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    In the News: 12.7.2017

    Compiled by Dennis McMillan

    U.S. Supreme Court Begins to Undermine Marriage Equality

    The U.S. Supreme Court has begun undermining marriage equality, just two years after it became the law of the land. In deciding not to take up Pidgeon v. Turner, the court has said that same-sex married couples are not de facto entitled to benefits. The ruling by the Texas Supreme Court sided with Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, who sued the City of Houston, and then Mayor Annise Parker. The suit came in response to Parker extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees. The decision not to take up the case by the U.S. Supreme Court, doing so without comment, is especially troubling considering it is about to hear a so-called “religious freedom” case involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. If the court rules in favor of the baker, Jack Phillips, it could set another precedent of granting those with anti-LGBTQ views a license to discriminate. (For another assessment, please read Ann Rostow’s column, page 14.)

    LGBT People Will Suffer Under Trump’s Tax Plan  

    The current tax bill in the Senate would devastate support systems and services for LGBT Americans, especially transgender people, by making deep cuts in their accessibility to healthcare and other programs they rely on, according to several analysts. The bill would raise the cost for people living with HIV/AIDS, cut food stamps, housing and homelessness efforts, and lead to cuts in Medicare and Social Security—all being social programs important to the LGBT community. This tax bill will repeal Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provision used extensively by people living with chronic health conditions, like those with HIV/AIDS. It will penalize people who lose their insurance and who are unable to replace it within 63 days, by forcing them to pay a 30-percent surcharge on their insurance, which would last a year. “For transgender people living with HIV, in particular, this bill could mean the loss of life-saving treatment and fuel an epidemic that the U.S. government has ostensibly pledged to end,” said Kris Hayashi, the executive director of Transgender Law Center.

    Cliff’s Variety Approved by SF Small Business Commission for Legacy Business Registry

    Cliff’s Variety was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Small Business Commission for the Legacy Business Registry. The Registry recognizes longstanding, community-serving businesses as valuable cultural assets to the City. There are currently 115 small businesses on the Legacy Business Registry. Cliff’s Variety was founded in 1936 as a hardware and variety store. During the Harvey Milk era, the store was pivotal in shaping the history and identity of Eureka Valley. As the neighborhood began to evolve into the gay mecca it is today, Cliff’s Variety was the first straight-owned business on the block to hire openly gay employees. Cliff’s Variety has moved several times since its founding, but never more than two blocks from of its current location at 479 Castro Street. Celebrated for its quirky window displays, Cliff’s Variety is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in San Francisco. We are proud that Cliff’s Variety presents the 24/7 live-streaming Castro Street Cam:

    Castro Students Commemorate World AIDS Day with ‘Project Inscribe’

    For the third year in a row, students from the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy commemorated World AIDS Day by writing the names of people lost to AIDS in chalk on the sidewalk of Castro Street. The event, “Project Inscribe,” began with students and their teachers gathering inside Strut, the Castro’s health clinic for gay, bi and trans men. Several speakers told the children about the history of the AIDS pandemic and of the importance of remembering those who were lost. Students were then given a card with the name of a person lost to AIDS, and they wrote in chalk the names on Castro Street sidewalks from Market to 19th Street. Some of the names were from the local community and some were from the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

    President Trump Insulted the LGBT Community on World AIDS Day

    On World AIDS Day, President Trump, like the presidents before him, released a proclamation; but unlike former president Barack Obama‘s proclamation, it made no mention of the groups most affected by HIV/AIDS: the LGBTQ community and people of color. “Not only did the White House statement on World AIDS Day fail to mention the population in which two-thirds of HIV cases in the U.S. occur—gay and bisexual men—it also failed to point out the disproportionate impact in communities of color, for gay and bisexual men of color, particularly young men of color, or for transgender women,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV/AIDS project director for Lambda Legal.

    National Endowment for the Arts Rejects Grant Application for San Francisco Mime Troupe

    The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has rejected the Tony and OBIE award-winning San Francisco Mime Troupe’s (SFMT) 2018 grant proposal for $25,000. The only other time the SFMT was rejected for an NEA award for their summer show funding was for Oil and Water, which debuted in 2013. On June 26, 2017, Breitbart News published an article entitled “Trump NEA Grants $20k for Lesbian Illegal Alien Musical,” using the SF Mime Troupe’s summer musical about immigration, Walls, to vilify SFMT. Saying that the NEA was funding “… a San Francisco musical about a criminal illegal alien lesbian with mental health issues who is in love with an immigration agent,” Breitbart News was bolstering the case made by President Trump for defunding the NEA entirely.

    CDC Report Finds Frequency of HIV Testing and Time from Infection to Diagnosis Improve

    A new CDC report, “CDC Vital Signs: HIV Testing and Diagnosis Delays,” finds that HIV is being diagnosed sooner after infection than was previously documented. According to the report, the estimated median time from HIV infection to diagnosis was three years in 2015. CDC previously estimated that, in 2011, the median time from HIV infection to diagnosis was three years and seven months. The seven-month improvement is a considerable decrease over a four-year period and reinforces other recent signs that the nation’s approach to HIV prevention is paying off. Overall, 85 percent of the estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in 2014 knew their HIV status. CDC estimates about 40 percent of new HIV infections originate from people who don’t know they have HIV. The report concludes HIV is being diagnosed more quickly, the number of people who have the virus under control is up, and annual infections are down.

    Gay Reporter Not Invited to White House Christmas Party

    Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, a reporter in the press corps working for an LGBTQ news website, says he was not invited to the Christmas party at the White House. “I assumed it was an oversight because I’m at the White House every day and contribute to the pool reports,” Johnson said. But when Johnson reached out to Trump officials to ask why he was not on the guest list, he received no answer. Johnson has also publicly sparred with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, whom he says freezes him out and never calls on him for questions. “The lack of invite is very consistent with me being ignored by Sanders during the press briefings,” Johnson said.

    State Delegate-elect Danica Roem to Appear in Castro for Meet and Greet

    State Delegate-elect Danica Roem (D) of Virginia will hold a casual meet-and-greet as she prepares to make history as the nation’s first out-and-seated transgender state legislator when she is sworn in on January 10. The venue she chose was purposely in the Castro neighborhood at Beaux, 2344 Market Street, 11:30 am-3 pm. Roem is a 33-year-old step-mom, a lifelong resident of her district, and authored more than 2,500 news stories as the lead reporter of the Gainesville Times. On November 7, she defeated a 26-year Republican incumbent who authored Virginia’s constitutional ban on marriage equality with her platform based on traffic, jobs, schools and equality.

    Castro Neighborhood All Decked Out for the Holidays

    As the carol goes, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas,” and all of the other fall/winter holidays in the Castro. From the silver and red bows on Market Street median palm trees, to the lighted sidewalk trees along Upper Market, to the 28′ decorated and lit holiday tree at the Bank of America Plaza—the Castro is all decked out for the holidays. The Tree and decorations will be up until right after New Year’s Day (except that the Market Street sidewalk trees will stay lit until after the Martin Luther King three-day weekend through January 15).