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    In The News: 3.9.2017

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Supreme Court Won’t Hear Major Case on Transgender Rights

    The Supreme Court vacated an appeals court decision in favor of a transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, and sent the case back for further consideration in light of new guidance from the Trump administration. Prompted by the latter’s reversal of the federal government position on transgender rights, the Supreme Court announced that it would not decide whether Grimm could use the boys’ bathroom at his high school. The decision not to take his case, which came as the court is awaiting a ninth member, means there will be no ruling this term on the highly-charged issue of the rights of transgender people. The issue will almost certainly return to the Supreme Court, probably in a year or two. For now, lawsuits in the lower courts will proceed, the political climate and public opinion may shift, and the court’s composition will almost certainly change. In all, the development was a setback for proponents of transgender rights, who had hoped the Supreme Court, which established a constitutional right to same-sex marriage two years ago, would aid their cause.

    Women in More Than 50 Countries Participate in International Women’s Strike

    The organizers behind The Women’s March on Washington galvanized women and allies on March 8 to participate in “A Day Without a Woman,” thereby drawing attention to issues such as reproductive freedom, labor rights and gender violence. The organizers also called for recognition of challenges faced by trans and gender non-conforming individuals. Walkouts, rallies and marches were held locally, nationally and internationally. The events coincided with International Women’s Day, which occurs annually. The organizers behind International Women’s Day had previously asked participants via social media to #BeBoldForChange “to help forge a better working world—a more inclusive, gender equal world.”

    Senator Wiener, Supervisor Sheehy Attend Press Conference to Announce New Services to LGBT Seniors, Adults with Disabilities

    Senator Scott Wiener and Supervisor Jeff Sheehy attended a meeting with The San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services to launch the implementation of two important recommendations from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Aging Policy Task Force. New community services will be announced to enhance the lives of LGBT seniors and adults with disabilities through a peer support network to reduce social isolation, and a targeted Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care education campaign designed to overcome the unique barriers aging LGBT individuals have to access services. The San Francisco LGBT Aging Policy Task Force was convened in 2012 by the Board of Supervisors to evaluate the needs of LGBT seniors, to assess the capacity of the current support system to meet those needs, and to make recommendations to address any unmet needs.

    Merced LGBT Community Center to Close

    Gay Central Valley recently announced the closure of the Merced LGBT Community Center, operated by the Merced LGBTQ Alliance. Spokespersons explain that operating a full-time community center is an expensive and staff intensive venture. Everyone that works for the Merced LGBTQ Alliance, as well as Gay Central Valley, are volunteers, and maintaining that base of operations over time is difficult. The cost of running an LGBT Center in Merced averages about $1,200 per month, just to keep the doors open and the lights on. That does not include the price of events, infrastructure, etc. They say at this time, they have come to the conclusion that finances for Merced would be better spent by closing the physical space and reformulating efforts in a different direction. Despite the closure of the LGBT Center, Gay Central Valley and the Merced LGBTQ Alliance will continue their work in Merced, with a new perspective and new goals.

    Sisters Accepting Grant Applications Until March 15

    The San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc., are accepting grant proposals from nonprofits until March 15. Grants are typically $250 to $1,000. The Sisters tend to give grants to under-funded, small organizations and projects providing direct services to under-served communities. The majority of these organizations and projects receive little, if any, government or main-stream funding, and may be in the early stages of development. They are especially attracted to progressive grassroots projects that promote wellness, joy, tolerance and diversity within our communities. They have a vision that encompasses diverse communities and groups that have a common interest in human rights, people of every gender, gender identity, race, class, age and sexual orientation. They favor projects that serve the Bay Area or particularly embattled communities in other locales around the country and the world.

    Hamilton Brings Social Justice Messages to San Francisco

    The blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton comes to SHN Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco on March 10 for an extended run ending on August 5. Beyond entertainment, the show has become a cultural phenomenon that has added to the national discussion concerning racial justice, immigration rights and other pressing issues. Key figures of American history are portrayed by people of color, and the show’s pro-immigration themes are clear. As is stated in the first act: “Immigrants/We get the job done.” The production’s urgency to force change mirrors much of the political unrest of the present and recent years while also harkening back to struggles faced by the founding fathers.,

    GOP’s Plan to Defund Planned Parenthood Will Hit Transgender Community Hard

    As Congress appears to be inching closer to repealing the Affordable Care Act, a leaked draft of proposed legislation shows Republicans also aim to defund the nation’s number one provider of health care to women, including abortions: Planned Parenthood. But what is largely unknown about the organization is that it also is the biggest provider of healthcare services to another marginalized group: transgender Americans. Fear pervades the transgender community, which has just begun to see the benefit of Obamacare fear across the nation, and would be hit hard by the defunding proposed by the GOP.

    GMHC Responds to President Trump’s Address to Congress

    Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) reacted to President Trump’s 2017 Congressional address, in which he pledged to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, increase defense and security spending by $54 billion and cut the same from domestic programs. GMHC says the Congressional Address, pledging to cut domestic program budgets across the board to support his unneeded increases to the Defense Budget, would gut vital federal programs that help house and treat those living with HIV/AIDS and that prevent thousands of new infections every year. They emphasize that these irresponsible cuts would come just as we are finally poised to make real progress in containing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The President’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act would endanger the lifesaving services provided to clients, GMHC holds. “Let us not mince words,” says GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. “The Trump Administration’s proposals would lead to the completely preventable deaths of thousands of Americans at risk for HIV/AIDS and other diseases. They must be stopped.”

    Threat to Federal Same-Sex Marriage as Texas Court Hears Case to Limit Gay Marriage

    The Texas Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that conservatives hope will provide an opening to challenge the landmark 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage nationwide. The all-Republican court initially refused to hear the lawsuit, which challenged Houston’s decision to offer same-sex spousal benefits to municipal employees. The court deferred to the U.S. Supreme Court declaring gay marriage constitutional. But the court reversed itself last month amid pressure from Texas’ governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and leading religious and conservative activists. They argue that the case may help Texas limit the scope of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, especially in how it is applied at the state level. Houston officials argue the case is a matter of settled law that has nothing to do with advancing social conservative causes.

    Yelp to Help Customers Find Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

    Yelp, the crowd-sourced company specializing in online reviews, is wading into the national debate over transgender people’s bathroom access with a new feature that will enable consumers to search for businesses offering gender-neutral restrooms. Yelp said it would collect information from both customers and business owners in order to add a “Gender Neutral Restrooms” category to its listings. Yelp defines such restrooms as locking, single-stall toilet facilities accessible to people of any gender. “At Yelp we thrive on inclusion and acceptance,” the blog post said. Rachel Williams, Yelp’s head of diversity since November 2014, said the initiative, to be phased in over several weeks, marked the first time during her tenure that the company had sought to integrate a social issue into its website and app. She said the idea for the new feature came from employees in Yelp’s products section who were “incensed” by efforts in some parts of the U.S. to curtail transgender people’s civil rights. Yelp was among 53 U.S. companies filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting transgender teen Gavin Grimm.