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    In the News: 2.9.2017

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Deal Reached to Make City College Free to San Francisco Residents

    Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Jane Kim this week announced that City College of San Francisco will soon be free of charge, likely starting next fall, for San Francisco residents. The agreement holds that the city will provide $5.4 million per year, effectively buying out the fees normally paid by students. Those fees have run $46 per credit. “Now we can say to California resident students that your City College is free,” Mayor Lee said at a news conference held at City Hall. “This is a good story.” City College Trustees and San Francisco Bay Times columnists Rafael Mandelman and Alex Randolph have been advocating for free tuition at City College for months. The city-provided funds will also allow certain full-time, low-income students to receive $250 per semester to offset the cost of health fees, school supplies, transportation and other education-related essentials. Certain part-time students will receive $100 each semester.

    Immigrant Tenant Protection Act Announced

    Assembly Bill 291, which if passed would strengthen state laws to protect immigrant tenants from intimidation and retaliation in their homes, was announced on February 3 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Mayor Ed Lee and others. AB 291 would bar landlords from disclosing information related to tenants’ immigration status. The bill would also prohibit landlords from threatening to report tenants to immigration authorities, whether in retaliation for engaging in legally-protected activities or to influence them to vacate. “Tenants should not have to live in fear simply because they are immigrants or refugees,” Assemblymember Chiu said. “Trump has declared war on immigrants, and it is clear that ripping apart families through mass deportations could be our new reality. This bill will deter the small minority of unscrupulous landlords who take advantage of the real or perceived immigration status of their tenants to engage in abusive and illegal acts.” Jith Meganathan, Policy Advocate for Western Center on Law & Poverty, a co-sponsor of the legislation, added: “Even under ordinary circumstances, immigrant tenants shouldn’t have to fear being reported to immigration authorities by their landlords, who know so much about them. The events of the last two weeks make the need for these protections only more certain.”

    San Francisco to Name Part of Tenderloin as First Transgender Historic District

    San Francisco politicians, local activists and a hotel and condominium developer came together to announce the designation of the first transgender historic district in the United States. “I’m excited that for the first time ever, and as far as I know in the world, that we are commemorating a social cultural district for the transgender and non-gender conforming community,” said San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim. The location is within the Tenderloin, which is where what is believed to be one of the first LGBTQ protests originated. The designated area will be called the Compton’s TLGBT District and will cover six blocks in the Tenderloin district from Market including two blocks of 6th Street. The new historic district gets its name from the Compton Cafeteria riots of August 1966, when police raided the business against trans customers, which sparked demonstrations and riots.

    Boy Scouts, Reversing Century-Old Stance, Will Allow Transgender Boys

    The largest scouting organization in the U.S., the Boy Scouts of America, recently announced that it would begin accepting members based on the gender listed on their application, paving the way for transgender boys to join. “For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the organization said in a statement on its website. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.” The announcement reverses a century-old policy that drew controversy late last year when a transgender boy in New Jersey was kicked out of the organization about a month after joining. “After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” Michael Surbaugh, the Scouts’ chief executive, said. The announcement came amid a national debate over transgender rights, with cities and states across the nation struggling with whether and how to regulate gender identity in the workplace, in restrooms and at schools.

    SF Board of Supervisors Approves Resolution of Support for New LGBTQ Museum 

    The Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco voted to approve a groundbreaking resolution calling on municipal authorities, philanthropists and business leaders to support the GLBT Historical Society’s efforts to develop a new LGBTQ museum and public history center in the city. Supervisor Jeff Sheehy introduced the resolution, which was cosponsored by Supervisor Jane Kim. The board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution. “Our communities have existed since time immemorial, yet our histories continually get erased,” said Supervisor Sheehy. “As recently as 1933 in what had been fabulously queer Berlin, Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Research along with the Museum of Sex were destroyed by the Nazis—and people from our communities were taken to concentration camps. The last 10 days have reminded me of those times. Asserting our right to our history is not only about remembering our past, but is also a powerful act of resistance.”

    Bay Area LGBT Leaders Denounce President Trump’s Supreme Court Pick

    President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court received wide criticism from LGBT community leaders both in the Bay Area and throughout the nation. Judge Gorsuch is a staunch conservative who has previously ruled in favor of employers invoking religious objections to restrict women’s access to reproductive care. Echoing the sentiments of many who oppose the president’s nominee, SF LGBT Center Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe said: “From the day Mr. Trump took office, his chaotic and dishonest administration has worked overtime to undermine and divide our communities. The nomination of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is just another example of his contempt for women, LGBTQ people, people of color, immigrants, and the environment. The SF LGBT Center remains committed to supporting those being affected by Mr. Trump’s dangerous policies, whoever they may be. The Center is and will always be a safe space for all. We join the millions of voices across the nation and around the globe who demand that he and his administration irrevocably reject racism, misogyny, and divisiveness.”

    LGBT March on Washington Planned for D.C. Pride Weekend

    A gay activist in New York City has set in motion plans for a “mass” LGBT march on Washington on June 11, which he hopes will be similar to the recent Women’s March on Washington that drew hundreds of thousands of people from across the country. Organizer David Bruinooge said he was inspired to create a Facebook page announcing the march on Jan. 21 while he was watching the Women’s March on Washington. He said he intentionally chose June 11 for the march because it is the same day that D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival is scheduled to be held on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. near the U.S. Capitol. Bruinooge said his thought was the march would start in the morning and end at the site of the Pride festival. Ryan Bos, executive director of the Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes the D.C. Pride events, including the Pride Parade set to take place on June 10, said he has spoken with Bruinooge and expects that Capital Pride officials will collaborate with the march organizers so the march and the D.C. Pride events will complement each other.

    Top DOJ Lawyer Joins Lambda Legal

    Lambda Legal announced the hiring of Sharon McGowan, a top attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, as the organization’s new Director of Strategy. “Sharon McGowan is one of the most influential and effective LGBT rights lawyers in the country,” said Rachel B. Tiven, CEO of Lambda Legal. “At the Department of Justice, Sharon has been a forceful voice for our community, helping usher in an unprecedented era of progress for LGBT rights. She has had a hand in virtually every major achievement on LGBT rights to come out of President Obama’s administration, from the department’s decision to stop defending DOMA to its position that discrimination on the basis of sex encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She is a brilliant legal thinker and formidable advocate. As Lambda Legal prepares to vigorously defend LGBT rights during the Trump presidency, Sharon will be an indispensable part of our team.”

    Senator Wiener Announces Bill Requiring Insurance Coverage of Medical Procedures for Long-Term HIV Survivors

    Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced the HEAL (Help End Antiretroviral-related Lipodystrophy) Act, which will require insurance companies, as well as government programs, to cover medical treatment for lipodystrophy, a fat-redistribution condition impacting many HIV-positive people who took life-saving early HIV medication that were highly toxic in this regard. Equality California is sponsoring the bill. Insurance companies consider procedures to correct lipodystrophy to be cosmetic, and therefore refuse to cover treatment. However, for people with HIV who experience the condition, it is not a cosmetic need, but a medical necessity due to the significant physical and psychological impacts on these individuals. The early HIV medications that caused lipodystrophy are no longer prescribed, so there is a finite population in need of this treatment. The HEAL Act requires that all health insurance plans governed by California law must cover medical treatment to correct HIV-associated lipodystrophy.

    Thousands Rally Against Donald Trump at Stonewall Inn

    A rally in solidarity with immigrants and refugees was recently held at the Stonewall Inn, drawing as many as 20,000 participants who protested against the Trump Administration. The stated purpose of the rally was solidarity with immigrants and refugees. Many protestors also had LGBT rights on their mind. “I’ve been trying to block out what Trump’s been doing because it’s so depressing, but they are trying to legalize discrimination—and that really makes me sad and angry,” said one protestor. The rally was organized by city councilmember Cory Johnson, whose district includes Chelsea. He called the possible “license to discriminate” executive order “disastrous.” “He may not have come out yet and said he wants to persecute gay people, but Trump has appointed senior people and cabinet members who are anti-gay and his collusion with the religious right is the equivalent of making a pact with the professional anti-gay forces,” Johnson said at the rally.

    Judge William Norris, Who Wrote Groundbreaking Opinion on Gay Soldiers, Dies

    Retired federal appeals court judge William Norris, who wrote a concurring opinion in 1988 calling the U.S. Army‘s ban on gay soldiers unconstitutional, died January 21 at age 89. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals announced his death. Judge Norris served 17 years on the San Francisco-based court before retiring in 1997. He concluded that the Army’s prohibition on gay soldiers serving was just as morally, and legally, wrong as banning interracial marriages. His concurring opinion in the Army case was one of more than 400 rulings Norris wrote while a judge. “Judge Norris was a brilliant colleague and a good friend,” said 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who was also appointed to the 9th Circuit in 1980. “His commitment to the cause of individual liberty was unwavering.” His autobiography, Liberal Opinions: My Life in the Stream of History, was published last year by Quid Pro Books.

    Hallmark Features Real Life Gay Couple in Valentine’s Day Commercial

    For the third consecutive year, Hallmark is out with a Valentine’s Day commercial featuring a real life gay couple. The new ad features a number of couples, including gay couple Spencer Stout and Dustin Reeser, whose flash mob marriage proposal in a Home Depot video went viral in 2013. A lesbian couple was featured in the company’s 2015 Valentine’s Day commercial, and both a gay and lesbian couple were in the 2016 ad.