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    In the News: March 24, 2016

    By Dennis McMillan


    Bay Area on Heightened Alert After Terrorist Attacks in Belgium

    The deadly terrorist attacks on Tuesday at the Brussels airport in Belgium and at one of the city’s metro stations have put San Francisco and other Bay Area cities on heightened alert. Extra police officers have been deployed at SFO, the Port of San Francisco, and at San Francisco Municipal Railway stations, according to SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza, who is a member of our LGBT community. Esparza asks that the public report any related problems. As Esparza said, “If you see something, say something.” Mayor Ed Lee shared the following via Twitter after the attacks: “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn with the people of Brussels. We stand in solidarity with Belgium and stand strong against intolerance.”


    LGBT-Owned Coffee & Tea Business Earns Both State and Local Honors

    Locally based Equator Coffees and Teas was recently named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s California Small Business of the Year 2016 and the San Francisco SBA District Office’s Small Business of the Year 2016. The Golden Gate Business Association, of which Equator is a member, hailed the honors as being “a huge milestone for the LGBT small business community” because it is the first time that an LGBT-owned business has been recognized with the distinctions. Equator has three retail stores in Northern California with two more on the way. Three of its wholesale customers include the prestigious French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, as well as the offices of LinkedIn and Google. The company was an early supporter of the Fair Trade Certified label and has been included in the San Francisco Business Times’ “Top 100 Women-Owned Businesses” 12 years in a row. Congratulations to Equator Co-founders Helen Russell and Brooke McDonnell!


    White House Appoints First Transgender Person as LGBT Liaison

    The White House recently appointed Raffi Freedman-Gurspan as its main LGBT liaison, the first transgender person in the role. Last year, Freedman-Gurspan, who is both Latina and Jewish, was made the outreach and recruitment director in the presidential personnel office. Now, she’ll be the White House‘s primary contact point for LGBT groups across issues. Freedman-Gurspan was previously a policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality. Freedman-Gurspan, whose work has been cited for connecting transgender issues to those of racial and economic justice, is the latest of several transgender people who have been appointed throughout the Obama administration.


    Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Give $15,000 to Grassroots Organizations

    The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are giving $15,000 to grassroots organizations including LYRIC, SF Trans March, GLBT Historical Society, Marty’s Place Affordable Housing, Dyke March, Berkeley Needle Exchange, This Is What I Want, Sex Workers Outreach Project, Momma’s Boyz, Stonewall Youth, and 10 other groups working for change in our communities. Since their founding in 1979, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised and distributed over one million dollars to nonprofit organizations that serve needy communities. Historically, The Sisters have given grants to under-funded, smaller organizations and projects providing direct services to our communities. The majority of these organizations and projects receive little, if any, government or mainstream funding and may be in the early stages of development. Grants are typically $250 to $1,000. They are especially attracted to progressive projects that promote wellness, identity, tolerance and diversity within our communities.


    Gay Congress Members Endorse Hillary Clinton

    The political action committee formed by leaders of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Equality PAC, has formally endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democrat presidential primary race. “For more than 20 years, Secretary Clinton has worked to break down barriers for LGBT Americans and our families,” said Equality PAC Co-Chair Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA). “In the Senate, she fought for employment nondiscrimination and increased funding to combat HIV/AIDS. She helped lead the successful efforts to block a federal amendment banning marriage equality. As Secretary of State, she led the most LGBT-friendly State Department in American history. She ensured that State Department employees in same-sex relationships received the same rights as their colleagues, and made it easier for transgender Americans to acquire passports reflecting their true gender.”


    Pink Saturday Event in Question

    Organizers of the Pink Saturday official event held during San Francisco Pride Week have been unable to find a sponsor, according to multiple media reports. A similar situation happened last year, before the SF LGBT Community Center came in to host. In earlier years, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence sponsored the event. A lot could happen over the next few months, but Supervisor Scott Wiener shared the following with NBC: “We will be very prepared in terms of security and other needs. It’ll be just a fun and festive night in the Castro, but it will no longer be a street closure or an official event.”


    Dog Eared Books to Open in Castro

    The Mission’s Dog Eared Books has announced that it will be opening a second location in the Castro, at 489 Castro Street. The announcement comes just days after fellow independent bookstore Books Inc. announced that it has lost its lease in the Castro, and will close its 2275 Market Street location in June. 489 Castro has a long literary history: prior to the most recent tenant Citizen Clothing, another bookstore—the LGBTQ-centric A Different Light—operated at the address from 1986. Dog Eared Books intends to stock a wide selection of locally-based writers and LGBTQIA-centric titles, along with queer classics, best sellers and off-beat books.


    Supervisor Wiener Holds Hearing about Current Transgender Youth Issues

    Supervisor Scott Wiener held a hearing on transgender youth issues, including their health needs, the current state of the research in the area, and what the City of San Francisco can do to support these youth. At the hearing, representatives from the Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Unified School District and UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic spoke on these issues and explored areas of policy and budget need. San Francisco remains on the cutting edge of progressive approaches to the needs of the LGBT community, including the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth.


    Pope Fires Vatican Ambassador to U.S. over Kim Davis Homophobia

    After Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the Vatican ambassador to the United States, invited homophobic renegade Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to his residence for an audience with the Pope, many progressives and LGBTQ people reacted with outrage. Pope Francis, known for his softer stance on LGBTQ rights and outreach to the less fortunate, came under fire for associating with the reviled government official who went to jail rather than issue a marriage license to same-sex couples. Viganò will be replaced by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who currently serves as the Vatican‘s ambassador to Mexico and has served as a diplomat at various posts around the world.


    Progress Is Social Security Administration Using Photo of Gay Couple on Social Media

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) has shared what looks to be a stock photo of a young gay couple on social media in a post intended to help people locate their nearest Social Security office. What’s remarkable about the photo is not only that it features a gay couple, but also that the couple being gay has nothing to do with the content of the post. In other words, it’s not an instance of “gay advertising,” but rather simply “advertising.” The SSA has previously shared photos of gay couples twice before, though in both instances they were related to educating same-sex couples on how to claim federal benefits finally afforded to them in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality cases, United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges.


    New Federal Report Shows Increasing Support of Same-Sex Adoptions

    A new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows increasing national support for adoptions by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents. “The National Survey on Family Growth,” which studies attitudes toward a broad range of social issues, including those impacting the LGBT community, shows support for adoption by same-sex parents is up from 55 to 75 percent among women and from 47 to 68 percent among men. “The Department of Health and Human Services report reflects the growing support for the LGBT community that we have seen over the last decade,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “As more people learn about LGBT families, they have learned about loving families and that same-sex parents and their children deserve dignity and respect, just like any family.” NCLR made history when the United States Supreme Court unanimously reversed Alabama’s refusal to recognize a lesbian mother’s prior adoption of her three children in Georgia.


    LGBTQ Groups Included in NYC’s St. Patrick’s Parade

    For years, NYC St. Patrick’s Parade organizers said gay people could participate, but couldn’t carry signs or buttons celebrating their sexual identities. Irish gay advocates sued in the early 1990s, but judges said the parade organizers had a First Amendment right to choose participants in their event. But this year, the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade kicked off in New York City, and for the first time in decades, gay activists did not decry it as an exercise in exclusion. This year’s parade closed a long chapter of controversy. A year after a limited easing of the parade’s prohibition on gay groups, organizers opened the lineup more broadly to include activists who protested the ban for years.


    Senate Panel Confirms Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army
    The American Military Partner Association (AMPA), the nation’s largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military families, praised the news that the Senate Armed Services Committee has confirmed the first openly gay secretary of one of the U.S. military services, Eric Fanning. Fanning has served at senior levels in the Navy, the Air Force and the Army. President Obama’s historic nomination of Fanning to serve as Secretary of the Army now heads to the full Senate for a final vote.