News Briefs for June 22, 2015

LGBT Student Nondiscrimination Amendment Fails in Senate

(SFGN) The U.S. Senate defeated an education bill amendment that would have provided LGBT students with nondiscrimination and anti-bullying protection in schools reports Metro Weekly.

The amendment was sponsored by Sen. Al Franken and based on the Student Nondiscrimination Act that Franken has introduced four times the report says.

Franken attached the amendment to the Every Child Achieves Act, an amendment and revision of parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.

“The amendment would have prohibited schools or school boards from discriminating against students based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also have required school administrators to step in when they are aware that discrimination, harassment or bullying of LGBT students is taking place. If school districts were noncompliant, they could have been sued by parents and students for failing to act.”

The amendment was supported by a majority of the vote, but fell short of the 60 required to attach it to the bill.

“Franken previously told BuzzFeed prior to the vote that he believed his legislation would settle questions about restroom use by transgender students by allowing them to use the restroom that corresponds to their correct gender identity.” 

Thomas Roberts Becomes First Out Evening News Anchor

(EDGE) Thomas Roberts made TV history last weekend by becoming the first openly gay evening news anchor on network TV, the Huffington Post reports.

Roberts, 42, anchored NBC's "Nightly News" Saturday and told The Advocate that filling that role was a "huge honor."

The magazine points out Roberts, who hosts his weekly show "MSNBC Live With Thomas Roberts," led with the story about 2016 presidential hopeful Donald Trump's remarks about 2008 GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain.

Back in March, The Advocate asked the journalist if he was being vetted to fill in the prestigious nightly news chair.

"They haven't called yet. It would be historic, and I am willing and able... I'm working in the land of opportunity," he told the publication at the time.

Along with his MSNBC show, Roberts also hosts a weekly online show called "OutThere," which focuses on LGBT issues.

Roberts came out in 2006 and married his partner of 12 years in 2012.

A few out news castors are currently on cable TV, notably MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and CNN's Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon.

Lambda Legal Executive Director To Retire After 24 Years

(Lambda Legal) Kevin M. Cathcart, who has been the Executive Director of Lambda Legal since 1992, announced that he will retire when his contract ends at the end of April, 2016.

Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest nonprofit legal organization working for justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people living with HIV. When Cathcart assumed leadership of the organization, it had a staff of 21 people and offices in New York and Los Angeles. Today, there are more than 100 staff members working across the country with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas. Lambda Legal has a docket of more than 100 cases, and has helped win three historic Supreme Court cases that have changed the lives of LGBT people and the country: Romer v. Evans; Lawrence v. Texas; and the recent Supreme Court victory for marriage equality, Obergefell v. Hodges.

Cathcart is the longest serving head of a major national LGBT nonprofit. Before coming to Lambda Legal, he served from 1984 to 1992 as the executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston, New England's LGBT and AIDS legal organization. In all, Cathcart has been the Executive Director of a major LGBT and HIV legal rights organization for 32 years.

At Lambda Legal, he led the strategy to finally eliminate state anti-sodomy laws that criminalized sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex, leading to the thrilling and game-changing 2003 Supreme Court victory in Lawrence v. Texas.

The Board Co-Chairs announced that the organization will conduct a search, beginning this fall, to replace Cathcart.

Submissions Period Open Lambda Literary Awards

(Lambda Literary) Entering their 28th year, the Lambda Literary Awards (Lammys) honor books in more than twenty genres ranging from literary fiction and poetry to speculative fiction, graphic novels and memoir.

"As the most comprehensive LGBTQ book awards, the Lammys ensure that LGBTQ stories are recognized and retold as part of the literature of the world," said Lambda Literary Award Administrator Kathleen DeBold.   

Books submitted for consideration in this Lammys cycle must be published between January 1st and December 31st, 2015 and meet the Lammys Submission Guidelines. Finalists will be announced in March 2016 and Lammy Awards will be presented at the annual Lambda Literary Awards gala planned for early June of 2016 in New York City.

Lambda Literary is, for the first time, adding the Lammy category of Transgender Poetry in response to the growth in the genre.

"Poetry is the byway through which the lyricism of our crucial emotional and intellectual interior lives can be fully realized," said William Johnson, Lambda Literary Managing Editor who has been working closely with Trans poets and publishers to establish this new Lammy category. "By offering a Trans Poetry Award, Lambda Literary affirms the importance of poetry as a literary form that offers dynamic insights into our genuine selves, as well as the vital significance that these insights play in our ongoing cultural conversation."

The revised guidelines and online submission form are available on the Lambda Literary website. The submission period will close on December 1, 2015.

Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner Start Digital Newsletter

(EDGE) "Girls" creator Lena Dunham and her production partner Jenni Konner are getting into the newsletter business, according to a recent article in CNN.

The newsletter will be a viable business, but the women say it's also another outlet for their opinions and ideas.

While "Girls" on HBO is scripted, the free newsletter is a long-form way to "share our voices," Konner told CNNMoney.

The weekly newsletter will be called Lenny and will launch in September. Dunham and Konner invited people to sign up for it on Tuesday.

"We're going digital, Lena and I," said Konner, noting that Lenny is "the name that people call us by accident all the time on the walkie-talkie" on the set of "Girls."

"It's also the name of an old Jewish man, and we love old Jewish men," she quipped.

Konner said the newsletter is "going to be about feminism and politics and fashion and current events... Talking to our girls, the audience we know to be our girls, girls in their twenties who are looking for a little bit more on the Internet."

She also said "we'll probably go pretty hard at politics," including issues like reproductive rights that the women have spoken about before.

On Tuesday the women announced Jessica Grose, formerly of Jezebel and Slate, as editor-in-chief of the newsletter, and Benjamin Cooley as CEO.

Dunham told Buzzfeed that she wants subscribers who have a wide variety of interests: "People who want to talk about radical politics but also want to talk about fashion and also want to talk about Rihanna, and also understand that all of those things can be happening at the same time."

Bigoted Bakers Make Big Bucks

(EDGE) Bigots sure do take care of their own.

The anti-gay religious right persecution machine would like you to think that Alan and Melissa Klein are in financial ruin. Guess again.

Faced with a court order to pay $135,000 in damages for violating Oregon's anti-discrimination law for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple on religious grounds, Alan and Melissa Klein hit the jackpot with a crowdfunding campaign, whose revenue has far exceeded any well-deserved fines the pair of bigoted bakers have to pay.

As reported by Politico , Oregon bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa owners Alan and Melissa Klein turned to crowdfunding to raise money after their business closed in 2013 as a result of the lawsuit against them. They managed to raise $109,000 from a GoFundMe campaign that was pulled by the crowdsourcing site, when they changed their policy involving fundraising for discrimination.

After being 86'd from GoFundMe, the Kleins moved their online fund raising initiative to the faith based fundraising company Continue to Give. That's when the real money started pouring in.

As of this writing, in less than 12 weeks the Kleins have received over $370,000 from the Continue to Give campaign alone. That in addition to the $109,000 they were allowed to keep from their GoFundMe campaign.

And while the Kleins may have grossed nearly $480,000 from donations (a huge chunk of which will have to cover court costs, legal expenses and that $135,000 damages ruling), their windfall pales in comparison to the $844,000 donated online in support of the owners of the Indiana pizza shop who said they would refuse to cater pizzas for gay weddings.

Gawker Reports Condé Nast CFO Gay Porn Star Hookup

(EDGE) In the report, Gawker alleges Condé Nast CFO, David Geithner, who happens to the be the brother of former Obama Treasure Secretary Tim Geithner, attempted to pay a gay porn star, who is only referred to as "Ryan" in the story, $2,500 for "2-3 hours" of his time. Gawker provides a number of screen shots of alleged text messages between Geithner and the gay porn star.

Gawker reports Geithner, who is married to a woman and has three children, planned to meet Ryan on July 11 in Chicago, and was willing to pay for airfare and hotel costs, as well as $1,250 up front for Ryan's time.

But the alleged meet up never happened, however. As the two texted in the days prior to the scheduled rendezvous Ryan figured out that Geithner is a big-time CFO who is also politically connected. And it just so happened that Ryan was in need of legal help.

Gawker reports Ryan, who lives in Texas, has an ongoing discrimination lawsuit between himself and his landlord.

Geithner also gave a statement to Gawker about the story and the allegations.

"I don't know who this individual is. This is a shakedown. I have never had a text exchange with this individual. He clearly has an ulterior motive that has nothing to do with me," he said.

Though Gawker protected the gay porn star's identity, the NSFW gay porn site Str8UpGayPorn claims "Ryan" is Derek Truitt, who performs under the name Brodie Sinclair.

Nevertheless, Str8UpGayPorn also reports on the backlash Gawker has received on social media since revealing that Geithner allegedly tried to hook up with a gay porn star. A number of Twitter users are even calling for a boycott over outing the CFO.

Insurance Offered to Spouses of Gay La. State Workers

(AP) The health insurance program for Louisiana state employees, retirees and some public school systems is taking applications for coverage for same-sex spouses and their dependents.

The Office of Group Benefits says those who were married before June 26 have until Aug. 11 to apply. Those married on or after June 26 have 30 days after the marriage to apply for coverage.

June 26 is the date that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage is a fundamental right for all Americans.

The Office of Group Benefits opened the enrollment period July 10. The Retired State Employees Association sent a notice about the enrollment period Tuesday.

Applications must be faxed or postmarked by Aug. 11. Coverage for newly enrolled dependents will begin on Aug. 1 for couples married before June 26.

Montana Officials Deny Wedding License for Polygamous Man

(AP) Montana officials have denied a marriage license to a man who sought to be legally married to both of his wives after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of gay couples to wed.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Kevin Gillen wrote in his letter Tuesday to Nathan Collier that the Supreme Court's ruling last month did not expand the number of people in a marriage and Montana's anti-bigamy laws still apply.

Collier, 46, legally wed his first wife, Victoria, in 2000. He and his second wife, Christine, held a religious wedding ceremony in 2007 but did not sign a marriage license.

Nathan and Christine Collier applied for a marriage license after the Supreme Court ruling. They were initially denied, but county clerk officials said they would consult with the county attorney's office before giving a final answer.

Nathan Collier said people in polygamous relationships deserve marriage equality, and he is meeting with attorneys with plans to file a lawsuit.

"They want to lock us in cages because we wish to marry," Collier said Thursday. "I could sleep with my wife and procreate out of wedlock and that would be just fine, but if I want to marry her, I'm a criminal."

Collier is a former Mormon who was excommunicated for polygamy and now belongs to no religious organization. He said he and his wives hid their relationship for years but became tired of hiding and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show "Sister Wives."

US Judge Awards Attorney Fees in W.Va. Gay Marriage Case

(AP) A federal judge has ruled that West Virginia must pay about $92,000 to lawyers who fought the state's same-sex marriage ban.

The Charleston Gazette reports ( ) that fees approved Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert Chambers were less than one-third the amount the lawyers requested. He said the number of hours billed and the hourly rates were excessive for West Virginia.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office had opposed awarding the attorney fees, saying the county clerks who were named as defendants acted in good faith when they enforced the ban. Chambers said the 11 attorneys from three firms brought a proper lawsuit and deserved to be paid.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex applicants.

New Web Comedy About Life with HIV

(EDGE) Being single, middle-aged and HIV plus in New York City isn't always easy, but "Merce" couldn't be happier! Hailed as "Seinfield with HIV" by Poz Magazine, Merce follows the adventures of an HIV plus Polyanna who sings and dances his way through life in search of self-acceptance and true love.

With his gal-pal roommate, three gay guy fairies that appear to him in musical fantasy sequences, and his Mama (on a webcam) always at his side, he's gonna make it after all. The series is a surprising, bawdy look at HIV today, proving that life can be positive, even when you're HIV plus.

Created by openly gay HIV plus writer/performer Charles Sanchez, "Merce" was inspired by the rich lives and bright spirits of people living with HIV today.

"One of my biggest gripes about any HIV movie or TV show is that it's always tragic," says creator Charles Sanchez, "always about 30 years ago when we were in the midst of the crisis. No one is really writing about what it's like to have HIV today. 'Merce' is a modern HIV story.

There is an amazing negative stigma attached to HIV, and it's outdated. It's unbelievable how the mention of HIV can still invoke fear in people, and the reality is that it's no longer the death sentence it was 20 or 30 years ago. It's considered a manageable, chronic condition, and although it's still serious, it's totally possible to live a full, complete, healthy, sexy, fun life while managing HIV. I made the show a comedy because comedy is the best way to show truth, and is a great way to change people's perceptions. Funny, like music or love, is an international language."

Edie Windsor Receives First Absolute Brightness Award

(EDGE) The producers of the new play "The Absolute Brightness Of Leonard Pelkey" announced that civil rights hero Edie Windsor was the first recipient of the Absolute Brightness Award. The award is given to a unique individual who is a shining beacon in their community, and an inspiration to live as one's truest self. Ms. Windsor was given the Absolute Brightness Award after the evening performance on Thursday, July 16, at the Westside Theatre, New York.

Edie Windsor has spent most of her adult life breaking boundaries. Windsor's 40-year engagement, and finally, marriage to Dr. Thea Spyer was honored in the critically acclaimed documentary "Edie & Thea: A Long Engagement" and her role as the lead plaintiff in the case of United States v. Windsor is arguably the most influential legal precedent in the struggle for LGBT marriage equality. In its landmark 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and was a legal victory for the same-sex marriage movement in the United States paving the way for the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

"One of the greatest storytellers of his generation" (New York Times), James Lecesne portrays every character in a small Jersey shore town as they unravel the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant 14 year-old boy who goes missing. A luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly felt once he disappears, Leonard becomes the unexpected inspiration for a town as they question how they live, whom they love and what they leave behind. "Absolute Brightness leaves you beaming with joy." (New York Times).

Conservatives Warn IRS Could Target Gay Marriage Opponents

(AP) Last month's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage has some conservatives warning that the IRS could start revoking the tax-exempt status of religious groups that oppose gay marriage.

The attorneys general of 15 states have written Congress asking for legislation to protect religious schools and other groups. Bills in the House and Senate are gaining support.

Officials are responding to the Supreme Court ruling in June that required every state to recognize same-sex marriages.

In a brief statement, the IRS said Thursday the ruling will not affect the standards agents use to evaluate tax-exempt organizations.

Democrats, meanwhile, say Republicans are creating a straw man to fire up the GOP base as they try to resist America's changing social mores.

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