January 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief: Jan. 28

Milk’s camera shop to house Trevor Project/HRC center

WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign announced a long-term partnership with the Trevor Project, a national organization focused on suicide prevention among gay youth, at the site of Harvey Milk’s old camera shop in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood.

The late Milk was the first gay man to be elected to San Francisco’s board of supervisors but was murdered. The Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and the GLBT Historical Society will also partner with HRC and Trevor on the plan.

HRC recently drew criticism from gay activists for its plan to put a gift shop at the location at 575 Castro Street. It’s open now but a grand opening is planned in May.

UCC nominates first openly gay pastor to top post

WASHINGTON — The United Church of Christ has nominated its first openly gay candidate to serve the 1.1-million-member denomination as one of its top elected national officers.

Rev. J. Bennett Guess, 44, was selected by a search committee to serve as a member of the UCC’s five-person Collegium of Officers and to head Local Church Ministries, one of the church’s four national bodies. Guess’ selection must be affirmed by a board of directors in April, before his name is put forward for election by 1,000 delegates attending the UCC’s biennial General Synod in July in Tampa, Fla.

Guess, who directs the UCC’s publishing, identity and communication ministry, has been a member of the denomination’s national staff for more than a decade and has been active in LGBT activism throughout his ministry.

Activist, mother of hate crime victim, dies

TULA, Okla. — Carolyn Wagner, a straight LGBT ally and founder of Families United Against Hate (FUAH), died Jan. 18 in Tulsa, Okla.

Wagner was the mother of William Wagner, a gay hate crime survivor who was assaulted in 1996 at age 16. The family won a lawsuit in which the Supreme Court upheld rights for students regardless of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. The incident inspired Wagner to found FUAH.

She died of cancer, hepatitis and liver failure.

ROTC protests inspired by anti-trans bias

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Several student organizations have launched a campaign against the return of ROTC to college campuses because the military doesn’t provide benefits for retired trans service members.

The National Marriage Boycott, a youth-led LGBT rights organization, has called for youth activists on college campuses that include gender identity in their non-discrimination clauses to oppose ROTC. At Stanford University, Students for Queer Liberation, a gay rights group, is lobbying against ROTC’s return.

Hearing set for gay couples seeking rights

HELENA, Mont. — Arguments were set for this week in the case of six Montana gay couples suing the state for the same rights as married couples in making decisions affecting their family’s health care and finances, the Associated Press reported.

The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, say the state Constitution’s equal protection and privacy clauses guarantee those legal protections.

The ACLU is asking District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock to rule in their favor without a trial, according to the AP report.

Attorney General Steve Bullock has asked the court to dismiss the case. He says spousal benefits are limited by definition to married couples, and the Montana Constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Hawaii Legislature to debate civil unions

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers are beginning debate on a bill creating civil unions that would grant same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples, the AP reported. A Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hear testimony this week. A nearly identical measure passed the state legislature but was vetoed by Republican then-Gov. Linda Lingle. New Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie supports civil unions.

Arson of gay man’s home probed as hate crime

CARROLLTON, Ga. — Investigators in Georgia’s Carroll County Sheriff’s Office are getting help from the FBI to find out who threatened a gay man there and followed through with an apparent hate crime, the Times Georgian reported.

On Jan. 22 a rock wrapped with a threatening note containing anti-gay slurs was thrown through the window of the home of Christopher Staples, a 43-year-old disabled Alvin Drive resident. The next day about 6 a.m. his house was set on fire. Staples was able to escape unharmed and is staying with friends, the paper reported.

Carrollton Fire Department Chief Jimmy Bearden told the Times Georgian the fire was started intentionally.

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