After backlash regarding a decision to update its anti-discrimination policy and open enrollment to some transgender applicants, a Catholic women's college in Indiana will return to its previous admission policy, per The National Catholic Reporter. In a Dec. 21 letter, St. Mary's College in Notre Dame said it had viewed the update "as a reflection of our College's commitment to live our Catholic values as a loving and just community. It is increasingly clear, however, that the position we took is not shared by all members of our community." Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of the LGBTQ Catholic advocacy group New Ways Ministry, was among those disappointed by the reversal.
In Massachusetts, police apologized after an officer was sent W.E.B. Dubois Regional Middle School to search for a copy of the Maia Kobabe book Gender Queer: A Memoir following a complaint, according to CNN. Great Barrington Police Chief Paul Storti said in a statement sent to CNN, "After a brief conversation with the teacher, the officer was advised that the book in question was not there and could not be accounted for at that time." The graphic memoir examines the non-binary author's journey with identity, and it has been one of the most banned or challenged books from school libraries in recent years.
Also regarding books, in Florida, almost 700 books have been removed from Orange County classrooms this year for fear they violate new state rules that ban making "sexual conduct" available to public school students, per Yahoo! News. Just a few of the books include East of Eden, The Color Purple, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Beloved, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Brave New World. New Florida laws (HB 1069 and HB 1467) require media specialiststeachers with additional library trainingto review and approve all books in classroom collections and school libraries and to exclude those that include pornography or "sexual conduct."
More than a decade after Congress ended the military's ban on gay service members, thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans are still fighting to restore their dignityand obtain full access to veteran benefits like health care, home loans, and college tuition that were denied after less-than-honorable discharges, according to ABC News. The Pentagon confirmed to ABC News that a new initiative to proactively review discharge records is underway and that staff have begun identifying veterans eligible for review; however, a spokesperson could not say how many personnel are involved with the outreach or when the process is expected to be completed. Since 2012, service members who were kicked out have been able to apply to a military board for a chance to have official records upgraded to remove references to sexual orientation and qualify for more benefits.
Oregon has more LGBTQ+ people per capita than any other state (at 7.8%), according to a report from The Williams Institute that The Advocate shared, OregonLive noted. After Kate Brown became the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected as governor in the history of the United States in 2016, Gov. Tina Kotek became one of the first two openly lesbian governors in 2022. There is one place in the country that has a higher percentage of LGBTQ+ people than Oregon: D.C., where, according to the Advocate, 14.3% of the population identifies as queer.
The sudden death of a young queer music teacher has devastated the South Bronx high school where she served disadvantaged teens, per The New York Post. Mia Ibrahimwho took kids on their first trips to Carnegie Hall and stocked a mini-fridge with healthy snacks for the hungrywas fatally struck on Dec. 15 by a car that ran a red light while she was crossing a street in Lexington, Kentucky. Ibrahimwho described herself on Linkedin as a "queer music educator, scholar and advocate"hung rainbow-colored flags in her classroom for every gender identity, and a "Black Lives Matter" banner to make kids feel welcome, Emily McLaughlin, a friend and science teacher at Health Opportunities High School, told The Post.
In Pennsylvania, Beaver County's South Side Area School District is considering policies that could impact LGBTQ+ students, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The three policies, introduced during the board's Dec. 6 meeting, focus on student records including names, sex and gender identity, as well as participation in athletics and restroom use. The proposals came after conservative candidates who ran on the slogan "For South Side education, not indoctrination" were elected to the board. "It's really a politicized attack on particular students, LGBTQ students," Education Law Center attorney Kristina Moon said.
Republican lawmakers in Florida and Tennessee have introduced measures that would ban the display of the Pride flag or other "political flags" from local and state government buildings and facilities, The Washington Blade noted. In Florida, Republican state Rep. David Borrero introduced HB 901, which would bar local governments and agencies from flying the Pride flag or any other banner representing a "social or political position. In Tennessee, state Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood), filed House Bill 1605, which would make it illegal for public and charter schools to display any flag other than the U.S. and state flags, targeting "political" symbols such as Pride flags.
The Iowa LGBTQ Chamber of Commercewhich first started as an affiliate of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Des Moines in Octoberis organizing business owners into a new coalition to protect the interests of a community targeted by state legislators in recent years, The Gazette reported. "With our diversity, which is largely invisible, our power comes from being visible," board member Chad Johnston said at the Eastern Iowa launch Dec. 7. "To our naysayers, we are coming out together." Dan Jansen, chair of the board for the new chamber, added that he hopes it helps bolster an image of a welcoming Iowa after a couple of difficult years for LGBTQ Iowans in the state legislature.
Groundbreaking transgender psychiatrist Dr. Jeanne Hoff has passed away at age 85, per LGBTQ Nation. Hoffwho obtained a doctorate in solid-state chemistry at London's University College, and had training and a residency as a psychiatrist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, per Gay City Newshad already begun her own transition in 1976 when she took over the New York practice of Dr. Harry Benjamin, the German-American endocrinologist/sexologist who coined the term "transvestite" in 1910 and later began referring to patients as "transsexuals." Hoff is considered the first openly transgender psychiatrist to treat trans patients, including musician Jayne County. In 1978, she was the subject of the NBC documentary Becoming Jeanne: A Search for Sexual Identity (hosted by Lynn Redgrave and Frank Field), which documented her own gender-confirmation surgery.
In Louisiana, a controversial bill affecting the LGBTQ+ community goes into effect on New Year's Day following the legislative override of the governor's veto of House Bill 648, which means there will be a ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors in the state, NOLA.com noted. Other laws that will go into effect include adding interest in bone marrow donorship to the list of options offered during application for renewal of a state-issued driver's license; creating a statewide database for individuals convicted of child abuse/neglect; and providing health-insurance coverage for standard fertility preservation services.
Rev. Sawyer Vanden Heuvel has founded Shepherd's Tablethe first LGBTQ+ place of worship in South Dakota, per a GLAAD release. "Opening Shepherd's Table has been a dream since I first connected with people while tabling with other Lutherans at a local Sioux Falls Pride event in 2021," Vanden Heuvelwho earned his Master of Divinity in 2023 from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesotaemailed GLAAD. "There, I met so many LGBTQ+ folks in the area who had stories and experiences like that of many queer folk, including myself."
President Joe Biden announced that he was granting clemency to nearly a dozen people who have been serving long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses, ABC News noted. The president also announced he was signing a proclamation to pardon certain marijuana offenses, building on action he took back in 2022 to pardon thousands of people who had been convicted of simple marijuana possession.
COVID cases continue to rise across the U.S. and the newest COVID variant, JN.1, has accounted for more than 44% of the cases, USA Today noted. The CDC estimates that JN.1 is strongest in the northeast U.S. including New Jersey and New York, where it accounts for nearly 57% of cases. First detected in the U.S. in September, JN.1 has been recorded in 12 countries including Canada, China, France, the UK, Singapore, and Sweden. Some of the symptoms include fever or chills, headaches, sore throat, "brain fog," fatigue and breathing difficulties.
After news broke of a U.S. Senate staffer having sex with another man inside a hearing room, news broke of a second investigation into a congressional staffer who allegedly filmed himself performing sex acts with another man inside the U.S. Capitol in the summer of 2022, The Advocate noted. The videos first circulated on Snapchat from a user with the screen name "Adam J," according to Semafor, which identified the staffer as a former senior House staffer of Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington. A spokesperson told the outlet that an investigation was launched regarding "purported, unbecoming behavior" last year, but that it found "no conclusive evidence."
In Clay County, Florida, the sheriff's office arrested an 18-year-old man accused of robbing at least three people that he met during the dating app Grindr, News4Jax reported. Deputies said the suspect used different profiles with the name "Larry." Then, he would set up meetings with the victims in a secluded location; once the victims arrived, the suspect revealed a firearm and demanded cash from them. Adam Ayers was arrested and charged with carjacking while carrying a firearm, kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated battery. His bond was set at more than $350,000.
A lawsuit filed by a Denver Public Schools father alleging his two children have been denied their First Amendment rights to have a "straight pride" flag in school may have a chance in court, CBS News Colorado reported. The lawsuit argues that Nathan Feldmanwho has two children attending the K-8 Slavens School in Denverwas denied being able to put up a cisgender, heterosexual flag at school. A spokesperson for LGBTQ Colorado replied, "A Straight Pride Flag speaks 'us vs. them' wherein a Pride flag lifts up an 'all of us' dynamic that recognizes the too often quiet and quieted LGBTQ+ community."
LGBTQ+ group Outright International announced that "Celebration of Courage," its annual awards gala," will take place Monday, June 3, 2024, at NYC's Pier Sixty, according to its website. The group states, "Celebration of Courage highlights Outright's achievements and elevates and advances activists and our allies leading the charge to gain equal rights for LGBTIQ people in their countries and around the world." Honorees at the 2023 event included the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality (ECADE), the queer cast of the Paramount+ Original Series Star Trek: Discovery and the philanthropic site Google.org; drag personality BeBe Zahara Benet was the host.
Openly gay Fox News sports journalist Matt Napolitano has died at age 33, The Advocate reported. He and husband Ricky Whitcomb had only been married for seven months. Napolitano joined Fox News in 2015 and operated as a one-person show at Fox News Audio, per Adweek. Whitcomb posted that Napolitano "had an autoimmune disease that he was diagnosed with almost 20 years ago and died as the result of an infection."
Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, of Michigan, encouraged the Ugandan government to "stand firm" amid the international backlash against the country's Anti-Homosexuality Act, which includes the death penalty in some cases, The Advocate noted. Walberg made the remarks at Uganda's National Prayer Breakfast, which featured anit-LGBTQ+ Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in the audience. According to reporting by The Young Turks, the trip was paid for by the secretive conservative group The Family, also known as the Fellowship Foundation.
Meghan McCain recently gave her thoughts on The View, on which she was a co-host, while speaking on the Your Welcome with Michael Malice podcast, Deadline noted. "I can't go like a week without something being said about me on the show," McCain said on the Dec. 27 episode. "The thing about The View is that I didn't know when I signed my contract with ABC that this is foreverthat, for the rest of my life, I'm going to be bullied, and yelled at, and abused and brought up for years." McCain said that what eventually led to her departure from the show was when she realized producers allegedly only wanted "someone who will agree with them and say 'all Republicans are evil and conservatives are ruining the country.'"
Sara Sidner and Cari Champion will take over the Warner Bros. Discovery network's New Year's Eve broadcast on New Year's Eve, airing from Austin, Texas, during a slot that for years served as a showcase for raucous antics from Don Lemon, per Variety. Lemon and CNN parted ways earlier this year after management tried to move him from a prominent primetime show to the network's morning program. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen will return as hosts of CNN's main coverage of the evening. The broadcast will feature performances by Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5, Jonas Brothers, Flo Rida, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker and Rod Stewart as well as live interviews with Patti Labelle, Jeremy Renner, Neil Patrick Harris, Bowen Yang and Matt Rogers.
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may run for mayor of New York City, per Page Six. Current Mayor Eric Adams is not only facing historically low approval ratings, but his office is also under investigation for its ties to the Turkish government. Adams has not been accused of wrongdoing in the probe, and has said, "Let the process carry out. … That is what's great about our country. There is a due process system in place." Cuomo resigned in 2021 after several sexual-harassment allegations against him were revealed (He has consistently denied the claims.)