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    National and Local News Briefs

    Compiled by Dennis McMillian

    Lewiston, ID – Lewiston City Councilors Oppose Proposed Nondiscrimination Ordinance – 9.12

    The good news is an ordinance that would make it illegal in Lewiston, ID, not to hire someone or rent your house to them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity has been proposed. But on the other side of the story, some members of Lewiston City Council voted against it.

    “All seven councilors are completely opposed to discrimination based on sexual orientation including myself,” said Lewiston City Council, Mayor Pro Tem R.J. Johnson. “However, this ordinance infringes on our basic civil liberties.”

    Ordinance 4614 makes it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment and public accommodation based upon sexual orientation and gender identity. However, both Mayor Pro Tem Johnson and councilor Clinton Daniels said that’s not all it will do.

    “If you tried to sell a new car to someone and you refused to sell that car to someone because they’re sexually orientated in a way that you disagree with, it would actually put you in jail for six months and a $1,000 fine,” said Johnson.

    “My strong belief in liberty compels me to oppose ordinances that do not respect private property, freedom of association, and voluntary contracts; even when the stated goal of such ordinances is something I support,” said Daniels. “When you engage in commerce, whether it be for a personal sale or a commercial one, it is a form of a contract, and in a free society all contracts should be voluntary.”

    Johnson echoes those same beliefs, and said that’s one of the reasons why he cannot vote for the ordinance as is. “They just want to throw business owners in jail,” he said.

    “I think most people are fond of their property rights,” said Johnson. “That includes the fruits of our own labor. No one should be able to force me into involuntary servitude, and when I talk to business owners they agree with me.”

    Before becoming law, council needs to pass two more readings. The next of which will be completed on September 22.

    This is why now, more than ever, we need to pass ENDA, the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act. (Editor’s Note: There has also been LGBT opposition to ENDA. SF Bay Times columnist Ann Rostow, for example, wrote that “we should be fighting to include sexual orientation and gender identity in existing federal law rather than carving out a special stand-alone bill, one that can be manipulated to isolate us against the rules that govern every other marginalized class.”)


    Purchase, NY – Activists Against Bullying Are Urged to Turn Purple on Spirit Day – 9.12

    PepsiCo has announced a “Purple On!” campaign against bullying. The campaign supports GLAAD’s annual Spirit Day on October 16, which inspires millions of Americans to wear purple to take a united stand against bullying and show support for queer youth. PepsiCo is the official food and beverage sponsor for Spirit Day.

    “PepsiCo is deeply committed to building a workplace environment where all of our associates can bring their whole selves to work and are empowered to reach their full potential,” said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi. “That’s why we are pleased to partner with GLAAD in support of Spirit Day, which fosters a spirit of inclusion in our communities.”

    “PepsiCo leads by example and is a true ally of the LGBT community and our organization,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

    Observed annually since 2010, individuals, schools, organizations, corporations, and public figures wear purple, which symbolizes “spirit” on the gay rainbow flag. As part of the campaign, PepsiCo is encouraging its employees to wear purple on Spirit Day and to share with their family members, friends and communities GLAAD’s anti-bullying messages and resources. PepsiCo also is activating a social media campaign using the hashtags #SpiritDay and #PurpleOn.

    Whether it’s on your homepage or social media, show your support by turning your logo purple on Spirit Day, organizers urge. Turn your official Facebook and Twitter profile photos purple on Spirit Day. Additionally, Patrick McLaughlin, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America Division, was among the speakers at GLAAD’s 2014 “Game Changers!” gala in San Francisco on September 13.

    Spirit Day coincides with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) “Ally Week” as well as National Bullying Prevention Month. According to GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey, 63.5 percent of LGBTQ students reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; 43.9 percent, because of their gender expression. GLSEN also reported that 81.9 percent of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation; 63.9 percent, because of their gender expression.

    These shocking statistics should turn our faces purple with rage!


    Hollywood, CA – Orange Is the New Black Writer Divorces Husband, Dates Show’s Out Actress – 9.15

    No, this is not a plot line in the popular Netflix dramedy Orange is the New Black.

    A writer for the show is making headlines this week for divorcing her husband to date one of the show’s stars, out actress Samira Wiley, who plays the sassy and goodhearted Poussey. Writer Lauren Morelli revealed that she is lesbian in an essay for Identities.mic, US Weekly reports, saying that writing for the program’s main character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), and her ex-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) led her to realize her own sexuality just months after she tied the knot with her then-husband.

    “I realized I was gay in fall 2012, one of my first days on the set. It wasn’t so much one thing, but the sum of many small details: how uncomfortable I felt around groups of lesbians or how I considered myself (shrug) a “not very sexual person,” she wrote. “When considered alone, these seemed like little quirks that made me me. Wanting to read a book instead of have sex is a perfectly reasonable preference to have, right?”

    Morelli continued, “But on set, these small moments came into sharp relief, and I found myself answering to an endless stream of cast members who peppered me with questions like a gaggle of kindergartners curious about their new teacher: ‘Are you dating anyone?’ ‘You’re married?’ ‘To a man?’ ‘But you used to kiss girls?’ ‘Do you miss it?’ I was finally forced to consider a question that had never, ever occurred to me before: Holy s-word, am I gay?”

    According to TMZ, the split was amicable as both Morelli and her ex filed jointly for divorce. The writer has reportedly kept her Lexus, and her former husband got the Mazda hatchback.

    The writer and Wiley appeared at the Emmy’s together, holding hands and dancing together at after parties, US Weekly points out. The new couple has even posted pics of each other together on social media sites like Instagram.

    All this behind-the-scenes queer talk has me chomping at the bit for the next season of Orange Is the New Black! Hurry up! Bring it on!


    Atlanta, GA – Disowned Gay Georgia Teen Helps Launch New Homeless LGBTQ Youth Shelter – 9.9

    19-year-old Daniel Ashley Pierce, staying strong after being kicked out of his house for being gay, has helped open a new home for homeless LGBTQ youth. The emotional footage of his family calling him a “fag” in Southern accents and claiming to disown Pierce in God’s name went viral on YouTube this month, and prompted over $100,000 of donations in Pierce’s name.

    Now under the care of Atlanta-based Lost-n-Found, a shelter for homeless queer youth, the teen has urged future donations be sent to the organization itself, which over the weekend previewed its new Midtown home. Still under construction and pending city approval, the home will be fitted with electricity and plumbing to accommodate three times as many beds as the current shelter for a total of 18.

    “This will become the premier youth shelter in Midtown or Downtown Atlanta,” outreach director Art Izzard said. “There is no other youth shelter within walking distance of where the majority of these youth are at on the streets.”

    According to the Center for American Progress, there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBTQ youths in the U.S.

    Carl Siciliano, founder of the largest homeless LGBTQ youth organization in the U.S., the Ali Forney Center, noted while LGBTQ activists have championed marriage equality, many have forgotten to ensure economic recourse for young queer individuals. “We’ve been so focused on laws—changing the laws around marriage equality, changing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ getting adoption rights—that we haven’t been fighting for economic resources. How many tax dollars do gay people contribute? What percentage of tax dollars comes back to our gay kids? We haven’t matured enough as a movement yet that we’re looking at the economics of things.”

    Lost-n-Found executive director Rick Westbrook said six homeless LGBTQ youths in the U.S. die every day. “We can’t have that. That’s just not the way I was raised,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re from the north or the south or another country. When you’re in Atlanta, we take care of our kids. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

    I’m proud that in San Francisco, helping queer homeless youth is one of our top priorities.


    Charlotte, NC – Congressman Says Everyone Should Be Free to Fire Up a Cigarette and Fire Queers – 9.9

    North Carolina House Republican Robert Pittenger has compared the right to fire LGBTQ workers to the right to smoke cigarettes on private property.

    After assuring ThinkProgress that he “respects everyone” and “loves people,” Pittenger said he believes companies should have the right to fire or refuse to hire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

    “You need to respect the autonomy of somebody running their business,” he said. “It’s like smoking bans. Do you ban smoking or do people have the right to private property? I think people have the right to private property. In public spaces, absolutely, we can have smoking bans. But we don’t want to micromanage people’s lives and businesses. If you have a business, do you want the government to come in and tell you you need to hire somebody? Why should government be there to impose on the freedoms we enjoy?”

    Though North Carolina is one of 29 states where bosses can still fire someone for being queer or merely perceived as such, Pittenger asserted: “I believe people are already protected.”

    The freshman congressman said that’s why he is opposed to passing the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, which would make it illegal for companies and unions to hire, fire, promote, or compensate people differently based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The protections in the bill—which passed the Senate nearly a year ago—would not apply to religious organizations, members of the armed forces, or companies with fewer than 15 employees.

    But Pittenger, who is running unopposed, isn’t likely to have the chance to cast a yea or nay vote on the legislation anytime soon, as House Speaker John Boehner has said there is “no way” he will bring it to the floor for debate. Sigh! A vote is even less likely in the few weeks between Congress’ return from a five-week summer recess, and its impending fall recess for lawmakers to return to their districts to campaign for the midterm elections.

    As many as 43% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and 90% of transgender people have experienced some form of harassment or discrimination in the workplace.


    Local News Briefs

    9th Circuit Hears Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii Marriage Cases in San Francisco 

    Last Monday in San Francisco, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in marriage cases out of Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii, seeking both the freedom to marry and legal respect of same-sex couples’ lawful marriages. This is the first time the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has heard a freedom to marry case since holding in SmithKline Beecham Corporation v. Abbott Laboratories that discrimination based on sexual orientation requires heightened scrutiny—a presumption of unconstitutionality—by the courts.

    “The 9th Circuit should swiftly move to do what all three other federal appellate courts ruling on marriage this year have done: require equal treatment under the law and uphold the freedom to marry,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry. “We clearly have momentum, but until marriage discrimination ends nationwide, families in states like Nevada and Idaho will continue to endure unjustified harm, indignity, and deprivation of constitutional rights.”

    The decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will have a direct effect on more than 12,400 same-sex couples estimated to be living in Nevada, Idaho, and Hawaii, including service member Rachael Robertson and her partner Amber Beierle. Robertson is a veteran and served in the Idaho National Guard, including a tour of duty in Kirkuk, Iraq.

    Since the Supreme Court struck down the core of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013, 39 state and federal courts have upheld the freedom to marry, with only two courts ruling the other way. Every appellate ruling has been in favor of the freedom to marry, including the Utah and Oklahoma cases in the 10th Circuit, the Virginia case in the 4th Circuit, and the Wisconsin and Indiana cases in the 7th Circuit.

    “Idaho’s same-sex couples deserve to be treated as equal citizens with the same dignity and security as other families,” said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter. “Over the past year, nearly every court to consider the issue has held that laws barring same-sex couples from marriage are unconstitutional after considering the real hardships these laws impose on these couples and their children and the complete absence of any legitimate reason for doing so. The time to bring an end to these laws has come.”

    Story by Dennis McMillan 

    Recent Vandalism at AIDS Memorial Grove Stirs Emotions and Actions

    As most of us are aware, the National AIDS Memorial Grove has recently suffered senseless vandalism. On two separate occasions, damage was inflicted on both living landscape plantings and hard-scape features, including benches and the “heart of the Grove”—the Circle of Friends. We are devastated by these attacks on the Grove, a place where so many in our community come for healing, hope and remembrance.

    Since these incidents took place, the Grove board has been working very closely with the San Francisco Police Department, their partners from the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, as well as numerous public officials, to help in every way possible to apprehend whoever committed these crimes. While authorities believe the vandalism to be the work of a single individual, they are leaving “no stone unturned” to assist them in their investigation.

    They are developing a plan and working with community partners to repair the damage and ensure that measures are in place at the Grove to ensure its protection, and prevent any similar incidents from occurring in the future. They are also in the process of determining the amount of damage inflicted. While some of the natural landscape cannot be repaired or replaced, initial estimates of the damage are in excess of $250,000. With additional security and other safeguards now needed to protect the Grove, community member support is greatly appreciated.

    As this sanctuary was built by and for the community, and the Grove has comforted countless individuals, it is again our opportunity to give back to this space that has given so much to so many—and repair the damage done. One way is on September 20 at 9am for their annual Volunteer Appreciation Workday. Also, consider joining in at 111 Minna Gallery (Zappa Room) in San Francisco on September 24, 5:30pm, for a special fundraiser for the Grove hosted by BNY Mellon Wealth Management.

    “As a community, we have prevailed through far darker times than these, and together we will be stronger, more loving and compassionate,” says Executive Director John B. Cunningham. “We appreciate your continued support and commitment to the Grove.”

    Story by Dennis McMillan