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National roundup: OPM praised; Hillary's video; marriage news
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2015-07-01

This article shared 13125 times since Wed Jul 1, 2015
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The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) praised the Office of Personnel Management ( OPM ) for announcing that Federal Health Benefit Plan ( FEHB ) providers will no longer be permitted to have blanket exclusions on all transition-related services in their federal employee healthcare plans. In a statement, Government Affairs Director David Stacy said, "HRC applauds OPM Director Katherine Archuleta for her strong leadership on this important issue." The change will be effective Jan. 1, 2016, and impacts plans that federal employees can select during open season this fall.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign released a two-and-a-half minute video in support of marriage equality, according to On Top Magazine. The video, titled "Equal," features the weddings of several same-sex couples. "Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct," Clinton is heard saying. "But in fact they are one and the same. Being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights."

Thousands of lesbian, gay and bisexual Puerto Ricans will soon be able to tie the knot, as the government extended the rights granted to same-sex couples in the monumental U.S. Supreme Court ruling to the island, Latina.com reported. Gov. Alejandro GarcÃa Padilla signed an executive order that demands government agencies to comply with the Supreme Court decision after 15 days. Puerto Rico's health department is preparing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in July.

A man attending San Francisco Pride was shot and wounded June 27 evening when an argument, apparently unrelated to the event, ended in gunfire, according to Advocate.com . Detectives questioned several teenaged males believed to be involved in the incident. Police say the teen who pulled out a gun fired several shots, between Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza; one shot wounded a 64-year-old man.

Just hours after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, nearly 100 evangelical leaders have signed a letter pledging to celebrate the ruling, and call on Christians around the country to continue to work for justice for LGBTQ individuals in the church and in society, according to a Human Rights Campaign press release. Signatories include Dr. David Gushee, a leading evangelical ethicist; Richard Cizik, a former leader within the National Association of Evangelicals; Dr. Mark Achtemeier, an evangelical scholar and theologian; and Fred Harell, pastor of The City Church, San Francisco.

While out gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts relished the victory for marriage equality throughout the land, he cautioned that the war on anti-LGBT sentiment and actions isn't over, according to TheWrap. "There's still work to be done," he said, noting people need to make sure those who choose to get married won't get fired from their jobs or lose housing. Roberts married his husband in New York three years ago.

Four civil-rights groups representing Alabama same-sex couples in a federal lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry demanded that probate judges immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as required by an order issued by a federal judge in Mobile earlier this year, according to a National Center for Lesbian Rights ( NCLR ) press release. All Alabama probate judges were directed in May to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples effective immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling affirming marriage equality. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, NCLR and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represent the plaintiff couples in the Alabama federal case, sent the demand.

In the Lambda Legal case Jorgensen v. Montplaisir, the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota lifted the stay on the case and struck down the state's marriage-equality ban, an organizational press release stated. On the heels of the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared marriage bans across the country unconstitutional, Lambda Legal filed a motion asking the court to immediately strike down the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The decision is at www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/jorgensen_20150629_order.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that county clerk can refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples based on their religious beliefs, On Top Magazine noted. Paxton, whose office previously defended Texas' ban in court, criticized the Supreme Court's ruling striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. "The United States Supreme Court again ignored the text and spirit of the Constitution to manufacture a right that simply does not exist," Paxton wrote.

On the day before announcing his candidacy for president, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed bipartisan legislation passed by the New Jersey Legislature—the New Jersey Gestational Carrier Agreement Act—that would have given legal parental rights of a child carried by a gestational surrogate to the intended parent at birth, according to a Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) press release. Garden State Equality—New Jersey's statewide advocacy and education organization for the LGBT community—and HRC criticized Christie's veto of this legislation that they said impacts LGBT people and their families.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's sweeping decision ushering in marriage in all 50 states, Lambda Legal has introduced a new resource, the Marriage Tracker, according to a press release. The platform allows same-sex couples and families to report issues they have encountered while seeking a marriage license or recognition of their marriage by businesses, employers, insurers, or state or local authorities. Visit http://www.lambdalegal.org/marriage-equality-tracker.

A county clerk in Arkansas is resigning, saying she has a moral objection to issuing same-sex marriage licenses, the Associated Press reported. Cleburne County Clerk Dana Guffey said she met with County Judge Jerry Holmes to notify him of her intent to resign. Guffey said leaving the elected office she's held for more than 24 years will be difficult.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, outspoken Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says his views are now "changing," TheWrap noted. On CNN's State of the Union, Trump talked about a number of topics, including abortion, the Affordable Care Act, ISIS, immigration and same-sex marriage. Trump affirmed he holds a more conservative position on the issue, saying only "I'm [for] traditional marriage. It is changing rapidly."

Speaking of Trump, NBCUniversal has ended its relationship with him over controversial remarks he made regarding illegal immigration from Mexico, where he suggested that immigrants largely consist of criminals, EW.com reported. NBC will no longer air Trump's beauty pageants, Miss USA and Miss Universe, and Trump will no longer host his Celebrity Apprentice reality series.

Officials with the Southern Baptist Convention ( SBC ) issued a statement saying they will reject any ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that affirms same-sex marriage, AJC.com reported. In part, they said, "We will not recognize same-sex 'marriages,' our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies." The statement was issued during the SBC's national conference in Columbus, Ohio.

After a mural depicting LGBT Latinos, created by Maricon Collective in the Mission District of San Francisco, was defaced a second time recently, the San Francisco Police Department is investigating the incident as an anti-LGBT hate crime, Advocate.com reported. The Special Investigations Division is currently reviewing surveillance footage from a camera trained on the mural, located outside La GalerÃa de la Raza, which allegedly shows the suspects committing the crime. Artist Manuel Paul now says he is now "working on ways of using a lacquer on the mural that can wash off paint," in case the mural is defaced again.

OutServe-SLDN issued a statement applauding the Veterans Affairs Department for extending benefits to LGB veterans and families. The department announced that same-sex couples in states across the country will now have access to previously denied benefits following the Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision that granted marriage equality in all 50 states. Interim Executive Director Matt Thorn said, in part, "LGB veterans and their families deserve and will now have the respect, dignity and protections that they have earned. Giving these benefits was and is the right thing to do. It is the American thing to do."

The Girl Scouts of Western Washington returned a $100,000 donation to an anti-transgender donor, Advocate.com noted. The donor originally sent the money with a note: "Please guarantee that our gift will not be used to support transgender girls. If you can't, please return the money." Council CEO Megan Ferland told the Seattle Met newspaper her decision wasn't hard after that, although she was "very sad" to see discrimination possibly deny her troop resources. She wrote a note back to the donor, saying she would not be accepting their money.

Members of the anti-gay Jewish Political Action Committee hired day laborers to picket NYC Pride, according to an Advocate.com item that cited the New York Times. Cordoned off behind a barricade at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street, a small collection of men wearing the Jewish prayer shawl known as a tzitzit carried signs condemning homosexuality. A member of the Brooklyn-based group told the Times that the group's leaders worried about sending young students to the parade to protest "because of what they would see at the parade."

A Boy Scouts council in Philadelphia will welcome qualified scoutmasters and den mothers regardless of sexual orientation—in opposition to the national organization's ban on openly gay scout leaders, Reuters reported. The move by the Cradle of Liberty Council, which serves more than 15,000 members in the Philadelphia area, comes a month after Robert Gates, president of The Boy Scouts of America, called for an end to the long-time ban on adult gay leaders. The Boy Scouts allowed gay youths to participate in the program for the first time in 2014.

Also in Philadelphia, a trial date has been set in the homicide case of Diamond Williams, a local transgender woman who was stabbed to death two years ago, Philadelphia Gay News noted. Charles N. Sargent is accused of murdering Williams in July 2013 and then dismembering her body. A one-week jury trial is set to begin March 14, 2016, in Room 807 of the Criminal Justice Center; no presiding judge has yet been announced.

Adrian Wilson, an Atlanta gay man, is recovering from a head injury that required 13 stitches after being struck in the head with a bat May 31 by a man who allegedly said he hated gay people, according to Advocate.com . Wilson, 44, said in a YouTube video that the world didn't care about his attack until nearly a month after the incident happened because the altercation was "between two Black guys."

In Alaska, an Anchorage LGBT community center is flying a half-burned rainbow flag after someone vandalized the organization for the third time in less than a year, the Associated Press noted. The flag was found vandalized outside Identity Inc.'s Gay and Lesbian Community Center. The flag was reportedly found cut up twice in October, shortly after a U.S. District Court judge stuck down Alaska's same-sex marriage ban.

The Boston Police Academy graduated 64 recruits after a six-month program—highlighted by the academy's first openly gay couple, The Boston Herald reported. "We're very proud to be here," said graduate Jimmy Moccia, standing next to his partner and fellow classmate, Shawn MacIver. "We just want to get back to our community and, you know, uplift everyone in our community."

A San Francisco high school may be the first in the country to offer an LGBT-studies course, CBS San Francisco noted. The course, at Ruth Asawa High School, will cover terminology and the broad history of LGBT issues. Social-studies teacher Lyndsey Schlax has been working with activist Cleve Jones, who was mentored by San Francisco's Harvey Milk. The class begins in the fall.

A jury only took three hours to unanimously decide that a Jewish group peddling so-called conversion therapy violated the state's consumer fraud protection laws in claiming it could "cure" clients of being LGBT, Advocate.com noted. The verdict concludes that New Jersey—based nonprofit Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing ( JONAH ) violated the state's Consumer Fraud Protection Act. The group has been ordered to pay $72,400 to the plaintiffs, which represents three times the cost of JONAH's "therapy."

Texas pastor Rick Scarborough issued a statement clarifying his statement that he would be willing to set himself on fire in his fight against gay rights, now declaring, "We do not support any violence or physical harm," Advocate.com reported. Scarborough said, "'We will burn' means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting [the June 26] Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm."

The Illinois Human Rights Commission ( IHRC ) has ordered more than $30,000 in penalties and damages from a Chicago-based housing company in a sexual orientation discrimination complaint brought by the Illinois Department of Human Rights ( IDHR ), according to a press release. The complaint, filed after an IDHR investigation and determination, alleged that an agent of TempHomes Realty, LLC acted in a discriminatory manner toward a same-sex couple during a real-estate transaction. IDHR Director Rocco Claps said, "This outcome reaffirms our strong commitment to enforcing the laws that protect against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

THREAD Research announced a new iPhone app that gives the LGBTQ community a simple way to participate in the University of California, San Francisco's ( UCSF ) PRIDE Study of the LGBTQ population, Business Wire noted. The PRIDE Study is the first population-level longitudinal study of LGBTQ health. The PRIDE Study App can be downloaded from the App Store ( pridestudy.me/app ) and marks the official start of the study.

An electric billboard along a busy road in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, has changed its message from judgment to love, the Detroit Free Press reported. Previously, the sign on the 6800 block of northbound Telegraph Road included in its rotation the message "Homosexuality is a behavior. Not a civil right." However, recently there was a new one reading "God loves gays," with a big rainbow and a cartoon God.

A new study from the Family Acceptance Project examines the role of family, peers and community support during adolescence on positive adjustment and well-being in LGBT young adults, and confirms the important role of support—especially family support—for LGBT youth and young adults, according to a press release. The study—"Social Support Networks for LGBT Young Adults," published in the July issue of Family Relations—included 245 Latino and non-Latino white LGBT young adults, ages 21 to 25. Visit familyproject.sfsu.edu .

A woman in suburban Baltimore who received a threatening, anonymous letter from a neighbor—criticizing her yard for becoming "relentlessly gay"—said she is "awestruck" at the incredible public response to an online fundraiser she started, Advocate.com noted. In just five days, the GoFundMe campaign started by Julie Baker of Overlea, Maryland, has raised more than $43,000. Baker, who had a set of rainbow-colored jar solar lamps strung up in her yard, said, "I am so full of gratitude not only for the enormous gift you have bestowed on me, but for all of the kindness you have chosen to take up and hold as banner of hope."

A proposed "shoot the gays" ballot initiative in California that called for the execution of state residents on the basis of their sexuality has been quashed by a judge, sparing voters from the possibility of having to debate it during fall elections, The Guardian reported. Judge Raymond Cadei of the Sacramento Superior Court wrote that the measure, called the "Sodomite Suppression Act," was "patently unconstitutional."

Conservative Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has thrown his hat into the ring in the race for president. "My name is Bobby Jindal. I am running for president of the greatest country in the world—the United States of America," he told a crowd, according to an Advocate.com item. Jindal, 44, is well-known for his opposition to marriage equality and LGBT rights in general. He also believes those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds are being persecuted.

The official tourism council for Minnesota has released an ad about the state featuring a gay couple tasting microbrews, zip-lining and taking a Segway tour through Minneapolis, among many other recreational activities, according to The Column. Minnesota couple Ben Meents and Chet Ritchie are the pair featured in the video. Cities such as Las Vegas and Tampa Bay have marketed to LGBT travelers, but Minnesota's ad may be the first time a state tourism council has featured a same-sex couple in tourism marketing.

Esurance is the latest company to embrace the community with an LGBT-inclusive ad that features little kids as well, NewNowNext.com . The ad launches the company's new #EqualDreams campaign, which highlights its commitment to LGBT equality regardless of what the law says. A release accompanying the ad reminds customers that Esurance offers LGBT couples a "married rate whether their state recognizes their marriage or not.


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