November 17, 2011 | by Phil Reese
National news in brief: November 18
L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center

The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center celebrated 40 years this week in a star-studded event. (Photo courtesy Minnaert via Wikimedia)

L.A. LGBT Center celebrates 40 years

LOS ANGELES — Saturday, one of the nation’s oldest LGBT institutions celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Westin Boneventure Hotel, honoring Chaz Bono, gay actor Neil Patrick Harris and his partner, celebrity chef David Burtka.

According to Karen Ocamb of Frontiers L.A., the ceremony was hosted by comedian Leslie Jordan and included presentations by Center Board member and Queer As Folk actor Peter Paige, “Glee” star and board member Jane Lynch and actor David Arquette, whose sister is trans actress Alexis Arquette, presenting an award to fellow “Dancing With The Stars” contestant, Chaz Bono.

“Today we are living in an increasingly uncivil society. Gone are the optimistic aspirations for a New Frontier or a Great Society that would conquer the problems of ignorance and prejudice and eliminate injustice,” said Center CEO Lorri Jean. “The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center stands in stark contrast to all of that.”

Mass. legislature passes trans rights bill

BOSTON — After passing in the lower house Tuesday 95-58, and passing by voice vote in the Senate Wed., a bill that would bar employment and housing discrimination — but leaves out public accommodation discrimination — for transgender residents of Massachusetts passed the Senate in a voice vote on Wednesday. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) has said he would sign it.

It’s a bittersweet victory for some Massachusetts trans rights activists, who have criticized the lack of public accommodations language in the bill.

“We want complete protections for transgender people – including in public accommodations – but also know that in order to get there, we cannot walk away from the legislature’s first step toward achieving those full protections,” GLAD Transgender Rights Project director Jennifer Levi said in a statement.

Calif. FAIR Education law takes effect Jan. 1

SACRAMENTO — The law that mandates schools include in the curriculum important figures from the LGBT community and disabled community will take effect in seven weeks.

Opponents of the FAIR Education Act, known as SB 48, attempted to derail the legislation by collecting signatures toward a “people’s veto” ballot measure. That effort failed, and schools are now gearing up to comply with the mandate.

“Our history is more complete when we recognize the contributions of people from all backgrounds and walks of life,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said after the legislation was signed into law in July.

Supporters of the law say it will improve the self-esteem of LGBT young people and possibly curb bullying.

Ill. Catholic Charities ends foster care services

CHICAGO — Catholic Charities of Illinois has announced that it will no longer provide foster care services in Illinois as three Catholic dioceses dropped lawsuits against the state seeking to skirt state law mandating same-sex couples in civil unions be allowed in the foster care system.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the dioceses of Joliet, Springfield and Belleville sued the state in an attempt to avoid recognizing same-sex couples. However, after the state forced 2,000 foster cases to transition to non-religious agencies, and judges refused to halt the process before the Nov. 30 deadline, the dioceses agreed to the state’s terms and end adoption and foster care placement services in Illinois.

Secular agencies in the regions serviced by the dioceses have already agreed to assist in the transition.

‘Religious exemption’ in Michigan bullying bill dropped

LANSING, Mich. — Controversial language in a Michigan anti-bullying bill that would exempt from punishment those expressing “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” will be stricken from the Senate bill after outrage from LGBT and Muslim groups.

ALSO IN THE BLADE: GAY SAUDI DIPLOMAT DENIED ASYLUM IN PRELIMINARY DECISION

Paving the way to make the bill easier to pass, State Senator Rick Jones agreed last week to drop the language in Matt’s Law, a bill named for a young Michigan man who committed suicide in 2002 after severe bullying and harassment. Matt’s father, Kevin Epling joined with leaders from Equality Michigan and the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in denouncing the bill.

“That one paragraph, though, negates most of the things that we tried to put in,” Epling told ABCNews in regard to the religious exemption.

Michigan is one of only three states without an anti-bullying law.

 

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