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    Falls Church, VA – Openly Gay Olympic Skater Urges No Olympic Boycott – 8.1

    Two-time Olympic figure skating competitor, openly gay Johnny Weir, urged in his weekly column that there be no boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next February to protest the recent escalation of Russian anti-gay measures.

    Weir, a three-time U.S. men’s figure skating champion who competed for the United States in the 2006 Winter games in Torino, Italy, and again in the 2010 games in Vancouver, Canada, stated, “The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating human rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions. I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof.”

    He exhorted, “I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world. Olympics are history, and they do not represent their host; they represent the world entire. People make their own futures, and should a government …  steal that future, it is, as an athlete, the death and total demolition of a lifetime of work. Support the athletes.”

    Weir said that he intends to compete – despite the risks involved with being openly gay in Russia – next February if he qualifies. “There isn’t a police officer or a government that, should I qualify, could keep me from competing at the Olympics.”

    Queer activist David Mixner agrees: “While the behavior of the Russian government, Putin and Putin punks are abhorrent, nothing will be changed by boycotting the Sochi Winter Games. In fact, those who are appalled by the treatment of LGBT Russian citizens will lose an incredible opportunity for the world to show their disgust.”

    Does that go for Stoli vodka too?

    Source: PRNewswire.com

    Washington, D.C. – Senator Baldwin Says Gay Blood is Good Blood – 8.4

    U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin is spearheading an effort to push the Obama administration to overturn the decades-long ban on gay men donating blood. She sent a letter signed by 84 other Democratic lawmakers to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing concern that the ban “continues to perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes against gay and bisexual men and fosters an atmosphere that promotes discrimination.”

    Baldwin – who is the first openly gay U.S. senator – and her colleagues are urging that blood donors be selected based on health factors and not sexual orientation. “Our current policies turn away healthy, willing donors, even when we face serious blood shortages,” they wrote.

    The HHS launched a review of the ban in March 2012, but has not recommended any policy changes yet. The ban has been in place since the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. It prohibits men who have had sex with men from donating blood because of the higher rates of the transfusion-transmissible infections among their population.

    Currently, they cannot donate blood for the duration of their lives, regardless of when the sexual activity occurred.

    The HHS launched the study last year to determine whether alternate criteria could be put in place to ensure the safety of the blood supply. It’s unclear how the study is progressing or when it will be finished. But Baldwin notes there have been “vast advances” in blood screening technology, and the scientific community’s understanding of the virus has improved dramatically.

    Baldwin’s views are supported by the American Medical Association, which adopted a new policy in June opposing the ban as “discriminatory and not based on sound science,” and urging donation criteria be based on individual health.

    Meanwhile there is bad blood between gays and HHS.

    Source: stevenspointjournal.com

    San Antonio, TX – San Antonio Desperately Needs LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections – 8.5

    Despite billing itself as an idyllic tourist destination, San Antonio – the seventh largest city in the nation – still does not offer nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ residents or visitors. The Citizens Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) – of which GetEQUAL is a coalition partner – is seeking to change that. After two years, they are closer than ever to a vote and, until recently, it looked as though they would be victorious.

    All of that changed when those opposing the ordinance began spreading lies and misinformation throughout the national media. Since then, statistics show that opponents to LGBTQ equality from across the country are calling City Council members and Mayor Julian Castro 60 to 1. That’s 60 opponents calling for every one person who supports the ordinance!

    CAUSA needs activists to call for Kevin Abrams and Calvin Smith, two men who were threatened with arrest for dancing with each other at Far West (a dance hall in San Antonio) if they didn’t leave the premises. And call for Shanenn Yvonne Johnson and Jessica Louise Garcia, two women arrested for trespassing at Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio after sharing a kiss. Thirdly, they need calls for Jay Morris-Spriggs, GetEQUAL Texas Co-Lead – after he was the victim of a hate crime at Braunswick Bowl in San Antonio. Police removed him from the building rather than arresting his attackers, allowing them to go free and to torment others.

    Contact members of San Antonio City Council (salsalabs.com) urging them to support updating the city code to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Continue fighting for progress in places like San Antonio to ensure moving forward in the struggle for full LGBTQ equality from coast to coast!

    Source: getequal.org

    Baton Rouge, LA – Baton Rouge Sheriff Goes After the Gays in Parks – 7.29

    Christian singles can meet in the park, but not gay men. Sid J. Gautreaux, the sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish, has been sending deputies into public parks to spark up conversations with cruising gay men, suggest they go somewhere to have sex, and then arrest them under “crime against nature” laws. This has happened at least a dozen times since 2011.

    There had been no sex-for-money deal between a couple arrested on July 18. The men did not agree to have sex in the park. But the count against the men was based on a part of Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court a decade ago. The task force used the unenforceable law to ensnare men who merely discussed, or agreed to have, consensual sex with an undercover agent.

    While Attorney General Hillar Moore refuses to prosecute these men – : “From what I’ve seen of these cases, legally, we found no criminal violation,” – Gautreaux’s office is sticking to its anti-gay ways.

    “This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws,” said spokesperson Casey Rayborn Hicks. “Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine. The Supreme Court did decide on such laws when it invalidated “crime against nature” laws that are simply covers for discrimination.

    Bruce Parker from Equality Louisiana said that by the Sheriff’s definition of “inappropriate,” then all Baton Rouge bars should be shut down. People meet there to find sex partners, after all. It should be noted a local Christian singles group gets together at a local park for a run. Do Christians not use singles events to cruise for potential sex partners? Sure. But they are presumably straight, so Gautreaux and company’s eyebrows remain un-cocked.

    Source: out.com

    Fort Meade, MD – Manning Guilty of 20 Charges, But Not Aiding the Enemy – 7.30

    In a split decision, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy – the most serious charge he faced – but was convicted of espionage, theft and nearly every other count for giving secrets to WikiLeaks, a verdict that could see him spend the rest of his life in prison.

    The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, deliberated over three days before delivering a decision that denied the government a precedent that freedom of press advocates had warned could have broad implications for leak cases and investigative journalism about national security issues.

    From the courtroom to world capitals, people struggled to absorb the meaning of a ruling that cleared the soldier of a charge of aiding the enemy, which would have carried a potential life sentence, but convicted him of 20 of 22 counts that, together, could also mean life behind bars. Manning faces up to 136 years in prison if given maximum penalties in a sentencing hearing expected to last most of August.

    The defense portrayed him as a “young, naive but good-intentioned” figure. Manning said during a pretrial hearing he leaked the material to expose U.S military “bloodlust” and diplomatic deceitfulness, but did not believe his actions would harm the country. “We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, said. “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website exposed Manning’s spilled secrets to the world, said, “It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism.”

    “American democracy just dodged a bullet, a possibly fatal bullet,” Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, said. “I’m talking about the free press that I think is the life’s blood of the democracy.”

    136 years? Really?!

    Source: ktvu.com

    Local News Briefs

    National Conference of Butch Voices to Convene in Oakland

    The BUTCH Voices third biennial national conference is taking place in downtown Oakland from August 15 -18. BUTCH Voices, a grassroots organization dedicated to enhancing and sustaining the community of self-identified butch people and their allies, is hosting their conference at the Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway. The conference will open on August 15 with a welcome reception at Club 21, where Oakland Council President Pro Tem Rebecca Kaplan will be speaking.

    In 2008, BUTCH Voices was created to unite a cross section of Masculine of Center (MOC) womyn and trans identified people who challenge social norms. “MOC” is a term that recognizes the breadth and depth of identity for lesbian/queer/womyn who tilt toward the masculine side of the gender scale and includes a wide range of identities such as butch, stud, aggressive/AG, dom, macha, tomboi and trans-masculine.

    The movement has its roots in gender justice. The vision was to create space that would counteract the isolation so many people have felt on account of their gender presentation, gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

    The mission of BUTCH Voices is to enhance and sustain the wellbeing of all women, female-bodied and trans-identified individuals who are MOC. They achieve this by providing programs that build community, positive visibility and empowerment to advocate for their whole selves – inclusive of and beyond their gender identity and sexual orientation.

    They say their community is vast and growing, and they have many identifications that resemble what the world knows as their “butchness.” They say, “We are woman-identified Butches. We are trans-masculine Studs. We are faggot-identified Aggressives. We are noun Butches, adjective Studs and pronoun-shunning Aggressives. The point is, we don’t decide who is Butch, Stud or Aggressive. You get to decide for yourself!”

    Story by Dennis McMillan

    Assembly Bill 1266 Makes It to Governor Brown’s Desk for Signature

    Assembly Bill 1266, the School Success and Opportunity Act (authored by State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano), is now on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, and activists need to urge him to sign it! AB 1266 addresses the exclusion of transgender students from classes and activities, and clarifies existing anti-discrimination law to provide clear protections to transgender students.

    Right now, anti-equality organizations are contacting the Governor, asking him to veto this critical bill, which will strengthen the state’s existing nondiscrimination laws and ensure that transgender students have the opportunity to succeed in school.

    Equality California says, “We must counter their bigotry, and we need your help by contacting the Governor – via Twitter (@JerryBrownGov), email (via eqca.org), and/or calling his office (916) 445-2841 – to tell him that you want him to sign this bill into law, protecting our youth from discrimination and mistreatment in schools.”

    Transgender students in many of California’s schools are facing extreme discrimination because they are being prohibited from participating in school activities, sports programs and facilities consistent with their gender identity. This bill will end the exclusion of transgender youth, but only if Gov. Brown signs it. He needs to hear from activists who are passionate about creating a better world where LGBTQ youth are embraced with equality.

    Similar school policies have been successful across the nation, and have already been implemented at hundreds of California schools, and it is time to make sure that all schools treat transgender students fairly. No one should ever be treated differently because of who they are.

    Please join Equality California and other bill co-sponsors – National Center for Lesbian Rights, Transgender Law Center, GSA Network and Gender Spectrum – in demanding that transgender young people in our community have a chance to succeed.

    Story by Dennis McMillan