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National news in brief: June 24

Tracy Morgan returns to Tennessee to apologize, Michigan GOP try to eliminate domestic partner benefits, open lesbian up for Anthony Weiner’s seat and New Jersey Senate leader no longer opposed to marriage equality

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Tracy Morgan meets with GLAAD in Tennessee

NASHVILLE — LGBT media watchdog group the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation met with “30 Rock” star Tracy Morgan, Tuesday in Tennessee to discuss homophobia. Morgan addressed the media at the Nashville Convention Center, speaking out in support of LGBT advocacy.

“I apologize to Kevin and people that were at the show. I want to apologize to my friends, and my family and my fans … I don’t really see gay or straight, I just see human beings now.” Morgan said. Tracy also met with Kevin Rogers, the Tennessee man who first reported the incident on Facebook.

“Tracy was sincere and spoke from his heart today,” Rogers was quoted as saying in a statement by GLAAD. “I decided to speak out and use my voice to inspire others. The best thing that has come from this is a national conversation that anti-gay violence is unacceptable and that homophobia is outdated.”

Michigan lawmaker wants to ban partnership benefits

LANSING, Mich — A Michigan Republican who previously attempted to push a bill that stripped HIV/AIDS funding in favor of airport maintenance, has introduced legislation to prevent public institutions from offering domestic partnership benefits for the same-sex partners of lesbian, gay or bisexual employees.

Rep. David Agema of Grandville introduced into the House Oversight Reforms and Ethics committee two bills that would bar universities and other state-funded public institutions from offering the benefits that some advocates argue attract top talent to these institutions. Both bills passed out of the committee on Tuesday and now head for a full vote on the House floor.

According to the Michigan Messenger, HB 4770 would prohibit public employers from providing domestic partner benefits and HB 4771 would prohibit such benefits from being a part of union negotiations. Lawmakers are reacting to a move by the Michigan Civil Service Commission to uphold same-sex partner benefits.

Lesbian in running to replace Rep. Weiner

NEW YORK — A former New York City Council candidate, attorney Lynn Schulman, says she’s been asked to enter the special election race to fill Anthony Weiner’s seat.

According to the New York statewide politics show, “Capital Tonight,” a Time Warner Cable property, Schulman, a lesbian, took the second spot in a six-way 2009 race for term-limited Councilwoman Melinda Katz’s seat.

“Some people from the county organization asked me if I would be interested, and I said I would,” Schulman told ‘Capital Tonight.’ “So, my name is now in the mix. I’m very humbled about being asked in the first place because clearly there was a thought that I had the credentials to do this.”

Schulman may be joined by a familiar face in the race, as Melinda Katz has been proposed as another possible candidate.

N.J. Senate boss sorry for opposition to marriage

TRENTON — New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) on Monday announced his official support for same-sex marriage, and expressed regret for failing to support same-sex marriage in 2009, the last time the measure was up for a vote in that chamber during the tenure of pro-marriage former Gov. John S. Corzine.

“Seventeen months ago, I stood up here and made the biggest mistake of my legislative career,” Sweeney said in a statement on the Senate floor of his abstention on the same-sex marriage vote. “I made a decision based purely on political calculations not to vote in support of marriage equality.”

New Jersey became the third state in 2006 to offer civil unions to same-sex couples, but many of that state’s LGBT advocates have argued the two-tiered unions have created “confusion,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Meanwhile, last Thursday, the state’s only openly gay legislator, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), re-introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has vowed to veto a same-sex marriage bill.

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More Americans personally know someone who’s transgender, non-binary: survey

42% know a trans person, 26% know someone using gender-neutral pronouns

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More Americans personally know a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, according to new data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

A survey found 42 percent of Americans know someone who’s transgender, who is up from 37 percent who said so in 2017. Although most Americans, 57 percent, still say they don’t know anyone who’s transgender, that’s down from 63 percent five years ago.

Similarly, 26 percent of Americans say they know someone who uses non-binary gender pronouns compared to the 18 percent in 2018 who said they knew someone uses pronouns such as “they” as opposed to “he” or “she.”

At the same time, comfort levels with using gender-neutral pronouns – as well as their opinions on whether someone’s gender can differ from the sex they were assigned at birth – has remained about the same. Half of Americans say they would be either very or somewhat comfortable using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to someone if asked to do so, compared to 48 percent who say they would not be comfortable. The numbers, according to Pew Research, are basically unchanged since 2018.

The survey found profound differences by age, party, and education in knowing a transgender person or someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, although in both parties growing shares of Americans report knowing a person who’s transgender.

For Americans under age 30, some 53 percent say they know a transgender person, which is up from 44 percent in 2017. In the same age group, 46 percent of younger U.S. adults know someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns, compared to 32 percent in 2018.

The Pew Research Center conducted the survey of 10,606 U.S. adults between June 14 and June 17. The survey is weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories, according to Pew Research.

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Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

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Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

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Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

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Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

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