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Friday, August 18, 2017

LGBTQ News Compilation-August 18

Trans service members sue Trump over military ban

Washington, D.C. - Five Transgender service members filed suit against Donald Trump and other federal officials on August 9. The five are collectively identified as 'Jane Doe' in the 15-page complaint filed on their behalf by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders). The lawsuit - now known as Doe v. Trump - charges that Trump's tweets barring Trans people from military service “upset the reasonable expectations of plaintiffs and thousands of other transgender service members and the men and women with whom they serve and fight.” This undermining of Trans service members' expectation of continued military service amounts to a violation of the right to equal protection and due process under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit seeks a declaration that Trump's proposed ban on Transgender military service is unconstitutional, and asks the court for an injunction stopping it from going into effect.

Each of the five anonymous plaintiffs serves in a branch of the US armed forces. One is a US Army soldier who has previously been deployed to Afghanistan and expects deployment soon to Iraq. Another is an active duty airman who has served in the US Air Force for almost 20 years and has undertaken multiple tours of duty abroad, including two in Iraq. All say they prefer to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution. “Last year, the Department of Defense announced that transgender people could serve openly,” one plaintiff said in a statement. “I was very relieved and came out as transgender to my commanding officers, who were supportive. My experience has been positive and I am prouder than ever to continue to serve. I am married and have three children, and the military has been my life. But now, I'm worried about my family's future.”

The named defendants in the lawsuit are Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the secretaries for each of the military services and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, who oversees the US Coast Guard. (Seattle Gay News – Mike Andrew at sgn.org)


LGBTQ youth crisis group saw calls spike from Trans youth

Dallas, TX - The Trevor Project — the nation’s largest LGBTQ youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization, issued a statement on August 2 noting a growing number of calls, text messages and online chats coming into the agency from transgender youth correspondingly most notably with President Trump’s tweet regarding transgender military service members, and news coverage of proposed “bathroom bills” in the Texas legislature. According to the Trevor Project, of the approximately 178 contacts per day, 7.3 percent typically self-identify as transgender. Within 24 hours of Trump’s tweet regarding transgender military service members, contacts from transgender individuals spiked to 17.5 percent of all contacts. And, the week after the Texas Legislature introduced the anti-trans “bathroom bill,” contacts from transgender young people doubled to 14.7 percent.

“As an adult living my life as a transgender man, I know firsthand what it feels like to feel scared, alone, and vulnerable,” said Lou Weaver, transgender programs coordinator for Equality Texas. “The anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and all of the anti-transgender policies have directly resulted in members of our community being assaulted and our parents being afraid for their children. We hope the news from the Trevor Project will inform lawmakers and result in them rejecting all discriminatory bathroom bill legislation targeting our transgender neighbors, families and friends.”

Chuck Smith, Equality Texas CEO, added, “It’s summertime. Families with children should be having fun and reconnecting during their summer break. Instead, families with Trans youth are traveling for hours to testify against bathroom bills, because the lieutenant governor has decided to pick on an already bullied group of kids. “The news from the Trevor Project regarding the spike in communications is heartbreaking,” he continued. “Attacking transgender kids with discriminatory legislation puts them in crisis. Enough is enough! The Texas Legislature needs to stop the bathroom bills.” (Dallas Voice at Dllasvoice.com)


Billboards promoting LGBT civil rights stir controversy

Charlestown, SC - A new billboard campaign produced and sponsored by the Alliance For Full Acceptance is stirring up a lot of controversy. The sign designs showcase the theme “LGBT Rights are Civil Rights” and feature LGBTQ couples with rainbow and American flags wrapped around them.

The 50 billboards span from “Moncks Corner to Awendaw to Ravenell to James Island and everywhere in between” and offer hope to the LGBTQ and allied communities. Comments of support are encouraging, like “I’d like to think a LGBTQ kid living in an extremely conservative family can look up at that sign and feel hope. Hell, I’m an adult in my forties and it gave me hope.” and “Love the Billboards. Can we get more of them?” But not everyone is happy about this. The organization has been getting a lot of flak. Some responses received include: “Please take the billboards down before God drops the hammer on us here in Charleston.” and “We’re all not on board with your message and it makes the city look bad.”

Dan Folk Photography contributed his talents to the project initiative. Students at James Island Charter High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance held bake sales at their school to raise money for one of the boards posted on James Island. More information is available online about the campaign. info: affa-sc.org. (Q-Notes Online – Lainey Millen at goqnotes.com)


Fear grows in Toronto’s Gay Community over 5 missing men

Toronto, Canada - It was standing-room-only at an August 1 town hall meeting discussing the inexplicable disappearances of five men who frequented gay bars in the Church and Wellesley Village and online cruising sites. Friends, family, and community members filled the ballroom at the 519 Community Centre to vent their grief and express their fears about the disappearances that have rocked the community over the past five weeks. Last month, Toronto Police announced the creation of a new task force dedicated to investigating the disappearances full-time, and trying to determine if there are any links between the cases.

The two most recent cases are Andrew Kinsman, 49, who went missing at the end of June, and 43-year-old Selim Esen, who disappeared in April. The other three cases being investigated date back to 2010 and 2012, involving three men of color. These three men are Abdulbasir “Basir” Faizi, 44, and Majeed Kayhan, both from Afghanistan, and Skandaraj “Skanda” Navaratnam, a 40-year-old Sri Lankan refugee.

Greg Downer, a close friend of Andrew Kinsman, who founded the group, Toronto’s Missing Rainbow Community Members, and organized the town hall, said the group is developing strategies to stay safe, both while out cruising in bars or chatting online. The resource Look Out For Each Other was handed out at the town hall. It suggests keeping a paper trail prior to meeting any online hook-up. That could be initiating an email or text exchange with the online stranger before arranging a meeting. Downer says a priority for the group is making online dating apps safer for LGBTQ people to use. He is already taking steps to reach out and work with to gay cruising and hookup apps, such as Grindr, Tinder, or Scruff, to see if they would consider including an option that allows people to consent to having their information released should they ever go missing. (The Torontoist – James Dubro at http://torontoist.com/2017/08/growing-fears-torontos-gay-community-police-ramp-investigation-missing-men/)


Teachers can have sex with their students, judge rules

Montgomery, AL – Vice News reports that an Alabama law barring teachers from having sex with their students was ruled unconstitutional August 10 by a state judge who also dismissed charges against two instructors who were facing 20 years behind bars for sleeping with students. Judge Glenn Thompson dismissed charges against a former high school teacher, Carrie Witt, 44, and David Solomon, 27, a former aide at a different school. Under state law, school employees “engaging in a sex act or deviant sexual intercourse with a student,” even if consensual, face not only possible jail time but also a lifetime on the sex offender registry.

Witt was accused of sleeping with two students, aged 17 and 18, respectively. Solomon was accused of having sex with a 17-year-old. But their lawyers argued that Alabama’s law — passed in 2010 — violates teachers’ equal protection rights guaranteed under the 14th Amendment, because it treats educators differently under the law than other citizens. For example, other adults having consensual sex with teenagers over 16, the age of consent, don’t face criminal charges. On the flip side, prosecutors say that because teachers have special disciplinary and authoritative powers, sexual relations with students is inherently coercive, and the law is designed to protect students in an educational environment.

But the existing statute doesn’t account for nuances in the student-teacher relationship, according to the judge, AL.com reported. Thompson referred to other state laws, including in Texas, Arkansas and Kansas, which specifically examine whether a teacher abused their position of power in their sexual relations with students. Other states’ laws criminalizing sex between students and teachers have also fallen under legal scrutiny. In 2012, Arkansas’ Supreme Court ruled that students over the age of 18 had a constitutional right to engage in a consensual sexual relationship with their teacher. Conversely, two years earlier, Washington state’s Supreme Court ruled that it’s illegal for a school employee to engage in a sexual relationship with a student, even if the student is 18 and considered an adult under all other state laws. (Vice News – Tess Owen at https://news.vice.com/story/teachers-have-the-right-to-sleep-with-their-students-alabama-judge-rules?utm_source=vicefbus)


Prince George ‘gay icon’ article condemned

London, UK – As reported by RT, an article in the LGBT news outlet PinkNews that said Twitter users were calling Prince George a “gay icon” has been branded as “sick” by a politician in Northern Ireland. The online article, “People think Prince George looks fabulous in this new photo,” was published after the four-year-old prince was photographed with his hands on his face in a helicopter in Germany last month. PinkNews says the article was merely reporting on a large volume of social media posts and was not calling Prince George a ‘gay icon’ itself.

Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party in Northern Ireland and strongly anti-gay, described the article as “outrageous and sick.” He called on PinkNews to immediately withdraw the “misjudged” article and apologize. “Sexualizing a young child in this fashion is entirely inappropriate. In reality the photo which prompted the piece shows a four-year-old boy who is smartly dressed and excited about being on a helicopter with his male father and female mother. “To take an image of a little boy and to fantasize of him being an icon for a life defined by sex is outrageous and sick.”

The chief executive of PinkNews, Benjamin Cohen, told RT that he has received no letter from Allister and no official complaint has been made. “I’m surprised that Jim Allister is such an avid reader of PinkNews that he spotted a minor article from three weeks ago to complain about today,” Cohen said. “At no point did PinkNews state that Prince George is a ‘gay icon’ - the article merely reported on a large number of social media posts saying that he was. He added: “Mr. Allister also appeared to claim that being gay is a ‘life defined by sex.’ This is an outrageous statement. I am gay and about to marry my fiancé, something Allister opposes, and I can certainly say my life is not defined by sex.” (rt.com/uk/399318-prince-george-gay-icon/)


Gay man to challenge longtime Texas congressman

Frost, TX - John Duncan was attending a town hall meeting with his congressman, Republican Joe Barton, in Frost, the night that Barton told a constituent asking whether he would support legislation to combat violence against women to “shut up.” That’s when Duncan decided he would challenge Barton for Texas’ 6th District congressional seat. “It was horrifying,” Duncan said of Barton’s reaction that night. Barton, a 32-year veteran of Congress, apparently never expected people to travel from Arlington to Frost, on the far edge of the district, to confront him on issues like healthcare. “He’s out of touch,” Duncan said of the Republican incumbent. “He doesn’t care about our concerns.”

Duncan laid out a platform based on what he heard at the town hall meeting emphasizing healthcare, education and immigration, and officially threw his hat in the election ring. Duncan has a law degree but has never practiced. He said he always had an interest in running for public office, and he was primarily interested in attending law school because he noticed most members of Congress were attorneys. Instead of practicing law, he has made his career in healthcare. Currently, he’s the compliance officer for Prism Health North Texas, formerly known as AIDS Arms.

Duncan grew up in East Texas and graduated from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth but moved to Massachusetts for law school. After graduation, he stayed there for awhile. He moved back to North Texas when his husband, Tim Schaefer, was accepted to Brite Divinity School. Schaefer’s father is the Rev. Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked by the Methodist Church for performing his son’s wedding and refusing to say he wouldn’t perform another wedding. Two of Tim’s three siblings are also gay. Schaefer was reinstated on appeal because his defrocking was based on something he may or may not do in the future. Schaefer said their being a same-sex couple hasn’t been an issue so far, even at meetings in more conservative areas of the district. And Duncan said he believes people in the district will listen to his message. “I believe they can see what I’m advocating for and who I’m advocating for,” he said. (Dallas Voice – David Taffet at dallasvoice.com)


Time Out Youth Center finally has new permanent facility

Charlotte, NC - In 1990, Tonda Taylor, along with human services professionals, educators, physicians and clergy, assembled to discuss the needs of young LGBTQ individuals who were struggling with their sexual orientation. So on April 8, 1991, four gay and lesbian youth gathered for a discussion group under the guidance of Taylor and others for what would later become Time Out Youth Center, the premier organization in the Charlotte, N.C. area to address the needs of LGBTQ youth. Fast forward to August 2017 and from that seed has now arisen a multi-faceted powerhouse which moved into its permanent 7,400 sq. ft. during July 2017 and serves youth ages 11-20. The center launched a $3.4 million capital campaign at the time of the building purchase in January 2017. The five-year campaign will expand programs and services and will build a 10-bed transitional living shelter for LGBTQ homeless youth by 2020. As of July 25, 2017, the campaign had raised $2.25 million in gifts and pledges.

The new building is abuzz with activity. It houses the center, as well as three tenants: offices and clothes closet for Transcend Charlotte, an organization and counseling service for the transgender community; Equality North Carolina satellite offices for regional initiatives; and a counseling office for Sarah Yum, LMFT. In the future, it will also begin HIV testing and will offer community space for LGBTQ organizations to host board meetings and public forums. It is also home to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Charlotte. The center also provides out-of-center support by way of two satellite groups. Time Out Youth also works with Gay-Straight Alliances, parents, youth and teachers at schools across the Carolinas.

The newly renovated and up-fitted headquarters comes complete with a main multi-purpose group room, a computer lab, a smaller activity room, pantry, laundry facilities for homeless youth, shower room, kitchen, four gender-neutral restrooms, conference room, and program, school outreach and administrative offices. The design and furniture selections for the main room were recommended and suggested by the youth who wanted an area with a “cool vibe” in which to thrive. Tables are made from recycled skateboards and all furniture can be easily moved and reset for any number of occasions or events. (Q-Notes Online – Lainey Millen at goqnotes.com)

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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