning author, editor, professor and cultural critic Roxane Gay will teach a class on writing for social change, a press release noted. Through honest discussions around the intersections of race, sexuality, gender and other social justice issues, Gay will teach members how to own their identity, write about trauma with care and courage, and hone their voice to contribute to the world in a positive way. Gay's class is now available exclusively on MasterClass, where subscribers get unlimited access to all 100+ instructors with an annual membership.

After a group of trans leaders called on Heritage of Pride (HOP) to cede control of New York City's Pride festivities to Black and Brown transgender individuals, a planned meeting between the two sides was cancelled—and a bitter controversy ensued, Gay City News reported. Citing a "history of antagonistic behavior," HOP, which organizes New York City's annual Pride march and related events, cancelled a meeting with STARR (Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform) director Mariah Lopez and accused her of using hostile language toward HOP members ahead of their planned discussion regarding representation at Pride.

Also in NYC, out gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told The New York Times he is considering a run for city comptroller, according to Gay City News. Johnson, who is in his second and final term in the City Council, is exploring a run to serve as the city's chief financial officer nearly five months after he exited the mayoral race due to personal reasons. He plans to announce a final decision shortly.

Chasten Buttigieg—the husband of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor and current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg—issued a response to conservative Rush Limbaugh, Queerty noted. The same day of Limbaugh's death, Chasten simply posted a picture of him kissing his husband to Twitter. The Buttigiegs had become a favorite target of the late Limbaugh during the 2020 Presidential Campaign. Limbaugh obsessed over the couple's sexuality; Pete Buttigieg was the first openly gay man to seek the Democratic nomination.

Arizona state Rep. John Fillmore compared transgender people to barnyard animals in a committee hearing, according to . Fillmore made the inflammatory comparison in response to the comments of parents of transgender and non-binary children providing testimony during debate on his proposed House Bill 2575, which would allow only binary gender options of male and female on official government documents and identification. "I mean, what's going to happen when, someday, someone wakes up and they want to go to a far extreme and identify as a chicken or something, for crying out loud," Fillmore in the videotaped hearing. His comments resulted in swift condemnation from fellow lawmakers and citizens alike, including state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton. Fillmore issued a statement calling the complaint "without merit" and saying his comments have been "unfairly and grossly mischaracterized."

Channel Q—a original station and the award-winning LGBTQ+ Talk Radio Network—will present "Project Fierce," a weeklong series of programming dedicated to raising visibility and awareness of the steadily increasing number of discriminations and violence against Black transgender women. During Feb. 22-27, the series ( in partnership with businesswoman, TV/film star and trans-rights advocate Angelica Ross and "Fierce" project creator/producer Anthony Preston, of A2 Music Productions) will feature a two-hour discussion with Ross and Channel Q's Ryan Mitchell; a specialty DJ mix show with Ultra Nate; Sarah McBride, Democratic member of the Delaware Senate and the first transgender state senator in the U.S.; Bravo personality Bevy Smith; GLAAD president and chief executive officer Sarah Kate Ellis; Human Rights Campaign president Alphonso David; and transgender activist/speaker Blossom Brown. See .

Colin Kaepernick's TV production was forced to employ extra security measures after it was reportedly threatened by the Proud Boys, according to a Yahoo! item that cited TMZ. Sources close to the production told the outlet that the anti-Black Lives Matter group was planning a protest at a location shoot. Although the demonstration never came to fruition, it worried cast and crew in terms of the lengths the group might go to disrupt production. Netflix recently announced the limited series Colin in Black & White, created by Kaepernick and Ava DuVernay.

Bob Dole, the former longtime Kansas senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, said he has stage 4 lung cancer, NBC News reported. "Recently, I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. My first treatment will begin on [Feb. 22]," Dole, 97, said in a statement. "While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own." Dole served as a U.S. senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996, and was the GOP presidential nominee in 1996, losing to Bill Clinton.

Charges against Amy Cooper—the white woman who called the cops on Black birdwatcher Christian Cooper in Central Park—were dismissed after she completed a restorative justice program, WLS reported. The program reported to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office that Amy attended five sessions. Said program was meant to teach Cooper that "racial identities shape our lives but we cannot use them to harm ourselves and others," prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said during a brief virtual court appearance in which Amy appeared by videoconference.

Dolly Parton turned down yet another accolade offered to her—this time, from her home state of Tennessee, CBS News noted. (The bill, introduced by State Representative John Mark Windle, was passed by a state House committee on Feb. 9). In a statement, Parton said she asked lawmakers not to consider a bill that would allow a statue of her to be built on the grounds of the state's Capitol. This comes just weeks after the country superstar revealed that she turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom, twice.

A CBS News producer has claimed in a new book that Ghislaine Maxwell admitted that Jeffrey Epstein had secret recordings of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton,Yahoo! News reported. The British socialite—awaiting trial on charges of procuring girls for Epstein to abuse in the mid-1990s—was reportedly duped by journalist Ira Rosen into confirming that the sex offender had taped his famous friends. Rosen, an award-winning producer, said he spoke with Maxwell ahead of the 2016 presidential election and, acting on a "hunch" that recordings existed, tricked the socialite into apparently confirming his theory.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields apologized for a job listing looking for a new director who could bring in a more diverse audience but maintain the "traditional, core, white art audience," The Hill noted. The New York Times reported Newfields's museum director and chief executive, Charles L. Venable, said in an interview that the wording of the job listing was intentional; he said the listing was meant to indicate that the museum would not abandon its existing audience as it sought a more diverse, inclusive crowd. Kelli Morgan, the associate curator of American art, had resigned from the museum, saying the institution's environment is "toxic," disingenuous and fails people of color, IndyStar reported.

Professional golfer Michelle Wie said it was "unsettling" to hear Rudy Giuliani tell a crude story about looking up Wie's skirt as the two golfed at a charity event, Yahoo! Sports noted. Wie responded to Giuliani's story, calling it "highly inappropriate," adding, " shudder thinking that he was smiling to my face and complimenting me on my game while objectifying me and referencing my 'panties' behind my back all day."

Three men in a relationship who are raising children together and even got all their names on their children's birth certificates are opening up about their journey to parenthood, according to LGBTQ Nation. "We're just three tame, regular people who spend a lot of time talking about what to have for dinner," said Ian Jenkins, a doctor in San Diego who is also the author of a new book about his family with three dads. "After the first few minutes of meeting us, people realize that." Jenkins and Alan Mayfield have been in a relationship for 17 years; eight years ago, they opened it up to Jeremy Allen Hodges.

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