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Thursday, March 30, 2017

LGBTQ News Compilation-March 31

LGBT Caucus Decries Trump choice of Anti-Trans activist

Washington, D.C. -- The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus denounced President Donald Trump's appointment of Roger Severino as the head of the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Appointing Roger Severino is another warning shot to those of us fighting for civil rights in the Trump era,” said Transgender Equality Task Force Chair Joe Kennedy III (MA).  “Mr. Severino has built a career on demonizing the transgender community, stoking fear about transgender identity, and -- in particular -- undermining equal access to health care. It's clear the President has no intention of keeping the promises he made to LGBTQ Americans.

Severino, the former head of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation, has been a longtime opponent of transgender equality in health care, military service, and access to public accommodations, referring to transgender nondiscrimination protections as a "radical social experiment." In 2015, during President Barack Obama's administration, the Department of Health and Human Services promulgated a rule pursuant to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act ensuring that individuals cannot be denied access to health care or health coverage or otherwise be subject to discrimination because of their gender identity.

The mission of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus is to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality. The bi-partisan LGBT Equality Caucus is strongly committed to achieving the full enjoyment of human rights for LGBT people in the U.S. and around the world. (Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Press Release)


Letting Trans boy use men’s locker-room leads to lawsuit

Berks County, PA - A high school student is suing a Pennsylvania school district after claiming his privacy was violated by a transgender male student using the boys' locker room. The complainant and his parents, all of whom are identified anonymously in the complaint, alleged that the Boyertown Area School District violated the student’s rights during an incident occurring on or about Oct. 31. The district is located in Berks County, about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

According to the complaint, the student began changing in the locker room for gym class and while standing in his underwear, realized there was another student in the room who was wearing shorts and a bra. The suit claims the district’s actions forced the student to stop changing during gym class and that he has received disciplinary action and poor grades because of only receiving a half day’s credit for not changing into gym clothes. The suit claims he is distracted from instructional time and experiences “anxiety, stress, intimidation, fear, apprehension and loss of dignity.” The student and his family also suggest the school should be regulating facilities based on sex, not gender identity. “By adopting gender identity theory as the basis for regulating access to private facilities, defendants are violating sex-discrimination law by not protecting students based on sex but instead imposing an individual’s subjective perception of their gender on other students who value their privacy based on anatomical differences between the sexes,” the complaint states.

"We are very appreciative of the Boyertown Area School District for its continuing inclusion and support of trans students," Pennsylvania Youth Congress Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman told PGN. "This is a position that many schools are in right now. They may not have a formal policy but in practice are linking case-by-case decisions that are essential to the full inclusion and inequity of Trans students. We are very concerned with the filing of this lawsuit — the chilling effect even by just filing it on districts — but we will continue to reach out to districts across the Commonwealth to make sure that they know they should be striving for the safety and inclusion of transgender students in their school. (Philadelphia Gay News - Jeremy Rodriguez at epgn.com)


Philly man seeks to be first Trans man judge in country

Philadelphia, PA - History could be made in Philadelphia this spring. Henry Sias is seeking a judgeship on the Court of Common Pleas. If he’s successful in the May 16 primary election, and later the general election, Sias would be the first transgender man to be elected judge in the nation. “There are no trans guys in any judgeship in the United States,” Sias said. “I’d be the first trans man to take the bench if I won so it’s exciting.” Transgender women are currently serving on the bench in California and Texas.

Sias, 40, said he believes he’s also the first transgender candidate to ever seek elected office in Philadelphia. After graduating from Yale Law School, the Detroit-area native began dating someone in Philadelphia, was won over by the city and moved here about a decade ago. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife. While clerking for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judges Barbara McDermott, an out lesbian, that Sias began transitioning, in 2011. “You can’t take it for granted that just because somebody is a member of the LGBT community that they’re going to be up to date on what it means to be Trans and respond appropriately, but [McDermott] absolutely took it in stride and was a wonderful supporter,” he said. “She helped me transition in the courts in a way that was not awkwardly ostentatious but not furtive; she set the right tone.”

“In Philadelphia, the trans community has a very serious problem with jobs . . .,” he said. “That’s part of why his election would be so meaningful, Sias said. “To have somebody run for election, be out and say to the city, ‘Hey, consider me on equal terms as all the other people asking for your vote. It’s not disqualifying that I’m Trans. I’m a real person, a Trans person, a member of the community who has contributions to make just like all Trans people in the community. Consider me equally.” He will compete against 47 other candidates for one of 10 vacancies. (Philadelphia Gay News – Jen Colletta at epgn.com)


Republican state senator found in motel with 17 year old boy

Moore, OKThe DailyMail.com reports that a married-with-children Oklahoma senator who was a leader in President Donald Trump's primary campaign faces prostitution charges after he was found in a motel room that reeked of 'raw marijuana' with a teenage boy that he offered money for 'sexual stuff', police said. Charges were filed on March 16, State Senator Ralph Shortey turned himself in and was released on $100,000 bail. Shortey, 35, who deleted a picture of himself and Donald Trump Jr from his Facebook page shortly after news of his arrest broke, is an avowed supporter of the president and served as his Oklahoma state chair in the primaries. According to the Associated Press, the allegations prompted Republican leaders in the state, including the governor, to call for Shortey’s resignation, and the Oklahoma Senate has moved quickly to sanction the two-term senator.

Shortey and the unidentified teenager were found together at a Super 8 Motel in Moore, Oklahoma, around 1am on March 9, after an anonymous tip was made to police requesting a welfare check. Shortey and the teenager, who is 17 years old, admitted to police they had engaged in electronic conversations “pertaining to sexual activities in exchange for money”, according to a court affidavit. The age of consent in Oklahoma is 16.

Shortey and the teen’s text messages, going back nearly a year, were recorded on the teenager's Kindle tablet that was confiscated as evidence, police said. Police became involved after being called by the boy's father, who had been contacted by his son's girlfriend, NewsOK reports. The unidentified girl told police that her boyfriend had said he was “going to get paid tonight”, and she feared he might be “involved in illegal drugs.” So, she told police she watched him get into a white Jeep Grand Cherokee with a man and followed them to the Super 8 Motel. Police said the boy was known to solicit himself sexually on Craigslist and had a history of drug abuse. (The Daily Mail.com - Jordan Gass Poore at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4318684/Oklahoma-GOP-senator-motel-room-teen-boy.html)


Trump’s HHS drops LGBT questions from annual aging survey

Washington, D.C. - Questions about LGBT seniors have been dropped from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) annual survey of aging Americans. The HHS uses the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP) to decide how to allocate federal funding to groups that work with the elderly. The NSOAAP survey is conducted by the federal government every year, and helps to evaluate the effectiveness of programs funded under Title III of the Older Americans Act, including who is being served by such programs. Survey results are used to determine how to direct billions of dollars toward older people's needs through publicly funded senior centers, home-delivered meals, family caregiver support, transportation, and other key supports.

In 2014, questions about sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the survey, helping researchers determine that the United States is home to about three million self-identifying LGBT people over the age of 55. In the 2017 draft survey released by the Trump administration, there was only one noticeable change from previous years - the LGBT questions are gone. Despite that fact, the notice announcing the new survey says that “no changes” were made.

Advocates for LGBT seniors denounced the move, and called for restoration of data collection. Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) announced that it is launching a nationwide effort to oppose the Trump administration's “erasure of LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants (NSOAAP).” According to the Center for American Progress, LGBT seniors face acute levels of economic insecurity, social isolation, and discrimination, including difficulty accessing critical aging services and supports. “Data on LGBT program recipients would help HHS ensure its programs are meeting the need of LGBT seniors,” the Center noted. (Seattle Gay News – Mike Andrew at sgn.org)


Germany to annul 1000s of convictions for Gay sex, at last

Berlin, Germany – As published on Yahoo News, The Associated Press reports that Germany's Cabinet on March 22 approved a bill that would annul the convictions of thousands of gay men under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was applied zealously in post-World War II West Germany. The decision also clears the way for compensation for those still alive who were convicted under the so-called Paragraph 175 outlawing sexual relations between men.

The anti-Gay law was first enacted in 1871 and was made more draconian under the Nazis and retained in that form by West Germany, which convicted some 50,000 men between 1949 and 1969. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 but the legislation wasn't taken off the books entirely until 1994. In 2000, Germany's parliament approved a resolution regretting the fact that Paragraph 175 was retained after the war. Two years later, it annulled the convictions of gay men under Nazi rule, but not post-war convictions.

The Associated Press article notes that the bill approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet of conservatives and center-left Social Democrats still requires parliamentary approval. It foresees compensation of 3,000 euros ($3,230) for each conviction, plus 1,500 euros for every year of jail time that convicted men started. "The rehabilitation of men who ended up in court purely because of their homosexuality is long overdue," Justice Minister Heiko Maas is quoted as saying in the article. "They were persecuted, punished and ostracized by the German state just because of their love for men, because of their sexual identity." (Yahoo News and The Associated Press – Geir Moulson at https://www.yahoo.com/news/german-cabinet-oks-plan-annul-homosexuality-convictions-093903277.htm)


Vibrator tracked users’ activities, company to pay damages

Chicago, IL - MarketWatch reports that a sex toy company has agreed to pay customers up to $10,000 each in a class action lawsuit it settled in federal court last week after its connected vibrators got a little too close for comfort. An Illinois woman sued the parent company, Standard Innovation, for secretly collecting intimate details about its customers’ use of the We-Vibe through the accompanying app, which allows users to control the device remotely and customize its features. According to the lawsuit filed in the North District of Illinois Eastern Division District Court, the We-Connect app was transmitting information

including dates and times of use as well as vibration mode and pattern to the company’s servers along with personally-identifiable email addresses without notifying customers.

Standard Innovation, which is based in Ontario, Canada, will pay $4 million Canadian dollars ($2.9 million) and is now required to collect only non-identifiable information in aggregate form and inform customers it is doing so. Customers who used the app to control the We-Vibe device before Sept. 26, 2016 are eligible for up to $10,000 in fees whereas those who simply bought a device are eligible to receive up to $199 each. Smart sex toys have been touted for their use in long-distance relationships, with the ability to be controlled remotely and allow users to share intimate moments across the web.

Standard Innovation told MarketWatch in a statement it is “pleased to have reached a fair and reasonable settlement in this matter” “At Standard Innovation we take customer privacy and data security seriously. We have enhanced our privacy notice, increased app security, provided customers more choice in the data they share, and we continue to work with leading privacy and security experts to enhance the app. (MarketWatch - Kari Paul at http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bad-vibrations-your-sex-toy-may-be-collecting-information-about-you-2016-09-20)


Man gets life without parole for masturbating on train

Portland, OR - A sex offender with a long criminal record and compulsion for public indecency was sentenced to life in prison without parole March 10 for his latest offense -- getting caught masturbating on a MAX train, the local mass transit system. Terry E. Iversen, 49, was sentenced after a three-hour hearing in Washington County Circuit Court in which Judge Oscar Garcia heard from the defendant's victims, current and retired detectives who investigated sex-related cases where he was either convicted or not charged, and a probation officer who advocated Iversen spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Iversen pleaded guilty to public indecency in January, a felony because of his past sex-related convictions. The true life sentence is permitted under a "three strikes"-like Oregon law aimed at predatory sex offenders. "I think it was the right call," said Allison Brown, the county deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case and asked the judge for the life sentence. "He has continued to show that he won't benefit from treatment or rehabilitation, and at that point it's about protecting citizens and preventing him from crimes like this or worse." She said Iversen had been sentenced to sex offender treatment at least five times but never completed it or stopped his behavior.

Terry Beach, Iversen's attorney wrote in a sentencing memo that he felt his client's punishment didn't fit the crime and suggested a prison sentence of eight years and four months. The defense attorney argued Iversen's only conviction for a sex crime that involved physical contact was in March 1989 in Washington County for third-degree rape of a 15-year-old and second-degree sodomy of a 12-year-old girl. Before Iversen was arrested in October, his most recent public masturbation conviction was in 2000, which was a felony because of his past sex crimes, Beach noted. "(Iversen) took steps to satisfy a compulsion in a way that minimized the impact it would have on others," Beach said in a sentencing memo. "Such actions do not deserve a life sentence without parole." Beach said Iversen has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder that causes compulsive sexual behavior. He was responding positively to sex offender treatment after his latest stint in prison but couldn't avoid any of his triggers while on the MAX train in October so he "quietly masturbated," the lawyer said. (The Oregonian - Everton Bailey Jr. at http://www.oregonlive.com/hillsboro/index.ssf/2017/03/habitual_sex_offender_public_m.html)

Beyond the Beltway

Beyond the Beltway

Compiled by Jim Becker

These news notes have been compiled, with permission, from the online version of various newspapers and other websites. We thank these publications for allowing us to bring you their news stories. Usually the reports have been significantly edited and you can read the full story by going to the website mentioned following the item. Comments are strictly the opinions of Jim Becker and not of Baltimore Outloud or Pride Media.

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