News Briefs for December 9, 2015

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News Bites from around the world this week.

Bill T. Jones to be Honored by Human Rights Campaign

(AP) Tony Award-winning choreographer and mentor Bill T. Jones will be honored by the Human Rights Campaign with its Visibility Award, which recognizes those who shine a light on the struggles of people living with HIV.

The nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization said Monday that Jones would be toasted at a gala dinner on Feb. 6 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Jones won Tonys for choreographing "Spring Awakening" and "Fela!," and also a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant recipient. He formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982 with his late partner Arnie Zane.

He has tackled racism and faith in "Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land," explored those with AIDS in "Still/Here" and created a hip-hop adaptation of Aeschylus' "The Seven."

Transgender Actress, Warhol Muse Holly Woodlawn Dies at 69

(AP) Holly Woodlawn, the transgender actress made famous by Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in their 1970s films "Trash" and "Women in Revolt," has died.

Woodlawn died Sunday in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer, said her former caretaker and friend Mariela Huerta. She was 69.

Born Harold Danhakl, she took on the name Holly Woodlawn after running away from home at age 15 and hitchhiking to New York City, where she became one of Warhol's drag queen "superstars." Her story was immortalized in the first lines of the Lou Reed song "Walk on the Wild Side."

It began: "Holly came from Miami, F.L.A. Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A. Plucked her eyebrows on the way. Shaved her legs and then he was a she. She says, 'Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side.' "

Woodlawn explained in a 2007 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian that she didn't get to know Reed until after the song was released in 1972.

Woodlawn received critical acclaim for her film roles, but she couldn't find mainstream success. Her cult status helped her make a comeback in such 1990s independent films as "Twin Falls Idaho" and "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss." More recently, she appeared in the TV comedy "Transparent."

Of her time as a Warhol superstar, she told the Guardian: "I felt like Elizabeth Taylor! Little did I realize that not only would there be no money, but that your star would flicker for two seconds and that was it. But it was worth it, the drugs, the parties, it was fabulous."

Huerta said Woodlawn had no survivor. Plans for a memorial service were pending.

Chicago School District To Reconsider Transgender Locker Room Deal

(AP) School officials in a suburban Chicago district said Friday they may back out of a newly minted deal with the U.S. Department of Education allowing a transgender student to use a girls' locker room, over a dispute about a hypothetical: What would happen if the girl decided against using the privacy curtains she's agreed to use?

Less than two days after school board members approved the settlement, Township High School District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates had said if the student doesn't use privacy curtains when changing or showering, she won't be granted unrestricted access to the locker room. Federal officials countered that the agreement does not require her to use a privacy curtain, although the student has said she will do so.

The student, who has not been identified and wants to remain anonymous, was born male and identifies as female. She filed a federal complaint after being denied unrestricted locker room access. On Nov. 2, after the school district installed privacy curtains in the locker room, federal officials found the district violated the student's rights under Title IX.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, which represents the girl, said

"Our client should be treated as every teenage girl, with the right to exercise her own sense of modesty and privacy," said ACLU spokesman Edwin Yohnka. "Threatening to cut off our client's access to the locker room if she does not promise to use the privacy curtains exclusively simply moves her current segregation from a separate room to a space inside the locker room, as OCR already concluded."

Cofounder of Defunct Gay Republican Group Endorses Hillary Clinton

(EDGE) Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton received an unexpected endorsement Thursday from Jimmy LaSalvia, a former Log Cabin Republican and cofounder of the now-defunct gay conservative group GOProud.

In an opinion piece published on Huffington Post, LaSalvia, who resigned from the Republican party in 2014 over what he called "a tolerance of bigotry," praised the former Secretary of State as the obvious choice for "other fiscally conservative, culturally modern voters who care about America's place in the world."

"Our vote for president is our vote for who we trust to be in charge to deal with all of the issues that we don't know about yet," LaSalvia wrote. "That's why it's so important for the president to see things from the perspective of all Americans, no matter who we are. The ability to empathize with people who aren't like they are is the most important trait a president can have in a country as diverse as ours. Clinton is the only major contender who has demonstrated that ability."

LaSalvia was quick to swipe at the field of Republican presidential hopefuls, most of whom are appealing to the [party’s] anti-gay base.

"Any candidate who advocates treating some Americans differently under the law than others is unacceptable to me and most other voters," LaSalvia wrote. "I don't support denying rights or granting special rights to anyone, for any reason, whether it's based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, cultural background, or any other characteristic."

LaSalvia recently published the memoir "NO HOPE: Why I Left the GOP (and You Should Too)."

Huge Fashion PR Company Picks Up Grindr as a Client

(EDGE) Men on Grindr are looking to hookup or meet with other men. But, did you ever ask yourself, what Grindr is looking for?

Apparently, the gay hookup app is looking to become a brand, and just signed with one of the biggest fashion public relations company around: PR Consulting, WWD reports.

PR Consulting represents major fashion houses like Dior, Rick Owens and Versace, but now can add Grindr to its lists of clients. The company announced it will be handling all of Grindr's public relations "effective immediately."

While some may find themselves questioning the move, PR Consulting's confounders, Pierre Rougher and Sylvie Picquet-Damesme, said working with the app is an opportunity for fashion brands to reach a large audience.

"When we were first approached by Grindr, we thought it was a fascinating project to be a part of. Joel is passionate about Grindr for Equality and we feel very strongly about putting forth a positive message to the LGBTQ community," the cofounders told WWD. "It might seem surprising to some in the fashion community that we would take Grindr on as a client, but this is a very large platform with more than seven million users worldwide and one million users engaged every second on Grindr.

"It would be foolish to think that the fashion, lifestyle, beauty and luxury industries would not view this as an incredible platform to reach an influential, potential consumer," they added.

Interestingly enough, Paper magazine points out Simkhai's brother, Jonathan Simkhai, is a rising womenswear designer who was named one of the three winners of Vogue's esteemed Fashion Fund at the 2015 CDFA Awards.

Grindr's public relations needs was previously handled in-house.

Mich. Man Jailed for 6 Months After Meeting Teen Boy on Grindr

(EDGE) A man from Brighton, Mich., was sentenced to six months in jail Thursday after having sexual encounters with a then-15-year-old teen he met on Grindr, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Prosecution wanted Alex Peter Benedict, 24, jailed for a year, saying the sentence "was a fair recommendation in light of his conduct." But Benedict's defense attorney argued for less jail time, noting Benedict thought the person he was meeting on the gay hookup app would be an adult.

The Detroit Free Press reports that in criminal law, strict liability states a defendant can be convicted even if he was genuinely ignorant of an element, such as age. Judge Michael P. Hatty agreed that strict liability was the issue. According to Michigan law, a teen under 16 cannot legally give consent to a sexual encounter.

Benedict was sentenced under the state's Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. He will also serve three years’ probation with the first six months in the county jail for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, accosting a child for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit the crime.

Under the act, Benedict will not have a public criminal record if he successfully completes the probation.

Benedict was one of four men who separately "connected with" the teen boy via Grindr, police said, according to the Detroit Free Press. The alleged encounters occurred in January and March and they were reported to the authorities by a family member of the teen, who is now 16.

The three other men were also charged. Their cases are currently moving through the local courts, the newspaper notes.

GOP Lawmaker Wants Mich. to Ignore SCOTUS Marriage Ruling

(EDGE) A resolution to ignore the United States Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage was introduced into the Michigan House of Representatives Thursday. The resolution, which was introduced by republican lawmaker Thomas Hooker, is urging Gov. Rick Snyder and his lieutenants to "uphold their oaths of office and re-claim the state's sovereignty by not recognizing or enforcing" the Obergefell ruling, WZZM reports.

The news came as little surprise in the House. According to a report in MLive, Hooker (R), debuted his resolution during a "rally to protect religious people and stop persecution of religious people" which was held in Lansing on Wednesday.

"Courts do not substitute their social and economic beliefs for the judgement of legislative bodies or elected and passed laws," Hooker said.

Although Hooker may be ignorant of the function of the high court to interpret the constitutionality of laws, he is apparently not alone. During a rally Wednesday, fellow Republican State Rep. Lee Chatfield vowed to co-sponsor the bill.

"Make no mistake, when government destroys God, government becomes God," said Chatfield, whose father is a Christian minister.

Ironically, the "religious freedom" rally was also attended by members of the Satanic Temple of Detroit.

"Religious freedom to us means religious plurality," Satanic Temple director Jex Blackmore told MLive. "The problem is when religious liberty is interpreted as a single voice or opinion and is endorsed by our government as that one singular view point."

HRC Parodies Trump Campaign With Pro-LGBT Merchandise

(EDGE)The Donald just got gay-afied, thanks to the Human Rights Campaign.

The 2016 GOP presidential hopeful has been touting his campaign's slogan "Make America Great Again." Donald Trump has said it during a number of his speeches and is probably best known for wearing the message on a baseball cap. But the HRC got the bright idea to transform the slogan into an LGBT-positive message.

The human rights group is now selling baseball hats with a parody of Trump's slogan: "Make America Gay Again" and "Make America LGBTQ Again," the hat's read.

The Huffington Post reports the caps have become instant bestsellers. The HRC calls the hats "a friendly reminder" to voters that America should be "a place of equality for all."

"We wanted to capture the energy and excitement of our supporters and get people talking about electing a champion for LGBT equality next year," Human Rights Campaign Creative Director Don Kiser told The Huffington Post. "And a fun cap never hurts."

Trump has yet commented on the hats...but knowing him, we bet he will soon!

For $26, you can purchase a hat by clicking here.

Cruz Woos Anti-Gay Extremists, Vows to Fight LBGT Rights

(EDGE) Right Wing Watch reports a recent conference call for conservative activists organized by failed Virginia 2013 lieutenant gubernatorial candidate E.W. Jackson sparked questions about advances made for LGBT rights during the Obama administration that Cruz vows to turn back if elected.

Among those conservatives on the conference call was Peter LaBarbera of the SPLC designated anti-gay hate group Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, who grilled the Texas senator about his position on "the gay agenda."

When asked by LaBarbera how he would overturn the Supreme Court's marriage equality ruling, Cruz said, before promoting constitutional amendments to overturn the ruling and put justices up for retention elections, along with legislation he would "strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over challenges to marriage."

Jackson turned the question over to the post-Don't Ask Don't Tell military, which he complained was "beset with these new LGBT rules."

Cruz replied that "the military is now focused on trying to promote transgendered [sic] soldiers. The role of the military is not to be some left-wing social experiment. The reason we have the brave men and women who sign up as service men and women to defend this nation is to stand for our values, to protect our safety and security, to protect innocent men and women and to stand up and defeat our enemies, and I would stop the shameless politicizing of our military to push a left-wing agenda that is contrary to the values and contrary to who we are as an American people and a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values."

Calif. Police Arrest Suspect in Hate Crime Against LGBT Activist

(EDGE) Police arrested a man from Desert Hot Springs, Calif. Monday whom they believe is connected to a hate crime against two gay men, one of whom is a prominent LGBT rights activist, local newspaper the Desert Sun reports.

Authorities believe Christopher James Carr, 30, is connected to the Nov. 1 attack in Palm Springs, Calif., where he and Keith Terranova, 35, allegedly attacked two gay men. One of the victims is a well-known LGBT rights activist, according to the newspaper.

The Desert Sun reports court documents claim Carr approached George and Chris Zander on Nov. 1 in downtown Palm Springs. The report claims Carr "intentionally" bumped into Chris Zander and told him to get out of the way, hurling a gay slur at him. The couple argued and Carr allegedly tackled Chris Zander, who was left with injuries to his elbows and left hand.

Carr allegedly returned with Terranova and attacked the men. The criminal complaints claim Terranova is accused of attacking Chris Zander with a tire iron and Carr allegedly attack George Zander, a 71-year-old file manager for the LGBT advocacy group, Equality California.

George Zander had to undergo surgery for a double fractured hip. Chris Zander suffered a concussion and needed staples to the back of his head, according to the Desert Sun.

Terranova was arrested Nov. 11 after police questioned him. He pleaded not guilty to felony charges for assault with a deadly weapon, hate crime and elder abuse. Carr was arrested on suspicion of committing a hate crime, elder abuse and battery. He is being held on $500,000 bail. Police told the newspaper there are no other suspects in the incident.

In New Documentary, Reagan Admin Laughs Off AIDS Crisis

A new documentary is shedding light on Ronald Reagan and his administration's lack of respond to the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80s, Gay Star News reports.

The new film, "When AIDS Was Funny," was released on World AIDS Day Tuesday via Vanity Fair's website and reveals Reagan's administration's indifference to the deadly epidemic. The footage the short film obtained shows recordings of press conferences in 1982, 1983 and 1984, where White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes can be heard joking about the AIDS crisis.

When reporter Lester Kinsolving asked Reagan if he was aware of the crisis in 1982, Speaks said: "I don't have it, do you?"

"In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?" Kinsolving asked.

A year later, Speakes said: "If we come up with any research that sheds some light on whether gays should cruise or not cruise, we'll make it available to you."

In 1984, when the 4,200 Americans died from the AIDS epidemic, Speaks admitted he did not raise the issue with Reagan, who first acknowledged the existence of AIDS in 1985.

Anchorage LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance Faces Opposition

(AP) A new effort is underway to repeal the recently enacted Anchorage law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination.

The repeal referendum would ask voters to decide whether the ordinance should remain law. Assembly Ordinance 96 was passed in September, making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The petition application filed Wednesday must be approved by the municipal attorney before supporters can begin collecting signatures. More than 5,750 signatures of registered municipal voters would need to be collected by Jan. 11 for the measure to be considered for the April election, The Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Conservative talk radio host Bernadette Wilson is listed in the application as its primary committee sponsor. Wilson said she and 11 other women joined forces to file the petition because they have "grave concerns" about the ordinance. Some of those concerns are related to "bathrooms and locker rooms and the safety of our children," she said.

"We trust that everyone here within the community is interested in looking out for the best interests of our children when it comes to bathroom and locker room use," she said.

The bathroom issue was also brought up in September when Assemblywoman Amy Demboski proposed an amendment to the ordinance that would have allowed businesses to segregate bathrooms based on a person's male or female anatomy. The amendment failed, but the final version allows people to use the bathrooms, locker rooms or dressing rooms that align with their gender identity.

Drew Phoenix, director of Anchorage's LGBT nonprofit Identity Inc., said Wilson and other Alaskans have a "lack of familiarity" when it comes to the everyday issues faced by transgender people.

World Leaving MSM and Trans Behind in Fight Against HIV/AIDS

(EDGE) In a new report published on World AIDS Day, the ONE Campaign sounded the alarm about a growing complacency in the global fight against HIV/AIDS and warned that the fight will be unwinnable if especially vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men and transgender women, continue to be underserved.
 
Compared with the general population, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to be living with HIV and people who inject drugs are 28 times more likely. Transgender women are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than other adults of reproductive age.
 
To better serve men who have sex with men and the transgender community, and to prevent the world from losing ground in the fight against the epidemic, the report recommends that governments, implementers, and advocates do three key things:

  • Ensure that marginalized and most at-risk populations are better measured so we understand where these populations are and what levels of disease burden they carry and face.
  • Better tailor programs and investments -- with focused marginalized and most at-risk populations or gender strategies where possible -- to ensure that specialists are able to design appropriate outreach approaches and that affected groups can weigh in and meaningfully advise throughout the process.
  • Track how well programs and mechanisms are delivering services for these populations, holding countries and implementers accountable for
    greater impact.

Among the other toplines of the 2015 ONE AIDS Report, which is available for download at www.one.org/aidsreport


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