Ty Underwood, a 24-year-old transgender woman of color, was fatally shot early Jan. 26 in North Tyler, Texas, according to Advocate.com . Police found Underwood when responding to a 911 call from a woman who said her children had heard gunshots and that a car had run into a telephone pole nearby. Detective Andy Erbaugh told reporters he believes that Underwood was near or inside the car when shots were fired at it; Underwood was likely struck while she was trying to drive away. The Tyler Police Department has offered a $1,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest for Underwood's murder; call 903-531-1000 with any relevant information.
Following news the U.S. Supreme Court would consider the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples, a federal judge has halted lawsuits seeking the legalization of gay nuptials in North Dakota until the high court renders further guidance, The Washington Blade reported. Chief Judge Ralph Erickson, an appointee of George W. Bush, indicated he's placed a stay on the two cases pending "a decision by the United States Supreme Court in four consolidated cases."
Mary Cheney is the self-proclaimed daughter of Darth Vader, Politico reported. The younger daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney ( and a lesbian ) spoke to a small group of students at American University about the Republican Party and its need for a different approach on marriage equality going forward. "I'm Darth Vader's daughter," Cheney, 45, said, adding, "I don't picture the whole national Republican Party running to embrace the issue of marriage equality any time in the near future; I certainly don't expect to see it in the party's platform next year in Cleveland."
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper has responded to the Christian pastor who criticized him over his so-called "gay agenda," LGBTQ Nation reported. In an op-ed entitled "Are You Aware of the Avalanche of Gay Programming Assaulting Your Home?," Larry Tomczak wrote that Cooper "boasts openly on TV he'd rather 'have sex' with a man" and that Ellen DeGeneres "celebrates her lesbianism and 'marriage' in between appearances of guests like Taylor Swift to attract young girls." On his "Ridiculist" segment, Cooper said, "I've never actually been to the secret meeting where the gays plot their agenda, though I imagine the catering is quite amazing."
Also regarding Cooper, a schizophrenic Queens man who stalked the CNN anchor for nearly six years says he's the one being threatened, according to Page Six. Alex Hausner, 40, told a Manhattan judge that Cooper's boyfriend, Benjamin Maisani, has been threatening his life on the Internet. Hausner copped to felony menacing and harassment as part of a no-jail plea deal last April; as long as he stays away from the couple and attends one year of psychiatric treatment, he'll be sentenced to five years probation.
A federal judge ruled Jan. 23 that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, according to The Huffington Post. The judge, U.S. District Judge Callie V. S. Granade, ruled that Alabama's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, known as the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, violates the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses. "If anything, Alabama's prohibition of same-sex marriage detracts from its goal of promoting optimal environments for children," Granade wrote.
Just months before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the issue of nationwide marriage equality, President Obama, in his State of the Union address, praised the issue as "a story of freedom across our country" and "a civil right," LGBTQ Nation noted. In his sixth State of the Union address, Obama said that U.S. residents now "value the dignity and worth" of gay citizens, and for the first time recognized lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in a State of the Union address. "I've seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home," said Obama, noting the rise in support for marriage equality.
Two men who became the first gay men to marry in Florida attended President Obama's State of the Union address. SFGN.com noted that U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, invited Jeff and Todd Delmay of Hollywood to be her guests in Washington, D.C. The Delmays were among six same-sex couples who sued Miami-Dade County for the right to get married.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs ( NCAVP ) has learned of the homicide of Lamia Bearda transgender woman of colorin Norfolk, Virginia, a press release stated. "Lamia's death is a tremendous loss, and tragedy so early in the year is a painful reminder of the disproportionate violence that transgender women of color face," said Osman Ahmed, NCAVP's Research and Education Coordinator at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. NCAVP added that Beard had been misgendered in local media reported.
Luxury retailer Saks & Co. has dropped a controversial legal argument it put forward in December: that there's no federal law prohibiting the company from discriminating against someone for being transgender, Time.com reported. Leyth Jamal, a former employee who identifies as a transgender woman, is suing Saks for discrimination in Texas, alleging that she was mistreated by the company and ultimately fired because she is transgender. In response, Saks claimed that Title VII, the portion of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination based on sex, doesn't cover transgender people. Saks will continue to contest Jamal's suit, but will now focus on the merits of her specific claims.
A transgender Connecticut police officer fired last June has filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation and wrongful termination, the Associated Press reported. Francesca Quaranta sued the city of Middletown, the mayor, the police chief and three police officers on Jan. 9 in Hartford Superior Court. Quaranta says her law enforcement career began a long and harsh decline in 2012 after she announced she was transgender. Mayor Daniel Drew says Quaranta's firing wasn't discriminatory.
Minneapolis' Bisexual Organizing Project ( BOP ) held its annual meeting and board elections recently, according to a press release. BOP introduced four new initiatives at the annual meeting: a new volunteer program; a new membership program; an access and inclusion plan with educational and restructuring elements; and the Bi+ Story Program and the Bi+ Essentials presentation. These four initiatives are integral to BOP's Strategic Plan 2014-2019, which includes goals to expand the number and variety of the organization's community programs and the size and scope its conference, BECAUSE.
Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Tom Wolf ( D ) announced that Dr. Rachel Levine is his choice for physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, LGBTQ Nation noted. Levine would be the highest-ranked transgender woman in Pennsylvania state government history. She is currently the chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where she also serves as a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry.
In an effort to provide services and programs to residents in and around the Baltimore areas of Charles Village and Waverly, a new non-profit called the North Baltimore Equality Center is being planned, The Washington Blade revealed. Using the theme "Let's be Bmore Equal," the goal, according to founder Kelly Neel, is "to bring a small community center environment with programming and resources through partnerships for all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, etc. with a focus on LGBTQ individuals, in addition to programming and services for all underserved populations."
U.S. House Republicans abruptly decided to drop planned debate of a bill criminalizing virtually all late-term abortions after objections from GOP women and other lawmakers left them short of votes, The Chicago Tribune reported. The legislation would've banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The decision came on the eve of the annual March for Life, when thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators stream to Washington to mark the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
The National LGBTQ Task Force has announced that United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ( HUD ) Secretary Julian Castro will be speaking at the 27th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, a press release stated. In 2012, then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke at the Creating Change conference in Baltimore, Maryland, and announced that HUD would implement a new policy banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in programs funded by the department. Creating Change will take place Feb. 4-8 in Denver.
Ben Carsona likely Republican presidential candidate who believes that the gay-rights movement is part of a communist conspiracy to bring about the New World Orderwants Congress to intervene in court cases involving marriage equality, according to LGBTQ Nation. Speaking with Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace, Carson said that Congress should "reprimand or remove" federal judges who issue "unconstitutional" rulings striking down state bans on same-sex marriage.
In another situation involving Carson, the former Johns Hopkins University pediatric neurosurgeon and Fox News commentator defended a comment that bakers opposed to gay marriage might poison the wedding cakes of gay couples, On Top Magazine noted. "You know that would be a very immature interpretation of what is a common saying: Never make your waiter or your chef angry, because you don't know what they're gonna put in your food," Carson told The Kelly File host Megyn Kelly.
Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kernknown for her consistent stance against same-sex marriageintroduced three bills causing controversy among equality groups, NewsOn6.com reported. House Bill 1599 is being called the "Preservation and Sovereignty of Marriage Act," and it says taxpayer dollars or governmental salaries cannot be used for "the licensing or support of same-sex marriage." She also filed House Bill 1598 ( the "Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act" ) and House Bill 1597, which would allow any business in the state to refuse service to any LGBT person or group.
Patsy Keever, vice chair of North Carolina's Democratic Party, apologized in a post to her Facebook page after she called her opponent for chair of the party, Janice Covington, a man at a public forum, Metro Weekly noted. Covington, who is transgender, was listing the various groups she represented as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2012 when Keever uttered the comment, according to QNotes. Keever cut in with "a man," to which Covington retorted, "There ain't no man left in here, honey."
A Carlsbad, California, man was in critical condition after a freak accident during a softball tournament in Las Vegas, 10News.com reported. Michael Petracca, 28, was competing at an LGBT softball tournament when a the sun caused a batter to swing and let go of his aluminum bat, causing it to fly some 50 feet over a fence and right at Petracca. Petracca suffered skull fractures, and he suffered damage to a part of the brain that controls speech. He returned to San Diego Jan. 23.
In California, a former Sultana High School teacher who said she was fired for being an open lesbian was granted the right by a state superior court judge to proceed with a lawsuit against Hesperia Unified School District ( HUSD ) and Sultana High administrators, the Hesperia Star reported. Former English teacher Julia Frost claims HUSD violated California law by not renewing her contract because she was an openly lesbian teacher; she was also the co-sponsor of the gay-straight alliance at Sultana. Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville ruled to allow the lawsuit to move forward on nine of the 10 claims, including a first-of-its-kind claim explicitly asserting that the robust discrimination protections contained in California's Education Code apply to teachers as well as students.
Echoing concerns voiced by the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri, the Archdiocese of St. Louis is also criticizing a Catholic-based hospital group's consideration of extending benefits to same-sex spouses of employees, an LGBTQ Nation item noted. The Mercy Health System announced Jan. 13 that it plans to offer benefits to legally married same-sex spouses beginning this spring, in compliance with the Affordable Care Act and other federal programs. "It is simply inconsistent to claim to be a Catholic institution while publicly acting against Church teaching," the archdiocese said.
In Minnesota, 46-year-old art teacher David Frigaardwho also ran a gay-straight alliancewas the victim of a fatal shooting, Gay Star News reported. As well as teaching art and helping LGBTI teens, Frigaard ( who was married with three kids ) also served as an at-risk program teacher, and was a football, girls track and basketball coach. KSTP.com noted that Bailey Garcia, a 19-year-old paid on-call firefighter in Mahtomedi, is accused of killing Frigaard. It's not known if the two knew each other.
Sarah Palin has joined the growing list of Republicans expressing an interest in running for the White House in 2016. "When you have a servant's heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested," she told ABC News at the Las Vegas Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, where she served chili to the homeless. The former Alaska governor ran alongside Sen. John McCain ( R-Ariz. ) in 2008.
New Orleans' oldest active gay Mardi Gras krewe has canceled its annual Carnival ball for 2015, a decision it said was difficult but financially necessary amid increasingly difficult times, The New Orleans Advocate reported. The Krewe of Petronius, founded in 1961, said that it will not hold Bal Masque LIV this year, instead putting all of its funds toward its 55th-anniversary ball next year. Petronius will still hold a small gathering for members and their guests; it will announce details of its 2015-16 membership rush party and other events later this year.
A teenage girl shot by police in Denver's Park Hill neighborhood has died from her injuries, but Denver Police Chief Robert White believes the shooting was justified, according to CBS Denver. The teenager has been identified as 16-year-old Jessie Hernandez, who was in a stolen car with four other individuals; officers said when they approached the vehicle, the driver hit one of the officers with the car. On Twitter, a user ( @elisabethepps ) posted of Hernandez, "16. Brown. Loved. Queer. She. #JessieHernandez #Denver #ParkHill."
Lambda Legal filed a brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to overturn a lower court ruling dismissing Conde-Vidal v. Garcia-Padilla, the lawsuit seeking to end the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's discriminatory ban on marriage for LGBT couples, a press release stated. In its brief, Lambda Legal argues that the lower court made a mistake in holding that Baker v. Nelson, a United States Supreme Court summary disposition from 42 years ago, prevented it from considering the plaintiffs' claims.
The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) has issued its first State Equality Index ( SEI )issued in partnership with the Equality Federationthat shows LGBT protections ( or the lack thereof ) on a state-by-state basis, according to a press release. For example, more than 206 million people65 percent of U.S. residentslive in states where LGBT people have no explicit statewide workplace protections that include sexual orientation and gender identity. The full report, including detailed scorecards for every state, as well as a comprehensive review of 2014 state legislation, is available online at www.hrc.org/sei.
Also, the HRCwhich late last year launched the "All God's Children" ad campaignis continuing its efforts to reach religious communities with a new resource guide for Christian congregations, Advocate.com noted. "'A Christian Conversation Guide: Creating Safe and Inclusive Spaces for People who are LGBT' … provides practical suggestions for building safe and inclusive faith communities and congregations," according to the HRC website.
Seven men filed suit against the Chicago Presbytery and related organizations, claiming they were sexually abused by a now-deceased minister whose trail of allegations led to a multimillion-dollar settlement, The Chicago Tribune reported. The plaintiffsthree of whom filed one lawsuit and four who filed the otherallege that they were abused by Presbyterian minister Douglas Mason, whose alleged sex abuse led the Presbytery to settle with four accusers in 2007 for a reported $11 million.
The conservative group best known for threatening to boycott JC Penney when the retail chain hired Ellen DeGeneres as its spokeswoman is branching out, The Huffington Post noted. Monica Cole, director of One Million Moms, announced the formation of One Million Dads. The male counterpart and successor to One Million Moms will also be a division of the American Family Association and was created "with Christian men in mind."
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar, a First Amendment challenge to a Florida rule that helps keep courts impartial by prohibiting judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions, according to Lambda Legal. In December, Lambda Legal and six other advocacy organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to reject the petitioner's claim and uphold Florida's rule banning direct solicitation by judicial candidates in order to protect against the appearance of judicial bias and maintain the public's confidence in the fairness of the courts.
A study by Kink University has named Portland, Oregon, the Kinkiest City in the United States, beating out more well-established cities like New York and San Francisco, according to a press release. The study evaluated the BDSM, fetish and polyamorous factors of the 50 largest cities in the United States using four factors: the total size of the kink-identified population, the size of the population relative to the city's size, the number of resources available for kink-identified people, and the adult-entertainment purchases in each city. Some of the other cities in the top 10 are Las Vegas ( #10 ), Los Angeles ( #6 ), Chicago ( #4 ) and San Francisco ( #2 ).