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Friday, May 12, 2017

LGBTQ News Compilation- May 12

Trump throws red meat to religious right Trump throws red meat to religious right

Trump reissues so called “religious freedom” executive order

Washington, D.C. - An executive order signed by Donald Trump on May 4 will make it easier for churches to get involved in politics and for employers to deny reproductive health coverage to their employees, but it does not include language explicitly endorsing discrimination against LGBT Americans. Trump's so-called “Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” was issued on May 4, designated as the National Day of Prayer, as a nod to Christian conservatives who promoted his candidacy.

Trump's order instructs the IRS to ease up on enforcement of the “Johnson Amendment,” which prohibits churches from getting directly involved in political campaigns. Passed in 1954 - and named for then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson of Texas - the Johnson Amendment says that churches and other nonprofit institutions that are exempt from taxation “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of [or in opposition to] any candidate for elective public office.” While only Congress can repeal the law, Trump's order paves the way for churches and other religious leaders to speak about politics and endorse candidates without worrying about losing their tax-exempt status.

The new executive order also allows employers to cite religious objections as a reason to deny their employees contraception coverage in employer-paid health care plans, even though such coverage is required for most employers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). What apparently is not in the executive order is any of the language found in a draft leaked in February, which would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people - again based on religious objections. Civil rights groups had threatened to sue the Trump administration if the expected order included such provisions, and they may still decide to do so, based on the provisions Trump endorsed. (Seattle Gay News – Mike Andrew at sgn.org)


Federal bill to ban LGBT discrimination reintroduced

Washington, D.C. - Legislation to ban nationwide LGBT discrimination was re-introduced to Congress on May 2. The Equality Act was submitted to both the House and Senate with a record 240 cosponsors, 190 in the House and 46 in the Senate. The bill, first proposed in 2015, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, education, jury service and federally funded programs. It is an expanded version of the long-stalled Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) returned as lead co-sponsors for the Senate version.  Maryland’s two U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey are among the cosponsors. The list of House cosponsors was not immediately available.

“No person’s fundamental rights should be determined by which side of a state line they live on,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The Equality Act will once and for all end the unacceptable patchwork of nondiscrimination laws across this country that leaves LGBTQ people at risk. Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, cited the importance of the legislation in our current political climate. “Everyone, regardless of who they are or the person they love, deserves equal protection under the law. Despite the significant progress we’ve made toward equality in the last decade, the Trump administration’s attacks on LGBTQ people shows just how swiftly many of these hard-fought changes can be rolled back," Carey said. "That is why we need strong federal nondiscrimination legislation for LGBTQ people." (Philadelphia Gay News – Jen Colletta at epgn.com)


Researchers say gay men may be born ‘tops’ or ‘bottoms’

Toronto, Canada – As reported by the Dailymail.com, the divide between dominant and passive sex roles has long been debated, especially within the gay community. Now, a new study suggests that there could be a genetic component to what makes a gay man a 'top' or 'bottom' in anal sex. Researchers surveyed gay men, and found that 'bottoms' were more likely to be left-handed and have older brothers, while 'tops' were more likely to be right-handed and have younger sisters.

Stereotypically, 'tops' are seen as masculine, taking up the male tradition of dominance during sex, while 'bottoms' are seen as more feminine, taking a more passive role. Researchers from the University of Toronto put these stereotypes to the test in the hope of understanding whether there was a biological component to sex roles. In their study, the researchers contacted 240 men at the 2015 Toronto Pride festival, and asked them to answer a survey on their sex positions – both in practice and in preference.

The respondents were also asked about how gender-conforming they were as children – more interested in male-typical activities, and exhibiting more masculine personality characteristics. Other questions in the survey included whether men were left or right handed, and the number and gender of siblings. The results showed that bottoms identified as being less gender-conforming, were more likely to be left-handed and have older brothers. In contrast, tops identified as being more gender-conforming, and were more likely to be right-handed with younger sisters.

Whether these correlations have a biological basis is very difficult to pin down. Speaking to Jezebel, Dr. Doug VanderLaan, an author of the study, said: “What's interesting about this work is even among a group of individuals who are pretty similar in terms of their sexual preference - that is, gay men preferring men - there could be a diverse set of processes that lead them to exhibit that same sexual orientation outcome.” In particular, the researchers say that the differences between right and left handed men are particularly useful. Hand preference is evident very early on in life, and is not usually affected by social or cultural factors. But Dr. VanderLaan does not think that the results should be taken at face value. (The Dailymail.com – Shivali Best at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4465614/Are-gay-sex-preferences-biological.html)


New Jersey court reinstates Trans man’s police abuse suit

Newark, NJ - Civil-rights attorneys are praising last month’s court ruling in New Jersey that reinstated a transgender man’s police-abuse lawsuit. In 2012, Shakeem M. Holmes was arrested in Jersey City for allegedly shoplifting, then threatened and verbally abused by local police during his detainment. One officer threatened to put his fist down Holmes’ throat “like a fucking man,” according to court records. In 2014, Holmes filed a lawsuit alleging abuse by the Jersey City Police Department. But the following year, Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Turula dismissed the suit.

On April 27, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division reinstated Holmes’ suit. They wrote that Holmes “was in a uniquely vulnerable position, that the individuals making the hostile comments were police officers, who wielded tremendous power over arrestees, and that the comments included a physical threat.” The judges also said Jersey City officials presented no evidence there was a need to “threaten, demean or humiliate prisoners on the basis of their gender affiliation or membership in any other protected class. In fact, such conduct may encourage prisoners to attack the harassment victim, thus undermining the orderly operation of the police lock-up as well as the safety of the transgender prisoner.”

Kevin M. Costello, an attorney for Holmes, expressed approval of the ruling. “We’re obviously thrilled that New Jersey’s courts have reiterated the proposition that under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, transgender people have the right — even when they’re being arrested and processed by law enforcement — not to be belittled or abused because of their transgender status,” Costello told PGN. “Even if police are correctly arresting and correctly processing someone, they should do so by treating the person with dignity and respect, as the Law Against Discrimination requires. We now look forward to a jury trial.” Jury selection is scheduled to begin on July 17 at the William J. Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City. (Philadelphia Gay News - Tim Cwiek at epgn.com)


Sex toy accidents on the rise in London

London, England - Firemen had to use a grinder to free a man who had his genitals stuck in a penis ring for “a couple of days.” The man’s genitals were described as looking “swollen and a funny color” once the sex toy was removed by Ilford firefighters. The crew was called to the King George Hospital in East London at 2 a.m. on May 4 by medics. The team managed to safely liberate the man after a short struggle.

In order to save the man from his predicament, the firefighters had to use hydraulic tools which are normally used to free people from wreckage following traffic accidents. “To put it in layman’s terms, he tried to put his veg [testicles] in the ring as well, but it stopped the circulation and became stuck,” one of the firefighters told the Evening Standard. “It had been like that for a couple of days. I think it must have got to the point where he knew he needed to do something about it. It was swollen and a funny color.”

There has been a considerable rise in the number of bondage and sex toy-related accidents across London. According to fire service figures, there have been nine other cases of men getting their private parts stuck in rings since April 2016, double the amount for the two previous years. There were 27 instances reported in London in 2015-2016 in which people had to be freed from handcuffs, almost 50 percent more than the 2014-15 figure of 15.The fire brigade earlier this year blamed the erotic series ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for the increase. London Fire Brigade used a Star Wars parody for a penis ring safety campaign video in December 2015. (RT.com at https://www.rt.com/uk/387233-sex-toy-penis-ring/)


Supreme Court refuses challenge to conversion therapy ban

Washington, D.C. – For the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a lawsuit challenging the California law barring widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy for minors. The court announced in an order list on May 2 it had refused to hear the litigation seeking to overturn the law signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. The law has been the subject of lawsuits on the basis it violates freedom of speech and religion, but has been upheld as constitutional. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear means a decision from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the “ex-gay” therapy ban will remain standing.

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in a statement the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear case of Welch v. Brown is “good news for thousands of LGBT youth nationwide,” especially those in states without conversion therapy bans. “Homosexuality is not a condition that needs curing.” Zbur said. “However, we do know that the practice of trying to change sexual orientation not only doesn’t work, but puts vulnerable LGBT young people at risk of depression, substance abuse, homelessness and suicide. It flies in the face of a consensus of respected health organizations – including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other groups – that efforts to change a young person’s sexual orientation are harmful.”

The refusal marks the second time the Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the California ban and the fourth time in total it has declined to hear a challenge to a ban on “ex-gay” therapy. Justices have also twice refused to review decisions from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the law barring the practice signed by Gov. Chris Christie. (The Washington Blade – Chris Johnson at Washington Blade.com)


Gay man’s complaints close unlicensed Minneapolis sex club

Minneapolis, MN - There is a nondescript building in north Minneapolis, hidden amid a forgotten cove of ramshackle bungalows, where three nights a week gay men of all ages gather to have anonymous sex. Scott Delage, the jovial 52-year-old owner, instructs patrons to undress to whatever extent they’re comfortable. A $15 suggested donation supports a coat check guarded by an eagle-eyed octogenarian, bottomless condoms and lube, and bottled water. One evening, uniformed police officers bust in, handcuff Delage, and the patrons, most of whom are naked, are interrupted mid-intercourse and told to dress and clear out. When everyone was gone, police uncuff Delage.

The person who got the Warehouse shut down is John Mehring, 64, a single gay HGIV positive man who recently moved to Minneapolis from San Francisco, where he spent most of his adult life. He works at an elementary school and dedicates much of his spare time to researching the history of the 1980s HIV epidemic. He says, “So they say it’s our right to have this place and if we’re in danger, then it would be better to have a place in danger than no place. . .I’m the type who would rather be safe than sorry.” He was convinced that the Warehouse should be licensed. So he set out to make it so by outing it to every governmental agency he could.

Scott Delage bought the Warehouse building about five years ago to live in and be an artist studio. Then he began hosting his own sex parties. In the beginning, his events were intimate affairs attended by people he knew. He found he enjoyed hosting so much they became monthly, then weekly, then three times a week. Friends brought friends who told friends. Soon hundreds of people were showing up at his door. Delage says. “It’s like that old saying, ‘Telephone, telegraph, tell-a-gay.’” In many ways, he and Mehring are perfect foils. Delage is a big, vivacious lifelong Minnesotan, who is married and surrounded by friends. The two men ultimately have a common goal. But he is as furious with Mehring as a gentle giant can be. Delage’s take on the man who took it all away is a blunt and angry verdict: “He’s just mad because he got AIDS in San Francisco, and he’s taking it out on me.” (City Pages – Susan Du at  http://www.citypages.com/news/an-underground-sex-club-is-raided-and-minneapolis-is-forced-to-face-the-times/421064033)


Tennessee ‘natural meaning’ law may threaten LGBT rights

Nashville, TN – As reported by Reuters, on May 5, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that critics say is an underhanded way of denying rights to same-sex couples by insisting on the "natural and ordinary meaning" of words in state statues. The legislation, which was signed by the Republican governor despite pressure from civil liberty and gay-rights groups, requires words in Tennessee law be interpreted with their "natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language." It did not explain, however, what that means. Civil rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates warned the law is meant to undermine the rights of same-sex couples in any statutes that include words like "husband," "wife," "mother" or "father." Neither of the two sponsoring lawmakers,

Republican state Senator John Stevens and Republican state Representative Andrew Farmer, could be reached to comment. However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Stevens said he proposed the measure partly to compel courts to side more closely with the dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2015 ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized same-sex marriage.

Haslam said he believes the law will not change how courts interpret legal precedent. "While I understand the concerns raised about this bill, the Obergefell decision is the law of the land, and this legislation does not change a principle relied upon by the courts for more than a century, mitigating the substantive impact of this legislation," he said in a statement. The Tennessee measure is one of more than 100 bills introduced in U.S. state legislatures this year that to curtail LGBT rights, said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. Gay-rights groups previously warned the law could create an economic backlash against Tennessee similar to that suffered by North Carolina, where a law requiring students use the restroom of the gender on their birth certificates led sports organizations and musicians to cancel events. (Reuters - by Chris Kenning and edited by Matthew Lewis at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tennessee-lgbt-idUSKBN1812EW)

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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