News briefs for this week.

Pride Center Launches “Couples Speak” program

(PrideCenter) As part of its PALS projects, the Pride Center at Equality Park, 2040 North Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors has launched a monthly, four session couples’ group called Couples Speak.

Participants attend weekly group sessions for four (4) weeks.  There, they practice skills to strengthen their relationship skills and improve their individual health by working on: (1) improving healthy communication, self-assertiveness & smart disclosure, (2) negotiating their differences/needs, (3) avoiding or managing conflicts; and (4) building healthy routines.

Sessions begin at 6 p.m., contact Lorenzo Robertson at the Pride Center, 954-463-9011 ext. 306 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

Gay8 Festival to Debut in Little Havana

(Gay8) Little Havana’s first Latino LGBT art and music festival will be held on Jan. 17 2016. Along a span of Miami’s Calle Ocho (SW 8th St.) from 14th to 17th Avenues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. GayOcho/Gay8 will feature performances from Palo, Suenalo, Picadillo and the Spam Allstars.

“For the first time the LGBT community is honored to host a community festival meant to open doors and connect people who traditionally don’t connect” said organizer Damian Pardo. “We hope Gay8 will come to represent a fun-filled day for all Miamians where we celebrate diversity and working together.”

The street fair will include dance parties, food tastings, a cigar lounge art exhibits and performances.

Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater and the Miami International Film Festival will showcase LGBT films throughout the day.

For more information, visit www.gay8festival.com

Lips Toy Drive to Benefit Children’s Diagnostic Treatment Center

(Lips) Lips drag dining in Oakland Park is holding its holiday toy drive to benefit Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center (CDTC) on Dec. 6 during their 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday Brunch shows. Guests are asked to bring an unwrapped children’s toy to donate.

“We are grateful to Lips for supporting the mission of CDTC as we seek to raise much-needed funds and collect toys for children in need,” said Ana E. Calderon Randazzo, Ph.D. of Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center.

The Dec. 6 show also celebrates the birthday of Lips hostess Nicolette.

Reservations are required and can be made by calling (954) 567-0987. A $10 cover charge in addition to brunch will apply to each attendee and go directly to the CDTC.

The CDTC serves more than 11,000 children with special healthcare needs in Broward County annually. As a facility of Broward Health, they provide comprehensive prevention, intervention and treatment services within a medical home environment for infants and children with special health care needs.

NC School Suspends All Clubs After Parents Question LGBT Club

(AP) After parents complained about a newly formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Club at Rutherford County K-12 public charter school, the school's board of directors suspended all clubs' activities.

Parents, teachers, pastors and concerned citizens voiced a mix of opinions to the club during Lake Lure Classical Academy's regular board of directors meeting Thursday, The Daily Courier of Forest City reports.

The board voted 5-3 to suspend all club activity until it can seek legal counsel on club protocol.

Visual arts teacher Layne Long said she allowed a female student to hold the club's meetings in her classroom and gave the student a poster from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to display. One grandmother complained that the poster meant she had to explain the meaning of "gay" and "lesbian" to her elementary school grandchild.

"This is not a religious club. This is a human rights club," Long said. "My father is a Christian and I've been brought up to understand that God is love. Jesus wants to help people."

In her one comment on the issue, School Director Jessica Boland expressed her disappointment in the situation and said the community is the main reason for the controversy.

"From the school side, when you are in the school community, the issues aren't as prevalent as the outside community is making it," Boland said. "I find it disappointing that we have to suspend all clubs."

Along with suspending all club activity, the board also adopted a new policy on posters. According to the new policy, all club posters must have a stamp of approval from the school director and can only be placed on designated club bulletin boards on the middle and high school halls.

Ind. GOP Leader Says Social Conservative Will Sponsor LGBT Bill

(AP) The GOP leader of Indiana's state Senate announced Monday that a socially conservative lawmaker known for pushing religious and anti-abortion measures will sponsor a "comprehensive" bill addressing LGBT rights and religious protections.

Republican leader David Long refused to give details about what the proposal will entail other than stating that Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, is drafting the measure, which will be heard when the Legislature meets in January. Holdman declined to comment through a spokesman.

For months, gay rights supporters and religious conservatives who clashed last spring over the state's religious objections law have anticipated a bitter debate over LGBT rights when the Legislature convenes. Business groups and other supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are pushing the Legislature to adopt protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodation, while social conservatives want to address the concerns of people who object to homosexuality for religious reasons.

Long accused LGTB supporters of "shortchanging" debate through their campaign slogan, which suggests the addition of "four words and a comma" to state law is all that's needed to resolve the volatile issue.

"It's not just four words and a comma," said Long. He added that discussion about "freedom of religion" has been sidelined and "we should not discount that as we discuss how to deal with this issue."

Long made the remarks at a forum that previewed the coming session and was hosted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the voice of the state's business establishment, which has called on lawmakers to approve protections for LGBT people. He appeared alongside Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, as well as Democratic Party leaders, who are in the minority.

It was the first time in months that either Bosma or Long substantively addressed the issue in public.

Charlie Sheen Says He is HIV-Positive; Has Been Blackmailed

(AP) Former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen has HIV.

In an interview Tuesday on NBC's "Today," the 50-year-old actor said he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS about four years ago, but that, thanks to a rigorous drug regimen, he's healthy.

When asked by co-host Matt Lauer if he had transmitted the disease to others, he declared, "Impossible. Impossible," and insisted he had informed every sexual partner of his condition beforehand.

Since his diagnosis he has had unprotected sex with only two partners, he said, adding, with no further clarification, "They were under the care of my doctor and they were completely warned ahead of time."

He said one reason for going public with his condition was to put a stop to shakedowns from prostitutes and others who threatened to out him. He said one prostitute took a photo of the HIV-related drugs in his medicine cabinet and threatened to sell that photo to the tabloids.

He said he had paid "enough to bring it into the millions" - perhaps as much as $10 million - to buy their silence and now was seeking to "put a stop to this barrage of attacks and sub-truths."

"Are you still paying these people?" Lauer asked him.

"Not after today I'm not," said Sheen, who during his appearance appeared jumpy and spoke in stammering bursts.

He did not address when, and by whom, he may have been infected.

Chelsea Manning Responds to US Govt. Move to Dismiss Health Care Lawsuit

(EDGE) The Department of Justice has filed a brief In Chelsea Manning's case against the United States government challenging her request to grow her hair beyond the two inches allowed by military regulation. The government's brief argues, among others things that withholding this treatment is for Manning's own good to protect her from alleged assaults if she is permitted to further feminize in accordance with her medical needs.

Said Manning:

"Nobody knows your gender more than you do. No-one. You do not know my gender better than I do. A doctor doesn't know it better than me. My parents don't know it better than me. No one experiences my gender in the way that I experience it. Gender presentation should reflect the person that you are. When you lose control of your gender presentation you lose an important aspect of your identity and existence."

Read Manning's full statement on Medium.

In September 2015, military officials again denied her repeated requests to be treated as female for purposes of hair length and hair grooming regulations, a recommended part of her treatment for gender dysphoria. Manning is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

Investigators: Man Threatened to Jump from Cruise Ship

(AP) Authorities say cruise passenger Bernardo Garcia Teixeira, who was captured on video clinging to a lifeboat and falling into the ocean, had a fight with his partner just moments before and had threatened to jump overboard.

Garcia Teixeira, 31, was presumed dead after he fell into the water early Friday. Police and the cruise line say he intentionally jumped off a balcony. An attorney for Garcia Teixeira's family said he fell over the railing.

Garcia Teixeira and his partner, Erik Elbaz, 34, were on Royal Caribbean Cruises' Oasis of the Seas when the ship's security responded to their cabin regarding a domestic disturbance between the two men, the Broward Sheriff's Office said.

Homicide detectives reviewed video taken from Garcia Teixeira's cellphone of the couple's interactions with the ship's security, the sheriff's office said. Garcia Teixeira can be heard declaring that he was planning to jump overboard.

Garcia Teixeira jumped from the balcony and landed on a lifeboat hanging next to the fifth deck, authorities said.

Fellow passengers watched in horror as Garcia Teixeira held on for more than a minute as staff members tried to rescue him. Garcia Teixeira eventually fell into the ocean.

An attorney for Garcia Teixeira's family, said the incident was preceded by homophobic comments by the ship's crew toward Garcia Teixeira and Elbaz. Elbaz also told the attorney that Garcia Teixeira initially landed flat on top of the lifeboat and only ended up hanging off the side because of the way crew members repositioned him.

Royal Caribbean has not responded to those specific accusations but said security acted professionally and appropriately.

The cruise ship remained in the area, about 17 miles from Turks and Caicos, overnight to assist with a search and then continued on its way later Friday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Saturday. Garcia Teixeira's body has not been recovered.

Lambda Legal Launches “Know Your Rights in Court” Online Resource

(LambdaLegal) Lambda Legal, a national organization committed to the recognition of full civil rights of LGBT and HIV positive through litigation, education and public policy work, have launched the “Know Your Rights In Court” online resource and interactive video. Lambda Legal Fair Courts Project Director Eric Lesh helps answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

The mobile-friendly digital resource is one of six Lambda Legal Know Your Rights hubs and covers topics such as:

  • Is it proper for a judge to reveal my sexual orientation or HIV status in court?
  • Do judges and court staff have to respect my gender identity and expression?
  • What are my rights regarding language interpretation if my primary language is not English?
  • Are there legal protections for me if I am discriminated against by a judge, attorney or court staff because of my gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation?
  • How can I or my attorney file a complaint against a judge?

Viewers can stream the video online and on their tablets at www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/in-court/faq.