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NATIONAL Toni Atkins, Maine, bisexual advocate dies, Jussie Smollett, school board
by Andrew Davis
2024-01-26

This article shared 15505 times since Fri Jan 26, 2024
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San Diego leader and California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins kicked off her bid to become California's next governor, becoming the latest Democrat to join the 2026 race, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Atkins is the first woman and first openly LGBTQ+ person to have held both of the legislature's top jobs. At the San Diego Air and Space Museum, she said, "Many have said that, in 2026, it's time for California to finally elect a woman governor. As the most qualified candidate running for governor, who also happens to be a woman, I agree." Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis was the first to formally announce her own bid; state schools superintendent Tony Thurmond and former Controller Betty Yee have also announced intentions to run. (Gov. Gavin Newsom, facing term limits, will be ineligible to seek re-election.)

In Maine, a proposed statute would make the state a "trans refuge" as lawmakers push back on attempts by some state attorneys general to demand private medical information from health authorities, LGBTQ Nation noted. Texas, in particular, has been at the forefront of attempts to persecute trans youth and their parents, along with hospitals, doctors, and healthcare providers, across state borders. If the law passes, Maine would join 14 other states and D.C. in protecting transgender children and parents.

A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin—a longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate who co-founded the National Coalition of Black Gays in 1978 and helped organize the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979—died Jan. 19 at age 81 at his and his husband's winter home in Chetumal, Mexico, The Washington Blade reported. His partner and husband of 45 years, Christopher Hennin, said the cause of death was complications associated with Parkinson's Disease and advanced stage spinal stenosis. Jones-Hennin, who identified as bisexual, is credited with advancing the presence of the bisexual community within the LGBTQ+-rights movement.

Jussie Smollett was trending because conservative trolls (The Silent Majority, specifically) on X decided to compare U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee to the embattled gay actor after she related a racist incident that happened on Capitol Hill, The Root noted. Lee described her encounter with a white man thusly: She told him, "'Sir, I'm a member of Congress,' and I showed him my pin. And he says, 'Whose pin did you steal?'" Several people came to Lee's defense, arguing that every time Black people talk about racism, they bring up Smollett.

In North Carolina, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board defied state law by not requiring its schools to notify parents when their students ask to be identified by a different name or pronoun at school, per The News & Observer. The district's new policy also does not ban classroom instruction about gender identity, sexuality or sexual activity in kindergarten through fourth grade. The state legislature approved the Parents' Bill of Rights in August, overriding Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's attempted veto. Critics say the law, sometimes called the "Don't Say Gay" law, targets LGBTQ students and the teachers who support them.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Greater New York Dinner will take place Feb. 3 at the New York Hilton Midtown, per a press release. Honorees will include HRC Equality Award recipient and Oscar nominee Colman Domingo; HRC Corporate Visibility Award recipient and Macy's, Inc. Chairman & CEO Jeff Gennette; and HRC Trailblazer Award recipient and trans actress Trace Lysette. Additional guests will include Jesse James Keitel, Bruce Cohen, Peppermint, Marti Cummings, Aaron Goldenberg, Brita Filter and others.

San Francisco's Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club voted to rescind its endorsement of President Joe Biden in the March primary, citing "widespread outrage" and "indignation" from its members over the president's handling of the war in Gaza, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The group made clear that its withdrawal of the Biden endorsement only applies to the March primary election, not to the general election in November, when Biden could yet again face off against former President Donald Trump in a repeat of the 2020 race. A statement read, in part, "This decision, overturning our endorsement vote previously held in October 2023, reflects widespread outrage and international indignation over the President's handling of the Israel-Gaza conflict which has now soared to [more than] 25,000 civilian deaths."

In D.C., the sudden and unexpected deaths of two gay men from an apparent drug overdose on Dec. 27 at one of the men's homes has triggered an outcry for the city and the community to become more aggressive in addressing the opioid overdose problem and how it is impacting the LGBTQ+ community, The Washington Blade reported. Reports showed that D.C. attorney and LGBTQ+-rights supporter Brandon Roman, 38, and historic preservation expert/home renovation business owner Robert "Robbie" Barletta, 28, were found unconscious when police and emergency medical personnel arrived at Barletta's house.

A California judge temporarily suspended a recently enacted rule requiring police officers to disclose their gender identity when they report traffic stops, The Advocate noted, citing The San Francisco Chronicle. The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) and other law enforcement groups filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement under the state's Racial and Identity Profiling Act. The requirement, implemented by Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta's office, was part of a broader initiative to gather detailed data on traffic stops; it required officers to classify their gender identity as cisgender, transgender or nonbinary.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an order upholding most of an order issued last year by Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Alan Albright banning Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath from enforcing a law intended to exclude many materials with sexually-related content from public schools in the state, Gay City News reported. Albright found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claim that the law violated their free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.

In his State of the State address, Republican Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (like many counterparts associated with his party) brought an anti-LGBTQ+ tone. According to a SeattlePI.com item, Pillen, among other things, expressed support for a divisive bill that would restrict transgender student participation in high school sports as well as limit trans students' access to bathrooms and locker rooms. He also backed proposals to close several tax loopholes for special interests, transfer $274 million from the accounts of about 500 state agency cash funds toward property tax relief, and raise a tax on cigarettes by as much as $2 a pack.

More than two years after being sued by Pride Houston 365 over claims of fraud and embezzlement, Lorin "Lo" Roberts—the nonprofit's former president and executive director—was ordered to pay $1.2 million in damages, according to Houston Public Media. Judge Tamika Craft granted partial summary judgment against Roberts, who was the group's president during 2017-20 before being hired as its first executive director. Among other things, Roberts—who was terminated by Pride Houston one month before the lawsuit was filed—was ordered to pay $300,000 in compensatory damages and $900,000 in punitive damages related to the nonprofit's claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, embezzlement, theft, fraud and fraud inducement.

In California, the FBI has renewed calls for help on the three-year anniversary of the bombing of a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ church in El Monte, KTLA reported. On Jan. 23, 2021, First Works Baptist Church was the site of a bombing attack carried out by at least two people. First Works had made headlines due to its controversial opinions regarding the LGBTQ+ community and same-sex relationships. The Southern Poverty Law Center deemed the church a hate group, and a Change.org petition to have the church ousted from the city had collected thousands of online signatures.

A study stated that approximately 65,000 pregnancies have resulted from rape in states where abortion is not legal, CNN reported. In the study that was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers from Planned Parenthood, Resound Research for Reproductive Health and various academic institutions used a combination of federal surveys on crime and sexual violence to estimate that there were about 520,000 rapes that resulted in 64,565 pregnancies in the time since abortion bans have been enacted in 14 states. "Restricting abortion access to survivors of rape can have particularly devastating consequences," the medical journal's editors wrote in a note about the new research. "Whether these survivors of rape had illegal abortions, received medication abortion through the mail, traveled to other states, or carried the child to birth is unknown."

In Wyoming last month, Wheatland Middle School canceled a student play about bullying due to its LGBTQ+ content—but the show has now gone on with sponsorship of a community theater group, The Advocate noted. The school planned to stage The Bullying Collection, which consists of several vignettes dealing with the various reasons bullying arises; however, Principal Robert Daniel canceled it after seeing a preview performance one day before it was scheduled to open, per The Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Nevertheless, The Platte County Players made sure the production was staged. The troupe obtained the rights to The Bullying Collection; moreover, since it uses space at Wheatland High School for its own shows, it enabled the middle school students to perform it at that venue in January.

Nashville recently held its first blood drive for newly-eligible LGBTQ+ donors, WPLN reported. In 2023, the FDA ended a 40-year rule that prohibited gay and bisexual men from giving blood. Blood centers are now looking to newly-eligible donors for help. Middle Tennessee's blood supply is at an all-time low; however, natural disasters are keeping demand at an all-time high.

Anti-LGBTQ+ U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Florida) complained about gay U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg taking "maternity leave" to care for his twins when they needed medical attention in their first months of life, almost three years ago, LGBTQ Nation noted. "Pete Buttigieg got maternity leave and I didn't. And he's a dude," she wrote on X. "It's time Congress gets with the times." However, Pete's husband, Chasten, responded, "Every parent deserves parental leave. Those first weeks are so crucial for parents and newborns. What a shame to see Representative Luna tarnish this bipartisan effort with unnecessary homophobia. 'Getting with the times' would serve you well, Congresswoman."

Dexter Scott King—the youngest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—has died at age 62 after a battle with prostate cancer, CNN reported. A graduate of Morehouse College, Dexter chaired The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a nonprofit started by mother Coretta Scott King in the wake of her husband's assassination, and was president of the King Estate, according to King Center representatives. In addition to continuing his father's civil-rights work, Dexter was an animal-rights activist and vocal vegan.

The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr took to social media to blast former U.S. President Donald Trump for using the iconic band's songs at his rallies, Deadline noted. "Ahh…right…OK. I never in a million years would've thought this could come to pass," said Marr on X. "Consider this sh*t shut right down right now." Adele and Aerosmith, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Tom Petty, the estate of Prince and the Village People are among those who have objected to Trump playing their music.

A 30-year-old man was arrested in Brazil on Jan. 18 for his alleged role in the stabbing murder of prominent NYC art dealer Brent Sikkema, Gay City News reported. Authorities took Cuban resident Alejandro Triana Trevez into custody in Uberaba, Brazil. Sikkema, 75—who was found dead in his Rio de Janeiro home on Jan. 16—founded the Sikkema Jenkins & Co. art gallery. Multiple reports say Sikkema is survived by his husband, Daniel, and 12-year-old son; however, there are very few details about his personal life. The Daily Mail noted that Sikkema was reportedly in the middle of a $6-million divorce when he was killed.


This article shared 15505 times since Fri Jan 26, 2024
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