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National: Judy Shepard, lesbian co-pastors, trans White House staffer
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 349 times since Wed Jan 18, 2017
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The mother of Matthew Shepard urged senators to oppose Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions' nomination to become President-elect Donald Trump's attorney general, citing his opposition to hate-crimes legislation, CNN reported. In a report issued by the Human Rights Campaign, Judy Shepard—whose son Matthew was beaten and left to die in Wyoming in 1998 in a crime motivated by anti-gay sentiment—criticized Sessions for opposing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009.

A lesbian couple in Washington, D.C., have been named co-pastors of a Baptist church, PinkNews noted. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen will begin in their new role on Feb. 26 after being presented to the congregation. The married couple are believed to be the first gay couple leading a Baptist church, a spokeswoman for the congregation has confirmed. The couple, originally from South Carolina, have moved to Washington to take on the roles at Calvary Baptist Church.

As President Obama prepares to leave office, he appointed Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the White House's first openly trans staff member, to the Holocaust Memorial Council, noted. Brought in to serve in the Presidential Personnel Office, Freedman-Gurspan, 28, recently ended her tenure as the White House liaison to the LGBT community. She worries, though, that President-elect Trump may do away with the position altogether.

Pro-LGBT organizations the American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) and OutServe-SLDN issued a joint statement following comments made by President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for decretary of defense, retired Gen. James Mattis, who said he would not work to reverse the current policies that allow any qualified person to serve, including LGBT people. AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack and OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn said, "His comments today give us hope for a working relationship between our organizations and the new Defense Department leadership. If confirmed, we look forward to working with General Mattis in supporting our nation's brave heroes and their families."

NBC News reported that Chelsea Manning, who has served seven years of a 35-year sentence, is on President Obama's "short list" for commutation, according to . Chelsea Manning's attorney at the ACLU, Chase Strangio, said, "The Obama administration has done many commendable things to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, but in the case of Chelsea Manning they have systematically mistreated her and denied her access to medically recommended gender-related health care. Chelsea won't survive another five years in prison, much less another 30."

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, backed by Democratic legislators and interfaith leaders, said he will seek to broaden the state's definition of "hate crime" to cover gender identity, sexual orientation and disability, according to . State law defines a hate crime as "any illegal act directed against any persons or their property because of those persons' race, religion, or national origin." Del. Richard Sullivan, D-Arlington, is sponsoring a bill ( HB 1702 ) to add sexual orientation and gender identification to that definition. Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington, plans to offer a similar measure in the Senate.

Texas Judge Reed O'Connor barred enforcement of the Affordable Care Act's ( ACA's ) section designed to protect citizens based on gender identity and those seeking abortions. However, according to an Out item, President Obama's Justice Department filed three arguments against O'Connor's ruling, which claimed the act's protections of individuals based on sex exceeded the executive branch's authority. Among other things, Obama argues that O'Connor's ruling was too broad, as his decision affected protections for the entire nation, and not just the eight states filing against the ACA's protections.

Lambda Legal HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes and Transgender Rights Project Director M. Dru Levasseur issued statements saying that repeal of the Affordable Care Act ( ACA, aka Obamacare ) without a replacement would be devastating. Levasseur said, "The ACA is the best pathway we have for transgender people to access healthcare without discrimination. If healthcare providers, doctors and insurers provide services for non-transgender people, they must also provide that care for transgender people."

Actor and activist George Takei has started a Care2 petition to gather support for the Muslim community and allow signers to speak out against Trump policies that would target them, a press release stated. Takei plans to deliver the petition signatures in person to the Muslim Public Affairs Council ( MPAC ) and government officials as a show of support. On his Care2 petition, Takei writes about how when he was just 5, his family was rounded up at gunpoint and forced into a Japanese-American internment camp.

A former teacher of year at Charlotte Catholic High says he lost his last job as a substitute with the school after a 2014 Facebook post announcing his wedding plans to his longtime male partner, reported. In a federal lawsuit filed Jan. 11, Lonnie Billard accuses the school, the city's Catholic school system and the Diocese of Charlotte with illegally discriminating again him because of his sexual orientation. Billard wants back pay and benefits, punitive damage, compensatory damages for emotional distress, and a court order blocking the school and Catholic leaders from taking similar punitive actions in the future.

The city of Mesa, Arizona, has adopted a Unity Pledge as part of a statewide effort to promote equal treatment for LGBT residents in terms of housing and accommodations, noted. The Arizona Republic reported that Mayor John Giles issued the proclamation on Jan. 9, saying it sends a message that Mesa welcomes diversity. The proclamation does not carry any enforcement power.

Almost two years to the day after same-sex marriages became legal in Florida, the state has settled its suit against married same-sex couples who were denied accurate birth certificates for their children, an Equality Florida/National Center for Lesbian Rights press release stated. Under the terms of the settlement, the Department of Vital Statistics has agreed to treat same-sex spouses the same way it treats different-sex spouses for purposes of birth certificates and will issue corrected birth certificates to married same-sex couples at no charge, including couples who were validly married in any other state at the time their children were born in Florida. The state also agreed to pay some attorneys' fees to the couples' attorneys.

A roommate said the man who likely killed NYC gay club owner Sayvon Zabar knew the victim and had visited him hours before the murder, The New York Daily News reported. Zabar, 54, who owned and managed the now-defunct Latin gay club Escuelita, was found dead on a bed inside his apartment on the Upper West Side. Zabar had been strangled.

A U.S. Air Force veteran has finally received an honorable discharge nearly 70 years after getting kicked out for being gay, The New York Daily News reported. Hubert Edward Spires—who is 91 and fighting failing health—saw his status change at last after filing a federal lawsuit last year to remove the "undesirable" discharge that has shamed him since his exit. However, the Air Force offered no apology, sending Spires a simple statement saying "sufficient relevant evidence" had been shown to "demonstrate the existence of an injustice."

A former pro athlete has revealed he's gay, Queerty noted. Adam McCabe has been a professional and semi-professional soccer player for teams in England, Thailand and Slovakia. He currently plays for a semi-pro team in the National Premier Soccer League in Atlanta, the Georgia Revolution, and is also a model. In Meanwhiler, he wrote, "While I was playing soccer at a younger age, I was not out to my teammates. I did not really even think about my sexuality until the end of high school and beginning of college ( around 19 years old )." Speaking with Outsports, he said, "I have grown and changed so much since my move back and now I am at a place to help other LGBTQ athletes who may be struggling."

In a surprise ceremony, President Obama bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor on Vice President Biden on Jan. 12, calling his running mate and presidential understudy "the best vice president America has ever had," USA Today reported. The event was alternately humorous and poignant, with Biden turning his face from the audience to wipe away his tears. Biden accepted the award with an off-the-cuff speech in characteristic fashion, reciting Irish poems, Talmudic sayings and inside stories.

Missouri State University will pay $25,000 to a former student who sued after he was removed from a master's degree counseling program because he said he wouldn't counsel gay couples, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Andrew Cash sued the university in April, and the settlement with the Missouri State Board of Governors was finalized in December. he $25,000 is the estimated cost for Cash to obtain a master's degree at another university.

Trans United Fund will hold a 2017 kickoff event in conjunction with the LGBTQ Task Force's Creating Change conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, Jan. 19, according to a press release. The kickoff event, titled "United. Undaunted. Unstoppable: Fight Back 2017," is meant to organize people and money to build the political power of the trans community and allies to fight back against anti-trans ballot initiatives and legislation; fight for pro-active, pro trans measures across the country; and support trans candidates. The conference will be Jan. 18-22.

Making Gay History—which mines Eric Marcus' nearly three-decade-old audio archive of rare interviews to create personal portraits of known and long-forgotten champions, heroes and witnesses to LGBTQ history—will launch its second season on March 2, a press release noted. During its first season, the podcast profiled people such as Wendell Sayers, the first Black lawyer to work for Colorado's attorney general, and who risked everything to join a gay discussion group; and gay-rights activists/life partners Barbara Gittings and Kay "Tobin" Lahusen, who helped supercharge the nascent movement in the 1960s. See .

The Advocate announced its annual "Queerest Cities in America" list. This time, Jersey City, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Buffalo and New Orleans rounded out the top five. ( Others on the list include Miami, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and St. Louis. ) Each of the cities on the list had a population of 250,000 people, and the results were weighted based on the total population of the city.

Pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli—who rose to infamy by hiking the price of a drug used for an AIDS-related condition by more than 5,000 percent—is now promoting "clovergender," an identity that trolls have concocted to mock LGBT people, reported. Before his Twitter account was suspended for harassing a Teen Vogue writer, Shkreli urged his followers to "please spread clovergender awareness." The term, which has sprung up on several social-media accounts early this year, appeared to be used by adult individuals claiming to be "a child trapped in a man's body who is attracted to other children." However, the term is a hoax.

Speaking of Shkreli, controversial gay Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos was slated to speak to students at the University of California-Davis on the quad Jan. 14—a day after protests led a Republican student group to cancel his scheduled joint speaking event with Shkreli, Fortune noted. Leading up to the Jan. 13 event, hundreds of UC-Davis students, faculty members and alumni signed a petition asking that the university cancel the event. "I am deeply disappointed with the events of this evening," Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter said in a statement. "Our community is founded on principles of respect for all views, even those that we personally find repellent."

Gay-porn performer "Tyce Jax" has been arrested after allegedly assaulting his boyfriend—for watching porn, Instinct reported. Jax, whose legal name is Jared Louis Velazquez, has shot films for Raging Stallion and Next Door Ebony. Velazquez was already serving a three-year probation sentence for beating and choking his boyfriend a year ago.

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