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National News in brief: March 30

Pro-gay effort dwarfs NOM Starbucks boycott,7 in 10 hid orientation in Alaska, Philly to pay damages to Boy Scouts, and more

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Despite a concerted push, a pro-gay effort supporting Starbucks is beating an anti-gay boycott in number of pledges by a factor of nearly 10 to 1. (Screen capture dumpstarbucks.com)

Pro-gay effort dwarfs NOM’s Starbucks boycott

SEATTLE — Despite an effort by an anti-gay group to pressure coffee retail giant Starbucks to change course on its stance supporting same-sex marriage, the push is severely lagging behind a pro-gay effort to thank the company.

After Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stood by the company’s backing of an effort to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Washington State, the National Organization for Marriage launched the boycott website called dumpstarbucks.com where visitors recorded their pledge to avoid the coffee retailer. However, with less than 25,000 pledges, the effort has been overshadowed by a pro-gay response in which nearly 300,000 have recorded their appreciation for Starbucks through the corporate accountability site, SumOfUs.org.

“Frankly, we were stunned,” Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of SumOfUs.org told the Washington Blade, saying she believes they’re on track to reach 500,000 signatures. “I think it shows that consumers really are for LGBT rights, and they really are for marriage equality.”

‘Bully’ to be unrated after petition protest

LOS ANGELES — After a public outcry, the MPAA has reversed its decision to rate as “R” a movie about the effects of bullying.

About 475,000 people signed Katy Butler’s petition on Change.org to urge the ratings group to change or lower the rating on the documentary, slated for a March 30 release, because of its message to teens to combat bullying. The “R” rating was applied due to some offensive language that appears in the film — language that advocates say reflects a small portion of what bullied kids actually hear in their schools every day. The movie will now be released unrated, according to the Weinstein Company.

7 in 10 hid orientation in Alaska: survey

ANCHORAGE — A recent Identity, Inc survey shows that more than 70 percent of LGBT respondents in Anchorage, Ala., hid their sexual orientation from an employer for fear of losing their jobs. Forty-four percent report having been harassed by an employer or co-worker for their sexual orientation.

The survey results, published in the Anchorage Daily News, come just ahead of a citywide vote on a proposed ordinance to extend job protections to citizens based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Alaska is one of 31 states where it is legal for private employers to fire someone solely based on sexual orientation. Anchorage votes on April 3.

 2 school districts face LGBT-related lawsuits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The school district in the small town of Camdenton, Mo., faces a lawsuit by the ACLU after allowing students to visit anti-gay websites, while blocking safe, pro-gay sites.

The New York Times reports that students complained they could reach anti-gay websites, like those of “ex-gay” group Exodus International, but could not visit the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. Though the blocking was done by software, the ACLU accuses the school of inaction after complaints were filed.

In another school in Atlanta, Reuben Lack is suing to be reinstated as Student Council president, after he was removed by administrators for proposing gender-neutral replacements to “Prom King,” and “Prom Queen” in an effort to be inclusive to LGBT students, according to TV station 11 Alive.

Philly to pay damages for evicting Boy Scouts

PHILADELPHIA — A judge has ruled the city of Philadelphia must pay the Boy Scouts nearly $900,000 after attempting to evict the group from a city building over the national organization’s policy of excluding gays as troop leaders.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the scouts won their case in 2010, but have been wrangling with the city over a settlement until now.

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National

DOJ urged to investigate threats against providers of transition-related care

Boston-area hospital forced to evacuate in August

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A coalition of major health organizations are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigation threats against providers of gender transition-related medical care for youth, asserting ongoing hostility, including bomb threats and threats of personal violence.

The letter, dated Oct. 3, says medical providers are facing threats for providing “evidence-based health care” to youth, which has meant care for gender transitions, such as hormones, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery. The targets of these threats, the letter says, are children’s hospitals, academic health systems and physicians across the country.

“These coordinated attacks threaten federally protected rights to health care for patients and their families,” the letter says. “The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation, where a few high-profile users on social media share false and misleading information targeting individual physicians and hospitals, resulting in a rapid escalation of threats, harassment and disruption of care across multiple jurisdictions.”

The letter has an organizational signature from American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association, listing no names as representatives. According to the letter, the group represent 270,000 physicians and medical students and CHA represents more than 220 children’s hospitals across the country.

Major health organizations call on the U.S. Justice Department to take action weeks after Boston Children’s Hospital was forced to evacuate over a bomb threat. Authorities later arrested a woman charged with making the after she reportedly phoned in the threat and called the staff “sickos.”

The threats, the letter says, have had significant impact on providers and services to patients, including a new mother being prevented from being with her preterm infant because of a bomb threat; the need for increased security at children’s hospitals; and staffers facing “increased threats via social media – including to their personal accounts.”

A statement from organizations accompanying the letter urges social media companies — including Twitter, TikTok and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram — to “do more to prevent coordinated campaigns of disinformation.”

Jack Resneck, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement accompanying the letter “individuals in all workplaces have the right to a safe environment, out of harm’s way and free of intimidation or reprisal.”

“As physicians, we condemn groups that promote hate-motivated intolerance and toxic misinformation that can lead to grave real-world violence and extremism and jeopardize patients’ health outcomes,” Resneck said.

The Washington Blade has placed a call in with the Justice Department seeking comment on the letter and the American Medical Association seeking comment on why the letter has organizational signatures as opposed to signatures from any of their representatives.

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Virginia

Youngkin makes additional appointments to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

Governor plans to revise transgender, nonbinary student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday announced the appointment of three people to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Youngkin named Kerry Flynn, Jason Geske and Collin J. Hite to the board.

Casey Flores, the president of Log Cabin Republicans of Richmond, in July resigned from the board before his tenure was to begin. The resignation came amid growing criticism over a series of anti-LGBTQ and misogynist comments he made against Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), among others.

Youngkin last month announced he plans to revise the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students. Thousands of high school students across Virginia on Sept. 27 walked out of class in protest of the planned revision.

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Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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