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    Oxford, MS – Time to Make It Right, Ole Miss! – 10.8

    Two weeks ago, some brave local activists from GetEQUAL Mississippi and partner groups stood outside an “ex-gay therapy” conference in Mississippi with signs of love and support for young attendees. And just last week, at a performance of The Laramie Project – the play examining the life, brutal beating and tragic death of Matthew Shepard – students at the University of Mississippi (known as “Ole Miss”) began taunting and jeering the actors, shouting out anti-LGBTQ slurs during a performance designed to celebrate LGBTQ history month at the university.

    Mississippi is, by no means, the only state in which anti-LGBTQ words and actions are being hurled around with ease – and school officials are struggling with how to respond. Ole Miss administrators have issued an apology, but the apology comes even as the football coach is taking to Twitter to thank God for strength in the midst of trials (!).

    On a campus and in a state with a long history of oppression – of LGBTQ folks, people of color, women, poor folks, non-Christians, and the list goes on – students are calling for more than just an apology, said GetEQUAL Co-director Heather Cronk. “We’re working with members of the cast of The Laramie Project to demand more of the administration – action that will make the lives of Ole Miss students, staff and faculty better.

    In partnership with the cast of The Laramie Project and other LGBTQ students and allies on campus, they will be delivering petition signatures to the Chancellor and the Dean of Students at Ole Miss on the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death. “We have a powerful opportunity to change both culture and policy at the university,” Cronk concluded.

    It’s important for young people in Mississippi – including college students – to know that they’re not alone.


    Boston, MA – Boston Mayoral Candidate a Hero to Queers – 10.12

    Mayoral candidate Martin J. Walsh released what he called a comprehensive platform to protect gays and lesbians, including designated “safe spaces” for gay youths in schools, transitional housing for homeless youth, and better training for police officers that handle domestic violence.

    Walsh unveiled the policies at his Jamaica Plain field office, as he stood with several gay and lesbian supporters who said he was a crucial behind-the-scenes player in the fight to defend same-sex marriage in the Legislature.

    Wearing a rainbow-colored campaign sticker, Walsh, a state representative, said he is somewhat frustrated by the perception that, because he is a former trade union official from Dorchester, he may be more socially conservative than his opponent, Councilor at Large John R. Connolly. He and his gay and lesbian supporters said he always has been a staunch advocate of same-sex marriage, as well as transgender rights legislation, HIV and AIDS programs and gay and lesbian youth services.

    Arline Isaacson, co-chairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said that when many lawmakers were fighting to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts after it was legalized by the Supreme Judicial Court in 2004, Walsh lobbied his more conservative colleagues not to support the ban. She said Walsh took 25 votes over seven years to defend gay marriage, even though his church and many of his constituents opposed such unions.

    Walsh’s platform includes the creation of “comprehensive, age-appropriate” sex education programs in middle and high schools, the hiring of a liaison to the gay community in the Boston public schools and the development of a city policy to protect transgender students.

    “We’ve come a long way in this city,” Walsh said, “but we still have a long way to go.”

    Just another hero to claim: Boston strong!



    Las Vegas, NV – Openly Gay Boxer Comes Out a Hero, Despite His Loss – 10.14

    Orlando Salido downplayed the fact that Orlando Cruz is boxing’s first openly gay fighter during the buildup to their featherweight title fight. Salido said he didn’t care. He just wanted to get his hands on a third 126-pound world title.

    And that’s just what he did, as he dominated Cruz en route to a seventh-round knockout to win a vacant world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard at the Thomas & Mack Center.

    Cruz, despite the loss, was hailed as a hero by many for coming out as a gay fighter in such a macho sport. Members of Cruz’s team waved a rainbow-colored flag, signifying the colors of the LGBTQ community, in his corner during the introductions. He wore trunks in the colorful pattern, and his story was covered by media outlets around the world.

    But although Cruz’s story was told, it was Salido who won the title, hammering his opponent to the body throughout the fight. Salido, who looked much stronger, pushed Cruz around, landing hard lefts to the body and rights to the head, and he even mixed in solid uppercuts. Cruz ate a lot of punches, and his left eye began to show damage by the fourth round.

    In the seventh round, Salido, 32, of Mexico, cornered Cruz, 32, of Puerto Rico, and landed a heavy right hand to the head and left to the body. Salido went down face-first, and referee Kenny Bayless stopped the bout a moment later at 1 minute, 5 seconds.

    “I went into the corner and he hit me with a good shot,” Cruz said. “I thought the fight was close up until then. It was going back and forth.”

    So good news/bad news: The good news is Cruz has come out as the first openly gay boxer.



    Tallahassee, FL – Representative Baxley Makes Outrageous Comments Disparaging LGBTQ Families – 10.11

    “We hope Representative Baxley has the decency to apologize for his comments disparaging gay parents and our children. More than that, we invite Representative Baxley to educate himself, talk with us and actually meet our families,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community.

    “We are a diverse state, and no elected official can fulfill their oath of office if they only respect and care about the people and families that look just like their own.” She pointed out that the entire child welfare community, every credible agency and all research, is unanimous in recognizing that gay parents are equally capable of raising children and that queers’ kids do just as well as their hetero-raised classmates.

    Equality Florida has requested a meeting with Representative Dennis Baxley after his comments in the House, K-12 Subcommittee disparaging LGBTQ parents, comparing them to abusive parents and equating having same-sex parents with alcoholism. Below is the text of his statement:

    “It’s easy to say parents need to get involved, but half these kids are raising themselves; they don’t have any parents that are functional. How can we address that? I mean, I sat an hour and a half with a teacher telling me, well this child has got serial men coming through the house, this one has two mommies, this one has an abusive father who’s home, this one has alcoholism, this one has drug abuse. It was a casualty warfare event to hear – just her classroom – how many dysfunctional, atypical – to me – uh, structures are in the way of a kid having a chance to learn.”

    It is no big surprise that Baxley is a 61-year-old white Southern Baptist Republican.



    New York, NY – Freedom to Marry Announces Partnership with Novel/Film “Fifth Beatle” – 10.9

    Freedom to Marry is partnering with The Fifth Beatle, a graphic novel examining the life of legendary Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Epstein was a brilliant visionary who discovered the Beatles and led them on the path to international stardom even as he struggled with his own sense of belonging: he was gay when it was a felony, and he was Jewish during a time of anti-Semitism.

    “Freedom to Marry has long urged that the most effective way to continue winning over hearts and minds is talking about who gay people are, why marriage matters, and the harms inflicted by the denial of the freedom to marry,” said Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson. “In a year when we celebrate our winning the freedom to marry in Epstein’s home country of Britain, and a year of real momentum here in the U.S., we continue to imagine, as John Lennon urged, a better world — and are working to bring it home.”

    Vivek Tiwary’s The Fifth Beatle tells the compelling story of a tremendously successful entertainment executive who lived at a time that gay people were excluded from the public dialogue – not that long ago – and the costs of that exclusion. Epstein’s story portrays the unnecessary, unfair and unacceptable pain and price of telling some of our friends that they cannot dream of a life of love and commitment equally respected under the law.

    The book is scheduled for release on November 19. Academy Award-winning producer Bruce Cohen will produce the film along with Tiwary. It is a project of Broadway veteran Tiwary, who was lead producer for the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun and co-producer for the Broadway productions of The Addams Family and Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot.

    Brian, we love you, yeah, yeah, yeah!



    Local News Briefs

    Governor Signs Bill Aiding Transgender Californians with Name Changes, Identity Documents

    Assembly Bill 1121, authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins and co-sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill will help ensure people who are transgender have better access to legal name changes and identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity.

    “Transgender Law Center receives hundreds of calls each year from people who have experienced difficulty in legally changing their name and gender and have experienced dangerous discrimination due to having identity documents that do not match who they truly are,” said TLC Executive Director Masen Davis. “We are incredibly grateful to the Governor, Assemblymember Atkins and all of the brave transgender people who spoke up for this important legislation.”

    “One step in enabling transgender people to live authentic lives consistent with their gender identity is to ensure that their names and their official documents are consistent with who they are,” said Assemblymember Atkins. “I am very pleased that the Governor signed my bill to move us forward toward equality and dignity for transgender Californians.”

    In 2011, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 44 percent of transgender people reported having been denied service, harassed or assaulted when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender presentation.

    While some states have administrative procedures that permit transgender people to amend the gender marker, name or both on their birth certificates, California still requires a court hearing as a prerequisite before the state’s Office of Vital Records will change the gender marker on a birth certificate. AB 1121 will allow individuals to bypass the court and apply directly to the Office of Vital Records to amend a birth certificate. That will both streamline individuals’ access to corrected birth certificates and reduce the caseloads of overwhelmed courts.

    Story by Dennis McMillan


    LGBT Community Center Hosts Project Homeless Connect Event

    According to SF’s June 2013 Homeless Count, 29% of San Francisco’s homeless are LGBTQ. With over 1,000 people attending LGBTQ Connect, the first Project Homeless Connect event ever focused on the city’s LGBTQ homeless, the LGBT Community Center was even more vibrant than usual.

    Low-income and homeless people seeking help with housing, employment, food and other services, such as dental care and eyeglasses, felt safe and secure at this critical Center event. As wonderful as San Francisco is, it’s hard to make it on your own. It takes a community of caring individuals to ensure all of us have what we need to feel prosperous.

    Special thanks should be extended to the 300 volunteers, the 100 service providers and Bevan Dufty, Director of Housing Opportunity, Partnerships and Engagement for the Mayor’s Office, who all worked so tirelessly to make the LGBTQ Connect event successful.

    The Center is proud to host events like this, helping to lift community members out of poverty. Every day, the Center connects people with critical resources. Their youth program provides warm meals to 700 homeless youth each year and connects them to housing, employment and health services.

    Their employment services help 1,000 job seekers find jobs with coaching, networking and job referral services annually. Their I&R desk links 3,000 people to health service every year. In addition, the Center is now a connection site for Covered CA, California’s new Affordable Care Act insurance exchange where individuals, families and small businesses can find affordable health insurance.

    The Center reminds prospective donors ( that $10 provides a nourishing meal for one of their 40 youth program participants per week, and $25 provides three unemployed job seekers the ability to meet employers face to face at one of their career fairs.

    Story by Dennis McMillan