News Briefs for the Week of Feb. 22, 2017

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Protesters on "Not My President's Day." Credit: Paul Vercammen / CNN.

Check out the latest news from around the world!


LGBT Employees Ask Education Secretary to Keep Protections

(AP) LGBT employees have asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to commit to safeguarding anti-discrimination regulations amid fears that the Trump administration may weaken those protections.

In the email, obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, staffers at the Education Department urged the new secretary to issue a statement confirming her commitment to Title IX rules, which prohibit discrimination based on sex in educational programs.

"At a time when students and individuals across the nation are being targeted with overtly discriminatory treatment, our nation needs you to remind and empower students about their right to equal access to education," the staffers wrote.

The email was sent Wednesday by a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Education Department employees and their supporters.

"We look forward to partnering with you in this very important work and hope that as a 'door open type of person,' you will open your office to hear from both your LGBTQ staff and the LGBTQ families our Department serves," the employees wrote.

The Education Department did not provide immediate comment.

The move follows a decision by President Donald Trump's Justice Department to withdraw a motion in the ongoing lawsuit over bathroom rights for transgender students in public schools. LGBT advocates said they see the move as a signal the administration will not protect transgender rights.


Fox News Anchor Shep Smith Takes Down Trump After 'Crazy' Press Conference

(EDGE) Out Fox News anchor Shepard Smith had a strong reaction to President Donald Trump's solo press conference Thursday, calling the president's actions "crazy."

"It is crazy what we're watching every day. It's absolutely crazy," Smith said of Trump. "He keeps repeating ridiculous, throwaway lines that are not true at all and sort of avoiding this issue of Russia as if we're some kind of fools for asking the question. 

"Really? Your opposition was hacked and the Russians were responsible for it, and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it was happening, and we're fools for asking the questions? No, sir," he went on to say. "We are not fools for asking this question, and we demand to know the answer to this question. You owe this to the American people. 

"Your supporters will support you either way," Smith continued. "If your people were on the phone, what were they saying? We have a right to know. We absolutely do, and that you call us fake news and put us down like children for asking these questions on behalf of the American people is inconsequential. People deserve that answer, at very least."

Watch Smith's rant, via Media Matters: 


LGBTQ Advocates Condemn Trump Admin. Raids, Join 'Day Without Immigrants'

(EDGE) In Washington, D.C., advocates marched to the White House to call on the Trump Administration to stop the massive raids sweeping the nation. In the last week alone, close to 700 immigrants have been arrested, detained, and processed for deportation regardless of the immigration status. 

"The Trump Administration's massive raids are reprehensible, inhumane and simply put, un-American. Instead of working to fix our broken immigration system, and provide a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants, including 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants, who are already living, working, paying taxes, and contributing to our society, Donald Trump is terrorizing immigrant communities through massive, indiscriminate, and destructive raids. Hundreds of families have already been separated because of Trump's actions targeting and dehumanizing immigrants. 

"President Trump's actions in his first few weeks in office are direct attacks on the lives and liberties of black, brown, immigrant and Muslim people. We will not allow Trump's hate rhetoric, Islamophobia, incitement of violence, and scapegoating of refugees and immigrants to prevail. We will not allow Trump's infringements on our civil rights to continue without a fight. We will continue to stand up against Trump's racist agenda and challenge it every step of the way. 

"We call on everyone to join us in demanding DHS Secretary John F. Kelly immediately stop the massive raids, detentions and deportations. We also urge House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican-led Congress to stand up to Trump's Deportation Force and protect immigrant communities from being terrorized," said Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Executive Director.


Finnish Lawmakers Reject Call to Revoke Same-Sex Marriage

(AP) Finnish lawmakers have rejected a petition from more than 100,000 people demanding to repeal a law allowing same-sex marriage.

The move is considered a last-minute attempt to revoke the law that made Finland the last Nordic country to allow homosexuals to wed.

In Friday's 120-48 vote with two abstentions and 29 absentees, Finland's Parliament rejected a public petition demanding that marriage remain "a genuinely egalitarian union between man and woman" and calling for "repealing the gender-neutral marriage law."

In Finland, any petition with at least 50,000 signatures is automatically considered by Parliament.

Although same-sex couples have been able to live in officially registered partnerships in Finland since 2002, it wasn't until 2014 that Finland decided to approve same-sex marriage, giving couples right to share a surname and to adopt children.

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