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    National and Local News Brief

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Madison, NJ – College Baseball Player Comes Out as Gay to His Team After Years of Struggle – 2.24

    Matt Kaplon didn’t want to call a big team meeting to tell his Drew University baseball team that he’s gay. He was averse to the spectacle of a big production, simply wanting his teammates to finally know who he was as he approached the final season of his college career. He wanted them to hear it from him first.

    Kaplon started the process last week by sharing the news with his head coach, Brian Hirschberg. At 31, Hirschberg isn’t much older than Kaplon. The revelation didn’t faze him. “He’s as close to a family member as anyone I’ve ever coached,” Hirschberg said. “He’s like a younger brother to me. When Matt shared his story with me, I respected him more, if that’s even possible.”

    Kaplon decided with the season approaching, he didn’t want to play a single inning without them knowing who exactly he is. It wasn’t an easy 21-year mental journey that led Kaplon to the front of that classroom addressing his team. His life had been largely defined by his involvement in sports, and baseball in particular. Kaplon is a star on his Drew University team, starting at catcher 97 games his first three seasons. Last season, he was third on the team with a .327 batting average, throwing out 13 runners in 29 starts. At Palisades Park High School in Bergen County, New Jersey, he was his team’s most valuable player his senior year.

    “Growing up in sports, you kind of hear this stigma that being gay isn’t OK,” Kaplon said. “That traveled with me into college.”

    “Having played myself and seeing the climate we’re in now as a sports culture, it’s not easy to be a gay athlete,” Hirschberg said. “It takes a lot of courage, I think, to come out. I’m still learning a lot of this myself.”

    Last October, when he came across the story of Hillsdale College basketball player Derek Schell coming out, Kaplon reached out to Schell, and the two became fast friends. The impact of their conversations – and Kaplon’s revelation that he wasn’t the only gay athlete – was profound. “Words cannot describe what Derek has meant to me,” Kaplon said. “He saved my life.”

    And yet homophobic sports associates want to do just the opposite of lifesaving.


    NYC, NY – Freedom to Marry Launches $1 Million Marriage Campaign in South – 2.24

    Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win same-sex marriage nationwide, launched a $1 million multi-state campaign to build majority support for marriage in the South. The new effort, called Southerners for the Freedom to Marry, will include significant field and media work over the next year in partnership with supportive organizations across the region. Bipartisan co-chairs include civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who kicked off the campaign in a web ad; U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); and George W. Bush advisor Mark McKinnon from Texas.

    “Our investment in the South comes at a pivotal time in the marriage movement,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry. “The South is home to hundreds of thousands of loving, committed same-sex couples – and to a majority of the nearly 50 federal marriage cases now underway in courts across the country. Our new campaign will give voice to the many in the region now ready to move forward, including clergy, business leaders, conservatives, and family members, to show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry.”

    Despite growing support in the South, Southern states continue to discriminate against the more than 200,000 couples and their families who make the region their home. According to 2010 Census Bureau data, same-sex couples raising children are more common in the South than in any other region of the country. A recent poll of registered Southern voters showed that support for the freedom to marry in the region is now evenly split.

    In the kick-off ad, Rep. Lewis shares his private photos of his heroic civil rights leadership, and passionately declares, “You cannot have rights for one segment of the population – for one group of people – and not for everybody. Civil rights and equal rights must be for all of God’s children.”

    “As a conservative, I don’t believe you or I or the government can tell people who they can love or marry,” said McKinnon. “Freedom means freedom for everyone, not just for some. That’s why I’m a southerner for the freedom to marry. And the political reality is that the marriage wedge has lost its edge. This train has left the station and we all need to get onboard.”

    Or get run over!


    Phoenix, AZ – Arizona’s Anti-Gay Bill Veto Unlikely to End ‘Religious Freedom’ Movement – 2.27

    To Arizona’s governor, a bill that would have allowed businesses to close their doors to gays and lesbians out of religious conviction was wrong for the state. So, she vetoed it. The buck may have stopped with Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona, but the fight to pass such laws bannered as religious freedom issues is still on in quite a few other states.

    “Right behind it are Missouri and Georgia,” said Jay Michaelson, a fellow at Political Research Associates, a progressive political think tank.

    Brewer said she tuned out public pressure and made the decision she felt was right. Oh sure, the loss of Arizona hosting the Super Bowl had no effect on her. Sure.

    Attention now turns to other states. The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act has been introduced into Georgia’s Legislature, allowing a private company to ignore state law that “directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails or denies” a person’s religious beliefs.

    Two bills are being considered in Idaho. HB 426 would protect people making decisions out of religious convictions – including denying service to someone. HB 427 gives people protection against legal claims made against them in cases involving religious convictions.

    A Mississippi bill is being considered to legally protect people against being compelled to take any action against their religion. A Missouri bill that requires the government to show a compelling interest in any attempt to restrict a person’s right to practice religion was introduced. Critics of SB916 say it’s a way to discriminate against gays.

    The Ohio House introduced HB 376 giving legal protection to individuals acting, or making decisions, out of religious conviction. Critics say it’s aimed at discrimination against same-sex couples.

    The conservative Oregon Family Council is sponsoring the “Protect Religious Freedoms Initiative.” It would allow private businesses to deny services that would support same-sex marriage.

    Conservative South Dakota senators introduced one bill that would allow businesses or people to deny “certain wedding services or goods due to the free exercise of religion.” But its main sponsor withdrew it. But there’s a second one protecting “speech pertaining to views on sexual orientation.” There are also states where proposed bills have already hit a legislative wall: Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Tennessee, Utah – and even California.

    But they just keep trying.


    Chicago, IL – Steroid Use Much Higher among Gay and Bi Teen Boys – 2.23

    Gay and bisexual teen boys use illicit steroids at a rate almost six times higher than do straight kids, a “dramatic disparity” that points a need to reach out to this group, researchers say in the journal Pediatrics. The study authors said it’s possible gay and bi boys feel more pressure to achieve a bulked-up “ideal” male physique, or that they think muscle-building steroids will help them fend off bullies.

    Overall, 21% of gay or bisexual boys said they had used steroids, versus 4% of straight boys. The difference was similar among those who reported moderate use – taking steroid pills or injections up to 40 times: 8% of gay or bi teens reported that amount, versus less than 2% of straight boys. The heaviest use – 40 or more times – was reported by 4% of gays or bi boys, compared with less than 1% of straight teens.

    The study is billed as the first to examine the problem; previous research has found similar disparities for other substance abuse.

    “It’s a bit sad that we saw such a large health disparity, especially among the most frequent steroid users,” said co-author Aaron Blashill, a psychologist and scientist with the Fenway Institute, the research arm of a Boston health center that treats gays and lesbians. “Given the dramatic disparity … it would seem that this is a population in which greater attention is needed.”

    The nationally representative study is an analysis of government surveys from 2005 and 2007, involving 17,250 teen boys aged 16 on average; almost 4% – 635 boys – were gay or bisexual. Blashill said it’s likely more recent data would show the disparities persist.

    Dr. Rob Garofalo, adolescent medicine chief at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said the differences aren’t surprising, since it is known that gay youth often have “body image issues.” But, he said, “It is still shocking. These are dramatically high rates.”

    Side effects can include heart and liver problems, high blood pressure, acne and aggressive behavior. Kids are often less open about using steroids than about drinking or smoking marijuana, but the study helps raise awareness and the results suggest it’s a topic physicians should be raising with their patients, especially gay and bi kids, Garofalo said.

    Must homos mimic hetero bad behavior?!  


    Washington D.C. – Lobbyist Trying To Ban Gays from the NFL Loses Client – 2.26

    Jack Burkman, the Republican Washington lobbyist who announced that he’ll push for a bill to ban gays from playing in the National Football League because “we are losing our decency as a nation,” has lost one of his paying clients because of the effort. Burkman says he decided to push the legislation after Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam came out earlier this month. If Sam is drafted in April, he will become the league’s first openly gay player.

    DC Solar Solution, a California company that paid Burkman $30,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, told TIME it was severing ties. “DC solar does not condone or support Mr. Burkman’s homophobic views, and since learning about his misguided efforts to write legislation banning gay athletes from the NFL, we have ended our relationship with him,” wrote DC Solar executives Jeffery Carpoff and Paulette Carpoff in a statement. “As a company working to address issues about our country’s future, we have no intention of working with those stuck in the past.”

    Burkman argued, [this] “is about re-enforcing and protecting American values of decency and civility. Should NFL players shower with NFL cheerleaders? Certainly not. Given this, why should straight NFL players shower with gay NFL players?”

    Are you really asking that ridiculous question, you bigoted bozo?!

    Richard C. Duke, Ph.D., founder and acting CEO of ApopLogic, a company working to cure lung cancer, which paid Burkman upwards of $20,000 in 2013, called Burkman “a tasteless, self-promoting, hatemonger.” This isn’t Burkman’s first anti-gay foray. On his website, he has links to his radio show where he encourages families to yank their children out of the Boy Scouts after that group decided to allow gay scouts, but not gay scout leaders.

    Meanwhile, Burkman’s biggest critic is his openly gay brother, Seattle anesthesiologist Dr. James Burkman, who tweeted at his brother: “Having your head up your ass seems quite gay to me. No?”




    Local news briefs

    EQCA Announces Legislative Package Ensuring Equality Throughout Life

    Equality California is sponsoring seven bills for the 2014 legislative session that would improve equality for LGBTQ Californians from cradle to grave.

    “These bills touch on every aspect of life, from birth through school, doctor’s visits, marriage, even respect after death—all the major milestones of life,” said John O’Connor, EQCA executive director. “With this package of bills, we’re moving from a focus on marriage equality to full equality.”

    These bills would:

    Modernize birth certificates: AB 1951, authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez, would allow parents to choose to self-designate as “father,” “mother” or “parent,” eliminating inaccurate designations and confusion for same-sex parents.

    Protect students: SB 840, authored by Senator Ricardo Lara, moves forward on recommendations from 2013’s statewide audit on school safety and nondiscrimination laws, to hold schools accountable for documenting responses to bullying and referring students to appropriate services.

    End youth group discrimination: SB 323, the Youth Equality Act, authored by Lara, is a two-year bill introduced in 2013 clarifying that nonprofit youth organizations will only be rewarded with special tax exemptions if they comply with California’s existing nondiscrimination laws.

    Clean up marriage language: SB 1306, authored by Senator Mark Leno, brings California statutory law into line with last June’s Supreme Court decision restoring the freedom to marry in California. References to “husband” and “wife” would be replaced with gender-neutral language such as “spouse” to recognize all married couples throughout California code.

    Ensure health care providers know LGBTQ health: AB 496, authored by Assemblymember Rich Gordon, is a two-year bill introduced in 2013.

    End the “panic” defense: AB 2501, authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, would eliminate the so-called “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses—outrageous tactics used by defendants who claim their violent acts were triggered by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Ensure accurate death certificates: AB 1577, the Respect After Death Act, authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins, would make sure death certificates for transgender Californians accurately reflect their authentic, lived identity.

    With a total of 96 bills passed prior to the 2014 session, passing these seven would bring that total to 103, making EQCA the first LGBTQ advocacy organization to pass more than 100 bills.

    .Story by Dennis McMillan

    Attempt to Repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act Fails

    The effort to repeal the School Success and Opportunity Act—California’s new law ensuring that all children have opportunities to do well in school—failed to qualify for the ballot, being thousands of signatures short.

    The law, also known as Assembly Bill 1266, went into effect on Jan. 1, ensuring that schools have the guidance they need to make sure all students, including those who are transgender, have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate. It is modeled after policies and practices that are already working well in several schools, and gives important guidance to educators so they can work with students and families on a case-by-case basis.

    Oakland’s Redwood Heights School is among the California schools with policies in place that provide transgender young people with fair chances. Like other schools with similar policies across the state, the policy has been successful since it was established five years ago. “We want our students to know that when they walk onto this campus, they are welcomed for who they are,” said Redwood Heights Principal Sara Stone.

    The Support All Students campaign comprises a broad coalition of nearly 100 state and national organizations supporting the new law. The coalition includes Equality California, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Gender Spectrum, LGBTQ organizations, racial justice organizations, statewide teacher and parent organizations, and others committed to ensuring that all kids have the opportunity to do well in school and graduate.

    “This law gives schools the guidelines and flexibility to create an environment where all kids have the opportunity to learn,” said Transgender Law Center Executive Director and Campaign Chair Masen Davis. “We need to focus on creating an environment where every student is able to do well and graduate. This law is about doing what’s best for all students—that’s why it’s supported by school boards, teachers, and the PTA.”

    “The good thing that comes out of this misguided referendum effort is that we were able to continue to educate people,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, author of AB1266. “It’s important that we begin to understand what transgender students are going through.”

    Story by Dennis McMillan