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    In the News: 01.11.2018

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    First Transgender Murder Victim of 2018 Announced Shortly After Report on Violence Against Trans People Is Released

    Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, is the first known transgender murder victim of 2018. Steele-Knudslien of North Adams, MA, organized and produced LGBT pageants, such as Miss Trans New England. Her husband Mark recently turned himself in to police and admitted to the killing, according to multiple reports. The death, in her home, happened just days after HRC Foundation and the Trans People of Color Coalition released a report documenting the senseless acts of violence that made 2017 the deadliest year on record for transgender people, and particularly for trans women of color. To read the report, go to:

    Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin in San Francisco

    On Saturday, January 6, legal recreational sales of cannabis began in San Francisco at six dispensaries. One of these was The Apothecarium in the Castro, where State Senator Scott Wiener, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy and others spoke during the opening. “This is the neighborhood where it all started,” founder and CEO Ryan Hudson said. “None of this would have happened,” he added, without the patients who received healing from cannabis during the AIDS crisis. The speakers were critical of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who rescinded three memos from the Obama era that had outlined a policy of non-interference with state laws on marijuana. Senator Wiener said that Sessions “wants to take us back to the 1950s.” and

    Trump Fires All Members of HIV/AIDS Council

    With no explanation, the White House terminated members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), amid widespread discontent with President Trump’s approach to the epidemic. PACHA was created in 1995 during the Clinton administration to provide recommendations about the government’s response to the HIV epidemic. The Bush administration continued the council’s charter, and during the Obama administration, the council created and monitored the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. After six members of PACHA resigned last June, the White House terminated the remaining 16 members without explanation via a letter from FedEx. Scott Schoettes, a Chicago-based HIV/AIDS activist and senior attorney for Lambda Legal, was one of the six who resigned in June over Trump’s inaction on HIV/AIDS and said on Twitter that the remaining members were fired. “No respect for their service,” Schoettes wrote. “Dangerous that Trump and Co. (Pence especially) are eliminating few remaining people willing to push back against harmful policies, like abstinence-only sex ed.”

    New Dental Clinic for Low-income and Homeless San Franciscans Opens

    HealthRIGHT 360, which includes Lyon-Martin Health Services for the LGBT community, this week opened a new dental clinic at its Integrated Care Center (ICC) in San Francisco. With the addition of dental services to primary care, mental health, substance use disorder treatment and wellness services, the ICC is able to provide a higher level of integrated health care to low-income and homeless San Franciscans. “Medical conditions are often intertwined, that’s why we take the time to know everyone before starting treatment,” said HealthRIGHT 360’s dental care director Charmaine Ng, DMD. “Treatment has to respond to each person’s needs. We customize patient treatment plans to accommodate their specific dental needs, medications, health conditions, medical history and social determinants of health.” The dental clinic accepts all patients, whether or not they are currently HealthRIGHT 360 clients. HealthRIGHT 360 accepts Medi-Cal and assists clients in applying for coverage. The dental clinic is therefore open to everyone, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.

    Survey Results for Harvey Milk Castro MUNI Station Reconstruction Published

    The Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza (FHMP), in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects San Francisco, as reported here previously, announced that the design team led by Perkins Eastman was the winner of a competition to reimagine San Francisco’s Harvey Milk Plaza. The related survey results were recently released. 93% of the responders were local 94114 residents or adjacent. Just over half were daily or weekly commuters, and 40% were local non-commuters. 50% shared that they do not want the plaza to be a tourist destination, while 22% do and 30% do not care either way. The results were split between “rebuild the plaza” and “leave the plaza as-is.” It was concluded that while there are items that most can agree on, there is a significant divide between the support for the FHMP proposal to redesign the plaza to create more space for public gatherings. There is a slight majority that prefers to leave the current plaza in place, such that they desire no additional public gathering space. The summary of the full results is at: 

    AT&T Extends Gender Identity Protections to Thousands of Workers

    Over 21,000 AT&T wireless workers have reached a precedent-setting tentative agreement that, in addition to curbing outsourcing and raising pay, wins the widest-reaching protections for transgender employees of any telecom industry contract. The tentative agreement, secured by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), provides the first-ever enforceable protections against discrimination based on gender identity in 16 states where no statewide non-discrimination law covering this category exists. The tentative agreement—which also includes the first-ever commitment that AT&T will send a guaranteed percentage of customer service calls to union-represented call centers, rather than contractors—is enforceable across the 36 states covered by CWA’s bargaining unit. Many of these states have laws in place allowing companies to terminate employees for their gender identity or expression. In a bold step to address this inequity, the agreement’s language establishes full LBTGQ protections that provide a vital supplement to anti-discrimination laws by outlining a clear process for redressing discrimination through the union grievance and arbitration process.

    More Accurate Method Developed to Track New HIV Infections

    Researchers at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute have led an effort to develop a more accurate way to gauge the incidence of HIV infections in large populations. The new method is predicted to improve research and prevention strategies worldwide. The process correctly identifies new vs. long-standing infections—an important distinction for determining where to target public health measures and research, and for evaluating whether interventions are successful at reducing HIV transmission. The Vaccine Institute has worked to create a way to measure HIV incidence that takes into account the unique features of the current epidemic, while also capitalizing on recent insights into how the virus and the body interact during the early phases of infection.

    Key LGBT Military Organizations Merge

    The Military Partners and Families Coalition (MPFC) has merged with OutServe-SLDN. “As the co-founder of MPFC, I can say OutServe-SLDN has been vital to the fight for equality for the LGBT military community, and I can’t wait to build on our success following this union,” said OutServe-SLDN Board of Directors Ariana Bostian-Kentes. She said that by incorporating MPFC’s programs, OutServe-SLDN will ensure safe and reliable access to quality healthcare to LGBT servicemembers and their families, provide a support network for partners and families of deployed servicemembers, host virtual training sessions on important issues to LGBT military families, and provide direct training to inform existing military culture about LGBT families. She concluded, “In the face of so many challenges, our work is more important than ever. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and leverage our collective power to make this country we love equitable for everyone.”

    Out & Equal Welcomes New CEO

    Out & Equal Workplace Advocates has announced that Erin Uritus is the new Chief Executive Officer of the 20+ year organization. She will start as the leader of one of the world’s largest LGBT professional organizations on January 15. Uritus, along with over 60% of Out & Equal’s partners including the federal government that the organization works closely with, will be based in Washington, D.C. “Erin joins Out & Equal with unparalleled domestic and international experience as an executive in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors—a critically important combination to us at Out & Equal,” Board Chair and Comcast Senior Vice President Michael Cox stated. “Her visionary leadership will bring the organization and the entire movement to further workplace equality for the LGBT community to the next level. As the Chair of the Board of Directors and as a major sponsor of the organization, I have full confidence Erin will lead all of us to a future where our country’s largest companies and governments around the world embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, and enact equality.”

    Report Shows Zero Out of 100 Megachurches Are LGBTQ Affirming

    Though many churches do not explicitly say they are anti-LGBTQ, a new report published by Church Clarity has found that out of the country’s one hundred largest churches—by definition, megachurches—exactly zero are “affirming” to LGBTQ people. The organization takes it as a sacred mission to spare LGBTQ people of faith the shock and emotional distress of joining such a church. Church Clarity co-founder Tim Schrader, himself a Christian, told NBC News that the new study focused on megachurches because of the “influence” megachurches have on people of faith in America. The organization’s website offers a “Search for a Church” function and a summary of the 538 places of worship it has researched so far. The numbers are not encouraging; according to the figures at the site, 145 of those churches are “Clear: Non-affirming,” while another 229 are “Unclear: Non-affirming.” Only 31 are “Clear: Affirming.”