News Briefs — February 2020

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USN Ship Milk

US Military policies have evolved from “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to “Let’s Name A Ship After Harvey Milk.” The keel for USNS Harvey Milk has been laid in San Diego. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. He also served in the Navy as a “dive officer.” The ship being built is one which will lubricate the fleet, officially called an “Oiler.”

Torching the rainbow

An Iowa man was sentenced to 15 years for burning a “rainbow” flag which was flying at a church in Nevada, Iowa. He was convicted of a hate crime and arson, and given a year for reckless use of explosives or fire and 30 days for harassment. He’s said he tore down the flag that had been hanging from the United Church of Christ in and burned it because he opposes homosexuality.

Big money for Mayor Pete

Mayor Pete is crying all the way to the bank after being criticized for holding a fundraiser in a “wine cave.” He banked $25 million in the 2019 fourth-quarter fundraising period. He was behind Bernie, but out-raised everyone else on the Democratic Party Presidential Primary ticket. The current, Republican, president raised $46 million in the 4th quarter. No word on what type of cave the president’s money came from.

“Hello Dolly, Goodbye Jerry”

Jerry Herman, the award-winning composer-lyricist of Broadway shows including Mame, and Hello, Dolly! died at age 88. He wrote the LGBT anthem, “I Am What I Am,” for La Cage aux Folles. Appropriately inspired by Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun in 1946, he worked during the golden age of American musical comedy. A long-time survivor of HIV-AIDS, he lost his first partner in 1989 to the disease but lived long enough to legally marry and is survived by his husband and their god-child. He won several Tony Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Tony, and the Kennedy Center Honors.

United Methodists to split

The United Methodist Church has announced an agreement outlining how the U.S.A.’s third-largest religious denomination will split over the issue of LGBTQ inclusion. Some congregations, none in Utah, want to continue as what they see as a Biblical prohibition of homosexuality. The revanchist Wesley Covenant will leave with $25 million in revenue and church property. The Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation still needs to be approved by delegates to the UMC’s general conference, which is scheduled to take place in Minneapolis in May. The holdup must be that the Wesley-ans are still debating keeping the Biblical injunction to stone mouthy teenagers and not mix cotton and polyester in one outfit. 

HIV flyers keep wings for now

The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling preventing the U.S. Air Force from discharging service members simply because they’re HIV-positive. The ruling allows two USAF service members to remain in the service while the case proceeds. USAF policy calls for discharge as the service members may be sent to countries with laws prohibiting HIV-positive and gay soldiers from deployment. The two were discharged from the CENTCOM command which covers Africa and the Middle East, home to the most virulently anti-gay cultures in all of the places the USAF fights to protect. Lower courts ruled the discharge violated the American with Disabilities Act as no medical fitness exams were performed and discharge was peremptory since the two men hadn’t yet been assigned internationally. 

NBA exec weds LTBF

Men getting married to men in the U.S. may seem like non-news any more, but Rick Welts marrying his longtime boyfriend is still noteworthy. Welts is the GM of a franchise in a business category often thought of as “Toxic Masculinity.” He has run the NBA’s Golden State Warriors since 2011. His appointment then made him the most prominent U.S. sports executive to publicly identify as a gay man. He stepped up his gay game by marrying his long-time partner, Todd Gage, in a ceremony officiated by the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed. 

State legislatures flex culture war muscles

Tennessee, South Dakota, Kentucky, and Florida legislatures are debating LGBT bills in 2020 sessions. The Tennessee House of Representatives followed the state senate in passing a law giving adoption agencies the ability to refuse service to a couple if the adoption would, “violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” The law was opposed by the Tennessee ACLU and Tennessee Equality Project because of the potential for discrimination against LGBT couples seeking to adopt. The law goes to Governor Bill Lee (R) for signature, who says he will sign it.

In South Dakota, a bill was introduced disallowing doctors offering therapy or procedures to change a patient’s “gender” to anyone younger than 18 years of age. Hormone therapies, puberty blockers, and surgeries would become illegal. The sponsor says the bill will do nothing to stop counseling allowing, “social transition.”

The Kentucky legislature is taking up legislation to ban conversion therapy, which would make it the 20th state to ban the practice. 

Florida bills have been “pre-filed” to ban gender-affirming health care for transgender children, repeal municipal and county ordinances protecting LGBTQ workers, and legalize so-called gay conversion therapy in places previously banning the practice.

Pantless Subway better than Tide pods

What began as a prank in New York back in 2002 has spread far and wide, with undergarment-only-wearers taking to public transport in more than 60 cities including Toronto, Berlin, and Lisbon each year. Participants are always reminded to maintain some modesty and not remove any more clothing than necessary. Gay men in the London Underground have gotten into the act with 100s of men braving the cold and riding the “Tube.” Some even did a flash-mob dance upon de-training in London’s famed and crowded Waterloo station. 

A Bridgegate too far for SCOTUS?

A 2013 media dust-up, dubbed “Bridgegate” found two advisors of then-New Jersey governor Chris Christie sentenced to jail. Their crime was causing a traffic jam on the New Jersey-to-New York Lanes of the George Washington Bridge to “punish” the Fort Lee, N.J. mayor for not endorsing their boss.

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments and six of the nine expressed skepticism that this was a federal crime. They cited the fact that one defendant, Bill Brioni, was executive director of the Port Authority and was empowered to control traffic overall bridges crossing the Hudson River.

This is good news for Brioni, who has served two months of an 18-month sentence. Prior to his appointment to the Port Authority, he was an LGBT activist and was a state senator who sponsored NJ’s marriage equality and nondiscrimination laws.

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