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    Compiled by Dennis McMillan 

    Biloxi, MS – USM Grads Wear Rainbow Ribbons to Protest Congressman Palazzo’s Anti-gay Marriage Stance – 5.11

    On Saturday morning, a little more than 300 University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast graduates walked across the stage of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. On many of their gowns, a rainbow ribbon stood out prominently against their black gowns.

    The ribbon represented equal rights for the LGBTQ community, something their commencement speaker Congressman Steven Palazzo – the U.S. Republican Representative for Mississippi’s 4th congressional district since 2011- had spoken out against in the past. After the Grammy’s in January, in which several same-sex marriages took place, Palazzo took to Facebook to say that “Hollywood doesn’t value the same conservative beliefs we do in Mississippi.”

    Many USM students disagreed.

    Sarah Ladner, vice-president of the student social work organization, said the ribbons were a way to show Palazzo how many of the students felt. At least 150 ribbons were made and worn by students as well as by faculty.

    “I feel as if Mr. Palazzo’s response regarding the civil rights of gay and lesbian people in our state encourages the continued oppression of our students, faculty, and constituents of Mississippi. This was our opportunity to show how we felt,” Ladner told the Mississippi press.

    “In speaking as if his values represented all Mississippians, he undermined his LGBT constituents and their straight allies. The flurry of negative comments on his Facebook page and other websites also showed that he underestimated just how many Mississippians do not share his beliefs,” Ladner added.

    Prior to graduation, students did launch a petition stating that they did not support Palazzo as their commencement speaker. The petition’s unsuccessful result led to the ribbon demonstration.

    During commencement, Palazzo encouraged graduates to stay in Mississippi and follow their dreams.

    Palazzo is running for re-election against former Republican Representative from Missouri’s 7th District, Congressman Gene Taylor.

    Does following one’s dreams include those of queers, Mr. Palazzo?


    New York City, NY – Fox Responds to NFL Disciplining Player for Anti-Gay Tweets – 5.12

    Fox News is worried about an NFL player who was disciplined for posting anti-gay tweets about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted. On May 10, Sam made history by becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted to the National Football League, when he was selected as the 249th draft pick by the St. Louis Rams. Sam, who had previously weathered a storm of right-wing criticism when he spoke out about his sexual orientation in February, was shown on television kissing his boyfriend after receiving news that he had been drafted.

    The kiss sparked homophobic attacks online: Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones was disciplined for tweeting “OMG” and “horrible” in response to Sam’s celebration. Jones later apologized for his tweets after the team announced that he would be fined and temporarily excused from team activities.

    Fox News appeared to side with Jones. The May 12 edition of Fox & Friends discussed Jones’ tweet and compared the story to former NFL player Tim Tebow, suggesting Tebow was “mocked” for being a Christian while Michael Sam is “praised.” They questioned: “Is this football’s double standard?” Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck worried that the NFL’s attempts to curb anti-gay attacks on Sam could “offend” players like Jones and stoked fears that such efforts could lead to a slippery slope toward civility:

    “When you look at what the NFL is saying though, now, this is a strong message. They are going on the offense against any sort of offensive comments out there. But does it offend those with their free speech and their opinions to voice them?” said Hasselbeck. “Certainly when it comes on the field. Will they then go after what is said in the huddle, in a tackle, on the bottom of a pile? Because if you have those times mic’d, you’re going to be hearing a lot of comments which would be deemed offensive. Where does this go from here?”

    Later in the show, Fox regular Donald Trump said the footage of Sam celebrating with his boyfriend “looked pretty out-there to me.” Of Jones’ punishment for mocking Sam, Trump claimed, “We’ve become so politically correct in this country that the country is going to hell.”

    Trust Fox to be continually on the wrong side of history.


    San Diego, CA – Out Lesbian Toni Atkins Takes Oath As Speaker of the State Assembly – 5.12

    This week, out lesbian Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) took the oath as Speaker of the California State Assembly. Atkins represents the state’s 78th district.

    Anthony Matthews, press secretary for Assemblymember Phil Ting, informed the Bay Times that the transfer of power is significant for a variety of reasons. He said, “Some of these reasons include: (1) Atkins is the second openly lesbian leader of a state legislature in the country; (2) Atkins is the third woman to become Speaker of the CA Assembly; and (3) This is the first time in California that the gavel passes from an openly gay man to an openly lesbian leader.”

    Assemblyman Ting (D-San Francisco) represents district 19 and is Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus. He issued the following statement after Monday’s swearing in of Atkins:

    “Toni Atkins’ rise to the speakership from modest origins challenges all of us to dream big. That is a wonderfully appropriate motto for governing California right now, with our economy in recovery and our budget allowing for the responsible restoration of investments in our people. I thank Speaker John A. Pérez for his service from which California is clearly better off, and I look forward to working with Speaker Atkins as she makes her mark. The transfer of the Assembly speakership to her represents an inspiring leap forward for equality that I am proud to support.”

     Source: Assemblymember Phil Ting’s Office

    Columbia, SC – South Carolina GOPer: Public Schools Leading to ‘Holocaust in Our Churches’ with Teachings on Homosexuality – 5.9

    A GOP candidate for lieutenant governor in South Carolina said that public schools are pushing a “silent holocaust” in churches by supposedly turning young people away from Christianity. Gayness is responsible, apparently. Ray Moore has made criticism of public schools a centerpiece of his campaign, urging the state to replace public schools with an education system led by “churches, families, and private association.”

    Moore claimed studies show that “80 percent of Southern Baptists youths are leaving the church and abandoning the Christian faith, and we think all of this is pretty much attributable to government schooling. We think the main culprit is public schooling.” He concluded, “So there’s a holocaust, a silent holocaust going on in our evangelical churches.”

    He also attacked the “viruses” of same-sex marriage and abortion rights: “government-sponsored education where they’re thoroughly and aggressively teaching socialism; humanism; turning their hearts away from Christ; teaching them evolutionism; homosexuality is being taught in the Bible Belt as well as the Northeast and the far-west. So the system is thoroughly handed over to egregious and harmful teachings.”

    Back in 2007, Moore criticized California public schools after the state enacted new laws protecting LGBTQ students: “The public school system is a monster, but this may be the most egregious thing they’ve done.”

    He complained California was “mandating that public school children be indoctrinated to accept as normal “the homosexual lifestyle and other forms of sexual deviancy” and warned that “California’s schools are now promoting behaviors and lifestyles that are physically and spiritually dangerous for children.”

    In a 2012 radio interview, Moore railed against homosexuality: “We can look at the rise of the aggressive homosexual movement in our country. I’m old enough to remember it was as late as 1968 that it was pretty much an underground movement; but it has just swept through our culture in a way now that Christians are on the defensive, marriage is under attack, they are teaching it to our children in the schools…the rise of the modern, aggressive, homosexual movement and its attack on marriage.” He lamented, “In some of the states now they’re mandating the instruction of homosexuality and transgender education in the schools.”

    That’s called progress, Mr. Moore, and certainly not a holocaust!


    Princeton, NJ – Marriage Equality Opponent Maggie Gallagher Throws in the Towel – 5.1

    As president of National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Maggie Gallagher has been one of the fiercest opponents nationally on same-sex marriage, fighting with ferocious homophobia and lies over the last decade. Gallagher has now posted an astonishing piece on her blog pretty much conceding defeat in her fight against marriage equality. The piece reads like a post mortem of the complete failures of NOM and other similar groups, and questions the path forward for them as the country finds their bigoted views unacceptable in the public square.

    Marriage bans are now under review in five federal appellate courts. Our unanimous victories in the lower courts and last year’s Supreme Court decision remanding the Prop H8 challenge and dismantling of DOMA have forced her hand, and her post gently tries to break the news to her frothy followers.

    “Right now most people who believe in the classic understanding of marriage are in shock, they are awed by the powers now shutting down the debate and by our ineffectualness at responding to these developments,” writes Gallagher. “The temptation to shout and yell and stamp our feet in ineffectual ridiculousness is understandable, but it is to be resisted. Hiding or pretending is not going to help us, now.”

    She brings up the recent flap over Brendan Eich’s ouster at Mozilla as well as the evolution of Charles Cooper, the attorney who defended Prop 8 before the Supreme Court who has had an about-face as he plans a wedding for his daughter to another woman. Gallagher goes on to discuss the complete failure of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” legislation in Arizona and bemoans that “progressives got the conservative movement to fold with credible and major GOP figures.” She rightly sees this as a harbinger of things to come.

    Although Gallagher takes pains to reassure her readers that she will still be around to help them “to build among the ruins of the old America, something new,” she does not lay out any suggestions on how to make that happen. Like the Republican’s plan to replace Obamacare, her plan to stop the tide of equality by reintroducing and selling bigotry wrapped in a pretty new bow simply doesn’t exist.

    All that appears left for Maggie now is her own evolution.


    Local News Briefs

    Bill to Curb ‘Panic Defense’ Moves Forward on Committee Vote

    AB 2501, authored by Assemblymember Susan Bonilla and sponsored by Equality California, has passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee with a vote of 5-1. Existing law defines voluntary manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion. The crime of voluntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for 3, 6, or 11 years.

    Assemblywoman Bonilla and Equality California had introduced legislation on February 26, AB 2501, to end the use of the “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense strategy—a tactic used by defendants charged with murder to attempt to mitigate their crimes by claiming their violent acts were triggered by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

    “It is an outrage to allow the use of panic defenses and in doing so blame the victims of horrific acts of violence,” said John O’Connor, EQCA executive director. “Homophobia and transphobia have no place in California’s justice system.”

    “This is 2014! We as a society are moving rapidly away from the hate, bias and prejudice against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” said Assemblymember Bonilla. “It is shocking to know that criminal defendants are encouraged by their counsel to employ this so-called ‘gay panic’ or ‘trans panic’ defense in order to receive a possible lesser sentence.”

    AB 2501 would modify the existing definition of “voluntary manslaughter” to prohibit defendants from contending that they were provoked to murder by discovering the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Similar legislation was attempted in 2005 in the California Legislature, but was substantially amended to only require the court to instruct the jury that their verdict should not be influenced by bias against a victim.

    There have been several high-profile cases over the past ten years where panic defenses were used, including the murders of LGBTQ teens Gwen Araujo in Newark, California, and Larry King in Oxnard, California.

    “We’re glad that the Assembly Public Safety Committee agreed that this manufactured defense that plays upon homophobia and transphobia has no place in California’s justice system,” said O’Connor. “The law should not treat victims of crime any differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that includes eliminating anti-LGBT bias as a ‘reasonable’ basis to mitigate the punishment.”

    Story by Dennis McMillan

    Facts Revealed About Bacterial Meningitis for Gay Men in San Francisco

    With recent cases of bacterial meningitis among gay men making headlines, Medical Director Chris Hall of San Francisco’s Magnet gives an update on the latest facts and what gays in our community need to know.

    Meningitis is an inflammation of the delicate membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. One form of bacterial meningitis is uncommon, but potentially fatal, and should always be viewed as a medical emergency. About 10-15% of cases lead to death, sometimes within 24 hours, and a significant number of those who contract the infection have serious complications.

    It is transmitted from person-to-person through droplets of respiratory or throat secretions. Close contact—such as kissing, sneezing or coughing on someone, or living in close quarters with an infected person—facilitates the spread of the disease. Droplet spread (versus airborne spread) generally takes place at a range of three feet or less, and prolonged contact generally is required for infection to occur.

    The most common symptoms are a stiff neck, high fever, sensitivity to light, confusion, severe headache, and vomiting. Rash may also occur. The symptoms usually develop within three to seven days of infection. Antibiotic treatment is effective, but it must be given without delay once meningococcal disease is suspected.

    If one suspects that they or someone they know has meningitis, seek medical care right away. Early, aggressive treatment of bacterial meningitis can prevent serious complications and death. If concerned about potential future exposure, one should get vaccinated by a primary care physician, at the Adult Immunization and Travel Clinic in San Francisco, or a local Walgreens pharmacy. The vaccine typically costs between $130 and $160 without insurance, and two doses separated by two months are required for people who are HIV-positive.

    Public health officials in San Francisco and Alameda Counties are closely monitoring the situation here in the Bay Area. To date, there are no concerning cases or signs of local clusters or cases specifically linked to those in either New York City or Los Angeles. Therefore, a community-wide vaccination program has not been initiated.

    San Francisco AIDS Foundation continues to work closely with local public health officials to promote the health and safety of gays in San Francisco who might be affected by this potential health threat.

    Story by Dennis McMillan