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National roundup: Veteran's lawsuit, anti-trans attack, True Colors honored
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-11-22

This article shared 579 times since Tue Nov 22, 2016
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Air Force veteran H. Edward Spires, 91, filed a federal lawsuit against the Secretary of the Air Force seeking to upgrade his discharge status from "undesirable" to honorable, a press release stated. The Air Force discharged Spires in 1948 because of his "homosexuality." Despite his faithful service in the Air Force, for nearly 70 years, Spires has been ineligible for benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and has had to carry the shame of an "undesirable" discharge. After the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010, Spires was finally eligible to apply for an upgrade of his discharge characterization. Yet, when Mr. Spires applied for an upgrade from Undesirable to Honorable before the Air Force Board for Corrections of Military Records ( AFBCMR ) in 2014, the Board rejected his application, citing a loss of his records in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

Two Charlotte, North Carolina, teenagers have been charged with attempted first-degree murder in a hatchet attack last week on a transgender woman, The Charlotte Observer reported. Destiny Dagraca and Dajion Tanner, both 18, are also charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, felony conspiracy and first-degree kidnapping, according to jail records. A third suspect, a 15-year-old minor, also is being held in connection with the Nov. 7 daylight beating. The victim, Ralayzia Taylor, 24, said she was chased, stomped, beaten and cut by a group of males and at a female near Clanton Park in southwest Charlotte.

True Colors: Out Youth Theater, a program of The Theater Offensive and the country's largest and longest-running LGBTQ youth theater program, received the 2016 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama. Represented by participant Traeshayona "Trae" Weekes, 18, True Colors was recognized for its effectiveness in promoting learning and life skills in young people through the arts by engaging them in creative youth development programming. The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation's highest honor for youth arts programs; True Colors, established in 1994, is the first LGBTQ organization in history to receive this award.

The California HIV/AIDS Research Program found that, among young gay and bisexual men who were aware of PrEP, more than half ( 56.7 percent ) found out about the drug over social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Grindr, Out reported. The other frequent sources were the Internet, a friend, or a sexual partner. Only 12.6 percent of the men surveyed said they learned about PrEP from a doctor. Also, when the surveyed men were presented with medical information about PrEP, 55.9 percent reported they were extremely or very likely to start taking the drug.

Scientists identified an antibody from an HIV-infected person that potently neutralized 98 percent of HIV isolates tested, including 16 of 20 strains resistant to other antibodies of the same class, The Science Explorer reported. The potency of this antibody, named N6, makes it an attractive candidate for further development to potentially treat or prevent HIV infection, say the researchers. The scientists, led by Mark Connors, M.D., of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ( NIAID ), also tracked the evolution of N6 over time to understand how it developed the ability to potently neutralize nearly all HIV strains. This information will help inform the design of vaccines to elicit such broadly neutralizing antibodies.

In California, a former teacher who made national news nearly two decades ago when she tried to retain her job at a Sacramento-area high school while transitioning from male to female has been charged in an Oakland triple homicide, The Sacramento Bee reported. Dana Rivers, 61, of San Jose was arrested early Friday in Oakland on suspicion of killing Patricia Wright, 57; Wright's wife, Charlotte Reed, 56; and the couple's 19-year-old son, Toto Diambu-Wright. Rivers was booked into Alameda County Jail on three counts of murder, arson and possession of metal knuckles.

The Washington state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in which a florist refused to sell flowers to gay couple Curt Freed and Robert Ingersoll for their wedding, an ACLU press release stated. A lower court ruled in 2015 that Arlene's Flowers violated the state's anti-discrimination and consumer protection laws by refusing service to the couple. For more information, visit https://www.aclu.org/cases/ingersoll-v-arlenes-flowers.

Three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices who helped legalize same-sex marriage in the state seven years ago retained their seats on the high court Nov. 8—the first time they faced voters since the 2009 unanimous ruling, The Omaha World-Herald reported. Chief Justice Mark Cady as well as Justices Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel did not campaign to keep their seats, arguing the court should be above politics. The justices took the same approach as three judges who, in 2010, were removed from office after a campaign waged by opponents of same-sex marriage.

After a national search, LGBT organization One Iowa has named Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel its new executive director, a press release stated. Prior to joining One Iowa, Hoffman-Zinnel served as director of education and leadership at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and as a respite provider at Lutheran Services in Iowa. Hoffman-Zinnel will begin leading the organization in January 2017, and current Executive Director Donna Red Wing will continue serving until the end of this year..

GMHC released a statement in response to news that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs ( VA ) is withdrawing its proposal to provide medically necessary gender-alteration surgery for transgender soldiers and veterans. CEO Kelsey Louie said, in part, "GMHC is incredibly disappointed by today's news that a lack of federal funding will prevent the VA's rule change in support of gender-confirmation surgery from taking effect. Gender confirmation surgery is a potentially life-saving treatment that is needed to protect the long-term health of individuals that require it."

Korean-American attorney Sam Park made history and did what 15 other gay men have tried and failed to do—win a seat in the Georgia House, ProjectQ.us reported. Park, a Democrat, ousted incumbent state Rep. Valerie Clark, a Republican, on Nov. 8. Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality's executive director, noted that Park's win ousts a Republican who voted for controversial anti-LGBT "religious freedom" legislation in March.

Fewer than two weeks after hearings on the defense's motions, a judge in Pennsylvania rejected Bill Cosby's latest attempt to have three felony charges of second-degree aggravated indecent assault dropped in the case of former Temple University employee ( and out lesbian ) Andrea Constand, Deadline reported. Cosby still faces up to 10 years behind bars and big fines in a trial that is slated to begin in June 2017.

Global law firm Ropes & Gray, together with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders ( GLAD ) and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition ( MTPC ), announced the launch of their collective effort, the Transgender ID Project. The initiative is designed to provide legal guidance and representation to transgender people living in the six New England states ( Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont ) in completing legal name changes and updating identity documentation including social security cards, U.S. passports, driver's licenses or state identification cards, and birth certificates issued in New England.

NYC-based GMHC launched a preferred gender-pronoun social-media campaign during the National Transgender Week of Remembrance and Resilience ( TWOR ), Nov. 14-20, a press release noted. The campaign consists of graphics created by and featuring GMHC staff members explaining why being cognizant of an individual's preferred gender pronouns is important to them and how it helps to make GMHC a safe space. With preferred gender pronouns ( PGPs ), people can request that others refer to them with traditional pronouns ( he, him, his or she, her, hers ), the plural pronoun "they," or other options such as ze, hir, or hirs.

Bisexual men and women are paid less for doing the same jobs than similarly qualified heterosexual men and women, according to Indiana University research that breaks new ground by treating bisexual individuals as distinct from gay men and lesbians in the workplace, a press release stated. The study, "Sexual Orientation in the Labor Market," was published Nov. 15 by the American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association. The author is Trenton D. Mize, a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

A Minnesota district court ruled that transgender people on the state's Medical Assistance progam deserve access to medically necessary services related to gender transition, an ACLU press release stated. Since 2005, surgical treatments for gender dysphoria have been excluded from coverage even though equivalent treatments were covered under the federal Medicare program and private insurance plans. In December 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Minnesota filed a lawsuit on behalf of OutFront Minnesota and Evan Thomas, a transgender man, challenging Minnesota's ban on coverage.

The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) released a statement after media reports that two men in Tennessee had their home vandalized by having an anti-LGBTQ slur pinned to their home with a knife bearing the likeness of President-elect Donald Trump. This incident comes the same week that the FBI released Hate Crime Statistics for 2015. "We have a problem in this country. Hatred and vitriol are emboldening violence and LGBTQ people continue to be at real risk," said HRC Communications Director Jay Brown. "This latest incident in Tennessee is part of a pattern of reports of unacceptable bias-motivated harassment after the recent election. We desperately need accurate reporting of hate crimes to the FBI so that we can truly understand the full scope of the threat."

Following the recent announcement that the former executive chairman of Breitbart News Steve Bannon will serve as the chief strategist and advisor for President-elect Trump, Pride at Work Executive Director Jerame Davis issued a statement. Davis said, "Pride at Work condemns the appointment of Steve Bannon in the strongest possible terms. Bannon's close association with hate groups and his own despicable rhetoric—including calling progressive women dykes—has no place in the White House. We refuse to allow a racist hold one of the highest advisory roles in this administration."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ( D ) declared victory over Gov. Pat McCrory ( R ), the embattled incumbent who signed HB2 into law, The Huffington Post reported. However, McCrory refused to concede, saying the race was too close to call, although Cooper led by almost 5,000 votes. McCrory initially said the outcome of the race wouldn't be clear until Nov. 18, once provisional and absentee ballots had been counted. But now it seems an answer might not be available until after Thanksgiving.

The American Federation of Teachers held a press conference in Washington, D.C., with civil rights and faith leaders and others asking President-elect Donald Trump to use his bully pulpit to call for an end to the wave of racist violent incidents since his election, a press release noted. The leaders released a letter signed by more than 25 groups, urging Trump to call for an end to the acts of harassment, vandalism, property destruction and even assault that have intensified over the past several days, including those in schools and on college campuses.

The Oregon public official responsible for shutting down a Christian-owned bakery that refused to cater a same-sex wedding lost in his bid to become Oregon secretary of state, The Daily Caller reported. Brad Avakian has served as commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries since 2008. In that role, he achieved national notoriety for investigating Sweet Cakes by Melissa, and he eventually issued a $135,000 fine against the bakery. In an upset, Dennis Richardson, a former state representative and gubernatorial candidate, trounced Avakian—becoming the first Republican secretary of state since 1985.

In West Virginia, after Kyle Chester and Corey Hurley said they received an intimidating note on their door in the middle of the night, they say police didn't show up when they called 911, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. Chester and Hurley, who live in Clarksburg, claimed they received a knock and a note on their door that read "TRUMP is our president now! Get out of our neighborhood now F——-S!" Chief Robbie Hilliard of the Clarksburg Police Department said that the couple did not want a report filed, and had only requested extra patrols.

The Hispanic National Bar Association ( HNBA ), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association ( NAPABA ), the National Bar Association ( NBA ), the National LGBT Bar Association ( National LGBT Bar ), and the National Native American Bar Association ( NNABA ) joined a national coalition of organizations expressing their indignation in the segment, "Watters' World: Chinatown Edition," and deep dissatisfaction in public statements that dismiss community concerns over the offensive nature of the segment, a press release noted. In October, Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor aired "Watters' World: Chinatown Edition," which featured Jesse Watters speaking with residents of New York City's Chinatown—including some who do not appear to be native English speakers—with questions, many of which were only nominally related to the presidential election and instead were reportedly based on racial and ethnic stereotypes.

A dancer at gay Atlanta strip club Swinging Richards is suspected of shooting and killing a senior Comcast executive in the upscale high-rise condo they allegedly shared, ProjectQ.us reported. William Bradley Morgan, 33, was arrested in Calhoun County, Alabama, on Oct. 20—about two weeks after Atlanta police discovered the body of Brian Campbell in a Midtown condo. Morgan was jailed in Alabama on a fugitive-from-justice warrant issued in Fulton County and probation violation for a past burglary. Campbell worked in Atlanta, but split time between here and a home in Delaware that he shared with his wife of 14 years and two children.

After months of criticism from users, activist groups, and former employees, Twitter is rolling out new product and policy updates in an attempt to combat the harassment, hate speech and trolling that has plagued the platform for a decade, BuzzFeed reported. On the product end, Twitter has augmented its mute feature to allow users to filter specific phrases, keywords, and hashtags, similar to what's found on Instagram. Twitter's new mute tool will allow users to mute entire conversation threads.


This article shared 579 times since Tue Nov 22, 2016
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