Task Force Seeks Artists Submissions

(SFGN) Are you a creative person who understands to value of charity?

If so, look no farther than ArtScape.

The annual fundraiser for the National LGBTQ Task Force returns March 3, 2016 and organizers are calling for submissions.

“ArtScape has become one of the most popular Winter Party events of the entire week,” said Carolina Bonnelly, Miami-based filmmaker and curator of ArtScape, in a news release. “Our annual art exhibition showcases prominent and emerging LGBTQ artists in a fun and casual setting and we’re very excited that what started out five years ago as an event for the women of Winter Party has been embraced by the entire community now.”

Submissions are due by January 15, 2016. Lisa Mercado is coordinating submissions and she tells SFGN there is no theme and all art forms are welcome right down to performance art and spoken word. Submissions must be personally executed, of original design and free from any copyright. Artists can e-mail samples to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Task Force officials are still searching for a venue for ArtScape, Mercado said. Artists whose work is accepted will receive two free tickets to the event.

ArtScape is part of the iconic Winter Party Festival held at venues through Miami and Miami Beach. The 2016 festival is scheduled for March 2-7, 2016. To purchase passes or for more information, visitwww.winterparty.com

Since its inception in 1994 as a party between close knit friends, Winter Party has grown into the premier event for the National LGBTQ Task Force. The organization states it has donated more than $2.1 million to local Miami based groups that serve the needs of the LGBT community.

Rand Hoch to Receive MLK Leadership Award

(PBCHRC) Palm Beach State College will present retired Judge Rand Hoch with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award during the school's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.  The event attracts hundreds of students, faculty, staff and members of the community each year.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration is free and open to the public.   It will take place on the Lake Worth campus of Palm Beach State College on January 14, 2016 at 11:00 a.m.   

In 1988, Hoch founded the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Under his leadership, the Council has been successful in having civil rights laws enacted which secure protected status for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in private and public employment, housing and public accommodations. 

Hoch was also instrumental in having the Palm Beach County School District adopt a comprehensive policy protecting public school students from harassment and bullying.  More recently, in an effort to address the problem of "shopping while Black", he convinced both the Palm Beach County Commission and the West Palm Beach City Commission to amend their civil rights laws, greatly expanding the definition of places of public accommodation to include not only retail stores, but also virtually every place of business in Palm Beach County.

To date, Hoch has been responsible for the enactment of more than 100 laws and policies extending equal rights and benefits to the LGBT Floridians.

To RSVP to the event, please go to: http://www.palmbeachstate.edu/mlk/rsvp.aspx

The keynote speaker for the celebration will be Morehouse College professor Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, host of HuffPost Live and BET News, as well as a political contributor for CNN.  In 2011, Ebony Magazine named him one of America's 100 most influential Black leaders.

Missouri AG Candidate Wants Exemptions for Same-Sex Marriage

(AP) A Republican running for state attorney general says he wants lawmakers to exempt religious groups and businesses from participating in marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Josh Hawley told the Columbia Daily Tribune that he recently urged legislative leaders to take action on the issue in the 2016 session, which begins Jan. 6.

He called for exemptions for ministers, churches and businesses, but said the goal isn't to create protections for general business owners who don't want to serve those couples.

"There needs to be a line at participation in a ceremony or a closely related event," said Hawley, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Hawley's push is part of a larger response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that legalized same-sex marriage. Some now want laws touted as protecting the religious rights of those who might oppose such unions. Advocacy groups, and some Missouri Democrats, want more safeguards against discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity.

Steph Perkins, the interim executive director of St. Louis-based LGBT advocacy group PROMO, said current law already allows businesses to refuse to serve gay or transgender customers.

Missouri Catholic Conference Executive Director Mike Hoey also said ministers and religious groups can refuse to participate in something that violates their faith under the First Amendment. Hoey said the Catholic Church doesn't support allowing businesses to discriminate.

Hawley, who said his proposals would help "avoid a culture war," was part of a team of more than a dozen lawyers in a U.S. Supreme Court case in which Hobby Lobby and other businesses challenged a federal requirement to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives for employees. The high court ultimately ruled that corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt of the birth control requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

Hawley faces a Republican primary against state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, also of Columbia. Schaefer criticized Hawley as not having a "good handle of what law is" regarding his recent proposal.

Norman Becomes First Oklahoma City to Approve LGBT Protections

(AP) The Norman City Council has approved an anti-discrimination resolution protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The Norman Transcript reports that the council voted Dec. 22 for the resolution that affirms that sexual discrimination can include gender preference and sexual identity.

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson, since federal law will apply and trump municipal law, it was not necessary to adopt an ordinance.

"As the first city in our great state to fully protect all of its residents, Norman has set a precedent for every municipality in Oklahoma and a challenge to our state legislature to follow suit," Stevenson said.

Council member Lynne Miller said the city's civil rights ordinance has been on the books since 1986 and that Norman was affirming that all of its residents have a right to equality.

Anti-LGBT, Anti-Reproductive Rights Rep to Lead Kansas House Panel

(AP) The Kansas House committee that handles legislation on social issues will continue to be led by a vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Speaker Ray Merrick announced Wednesday that Republican Rep. Jan Pauls of Hutchinson will be the new chairwoman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee.

She'll replace Republican Rep. Steve Brunk of Wichita. He is leaving the Legislature next month to become Kansas executive director of an affiliate of the conservative group Focus on the Family.

Pauls is an attorney who has served in the Legislature since 1991. She was a Democrat but switched parties in 2014, two years after gay-rights advocates targeted her in the Democratic primary and she barely won.

She's opposed same-sex marriage and extending anti-discrimination protections in state law to gays and lesbians.

Indiana Bill Proposes Fines, Jail Time for Transgender People Using Restrooms

(AP) An Indiana state senator has proposed a bill making it a crime for trans people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that do not conform with their genders at birth.

The measure by Wadesville Republican Jim Tomes would make it a misdemeanor crime, carrying a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Tomes says he doesn't want to single out transgender people, but worries the privacy of women and children in bathrooms is at risk as society becomes more accepting.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights say Tomes' explanation is absurd because the bill specifically singles out transgender people for ridicule.

Tomes disputed the characterization but said people are "entitled" to their opinions.

Anderson Joins Indiana Cities Protecting LGBT Rights

(AP)The city of Anderson is the latest Indiana city to officially ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Herald Bulletin reports (http://bit.ly/1mhkm6W ) Mayor Kevin Smith signed the ordinance Friday that was unanimously approved by City Council on Dec. 10. The move comes ahead of an expected debate in the state Legislature over whether to stop allowing such local ordinances.

The ordinance extends local protections on housing, education, employment and public accommodations. Smith said he never considered not signing the ordinance into law, saying he thinks it will help attract new industry.

Indianapolis, South Bend and Evansville are among Indiana cities with local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Okla. City Council Approves Anti-Discrimination Resolution

(AP) The Norman City Council has approved an anti-discrimination resolution for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The Norman Transcript (http://bit.ly/1Ir0DfC ) reports that the council voted Tuesday for the resolution that affirms that sexual discrimination can include gender preference and sexual identity.

Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson, since federal law will apply and trump municipal law, it was not necessary to adopt an ordinance.

Council member Lynne Miller said the city's civil rights ordinance has been on the books since 1986 and that Norman was affirming that all of its residents have a right to equality.

Judge: US Discrimination Law Applies to Sexual Orientation

(AP) A federal judge has ruled that sexual orientation is covered under a law that bans gender-based discrimination in educational programs, allowing two former women's basketball players to proceed with their lawsuit against Pepperdine University.

U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson found that that a 1972 law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at federally funded colleges and universities covers the women's claims that they were discriminated against because they were dating.

"If Plaintiffs had been males dating females, instead of females dating females, they would not have been subjected to the alleged different treatment," Pregerson wrote in his Dec. 15 ruling.

The ruling was reported on Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/1QVVEVe ).

In their lawsuit, former Pepperdine basketball players Haley Videckis and Layana White alleged that their coach wanted them off the team because their relationship would affect the team's performance, the Times reported.

Pepperdine sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that Title IX of the 1972 law doesn't cover claims based on sexual orientation.

But Pregerson cited an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision on another federal statute that says allegations of sexual orientation discrimination "necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex."

"In light of there being no federal anti-discrimination law for sexual orientation, it's potentially a quite significant ruling," said Doug NeJaime, faculty director of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.

China's First Domestic Violence Law Overlooks Gays

(AP) Activists largely welcomed China's first national anti-domestic violence law on Monday, although some criticized the apparent omissions of sexual violence and gay couples.

The law approved Sunday by China's legislature will take effect in March, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Women's federations and civil organizations have been pushing for a law to protect victims of domestic violence for more than 10 years. In that time, almost all the country's provinces have instituted regulations against domestic violence.

Part of the battle was a traditional belief that family conflicts are private, which an official alluded to at a news conference Sunday when announcing the law.

"Relations between family members are complex, it is this complexity that has caused us much delay in promulgating this law," said Guo Linmao, a member of the legislative affairs commission of the legislature.

Xinhua said the law defines domestic violence as physical, psychological and other harm inflicted by family members with beatings and verbal threats listed as examples. It protects children and the elderly as well as cohabiting, unmarried heterosexual couples.

People in immediate danger can file for a personal protection order that can require the abuser to move out of the home and the court must rule within 72 hours.

Longtime campaigner Feng Yuan welcomed the law, but said it doesn't protect gay partners or state clearly whether sexual violence is covered.

"It cites physical and psychological violence, but it does not say clearly whether sexual violence is also violence," she said.

At least one in four women in China is estimated to have been a victim of domestic violence at some point in her life, surveys show, with the rate in rural areas as high as two out of every three women. The violence takes many forms, from physical and sexual assault to emotional abuse or economic deprivation.

Senegalese Police Arrest 11 Accused of Homosexual Acts

(AP) Residents in the Senegalese town of Kaolack say police have arrested 11 people accused of homosexual acts.

Boukhari Ndiaye said the arrested were among 20 people attending a celebration of a gay marriage at a school in the town about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of the capital, Dakar, on Friday.

He said the 11 remain at the police station.

Homosexual acts are criminalized in at least 34 African countries, including Senegal, where they are punishable by up to five years prison and fines of up to $2,500.

A well-known Senegalese journalist was sentenced in July to six months in prison for acts of homosexuality. Seven men were also arrested and imprisoned.

Transgender Man in Ecuador Makes History with Pregnancy

(AP) A couple in Ecuador is making history with a unique pregnancy: The father-to-be is carrying the baby of his transgender partner.

Fernando Machado and Diane Rodriguez announced their pregnancy, believed to be the first of its kind in South America, on social media earlier this month and it's received widespread attention in a continent that has seen a sudden explosion in the rights and visibility of trans people.

Rodriguez, who was born Luis, is one of Ecuador's most-prominent LGBT activists and says she and her Venezuelan-born partner, whose birth name was Maria, decided to publicize the pregnancy to help change attitudes in the staunchly Roman Catholic society. Although both take hormones, neither has undergone gender-reassignment surgery, so the child-to-be was conceived the old-fashioned way with no known medical complications to date.

"We're trying to break the myths about transsexuality," Rodriguez told The Associated Press.

So far, church leaders have remained silent, something that Rodriguez says both surprises and pleases here.

"The church is always criticizing gays and homosexuals for adopting children, so it would be a contradiction to criticize us for giving birth naturally," she said from her home in Guayaquil.

The trans community has made major advances across South America. About six months ago, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos issued a decree allowing individuals to change their gender on the national ID cards with little more than a trip to a public notary. To date, at least 340 people have made the switch.

Argentina has gone even further with legislation guaranteeing free hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery.

However, trans people still face widespread discrimination in the region. Between 2008 and 2011, 79 percent of the murders of transgender people reported throughout the world took place in Latin America, with a total of 664 cases, according to a study by the International AIDS Alliance.

Greek Parliament Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Partnerships

(AP) Greece's parliament has overwhelmingly approved legislation legalizing civil partnerships for gay couples, two years after the country was condemned by a European human rights court for discrimination.

In a result announced early Wednesday, lawmakers voted 193-56 in favor of the bill to extend civil partnerships to same-sex couples, but provisions regarding family law that could pave the way for adoption applications by gay couples were dropped before the vote.

Conservative bishops in Greece's powerful Orthodox Church vehemently opposed the law, arguing that it undermined the institution of family.

"Homosexuality is a deviation from the laws of nature. It is a social crime, a sin. Those who experience or support it are not normal people," said Bishop Amvrosios of the southern town of Kalavryta, where church bells tolled Tuesday in opposition to the bill.

In a 2013 ruling, the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights found that Greek legislation was discriminatory and ordered Greece to pay damages to the gay couples who brought the lawsuit.

Civil partnerships, introduced in 2008, are favored by couples seeking legal rights without getting married or who are deterred by lengthy divorce procedures. But same-sex couples were barred from civil partnerships.

Lawmakers from the governing leftist Syriza party backed the bill, standing to clap when it passed, while the main opposition conservatives were split on the vote.

The human rights group Amnesty International called the new law a "significant and historic step in the right direction."

Several hundred pro-gay rights protesters gathered outside parliament before the vote, under a large banner that read "Love is the law."

"This is a good start, even though this law doesn't cover everything," Philippos Paganis, a 21-year-old member of the gay rights group Colour Youth, told the AP.

"We want to keep up the pressure ... for same-sex marriages to be allowed - that gives you more rights - and to make it easier for people to declare their gender," he said.

The new legislation allowing civil partnerships for same-sex couples is expected to take effect early next year once it is published in the government gazette.