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National news in brief: March 16

Chely Wright opens LGBT community center, State Dept. condemns anti-gay killings in Iraq, Anti-gay funders behind “Kony 2012” viral video, and more

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Chely Wright, Capital Pride, gay news, gay politics dc

Chely Wright’s LIKEME foundation has opened a community center in the heart of the Midwest, miles from the Kansas town where Wright grew up. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Chely Wright opens Kansas City youth center

KANSAS CITY — Lesbian country music star Chely Wright has worked with her non-profit foundation to open the LIKEME Lighthouse LGBT community center in Missouri’s largest city.

“This just gives so much hope to these outlying areas, that your major metropolitan area has a gay and lesbian center,” Wright told the Washington Post. “That would have meant everything to me had I been a kid growing up in Wellsville, knowing that there is a beautiful facility in our major city, that that was OK.”

Wright married her long-time girlfriend, LGBT activist Lauren Blitzer, in 2011.

State Dept. condemns anti-gay violence in Iraq

WASHINGTON — On the heels of reports that police in Iraq have been turning their back on honor killings targeting gays and those perceived as gay, advocates are applauding the U.S. Embassy in Iraq and State Department for a rapid condemnation of the killings.

“When NGOs here in Iraq first brought this issue to our attention, we immediately expressed our concern to the Government of Iraq, urged immediate measures to combat this violence, and undertook to try to ascertain the details of these attacks,” a representative from the embassy wrote veteran gay blogger Michael Petrelis, after an inquiry. “Along with the Embassy, the U.S. Department of State strongly condemns the recent violence and killings in Iraq by groups who appear to be targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or personal expression. These acts of intolerance should have no place in any society.”

The New York Times reported this week that death squads in Iraq were targeting not only gays but also those being described as “emos” and “goths.” Reuters confirmed with hospitals the deaths of 14 under such circumstances with rights groups putting the number closer to 40.

North Carolinians oppose anti-gay amendment

RALEIGH, N.C. — A new Elon University poll released this week shows that a 54.2 percent of respondents in North Carolina either oppose or strongly oppose the proposed constitutional amendment that would bar recognition of same-sex couples, LGBT website Pam’s House Blend reported.

On the question of specifically banning civil unions and domestic partnerships, which the amendment would compel the state to do, the number opposed rises to 56.9 percent. The poll found that only 37.8 percent of respondents supported the amendment, indicating support for the ballot measure is still tenuous.

Anti-gay groups behind ‘Kony 2012’ video

LOS ANGELES — Though the video racked up tens of millions of views, and become a subject of concern among socially conscious celebrities, Alternet has reveled that the foundation funding the ‘Kony 2012’ viral video campaign about Ugandan strongman Joseph Kony, is an anti-gay organization with ties to California’s anti-gay amendment, Proposition 8.

The group Invisible Children produced the sleek video about the leader of anti-government guerrilla group Lord’s Resistance Army and its use of rape, murder and forced enlistment of child soldiers in his rebellion against the government of Uganda.

Alternet reveals that the producers of the film are funded by a group called The Caster Family Foundation, one of the biggest financial backers of the efforts to pass Prop 8. Invisible Children is also connected to other anti-gay groups, such as Lou Engle’s ‘The Call,’ Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and others, some specifically tied to what has become known as Uganda’s “kill the gays” bill.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    March 18, 2012 at 1:03 am

    SHOULDN’T INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES BE ALLOWED TO HAVE THEIR OWN VALUES AND CULTURE FREE FROM OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE? SINCE HOMOSEXUALITY IS A MORTAL SIN IN IRAQ, SHOULDN’T THEIR GOVERNMENT AND CITIZENRY DECIDE WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THEM? YES – KILLING SOMEONE FOR BEING HOMOSEXUAL IS WRONG, ACCORDING TO THE VALUES OF THE WEST. AS AN ATHEIST I AM NOT FRIEND, NOR, FOE TO ANY RELIGION. IF THIS ACTIVITY IS PART OF THE ISLAMIC IDEAL, IT IS NOT MY PLACE TO JUDGE.
    THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  2. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    March 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    THIS COMMENT IS IN REFERENCE TO A COMMENT AIMED AT ME. ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THOSE WHO WANT THE “GAY AGENDA” LEGALIZED ARE HAVING DIFFICULTIES IS BECAUSE OF THE USE OF THE “LGBT” MONIKER. IN HONESTY, MOST MALE HOMOSEXUALS DO NOT HAVE A DAILY SOCIAL CONNECTION WITH FEMALE HOMOSEXUALS (AND VICE VERSA). IF YOUR CITY/TOWN ONLY HAS ONE NIGHTCLUB, THIS IS USUALLY THE ONLY TIME WE SEE EACH OTHER. IN REFERENCE TO “BISEXUAL” AND TRANSGENDERED INDIVIDUALS, A CERTAIN TYPE OF EXCLUSIVE HOMOSEXUAL SOCIALIZES WITH THESE TWO GROUPS ON A REGULAR BASIS. [Let’s be real, gay men and lesbians really don’t care about each other. I R-A-R-E-L-Y hear gay men talk about lesbians – when I do, it is usually a slur]. THEREFORE, WOULDN’T THE OVERALL HOMOSEXUAL COMMUNITY [WHO WANTS LEGALIZATION] BE MORE SUCCESSFUL IF INDIVIDUAL FACETS PURSUED THEIR “AGENDAS” SEPARATELY? I SUPPORT INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH THOSE WHO RIDICULE THE SITUATION IN IRAQ.
    THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

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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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Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

Allege law requires Christians to violate their religious beliefs

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Alabama State Capitol, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade
Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

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