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    In the News: 3.23.17

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    Wave of Vandalism, Violence Hits LGBTQ Centers Across Nation

    In February and March, hate incidents have occurred at LGBTQ community centers and similar venues across the nation, in a trend that has gone underreported. The vandalism incidents do not appear to be connected to each other, but several similar attacks occurred at LGBTQ nonprofit offices, bars and at schools. Anti Violence Project Communications Director Sue Yacka told NBC News she sees a connection between direct attacks on LGBTQ community venues and the more than 100 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation that have been proposed in just the first few weeks of 2017. “You use legislation and intimidation and violence to try and make people go away. But we are not going away.” Along with a number of groups like Muslim Advocates, Transgender Law Center and Hollaback, AVP is launching a new initiative called Communities Against Hate, which allows people to directly report incidents.

    Report: Hate Crime Laws Have Resulted in Few Convictions for Anti-Trans Violence

    A 2009 hate crimes law meant to make federal prosecutions easier has resulted in relatively few convictions nationwide. An Associated Press analysis using data gathered by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University show that 47 people nationwide have been prosecuted using the law, with 37 convictions. Another 300 people were referred for prosecution, but hate crimes charges were never filed. In at least half of those cases, there was not enough evidence or prosecutors could not prove intent, a key threshold. In the waning days of President Barack Obama‘s administration, supporters of LGBT rights hailed the first federal hate crime conviction for the killing of a transgender woman in Mississippi. With President Donald Trump now in office, they worry about the future of such prosecutions.

    The Castro’s Retail Vacancy Problem Has Gotten Even Worse

    Linger long enough on one of the Castro’s street corners, and sooner or later, someone will make a comment about the number of empty storefronts in the neighborhood. “The retail situation has gotten worse, and it’s getting harder and harder,” one neighbor said. “I’m pretty pessimistic when it comes to retail in the Castro.” The narrative that there are more vacancies in the Castro today than, say, two or four years ago is a popular one. Recently, the CVS on Market Street and 18th Street shoe store, Dashing Sole, shuttered. Earlier this month, Wildcraft Espresso Bar suddenly closed up shop. All three businesses had been open for less than three years. crunched the numbers, and found that the narrative is more than just anecdotal: it’s accurate. Today, there is a 12.8 percent vacancy rate in the Castro, or 53 empty storefronts. That is higher and therefore worse than the national average vacancy rate for neighborhoods, which is estimated at 11 percent. The Castro’s roughly 87 percent occupancy rate compares to a citywide rate that hovers around 97 percent, which is conversely one of the country’s highest.

    Donald Trump Wants to Eliminate the Meals on Wheels Program, Affecting People with HIV

    Meals on Wheels gets food to people who cannot go out and get it themselves. It is a program that makes people healthier and improves their lives. It is also often the only human contact some people receive. In addition to feeding the elderly, a major effort of Meals on Wheels is to feed people with HIV/AIDS who cannot take care of this need for themselves. According to Christopher Muhammed, a Meals on Wheels volunteer, over half of the clients in certain cities are living with HIV/AIDS.

    Bisexual Resource Center Designates March as Bisexual Health Awareness Month

    The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) celebrates Bisexual Health Awareness Month (BHAM) for the fourth consecutive year with the launch of a social media campaign that began March 1. BHAM aims to raise awareness of health disparities within the bisexual+ community and to promote resources and action. This year, the campaign focuses on social health disparities and steps to build social support and resiliency. Throughout this month, BRC is partnering with various LGBTQ+ organizations, including the BiCast, BiNetUSA, Bi Tennessee, COLAGE, GLSEN, the Movement Advancement Project, the National Coalition for LGBT Health, and the Vanderbilt Program for LGBTI Health to feature statistics, resources, and action across various spheres of social health. “Now more than ever, communities need to come together to offer support, stand up to injustice, and plan our continued efforts to survive and thrive,” said BRC Co-Presidents Heather Benjamin and Kate Estrop in a joint statement. “This year’s Bisexual Health Awareness Month, focusing on the social health of the bi+ community, will help followers do just that. It will showcase the challenges we have with finding and forming community, and lay out the steps we can take to overcome them.”

    Advocates Warn Senators: Gorsuch Poses ‘Significant Threat’ to LGBTQ Community

    A coalition of LGBTQ groups has sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee ahead of the confirmation hearings for President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, recommending they “interrogate” Judge Neil Gorsuch. The federal judge’s track record—according to the letter from Lambda Legal and cosigned by the Transgender Law Center, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as 15 other groups—leads the coalition to suspect he opposes same-sex marriage and transgender rights. The groups are concerned how Gorsuch will rule in upcoming cases, such as whether the rights of transgender students and workers are protected under existing law, and if corporations will have a license to discriminate because of their faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage.

    Senator Wiener Highlights How Affordable Care Act Repeal Will Harm LGBT Community

    Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) spoke during the State Senate floor session on the dramatic impacts that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act will have on the LGBT community, including for those living with HIV, seniors, transgender people, and communities of color. “The LGBT community traditionally, and for many, many years has lacked the same access to healthcare as the community at-large,” Senator Wiener said. “For that reason, the Affordable Care Act was an absolute godsend for many LGBT people. The rates of increased insurance participation under the ACA are higher among LGBT people than among the general population. The repeal, or demolition, or whatever you want to call Trump and Congress’s gutting of the ACA will have profoundly negative consequences for LGBT people around this country, ranging from increased HIV infection rates, to more people dying from HIV, to more transgender people experiencing severe health problems. We must stop this train wreck.” Later, Senator Wiener spoke at a round table discussion in Sacramento sponsored by the California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Program entitled “Maintaining Care and Coverage for Californians Living with and at Risk of HIV in an Altered Healthcare Landscape.”

    Wild Turkey Roams the Streets of the Castro, Causing Concern at Animal Control

    A wild turkey was spotted in the Castro strutting right in front of the UPS Store at Market and Castro streets. Animal Care & Control (ACC) spokesperson Deb Campbell said a second caller contacted their emergency line after spotting the turkey in a backyard at Market and 16th streets, right near the first sighting. Animal Control officers were dispatched to the scene, but when they approached the turkey, it took flight and landed on a roof. Concerned for the safety of the turkey and hoping to keep it away from traffic, the ACC is asking neighbors to be on the lookout for any further turkey sightings. Officers also plan to visit the area again, in case it makes another appearance. California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Andrew Hughan explained that turkeys here usually go to Golden Gate Park, as well as to a few of the golf courses in town. Spot a wild turkey in the urban jungle? Contact Animal Care & Control’s emergency dispatch line at 415-554-9400.

    ‘One Million LGBTQ’ in Nationwide Action, with Hundreds in the Castro

    A draft of an executive order on “religious freedom” was circulating in the Trump administration, outlining a possible weakening of protections designed to shield LGBT individuals from discrimination, according to a copy of the proposed order obtained by ABC News. This brought about Facebook’s #Organize for March 18th; We Are The Resistance: “If you are able to take off from work, simply show up at the local courthouse or State Capitol, City Hall, Library or even a symbolic park that you can coordinate locally with others. The main idea is to show our numbers and strength with the power.” Hundreds of LGBTQ protesters showed up in Harvey Milk Plaza and elsewhere. The order—which may never become administration policy, depending on internal deliberations—would also free some private companies from being forced to provide contraceptive coverage as part of the health plans they offer employees. And it would open the door for tax-exempt entities to speak out “on moral or political issues from a religious perspective” without fear of losing favored tax status.

    Restored, Re-Dedicated Harvey Milk Streetcar Returns to the Streets

    Harvey Milk wasn’t just the first openly gay supervisor in San Francisco history, say representatives of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. He was also the first supervisor to use a Fast Pass. During a recent ribbon cutting ceremony to rededicate a fully restored and refurbished car #1051 to the late supervisor—which was first dedicated to and named after Supervisor Milk in 2008—several agency representatives recalled that the former District 8 supervisor rode the F-Market line from Castro and Market streets to Civic Center every day during his one year in office. (Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated at City Hall in November 1978). The F-Market makes daily runs from Jane Warner Plaza to Pier 39 along Market Street and the Embarcadero. The popular Muni line is comprised of historic streetcars, most of which have been in use since the 1940s, though the line hosts a few older cars as well. Car #1051 was returned to service after the ceremony at Jane Warner Plaza. “It’s so lovely to be here,” said District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, who, like Milk, is openly gay. “These refurbished street cars have done so much to bring people to the Castro—this is glorious!” After the brief ribbon cutting ceremony, people were invited to board and inspect the spotless streetcar. Frames inside the car, once reserved for paid advertisements, now hold placards telling the story of Harvey Milk’s life and legacy.

    Trump State Department Taps Reps from Anti-LGBT Groups for U.N. Women’s Rights Delegation

    The United States Department of State announced that its official delegation to the 61st annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) includes representatives of two organizations known to oppose the U.N. human rights system, LGBTIQ rights, and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights: the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM) and the Heritage Foundation. C-FAM is labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Heritage Foundation called for a cut in funding for programs combating violence against women and claims that anti-discrimination laws grant LGBT people “special privileges.” Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International, a twenty-seven-year-old international LGBTI human rights organization with ECOSOC status, commented on the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. CSW. “In their Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley repeatedly pledged to uphold the right to be free from discrimination as an American value. The appointment of these organizations to the official U.S. delegation undermines their positions. I urge Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley to ensure that the U.S. delegation maintains nondiscrimination at the CSW in the face of obvious pressure from these newly appointed members of the delegation.”

    Drunken Man Damages Castro Clothing Store’s Window

    Sometime between March 8 and 10, a front window was smashed at a clothing store: Body at 450 Castro Street. Hoodline spoke with a Body employee, who said that a drunk male patron from nearby gay QBar left the bar around 2 am, and angrily punched or kicked the window. According to the employee, QBar staff held the suspect until police came and arrested him. Stay tuned for any updates from the SFPD. (This is personally disturbing, as this news reporter lives right above Body).