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Catholic students stage walkout in support of lesbian classmate

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Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, California, near Los Angeles. (RNS/Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Students at the largest Catholic High School in California have staged a walkout as a show of solidarity for a lesbian classmate disciplined for her sexuality.

About 200 teens at Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, CA, walked out of classes on November 8th to protest the treatment of a former student who claims staff mistreated her for three years, eventually causing her to transfer out of the school.

The demonstration came in the wake of a report from Buzzfeed describing the alleged mistreatment of Magali Rodriguez, who told the outlet that she and her girlfriend had been disciplined by the school even though same-sex relationships were not officially banned. The senior student claimed administrators had forced them to sit apart, could no longer chat together during breaks, and told them that if they were caught breaking the rules they would be outed to their parents. The two girls were allegedly even made to attend mandatory counseling sessions.

When Rodriguez decided to come out on her own, her parents were appalled by the mistreatment the school had forced their daughter to endure.

The day after the Buzzfeed article was posted, the student body at Bishop Amat staged a walkout in support of their former classmate.

One student told the outlet, “I decided to walk out because I wanted to take a stand. I didn’t agree with what the administration did with the situation. I feel like it was a good idea for the student body to stand as one to show our support for Magali.”

Since the walkout, officials at the school have taken a hardline stance in their response to the protests, releasing a statement claiming that Bishop Amat “is committed to providing a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students, irrespective of their sexual orientation,” before going on to add that students are also “held to the same policies and procedures in compliance with the accepted teachings of the Catholic Church.”

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Politics

Anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian activist Pat Robertson is dead at 93

Televangelist was infamous for making outrageous and offensive statements

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Pat Robertson (Screen capture via Youtube)

Anti-LGBTQ Christian-media mogul, televangelist, conservative political activist, and evangelical Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson died at 93, representatives from his Christian Broadcasting Network confirmed on Thursday.

A public figure who was active in American politics since the 1960s, Robertson became as known for making Christianity central to the Republican Party as he was for his outrageously offensive comments targeting LGBTQ people as well as Haitians, Black People, Muslims, Jewish people, Buddhists, and many others.

  • When fellow anti-LGBTQ evangelical televangelist and erstwhile rival Jerry Falwell appeared on his flagship television program The 700 Club on the week of September 11, 2001, Robertson replied “I totally concur” when Falwell laid blame for the terror attacks on “the ACLU” along with “the pagans and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians.”
  • In 2020, Robertson falsely predicted that “without question Trump is going to win the election,” going on to support efforts to keep Trump in office and vowing that “God himself would intervene” on the former president’s behalf.
  • “These people are crazed fanatics,” Robertson said on the 700 Club, talking about Muslims, “and I want to say it now: I believe it’s motivated by demonic power. It is Satanic and it’s time we recognize what we’re dealing with.” 
  • Three years later, in 2009, he said, “Islam is a violent – I was going to say, ‘religion’, but it’s not a religion; it’s a political system. It’s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world, and world domination.”
  • Feminism, Robertson famously wrote in a 1992 fundraising letter, “is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
  • After the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Robertson warned Christian business that gay customers will “make you conform to them”: “You’re gonna say that you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality,” he said. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to conform your religious beliefs to the group of some abhorrent thing. It won’t stop at homosexuality.”
  • In 1998, Robertson said divine retribution would soon ensnare the city of Orlando as punishment for Disney World’s Gay Days, in the form of “earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”
  • “This is a devastating blow to religious freedom and to the sanctity of America,” he said in 2019 in response to the U.S. House’s passage of the Equality Act, which would codify nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. He continued, “If you want to bring the judgment of God on this nation, you just keep this stuff up. You know, I was reading in Leviticus where it said, ‘Because of these things, the land will vomit you out.’ Vomit you out. I think God will say, ‘I’ve had it with America, if you do this kind of stuff, I’m going to get rid of you as a nation.’” Robertson then warned of “the potential of atomic war” and the possibility of an attack on the country’s electric grid.
  • In 2006, on his website Robertson began claiming that he could leg-press 2,000 pounds through training and an “Age-Defying energy shake.”
  • The following year, commenting on people who have had too much plastic surgery, Robertson said “they got the eyes like they’re Oriental” and manually stretched his eyelids.
  • Another of his more infamous rants came in 2010, when Robertson claimed on The 700 Club that the earthquake in Haiti that year — which killed hundreds of thousands and impacted millions — was caused because Haitians made a deal with the devil when the country won independence from French colonial rule in 1791.
  • When a viewer called in to The 700 Club in 2012 to request advice, complaining that his wife did not respect him, Robertson said the caller could move to Saudi Arabia and become a Muslim so he could beat her.
  • Discussing AIDS in 2013, Robertson said, “You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson said. “Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.”
  • In 2021, Robertson said critical race theory will give people of color “the whip handle” over white people.
  • When a gunman killed 60 people and wounded hundreds more in Las Vegas in 2017, Robertson blamed “disrespect” for then-President Donald Trump and the practice among professional football players and others of taking the knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
  • In February of 2022, Robertson said Russian President Vladimir Putin was “compelled by God” to invade Ukraine to fulfill the “end times prophecy” in Israel.

Likely one of the ugliest hate-mongering statements he made, and which especial condemnation was leveled at him, occurred in the aftermath of the June 12, 2016, massacre when 49 LGBTQ+ people were killed at Pulse, an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a shooter who’d pledged allegiance to a radical form of Islam.

Robertson told viewers on his religious 700 Club broadcast the following day that Americans should just let LGBTQ+ people and Muslims kill each other:

“The left is having a dilemma of major proportions, and I think for those of us who disagree with some of their policies, the best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves,” he said.

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District of Columbia

DC Front Runners Pride 5K to take place as scheduled

Air quality improved overnight

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The D.C. Front Runners hold the Pride Run 5K at Congressional Cemetery on Friday, June 10. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Front Runners’ annual Pride Run 5K will take place as scheduled at Congressional Cemetery on Friday.

The Blade Foundation, SMYAL, the Wanda Alston Foundation, Team DC, Teens Run DC, Pride 365 and Ainsley’s Angels of America are among the race’s beneficiaries. Wegmans, Shake Shack, Knead Hospitality and Design, Choice Hotels and Capital One Café are among the sponsors.

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Africa

South Africa retail giant supports Pride month despite customer backlash

Woolworths South Africa to continue selling LGBTQ-specific merchandize

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Woolworths South Africa has pledged to continue celebrating Pride month despite the backlash it has received from some customers. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Itai)

A South Africa retail giant has vowed to continue celebrating Pride month and LGBTQ and intersex people despite backlash from some customers.

Woolworths South Africa said will continue offering its Pride regalia to its staff and selling merchandize that recognizes the LGBTQ and intersex community. Woolworths South Africa also said it has established a Woolworths Pride (W.Pride) team, citing its values are firmly in favor of kindness and inclusivity. 

“We have established an internal W.Pride task team to give voice to and address issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. We have adapted our working wardrobe policy to recognize everyone’s unique preferences to style, cultural or religious needs and gender identity or expression. We have created a range of Pride merchandise and are donating funds to LGBTQIA+ support organizations,” said Woolworths South Africa. “However, we know that there is always more to be done; and we will keep looking for ways to enable, uplift and celebrate the LGTBQIA+ community. Our community guidelines don’t allow for hate speech or discrimination. Our values are firmly in favor of kindness and inclusivity.” 

OUT, an LGBTQ and intersex rights organization that is based in South Africa, commended Woolworths South Africa and criticized the backlash it received from some of its customers.

“Woolworths’ public affirmation of LGBTQIA+ allyship aligns with South Africa’s vision of a society that guarantees equality, safety and dignity for all. It’s also clear that Woolworths recognizes the importance of celebrating diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community, rather than merely tolerating it,” said OUT Human Rights Coordinator Sibonelo Ncanana. “However, the level of hateful discourse we have seen on social media in response to Woolworths’ Pride campaign is disheartening and shameful. We urge the company and other LGBTQIA+ allies within the corporate sector to stand firm against fear and hate. They should remain steadfast in the knowledge that they are on the right side of history and our constitutional values.” 

Activists hope to use Pride to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ violence, discrimination

Although South Africa is the only African country on the continent that constitutionally recognizes LGBTQ and intersex people, sporadic attacks and hate speech remain common. One of the reasons is South African society remains oriented around cultural and religious beliefs that denounce LGBTQ and intersex people. 

Violence against LGBTQ and intersex South Africans that includes rape, murder and mutilation also remains a problem.

Tankisho Tawanyana, a 34-year-old lesbian woman from Kimberly, last October was raped and killed by three men who later doused her with paraffin and set her on fire. Two women in April 2021 killed  Khulekani Gomazi, a transgender woman from Mpophomeni.

Some LGBTQ and intersex rights organizations have therefore taken it upon themselves to try and ensure South African students are taught to accept people from different gender identities in order to curb attacks based on gender identity.

The Uthingo Network and 23 other civil society organizations have already raised a series of concerns about the ongoing queerphobic bullying and discrimination against queer students in South African schools and called on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, to hold teachers accountable and create queer-affirming school environments.

“It does not matter who you are or whom you love, everyone has a constitutional right to be themselves. Uthingo Network promotes equal rights for LGBTQI+ South Africans,” said Uthingo Network.

Despite these problems, a number of LGBTQ and intersex rights organizations will host Pride events throughout South Africa in the coming months with the hope of raising awareness and end the discrimination and attacks against the community.

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