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National - Alabama Justice Off Bench for Defying Feds On Gay Marriage

(AP) Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from the bench Friday for defying the U.S. Supreme Court on gay marriage, more than a decade after he got in trouble for refusing federal orders to move a Ten Commandments monument.

By suspending Moore for the rest of his term, the nine-member Alabama Court of the Judiciary has effectively removed him from office for the second time.

The outspoken Christian conservative was ousted from office in 2013 for his stand in defense of the 2 ½ ton monument he had installed in the state judicial building, but voters later re-elected him.

The judiciary court ruled that Moore defied law already clearly settled by the high court's Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling when he told Alabama's probate judges six months later that they were still bound by a 2015 state court order to deny marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.

"Beyond question, at the time he issued the January 6, 2016 order, Chief Justice Roy Moore knew about Obergefell and its clear holding that the United States Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry," the court wrote in the unanimous decision.

They said Moore also flouted a federal judge's order that enjoined the judges from enforcing Alabama's same sex marriage ban after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

The 50-page decision indicated that a majority of justices wanted to completely remove Moore - not just suspend him without pay - but they didn't have the unanimous agreement. The effect, though, is the same. Moore is off the bench.

Moore's punishment comes as all three branches of Alabama's government face upheaval. The Republican speaker of the state House of Representatives was removed from office this summer for criminal ethics violations. A legislative committee is weighing whether Gov. Robert Bentley should be impeached over a scandal involving a top aide.


National - California Governor Approves Gender-Neutral Restrooms

(AP) Gov. Jerry Brown waded further into the national debate over transgender rights Thursday as he signed a bill requiring that all single-stall toilets in California be designated as gender neutral.

The measure requires that businesses and governments post non-gender-specific signs on single-occupant restrooms by March 1, 2017. Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco said his legislation would establish the nation's most inclusive restroom-access law and "chart a new course of equality for the nation."

"This simple concept is oddly cutting-edge when compared with the discrimination being enacted in other states," Ting said earlier, while urging the Democratic governor to sign the bill.

Lawmakers sent the legislation to Brown in August, a day after a federal judge temporarily blocked an order by President Barack Obama requiring that public schools let students use bathrooms that correlate with their gender identity.

California students can already do so under a law Brown signed in 2013. He also approved adding gender identity to the state's antidiscrimination laws in 2011.

Supporters of the new legislation said 19 states considered restricting access to restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities based on the user's biological sex, including North Carolina, which passed a law requiring people to use restrooms based on their gender at birth.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider reviewing whether a transgender Virginia high school senior should be permitted to use the boys’ restroom.

Supporters say gender-neutral restrooms also would help parents with children of a different gender and adults caring for aging parents. It would not affect restrooms that have multiple stalls.


Crime - 2 Gay Bars Robbed in Same Night, Ariz. Police Say

(EDGE) Police from Phoenix, Ariz. say two different gay bars in the city were the site of armed robberies on the same night earlier this week, local news station KTVK reports.

The incidents took place Tuesday. The first robbery occurred just after 9 p.m. at Pat O's Bunkhouse Saloon, where two people were robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot. The second robbery was at Los Diablos, just two miles away from the first incident. Police said the suspects robbed patrons on the bar's patio. 

"They were out of here within seconds," Matthew Harty, owner of Los Diablos, told KTVK.

Police told the news station both incidents were similar and involved two young male suspects, who are still at large, armed with a gun. They added they are unsure if the bars or patrons were targeted. Harty thinks otherwise.

"I actually think there is some connection with it," he said. "I don't know if they thought the opportunity was there at this time of the evening or if it was planned out."

The suspects stole wallets and cellphones, but some of the items were later recovered. Police described the male suspects as Hispanic or Native American and 16 to 25 years old. 

The authorities are currently investigating and are looking at surveillance footage that shows the suspects at both locations. Both bars will remain open and are increasing security, KTVK reports.

"Their (patrons) safety is of the utmost importance to us at Diablos and also I think the [LGBT] community," Harty told the news station.

Watch KTVK's report on the incidents below.


Sports - Sacramento Kings Build World's First Arena to Fully Accommodate Transgender Fans

(EDGE) Two of the nation's largest LGBT organizations, Equality California and Transgender Law Center, today commended the Sacramento Kings for building the world's first entertainment and sports arena to fully accommodate transgender fans. Golden 1 Center, which is set to officially open on October 1, will have 23 all gender public restrooms throughout the arena.

In addition, the Sacramento Kings proudly support the Transform California campaign -- a campaign founded by Equality California and Transgender Law Center to promote respect, understanding and safety for all transgender Californians. As part of the effort, coalition members, legislators and organizations sign the Transform California pledge -- opposing discrimination against transgender people.

"The Sacramento Kings are leading not only the NBA, but sports worldwide in building the first arena to ensure transgender fans are fully respected and welcomed," said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California, the nation's largest statewide LGBT civil rights organization. "We commend the Sacramento Kings and we are hopeful they are the first of many franchises to provide accommodations for all fans."

"We set out to build the most connected and forward-thinking arena in the world because we wanted to ensure the very best fan experience for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Vivek Ranadive, Owner and Chairman of the Sacramento Kings.

"It's heartening to see a major sports team take such a clear and meaningful step to support their transgender fans, and we hope many others will follow the Sacramento Kings' lead," said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, the largest national organization advancing justice for transgender and gender non-conforming people through litigation, policy advocacy, and public education. "Sports are a big part of many people's lives, and everyone should be able to enjoy the game without worrying about being harassed if they need to use a restroom."


National - Gender-Neutral Homecoming 'Queen,' Female 'King'


(AP) Students at a Maryland high school will get to choose whether they want to be considered as a king or queen, regardless of their gender, as part of a gender-neutral homecoming court.

The Washington Post ( ) reports Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School student government representatives voted last week that the top two finalists from a ballot will be crowned at the school's football game Oct. 7. Those honored could include two boys, two girls, transgender students or a boy-girl duo.

Each winner gets to decide how they want to be identified: as "royalty" or as a king or queen.

Student Government Association President Jacob Rains says students didn't want to tell their fellow classmates that boys can only be considered as kings, while girls could only be seen as queens.


Politics - Utah Lawmaker Bringing Back Hate Crime Bill Under New Name


(AP) A Utah senator is bringing back a recently defeated proposal to beef up the state's hate crimes law and include LGBT people.

Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher of West Valley City said Monday his idea is narrowly tailored to the small group of criminals who terrorize groups of people based on race, religion or sexual orientation.

He's calling his proposal a victim selection measure rather than hate crime legislation.

Thatcher says the title reflects the focus on suspects' actions rather than thoughts or ideas, which are protected free speech.

Thatcher faced questions from his colleagues when he introduced a draft similar to one voted down last session.

Lawmakers questioned whether the enhanced penalties are necessary, if they could prevent future crimes targeting certain groups and how far the definition of a protected group could extend.



International - Poll Shows Australians Back Gay Marriage but Not Plebiscite

(AP) A majority of Australians support gay marriage, an opinion poll on Wednesday showed, but they do not back the government's plan to hold a national vote on whether it should be allowed.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government argues that its election victory in July gave it a mandate to hold a non-binding national vote known as a plebiscite in February to decide whether same-sex marriage should be legalized.

But the poll published in The Australian newspaper showed that only 39 percent of voters thought there should be such a plebiscite, while 48 percent said lawmakers should decide the issue without a national vote. Another 13 percent of respondents were undecided.

The poll also showed that 62 percent of respondents were in favor of marriage equality, 32 percent were opposed and 6 percent were uncommitted.

The poll was a national survey of 1,662 voters last weekend. It had a 2.4 percentage point margin of error.

The poll bolstered the opposition Labor Party's stance after it signaled it is likely to decide to scuttle the plebiscite when its lawmakers settle their policy position at a meeting on Oct. 11.

The conservative government needs opposition support to get enabling legislation for the plebiscite through a hostile Senate.

Parties that support gay marriage, including Labor, argue that the plebiscite was proposed by hard-right conservatives who want it to fail.

They argue that Parliament should dec+ide the issue and avoid a divisive public debate.

Turnbull has described the 170-million Australian dollar ($130-million) cost of the plebiscite as the price of democracy.

The plebiscite would carry no legal weight and Parliament would still have to approve legislation to allow gay marriage. Some conservative lawmakers have said they would vote against gay marriage regardless of the plebiscite outcome.


Pride - LGBTQ Festival Canceled in Haiti Amid Threats, Gov't Order

(AP) Organizers of a cultural festival in Haiti celebrating the Afro-Caribbean LGBTQ community said Tuesday that it has been called off due to numerous threats of violence and a subsequent prohibition by a government commissioner.

The four-day Massimadi film, art and performance event was supposed to start Tuesday in the capital, Port-au-Prince, but organizers said it had to be postponed as a prominent Haitian cultural institution known as FOKAL and other co-hosts were threatened with arson and other attacks.

"FOKAL has been receiving threats of outrageous violence," said Lorraine Mangones, executive director of the nonprofit Knowledge & Freedom Foundation.

Jeudy Charlot of the gay rights group Kouraj, the main organizer of the event, said he is determined that the arts festival by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Haitians and their supporters will be held at a later date.

"There are very homophobic people who are against it, and the government official who is responsible for the jurisdiction of Port-au-Prince has also taken a decision to prevent the festival for now," said Charlot. "But we still plan on holding Massimadi in the future."

Capital Commissioner Jean Danton Leger confirmed that he issued an order to block the festival, telling a local radio station it was in part to protect Haiti's "moral and social" values.

Leger had received a complaint in recent days from Sen. Jean Renel Senatus, who considers the event an affront to traditional families.

Haiti's LGBTQ community has long remained largely underground because of social stigma, although there are no laws criminalizing homosexual relations as there are in a number of English-speaking Caribbean islands.

The Massimadi festival was first launched in 2009 in Montreal by a group called African Rainbow. It has also been held without any problems in Belgium. This was the first year it was scheduled to take place in Haiti.


Health - Gov. Brown Signs Landmark PrEP & PEP Education Bill

(EDGE) Landmark legislation to boost awareness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV infection was signed into law today by California Gov. Jerry Brown, becoming the first statewide legislation of its kind.

Co-sponsored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health and introduced by Assembly member Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson), AB 2640 will ensure high-risk HIV-negative individuals receive information about methods that reduce the risk of contracting HIV, including PrEP and PEP, during HIV post-test counseling.

"We are extremely pleased that Governor Brown has signed this bill into law," APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson said. "This is one of several proposals the governor has supported to increase information about and the availability of PrEP and PEP, and we thank him for his continued leadership on this issue. AB 2640 is a crucial step toward raising awareness about effective HIV prevention tools, reducing new infections, and ending the epidemic in California."

PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative individuals take a daily medication to reduce their risk of becoming infected. PrEP has been shown to be up to 99 percent effective at preventing HIV transmission. PEP involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after a potential exposure to reduce the risk of becoming HIV-positive. According to a 2015 survey of gay and bisexual men by the California HIV/AIDS Research Program, only 1 in 10 respondents had ever used PrEP and nearly 85 percent had never talked to their doctor about PrEP. 

The West Hollywood City Council recently voted to require that the city's contracted providers of HIV testing provide information about PrEP during pre- and/or post-test counseling. However, there is currently no statewide requirement to provide information about any HIV prevention methods, including PrEP and PEP, during HIV post-test counseling.