News Bites for November 25, 2015

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender news bites for the week.


Venue Owners Appeal Fine for Denying Lesbian Couple Wedding

(AP) Owners of a wedding venue who were fined $13,000 for violating the state's anti-discrimination law argued Monday that they should be legally allowed to follow their Christian faith.

The owners of Liberty Ridge Farm north of Albany refused to host the 2013 wedding of Melisa and Jennie McCarthy, citing their religious beliefs. Now the business owned by Robert and Cynthia Gifford is appealing a ruling from the state's Division of Human Rights that they violated New York law and seeking to have the fine reversed.

"It would violate the Giffords' faith to facilitate this union," attorney Caleb Dalton told a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.

Dalton, counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said their faith does not allow them to participate in a marriage that is not between one man and one woman.

Mariko Hirose, an attorney with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the McCarthys, who now live in the New York City area, were "heartbroken" when they were turned away from the Giffords' farm. Hirose and a lawyer for the human rights division argued that the business cannot be exempted from having to follow anti-discrimination laws.

The judges on the mid-level appeals court are expected to issue a ruling within the next two months.

The Giffords attended the hearing, and afterward Cynthia Gifford told reporters they are asking the court to respect the freedoms America was built upon.

"When the government tells you what to say and punishes you if you don't, it's very frightening," she said. "And all of us Americans should be scared about this, no matter where we stand on the issue."


Meet the Bisexual Author Behind “Carol”

(SFGN) Cate Blanchett’s new movie “Carol” is a love story set in 1950s New York. Blanchett plays the title role, opposite Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” 2011, “Side Effects,” 2013) as her love interest. The film is adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel, “The Price of Salt.”

Highsmith was a crime writer whose books have been well adapted to films including “Strangers on a Train,” “Purple Noon,” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” She was also known to have taken male and female lovers.

“She loved women, but preferred men as company,” Joan Schenkar, who wrote the authorized biography “The Talented Miss Highsmith,” told the New York Post. “Her life [was] so divided that she kept secrets from everyone.”

When Highsmith first released “The Price of Salt” she did so under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, due to her mother’s disapproval of Highsmith’s interest in women. Andrew Wilson, author of the 2003 biography, “Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith” says that Highsmith often fell for unavailable women, much to her detriment.

“She had a string of passionate but often unhappy love affairs, and as she aged, she became increasingly dependent on alcohol.”

Highsmith’s biographers often cite the writer’s quirkiness and guarded behavior.

“Very occasionally she’d bring a few snails to a dinner party,” says Schenkar. “She adored snails because, like her, they existed between genders. They also have protective shells and are mysterious.

“No one whose favorite mollusk is a snail ever wants to be unshelled.”


Maryland Adopts Trans Inclusive Insurance Coverage

(FreeStateLegal) Maryland’s trans residents may now have insurance coverage for health treatments deemed medically necessary.

CareFirst, the largest health insurer in the state, and the state Medicaid program, Maryland Medical Assistance have removed exclusions which had prevented treatment for gender dysphoria from being covered.

The exclusion denied coverage for any “treatment leading to or in connection with transsexualism, or sex changes or modifications, including but not limited to surgery.” Under the new policy, that exclusion will no longer be included on any new health insurance plans sold by CareFirst, as well as on the Maryland Health Connection, the insurance marketplace under the federal Affordable Care Act, starting on Jan. 1, 2016. For all existing health plans — including FreeState Legal’s own employee health plan — the removal of exclusion will occur upon the date that the health plan is renewed. MetroWeekly reports.

However, Patrick Paschall, executive director of FreeState Legal, says the exclusion may continue in plans offered by large self-insured employers where the plan is administered but not sold by CareFirst. Paschall estimates the percentage of Marylanders who are covered by CareFirst range from as low as 70 percent to as high as 90 percent. FreeState Legal is a civic legal aid organization, which filed a lawsuit against CareFirst on behalf of a client who had been denied transition related healthcare.

“In our discussions with CareFirst, we raised the issue and informed them that if they continue to have these types of exclusions, we’re going to continue to have these types of legal claims,” says Paschall. “And they did their own internal analysis and found that it makes sense for them to remove the exclusion.”

States that have taken similar measures include: Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.


What it Means to be Intersex

(SFGN) It’s estimated that 1 in roughly 2,000 people are born intersex, meaning they have some combination of ovaries and testes. This may be a result of either ovarian or testicular tissue growing in the same organ or a “male” and “female” side developing within the body, NPR reports.

In other cases, an intersex individual may inherit a chromosomal abnormality. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia for example, results in a masculinization of the genitals in people with XX chromosomes. Or androgen insensitivity syndrome in which a person’s body does not respond to testosterone and the individual has XY chromosomes and feminized genitalia.

While being intersex is not the same as being transgender, the new level of trans visibility, and resurgence of pansexuality is also opening up discussion about the understanding of gender identity on a spectrum rather than a binary system.

Barbara J. King is an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary. In King’s class anthropology and gender course, she reviews “Sexing the Body,” by biologise Anne Fausto-Sterling. Sterling explains the anatomical and genetic science and how the medical practice is to surgically "fix" babies identified at birth as intersex, by sculpting the body to make it functionally male or female.

The practice has received criticism. In her column in the Atlantic, “Should we fix intersex children?” Davis writes, “It would behoove all of us to escape these constraints of binary thinking that underline sex, gender, and sexuality. Genitalia are naturally variable and are not predictive of our gender or sexual identities, which are complex and fluid parts of who we are. There are many ways to accomplish your gender and sexual identities both with and without your genitals.”

A statement which Fausto-Sterling also makes, "There is no either/or. Rather, there are shades of difference. ... Labeling someone a man or a woman is a social decision."


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