News Briefs

Gay Calif. judge

Justice Martin Jenkins, a former prosecutor (and a judge) has been nominated to California’s Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jenkins will be the first Black man to serve on the court in 29 years and the first openly gay man on the court. Appropriate to National Coming Out Day, Jenkins praised living his authentic life to be a good thing, saying, “I want to say today to those young people who may be watching … that I am not here despite the struggle; I’m here because of the struggle.” Before his legal career, he played professional football for the Seattle Seahawks.

Kim Davis just won’t go away

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by Kim Davis, a former County Clerk in Kentucky’s Rowan County scorned for not issuing a marriage license to two men in 2015. Davis appealed a lower court ruling that allowed lawsuits against her to proceed. She claimed immunity from suits as she was acting from a religious conscience. All courts have now found her conscience wanting. The news was overshadowed when SCOTUS justices Alito and Thomas reiterated objection to the landmark 2015 marriage equality ruling, Obergefell v. Hodges. They said Davis was the first victim of the “ruinous consequences” for religious liberty they predicted then, would result from the decision.

Shep’s back on TV

Shepard Smith, who was a news anchor for Fox News until last October, has returned to TV on CNBC. Smith left Fox after a period of tension between the network’s news and opinion divisions, and on-air feuding between Smith and opinion host, Tucker Carlson. It was long rumored that Smith left because he confirmed in other media that he is a gay man and in a relationship. Smith denied that was an issue, telling the trade press that Fox executives were aware of his private life when he was hired two decades ago.

Calling all Yeltsins

This column reported the Village People didn’t object to playing the classic hit YMCA at Make America Great Again rallies for the current president. They may now have two reasons to object. The first reason is MAGAOTs have rewritten some of the lyrics to suit their political moment:

“Young man. Walk away from the hate. We’re all human, and we don’t segregate. Just like women help make America great. We’re all in this together. Our colors are red, white, and blue. They stand for every one of you. Together, here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna make America great! Everybody sing ‘M-A-G-A!”

Second, a video shows the featured speaker at the MAGA rally in Florida dancing to the song. His dancing likened the cringe-worthy images of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin dancing on stage while campaigning drunk in the 1990s. Yeltsin won that election and resigned in favor of the current Russian president.

2020 Tony Awards gets queer

Tony nominations are out and a gay-themed play is one of the most nominated this year, and one of the most nominated non-musicals in Tony history. The most-nominated productions were the Alanis Morissette musical Jagged Little Pill (15), Moulin Rouge! (14), Slave Play (12), Tina: The Tina Turner Musical (12), and The Inheritance (11).

The Inheritance, by Mathew Lopez, is a six-hour, two-part, blockbuster, being compared to Angels in America for its depth and breadth. It’s about 21st-century gay men in search of their collective past. They are guided by a fictional characterization of English, gay writer and icon E. M. Forester, writer of Howard’s End, and Maurice, who died in 1970. With 12 nominations (most in history for a non-musical), Slave Play is about interracial relationships in the antebellum South that is relevant today. The play is by black gay playwright Jeremy O. Harris.

Italy anti-discrimination is a tough sell

A sixth attempt to entice the Italian Parliament to approve a nondiscrimination law with a hate crime feature is being made in Rome. The bill criminalizes discrimination and incitement to violence based on someone’s race or religion, with sentences up to four years. Demonstrations supporting the bill are scheduled in 50 Italian cities. Dueling pro and con demonstrations are anticipated in Rome.

Italy’s largest LGBT+ rights group, Arcigay, notes attempts over the last 25 years to lawfully punish acts of homophobia and transphobia that failed. Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016 but faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups so it does not allow marriage equality. Fifty-nine percent of Italian approve of same-sex relationships, compared with 95 percent of Swedes and well below a European Union average of 72 percent.

The eyes of Texas, not on LGBT

Social workers in Texas can now refuse therapy to LGBT clients, ruled the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners. The changes supposedly put the professionals more in line with state statutes, according to the board chair, based on an opinion from the State Attorney General. The board banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2010 and gender identity and expression in 2012. Blow-back from the state’s social workers and the LGBT community lead to the chair to announce the board would,  “Revisit the issue — at least partially — at the council’s next meeting.”

COVID strikes, bars close for good

The COVID-19 pandemic is administering the coup de grâce to gay bars in the U.S. Some of the best-known gay bars in metropolitan cities — Atlanta’s Eagle, Portland’s C.C. Slaughter, WEHO’s Rage, and New York’s Rawhide and Splash — are closing their doors. A historical loss is the closure of The Stud, San Francisco’s venerable leather bar.  At least 60 gay bars nationwide, after struggling with changing demographics and online dating, can’t take the COVID shutdowns and regulations of crowd density. It’s not just the bigger cities seeing the closures; bars in East St. Louis, Spokane, and Albuquerque’s Social Club, called SOCH by locals, are closing.

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