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National news in brief: July 8

A new ‘Supergay’ iPhone app, soldiers attacked in anti-gay beating, California mandates teaching gay history, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes for marriage equality and a Michigan anti-bullying bill on life-support.



Gay superhero a hit in iTunes App Store

SAN FRANCISCO — An unlikely hit is rising in popularity among iPhone and iPod Touch users.

Spanish game creators Klicrainbow boast that the $2.99 app, “Supergay & The Attack of His Ex-Girlfriends” is the first video game to star a gay superhero, and users of the Apple mobile devices are accepting this groundbreaking game with open arms.

The animated game features comic book style art and currently offers the first 10 chapters of the storyline, with promises of more chapters to come.

The game tells the story of Dr. Tom Palmer — a young, attractive scientist working on a controversial cloning experiment — on the eve of his wedding to the daughter of his boss.

Throughout the narrative, Tom grapples with the fact that he’s gay as well as with some of the choices he’s made in his life, according to MSNBC.

“Having a gay character in a game is always something positive that gay gamers can relate to,” Steve Muir, editor of told the Blade. “However in this instance I think the character we see is more of a stereotype than something we can relate to. Having a quick look at the developers and their title, I see the fluorescent pink color, mentions of Gay Power and the ‘Rainbow Ray.’ I understand this is a gay superhero but I can’t image anyone taking this seriously.”

“I think gay gamers, like gay comic fans, have a fascination with the dual identities of superheroes,” gay gaming champion, Matthew Michael Brown told the Blade. “We see some of our personal struggles reflected in the lives of these characters and are thrilled when they hit any medium. That said, video games are the future of entertainment and so to see such progressive characters break into this industry is especially exciting.” Brown won the second season of Sony’s Playstation Network reality series, The Tester.

Gay soldiers allegedly attacked in Colo.

DENVER — Two soldiers identifying as gay stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs were allegedly assaulted by attackers shouting homophobic slurs and racial epithets early Saturday morning.

The soldiers had stopped off at Albert Tacos after a night out at a local nightclub where the men also work. The two soldiers — who had to conceal their identities when making statements about the crime because “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is still in enforcement — said that some of the work friends that came with them to the restaurant caught the attention of a group of men because of the way that they were dressed, according to ABC News Denver.

One of the victims was treated for a facial fracture and had to have his jaw wired shut.

“We’re concerned that these soldiers may not get the support they need because of the ongoing impact of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” J.D. Smith, co-director of the active duty service members organization OutServe, said in a statement. “Will they be investigated for reporting the crime? Or for seeking medical help? These soldiers will have to literally lie at work to hide what’s occurred to them.”

Calif. mandates teaching LGBT history in schools

SACRAMENTO — The California Assembly this week passed 49-25 a bill that would “end LGBT history exclusion in education.”

The Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act had already passed the Senate 23-14 on April 14, and now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for signature.

“The struggle of the multicultural and multiethnic LGBT community in California is one of the greatest stories yet to be told,” said Equality California Executive Director Roland Palencia in a statement released minutes after passage. “The FAIR Education Act will ensure that public schools acknowledge the heroism of individuals and communities who in spite of countless barriers continuously overcome adversity.”

The bill was authored by gay state Sen. Mark Leno, and follows another historic California victory 20 months ago, with the passage of official recognition of Harvey Milk Day.

The bill also compels schools to put strict guidelines in place to protect students from bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This is a victory not only for the LGBT youth in California who have been fighting to be heard in Sacramento and represented in their history classes, but also for all California youth who deserve to learn a fair and accurate account of California and U.S. history,” said Carolyn Laub, executive director of Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “By passing the FAIR Education Act, the Assembly has taken an unprecedented step to reduce bullying, increase safety for all students and teach students to respect each other’s differences.”

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Emanuel pushes for marriage equality

CHICAGO — In the spirit of Pride month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel closed June by stating that he hopes Illinois “moves in the direction” of New York after that state passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage there.

The political heavyweight left his position as White House chief of staff in 2009 to pursue the Chicago mayoral spot being opened with the retirement of Richard M. Daley. Emanuel secured that spot in March 2010 in a race against many local big names, including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who long backed the idea of marriage equality and voted against both “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993 and the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Emanuel’s statement is his strongest yet on the topic of marriage equality, and advocates hope he will play as pivotal a role in pushing for a bill as Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in New York City.

“Obviously as someone who is working on marriage equality in this state I’m thrilled to see it,” gay state assembly member Greg Harris, author of the state’s civil unions law, told the Blade. “I think it goes to show that mainstream of political thought in Illinois is moving toward full marriage equality for all people, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t lots of work to do in the state.”

“No matter what the states do, until we get rid of the Federal [Defense of Marriage Act] there will never be full equality for any same-sex relationship.”

Mich. anti-bullying bill put on hold

LANSING, Mich. — The fate of a proposed law that would have specifically protected students from anti-gay and anti-trans harassment and bullying, along with other forms of bullying is now in question as lawmakers go on break.

“Matt’s Safe-School Law,” named for a teen who committed suicide after being bullied, exists in two versions in the state legislature, one where protected classes like gay and lesbian kids are specifically enumerated — a version backed by the state Board of Education, Michigan’s LGBT advocacy group Equality Michigan, and the Republican Rick Snyder — and a general version of the bill that does not specify any protected classes.

The Republican-controlled legislature has only held hearings on the general version of the bill, according to Michigan’s LGBT newspaper, Between the Lines. The June 29 Education Committee hearing saw anti-bullying groups come out against the less powerful version of the bill.

“We are disappointed to have to oppose House Bill 4163 today but feel that changes can be made to strengthen it so it becomes the powerful tool it is intended to be,” Equality Michigan Policy Director Emily Dievendorf said in a statement after the hearing. “Our kids need to be assured that their second home, their school, is conducive to learning and is accepting of who they are.”

Michigan is one of only six states without anti-bullying legislation, which compels schools to create safer environments for students in regard to harassment and bullying.




GLAAD: Social media platforms continue to fail to protect LGBTQ users

Only TikTok received a passing grade



(Public domain photo)

GLAAD released its fourth annual Social Media Safety Index on Tuesday, giving virtually every major social media company a failing grade as it surveyed LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression online.

According to GLAAD, the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, YouTube, X, and Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and Threads received failing F grades on the SMSI Platform Scorecard for the third consecutive year.

The only exception was Chinese company ByteDance, owned TikTok, which earned a D+.

Some platforms have shown improvements in their scores since last year. Others have fallen, and overall, the scores remain abysmal, with all platforms other than TikTok receiving F grades.

●     TikTok: D+ — 67 percent (+10 points from 2023)

●     Facebook: F — 58 percent (-3 points from 2023)

●     Instagram: F — 58 percent (-5 points from 2023)

●     YouTube: F — 58 percent (+4 points from 2023)

●     Threads: F — 51 percent (new 2024 rating)

●     X: F — 41 percent (+8 points from 2023)

This year’s report also illuminates the epidemic of anti-LGBTQ hate, harassment, and disinformation across major social media platforms, and especially makes note of high-follower hate accounts and right-wing figures who continue to manufacture and circulate most of this activity.

“In addition to these egregious levels of inadequately moderated anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation, we also see a corollary problem of over-moderation of legitimate LGBTQ expression — including wrongful takedowns of LGBTQ accounts and creators, shadowbanning, and similar suppression of LGBTQ content. Meta’s recent policy change limiting algorithmic eligibility of so-called ‘political content,’ which the company partly defines as: ‘social topics that affect a group of people and/or society large’ is especially concerning,” GLAAD Senior Director of Social Media Safety Jenni Olson said in the press release annoucing the report’s findings.

Specific LGBTQ safety, privacy, and expression issues identified include:

●      Inadequate content moderation and problems with policy development and enforcement (including issues with both failure to mitigate anti-LGBTQ content and over-moderation/suppression of LGBTQ users);

●      Harmful algorithms and lack of algorithmic transparency; inadequate transparency and user controls around data privacy;

●      An overall lack of transparency and accountability across the industry, among many other issues — all of which disproportionately impact LGBTQ users and other marginalized communities who are uniquely vulnerable to hate, harassment, and discrimination.

Key conclusions:

●      Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and disinformation on social media translates to real-world offline harms.

●      Platforms are largely failing to successfully mitigate dangerous anti-LGBTQ hate and disinformation and frequently do not adequately enforce their own policies regarding such content.

●      Platforms also disproportionately suppress LGBTQ content, including via removal, demonetization, and forms of shadowbanning.

●      There is a lack of effective, meaningful transparency reporting from social media companies with regard to content moderation, algorithms, data protection, and data privacy practices.

Core recommendations:

●      Strengthen and enforce existing policies that protect LGBTQ people and others from hate, harassment, and misinformation/disinformation, and also from suppression of legitimate LGBTQ expression.

●      Improve moderation including training moderators on the needs of LGBTQ users, and moderate across all languages, cultural contexts, and regions. This also means not being overly reliant on AI.

●      Be transparent with regard to content moderation, community guidelines, terms of service policy implementation, algorithm designs, and enforcement reports. Such transparency should be facilitated via working with independent researchers.

●      Stop violating privacy/respect data privacy. To protect LGBTQ users from surveillance and discrimination, platforms should reduce the amount of data they collect, infer, and retain. They should cease the practice of targeted surveillance advertising, including the use of algorithmic content recommendation. In addition, they should implement end-to-end encryption by default on all private messaging to protect LGBTQ people from persecution, stalking, and violence.

●      Promote civil discourse and proactively message expectations for user behavior, including respecting platform hate and harassment policies.

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit against Montgomery County schools gender guidelines

4th Circuit last August dismissed parents’ case



U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools guidelines that allow schools to create plans in support of transgender or gender nonconfirming students without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Three parents of students in the school district — none of whom have trans or gender nonconfirming children — filed the lawsuit. 

A judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last August dismissed the case. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Bill to support LGBTQ seniors in rural areas reintroduced

Advocates praise Elder Pride Act



(Washington Blade file photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) reintroduced legislation to increase access to needed services and resources for LGBTQ seniors who live in rural areas this week.

The Elder Pride Act would bolster the capacity and ability of Area Agencies on Aging located in rural communities to better serve and support LGBTQ seniors who often require affirming care, services, and supports that are often underfunded and scarce in many parts of the country.

Recent surveys show that between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQ people live in rural American communities.

“LGBTQ+ elders and older people living with HIV live in every part of this nation, including rural areas. We all deserve to be able to age in our communities with the services and supports we need to remain independent,” SAGE CEO Michael Adams said in the press release announcing the reintroduction of the legislation. “We commend Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Sharice Davids (D-KS) on reintroducing the Elder Pride Act. And we honor the contributions of our many LGBTQ+ trailblazers whose tireless advocacy allowed us to reintroduce this critical bill. We look forward to working alongside Reps. Bonamici, Pocan, and Davids, and our LGBTQ+ pioneers nationwide to pass this legislation.”

“LGBTQI+ seniors should be able to access services and care that meets their unique needs, regardless of where they live,” said Bonamici, chair of the Equality Caucus’s LGBTQ+ Aging Issues Task Force.”Those who live in rural areas frequently face increased barriers, which Congress can break down. The Elder Pride Act will increase resources for programs and services that will improve the lives of LGBTQI+ elders.”

“The Elder Pride Act will improve the overall health and social and economic well-being of LGBTQI+ older adults and seniors living with HIV in rural areas by better equipping senior service providers with resources to address the unique needs of these communities. I’m pleased to introduce this important legislation with my colleagues and co-leaders on the Equality Caucus, Reps. Pocan and Davids,” Bonamici added.

“Rural LGBTQI+ seniors have been lacking access to necessary services and care for too long,” said Pocan, co-chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “The Elder Pride Act creates opportunities for LGBTQ+ seniors in rural communities, benefiting everyone in the region. I look forward to advancing this important legislation.”

“Many of our LGBTQ+ elders fought tirelessly for equality in a world that refused to accept their identity,” said Davids. “While they overcame tremendous odds to give future generations the rights they deserve, our elders, particularly those in rural communities, continue to face discrimination when accessing long-term care and healthcare. I am proud to support the Elder Pride Act because who you are and who you love should never increase your risk for isolation, poverty, and poor health outcomes as you age.”

The Elder Pride Act complements the Older American Act, which was updated under Bonamici’s leadership, by establishing a rural grant program designed to fund care and services for LGBTQ seniors. The grant would also support programs that:

• Provide services such as cultural competency training for service providers;

• Develop modes of connection between LGBTQI+ older adults and local service providers and community organizations;

• Expand the use of nondiscrimination policies and community spaces for older adults who are members of the LGBTQI+ community or another protected class; and,

• Disseminate resources on sexual health and aging for senior service providers.

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here, and the full text can be found here.

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