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DADT discharges examined

The U.S. Department of Defense took the 12th anniversary of the repeal of the Clinton era, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy to announce a review of the 35,000 service members dishonorably discharged under anti-homosexual policies. If no non-homo issues are involved, the “dishonorable discharge” will be changed to “honorable.” The status change will allow these veterans to access veteran services currently unavailable, such as health care and tuition assistance. There has been a process to remove the “dishonorable” tag, but less than 1,500 veterans have used it. A class action lawsuit was filed, claiming the process was cumbersome and difficult.

Waters’ star shines

Legendary film director and gay and lesbian favorite, John Waters, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Waters said. “I’m so grateful that I have always had an audience, and I’m lucky that that audience lets me get away with the things I do, and that they have allowed me to do the things I do for so long.” The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures also opened an exhibit of his work, “The Pope of Trash,” to run through August 2024. Museum co-curators Jenny He and Dara Jaffe, called Waters, “A massive inspiration to other artists who rebelled against the mainstream.”

Waters reveals the ins and outs of Divine

The John Waters exhibit at The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures includes many artifacts from his longtime friend Glenn Milstead. Known as “Divine,” Milstead appeared in Waters’ movies, “Roman Candles,” “Pink Flamingos,” “Polyester,“ and “Hairspray.” “Divine was such a good friend and partner. He was big and loud, and never afraid to take on these crazy storylines with me.” Waters notes that, “Divine was not trans or walked around in women’s clothes. In fact, he always wore high-priced men’s suits. He told me that he wanted to be a cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Godzilla, and that pretty much described him.”

Don’t even whisper “gay”

The Charlotte County Schools Superintendent ordered the removal of all books and material containing LGBTQ characters and themes from its Florida classrooms and campus libraries. The “super” claimed his order was to comply with the law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” After a dust-up with the “Florida Freedom to Read Project,” a group opposing the law, the district allowed some exceptions for high school libraries. Books featuring LGBTQ characters can be had at the media center by grades 9–12. The books are prohibited from classroom instruction. Even with the climb-down, Charlotte CS policy remains one of the strictest enforcements among Florida’s 67 school districts.

Senator Diane Feinstein, RIP

If she did nothing else in her life, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, dead at age 90, has a big place in gay and lesbian history as a political ally and close friend of Harvey Milk. They both served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. It was Feinstein who found Milk’s body and announced his death, as well as SF Mayor George Moscone’s, by an assassin in 1978. Her calm and compassionate presence on television and her leadership as SF mayor gave her a place in the hall of gay and lesbian heroes. Her tenure was marked by the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which hit her city especially hard. In the mid-1980s, San Francisco spent more to combat HIV/AIDS than the federal government. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, where she advocated for gay and lesbian rights: opposing, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies and the “Defense of Marriage Act.” She was a gradualist for marriage equality, but strongly opposed the anti-marriage equality California Proposition 8, and supported civil unions from the time of her election to Obergefell Ruling. She supported nondiscrimination legislation, strong hate crime legislation, and opposed bans on transgender persons serving in the military. She may have hung on a little longer than some would like, but she was worth it.

Replacement for Feinstein announced

Laphonza Butler will be the first Black lesbian to serve in the U. S. Congress. California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed the current Maryland resident to replace deceased Senator Feinstein. Butler was a policy advisor to then-Senator, now Vice President, Kamala Harris. She was appointed president of EMILY’s List, a political action committee that is one of the largest donors to Democratic Party candidates. The pro-choice group’s mission is to support women candidates for elective office. She had served as the executive of the largest labor union in California, the SEIU. Butler can run for the office at the end of term. This disappointed U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, who was touted by many to fulfill Newsom’s promise to only consider a Black woman to succeed Feinstein.

Pronouns in school

A survey of 20,000 adults living in the U.S. shows Americans do not believe teachers should use a student’s chosen name that aligns with their current gender identity without informing the student’s parents. In aggregate, 60% want parents in the loop. Adults aged 18 to 34 score 51 percent, 64 percent of adults aged 35 to 64 want parent involvement, and 60 percent of those aged 65 and above want parents to know.

HRC annual dinner features the president and his Dr.

For the fourth time, the current U.S. president will be the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual national dinner. His Dr.-wife and current first lady will also offer remarks. HRC lauded the president for supporting nondiscrimination, lifting the blanket ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, and signing the Respect for Marriage Act. As vice-president he pushed the president he served at the time to support marriage equality before that president was ready to do so. “He (Joe) probably got out a little bit over his skis,” was that president’s admission that he supported marriage equality, just not yet. HRC will award television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes with the National Equality Award; actor, writer, and producer Lena Waithe will receive the Visibility Award; and actor Matt Bomer will receive the Impact Award. The four transgender young people who organized a Trans Youth Prom will receive special recognition as forces for transgender justice.

Philly journalist murdered, person of interest identified

Speculation on the murder of Josh Kruger, a writer for The Advocate and its sister publication, Plus who was killed in Philadelphia, ran from a hate crime to crime of passion to political hit. Philly Police identified a suspect in the killing who seems to have had a complex relationship with the gay journalist. The suspect’s family claims he met Kruger at a homeless youth service provider where Kruger worked. They suggest a drug and sex relationship between the two turned sour. Police initially said Kruger, “was just trying to help him (the suspect) get through life.” Police have since revealed there is evidence in Kruger’s home and on his phone they called, “disturbing.” 

Conversion therapy

You may have thought that conversion therapy is out of favor, but you would be wrong. A study of mental health care providers’ published articles, reports, and studies in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Colombia, South Korea, and the U.K., shows conversion therapy is still used among adults. The bad kind of conversion therapy designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity through “talk therapy,” not to be confused with gender-affirming care, which uses drugs, hormone therapies, and surgery to change a person’s sexual and/or gender identity in a good way, has been condemned by major medical and mental health groups. It also has been banned for minors by many governments in the United States and Europe. The study was published in the journal “PLOS One,” and says overall, 4 percent of gay and lesbian people were subjects of conversion therapy. Twelve percent of transgender people were subjected to the bad kind of conversion therapy. The median of 13 percent of gay, lesbian, and transgender patients in the U.S. reported having experienced the therapy. More males than females are subject to therapy, with young adults being the most prevalent subjects of therapy.

Colorado baker goes to court, again

It is tough being a Christian baked goods artisan in Colorado. First, Jack Phillips was busted for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple’s nuptial celebration. The Colorado civil rights regulators fined him, but the U. S. Supreme Court found, in 2018, that the regulators showed animus toward his religion and ruled against the state. Next, he refused to make a cake celebrating an MTF transition, which got him sued. The suit says his refusal breaks Colorado’s antidiscrimination law. Phillips says that making a cake decorated with the gender-change message is against his religious beliefs and is compelled speech. A Colorado appeals court has sided with the plaintiff, and the Colorado Supreme Court decided to take up the case. Another SCOTUS decision for a Colorado designer who refused to make a website for a same-sex wedding may be just the ingredient Phillips needs to have his cake and eat it too by winning on constitutional grounds, not a technicality.

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