High School Students Granted Social Justice Awards

Three local high school students have been selected to receive this year’s Daniel S. Hall Social Justice Award. The award is named after Daniel S. Hall, a local attorney who manages a financial counseling company. Hall is a father of three, an activist and a mentor of gay youth who has a strong interest in education.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, awards the annual scholarship to local college-bound high school seniors who have demonstrated an interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community. 

The three students selected were Daniel Brassloff from Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Victor Espidol from Boynton Beach Community High School, and Melanie Camejo Coffigny from Lake Worth Community High School. 

Brassloff is the founder and president of We the People, an equality club at his high school that created a website to help transgender people, and will be attending Babson College to study social entrepreneurship.

Espidol is the founder of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance, and traveled to to Talahassee in 2014 to urge legislatures to defeat a bill that would have banned transgender individuals from using their self-identified bathrooms. He will be studying biology at the University of Florida.

Coffingy is founder and president of her school’s GSA, and marched alongside policemen and women employed by the School District of Palm Beach County in conjunction with the 2016 PrideFest of the Palm Beaches. She will be studying neuroscience at Duke University.

“These three students exemplify the new generation of LGBTQ activists, who help bring our nation together on our issues, which, unfortunately, divide America today,” said Hall in a news release from the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. 


Poster at Lithuanian Eatery: Trump Locking Lips With Putin

(AP) A street artist in Lithuania has adorned a barbecue restaurant with a poster showing Donald Trump locking lips with Vladimir Putin.

Restaurant owner Dominykas Ceckauskas said Saturday the presumptive U.S. Republican presidential nominee and the Russian president both have huge egos "and they seem to get along pretty well."

He said the image is "an ironic view of what can be expected."

Local artist Mindaugas Bonanu created the wheat paste poster for the eatery in the capital Vilnius on Friday. It's on the outside of the Keule Ruke restaurant- Lithuanian for "Smoking Pig" - along with the text "Make Everything Great Again" - a play on Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again."

Ceckauskas said the poster was a nod to a 1979 photograph of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing East German ally Erich Honecker on the mouth - once a customary greeting between Socialist leaders. The iconic shot was later painted on the Berlin Wall.

There have been no calls to remove the more than 2-meter (6 ½-foot) poster.

Berlin once was the symbol of the Cold War, Ceckauskas noted.

"We think that the border now is not in Berlin, but somewhere here in the Baltic states, between (the) East and the West," he told The Associated Press.

Lithuania - and its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia - regained its independence in the early 1990's after nearly five decades under Soviet occupation and the 1991 Soviet collapse. More than a dozen people were killed and scores were injured in a Soviet crackdown on Lithuania's independence drive in January 1991.

All three Baltic nations have since joined NATO.


Harvey Milk street signs installed in Utah

(AP)  Salt Lake City has installed signs for a downtown street that's been named in honor of pioneering gay leader Harvey Milk.

Salt Lake City mayor Jackie Biskupski helped mount signs Friday morning in preparation for a dedication celebration taking place Saturday.

Biskupski is the city's first openly gay mayor.

Salt Lake City's Council voted unanimously last month to rename part of 900 South after Milk.

Milk won a seat on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors in 1977, becoming one of the first openly gay people elected to public office in the U.S.

In addition to Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor, Utah's capital city recently elected its second sitting gay councilman, creating an increasingly friendly atmosphere for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.


Oklahoma lawmaker delivers anti-gay farewell speech

(AP) Rep. Sally Kern, a conservative Oklahoma Republican who's sparked fierce criticism for disparaging remarks about gays and other minorities, doubled down on her anti-gay remarks this week as she closed her 12-year career in the state House with a farewell speech to her colleagues.

A former schoolteacher and wife of a Baptist preacher from a suburban enclave in northwest Oklahoma City, Kern is term-limited and can't run for re-election. Her retirement is being celebrated by gay rights advocates who have worked to oppose Kern's legislative agenda for years and who sponsored a ``Farewell Sally'' fundraiser.

Kern, 69, drew national attention in 2008 after saying at a political forum that the ``homosexual agenda'' poses a greater threat to the U.S. than terrorists, comments she stood by on Wednesday when she took to the House well to deliver her speech, a ritual for outgoing lawmakers.

"Same-sex marriage has been forced on every single state by the courts, when 31 of our states voted overwhelmingly to define as God has always defined it,'' Kern said. "All across the nation, children are being encouraged to try the homosexual lifestyle and even to play like the opposite sex, because they could be a transgender.

"I didn't apologize in 2008 and I don't apologize today either, because God's word has not changed.''

"The representatives' final speech before her colleagues was shameful and will be remembered as the capstone of a career built on hatred and discrimination. For that I pity her,'' said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma.

Stevenson's group is hosting a $35-per-plate ``Farewell Sally'' fundraiser later this month. The proceeds will go toward advocacy efforts for LGBT rights.


McCrory: Instead of protests, talk needed on LGBT matters

(AP) North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory says that instead of protests and demonstrations over laws about LGBT rights, there needs to be more discussion.

Local media outlets report McCrory was at the Governor's Western Residence in Asheville on Saturday where he was met with demonstrators both supporting and opposed to a law limiting LGBT rights in North Carolina.

On Friday the Obama administration issued a directive saying that public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. That directive comes amid a court fight between the state and the federal government over North Carolina's House Bill 2.

McCrory, who was hosting an open house at the Western residence, told WLOS-TV that he wants demonstrators to be respectful and said he would be respectful of them.

“This a very complex issue. It's an emotional issue for people of all sides, and I think instead of having threats and boycotts and protests, we need to have more discussion,'' McCrory said.

There were also demonstrations Saturday by environmentalists concerned about another issue - what the protesters said is a corrupt relationship between McCrory and Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good.

Members of nine local groups protested against HB2, chanting and holding up signs reading such things as “love is unstoppable'' and ``love does not discriminate.''

“It's not just about civil rights, but human rights,'' Sue McQueen told The Citizen-Times of Asheville. ``I'm here to support common sense. I'm against anything that puts North Carolina back 150 years. We need to look forward.''


Bangladesh police arrest suspect in killing of gay activist

(AP) Police in Bangladesh said Sunday that they have arrested a suspected Muslim militant for his alleged involvement in the killing last month of a gay rights activist and his friend in the capital.

Police identified the suspect as Shariful Islam Shihab, a former member of the banned Islamic group Harkatul Jihad. They said he joined another militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, in mid-2015.

Shihab, 37, was arrested in the southwestern district of Kushtia, Munirul Islam, head of a newly formed police counterterrorism unit, told a news conference. He did not give any further details.

There have been a series of recent attacks targeting atheists, moderates and foreigners in Bangladesh. Only one of 15 such killings has been prosecuted since 2013.

Islam said that Shihab allegedly killed Xulhaz Mannan, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, because he was a gay rights activist and promoted the gay community's cause through a magazine as an editor.

He said Shihab told police during questioning that he took part in stabbing to death Mannan and his friend as ordered by his group's high command. There was no independent confirmation of the police officer's claim.

Police earlier said they identified at least five people who took part in the killings on April 25 from video footage collected from buildings near the crime scene in Dhaka's Kalabagan area.

"We are checking the footage to determine whether Shihab is visible there,'' Islam said.

The Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida had claimed responsibility for the April 25 killing of Mannan and his friend, Tanay Majumder. Mannan was also a cousin of former Foreign Minister Dipu Moni of the governing Awami League party.



Teacher Suspended For Allegedly Sending Nudes to Students Via Grindr

High school officials from Nashua, N.H. have suspended a teacher after he was accused of sending nude photos of himself to students via the gay hook up app Grindr, local ABC-affiliate WMUR 9 reports.

Nashua police said Bruce Lanctot, 40, sent nude pics to students and asked them to met with him in order to engage in sexual conduct. The authorities said they received a single report from the Division of Children, Youth and Families, but cops later discovered multiple victims.

Lanctot turned himself in to police Wednesday and faces a number of charges, including two felonies related to a using a computer to lure teens for sex, the news station reports. He has since been released on bail.

Lanctot has been employed by the Nashua School District for nearly 15 years where he taught social studies.

Superintendent Mark Conrad said he immediately put Lanctot on leave, calling the allegations surprising. Conrad added Lanctot has always been highly regarded and has had no issues.

"For those students who are in classes that he was teaching, we have placed school counselors and administrators into those classrooms to talk to students, and we sent a message out to students early this morning," Conrad said.

Police claim Lanctot sent nude photos of himself along with sexually explicit texts to students. Investigators said he also asked the victims to meet to engage in sexual acts.

"It's troubling any time you have a situation like this with juveniles," Lt. Kerry Baxter told WMUR 9. "It's more troubling that it's a teacher involved at this point."

Police are currently investigating whether any sexual contact actually occurred.


Pastor Drops Lawsuit Against Whole Foods for Anti-Gay Slur on Cake

The Texas pastor who filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods in April, alleging that the high-end supermarket wrote an anti-gay slur on a cake he ordered, announced Monday that he dropping the suit, KLEW TV reports.

"Today I am dismissing my lawsuit against Whole Foods Market. The company did nothing wrong," wrote openly gay Pastor Jordan Brown in a statement. "I was wrong to pursue this matter and use the media to perpetuate this story. I want to apologize to Whole Foods and its team members for questioning the company's commitment to its values, and especially the bakery associate who I understand was put in a terrible position because of my actions. I apologize to the LGBT community for diverting attention from real issues. I also want to apologize to my partner, my family, my church family, and my attorney."

In April, Brown said he ordered a cake from Whole Foods in Austin, Texas with the personalized message "Love Wins." He alleged when he received the cake it read, "Love Wins Fag."

Brown filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods, but according to WOKV, the supermarket quickly fired back, releasing surveillance footage of the minister purchasing the cake as evidence that he was lying. They filed a $100,000 counter-suit against him for defamation.

"We're very pleased that the truth has come to light," said officials from Whole Foods in a statement released today. "Given Mr. Brown's apology and public admission that his story was a complete fabrication, we see no reason to move forward with our counter suit to defend the integrity of our brand and team members."