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August 24, 2012

News Briefs

Former student leader wins $4.5 million defamation suit

Detroit--An openly gay former student body president of the University of Michigan was awarded $4.5 million in his civil suit against a former state attorney who stalked and defamed him.

The jury in Christopher Armstrong’s suit against Andrew Shirvell returned their decision on August 16.

Shirvell, a former assistant attorney general, was fired in 2010 after criticizing Armstrong on his blog, stalking him his home in Ann Arbor and taking photos of people entering and exiting the house during a party.

Shirvell said his blog was protected under the First Amendment, but lied to Michigan Attorney General’s office investigators. He said he maintained the blog on his own time, using his own computer, but it was discovered that he used state office computers during the work day to post on it.

Shirvell represented himself, and noted that, since he is unemployed, there is no way he will be able to pay the judgment.

Armstrong offered to drop the suit if Shirvell apologized and retracted his statements, which called Armstrong “a radical homosexual activist, racist, elitist and liar,” according to the Detroit News.

15 out Ohioans off to Dem convention

Columbus--The Ohio Democratic Party is sending 15 out delegates to the Democratic National Convention from September 3 to 6 in Charlotte, N.C.

The state party announced the complete list of delegates to the convention on August 9. The party’s demographic goals used 2010 Census data and the CNN national exit poll from November 2008.

The delegation will consist of 113 delegates with 11 alternates. Added to members of Congress, at-large delegates and others, there will be a total of 191 delegates and 15 alternates.

Of those, 65 are African American, 26 are under 35 years old, 11 are Latino, six are Asian-Pacific Islander, four are people with disabilities, and one is Native American.

Mark Pocan likely headed to Congress

Madison, Wis.--Mark Pocan won the Democratic primary to fill Tammy Baldwin’s seat in the House of Representatives on August 14, meaning he will likely be the next openly gay member of Congress.

Baldwin is leaving the post to seek Russ Feingold’s Senate seat. He is retiring. She will face former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson in November.

The district is heavily Democratic, and Pocan enjoyed strong support from party leaders, bringing him 77 percent of the vote in the primary. His Republican opponent in November general election is Chad Lee, but the University of Wisconsin and its liberal city of Madison are expected to give Pocan an easy victory over Lee.

Pregnant moms given dangerous drug

Chicago--Pregnant women in the United States are being given a dangerous steroid to prevent an endocrinological condition in their unborn children, but the actual goal might be to prevent female babies from growing up as lesbians.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia can cause female babies to be born with intersex or seemingly male genitalia and brains that are structured more like those of males. Women who are genetically at risk have been given dexamethasone, a synthetic steroid that is not approved for preventing CAH, according to a study in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.

The steroid would not prevent CAH, it would simply “normalize” fetal development, since it can cross the placental barrier.

However, a similar steroid has caused fertility problems and cancer among people exposed as a fetus.

According to the report, medical groups have been speaking out against the practice for a decade, to no avail. They argue that it is a high-risk procedure with little benefit. The women offered the treatment have been told that it was found safe for both them and their fetuses, but there is no clinical evidence backing up that claim.

A Swedish study that just came out also found a 20 percent incidence of serious adverse effects on children exposed in the womb.

Ten out athletes win gold at Olympics

London--Ten out athletes took gold medals at the Summer Olympics, over half of the openly LGBT competitors at the games.

Gold medals went to Seimone Augustus of the United States women’s basketball team, American soccer player Megan Rapinoe, British equestrian Carl Hester, and Dutch field hockey players Marilyn Agliotti, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and Maartje Paumen.

A silver medal went to German Judith Arndt, while bronze medals went to Dutch equestrian Edward Gal and American tennis player Lisa Raymond.

Two of the three out gay men in the Olympics won medals. Left out was Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, who won gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics but came in 13th in the semifinals.

The count of ten out athletes medaling in London beats Beijing’s count in 2008 by two.

U.S. gets first openly lesbian general

Washington, D.C.--Brigadier General Tammy S. Smith made history on August 10, becoming the first openly gay general in American history.

At the ceremony during which she was promoted, the 26-year Army officer had her wife, Tracey Hepner, affix her general’s star to her uniform. The couple were married in March 2011 in Washington, D.C.

Smith said that “participating with family in traditional ceremonies such as the promotion is both common and expected of a leader,” according to the New York Times.

While there are likely other gay generals in the military’s history, Smith is the first to acknowledge her sexual orientation. With the end of the Pentagon ban on out gay service members, it is likely more high-ranking officers will be open about their sexual orientation, and that other LGBT personnel will be promoted.

Hawaii judge rules against marriage

Honolulu--A federal judge ruled against same-sex marriage on August 8, saying that the state has civil unions and it is the responsibility of the legislature, not the judiciary, to provide full marriage.

The suit put Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the uncomfortable position of being a named defendant while also supporting the position of the plaintiffs. He signed the state’s civil union law last year.

Abercrombie said he disagrees with the ruling and would aid in an appeal on the part of the two same-sex couples who filed the suit.

The state attorney general’s office had a legal team defending Health Director Loretta Fuddy and another with Gov. Abercrombie arguing for same-sex marriage.

Ryan is almost a zero on LGBT issues

Washington, D.C.--Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s pick for his running mate, has only once taken a pro-LGBT position during his tenure in Congress.

In 2007, he voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which then only protected sexual orientation and not gender identity. He had earlier that day voted to kill the bill in an unsuccessful parliamentary maneuver.

He twice voted for a federal constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage, and voted against extending hate crime protections on basis of sexual orientation, and opposed the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

During media appearances, he has refused to speak about his positions on LGBT issues, saying in February on Meet the Press, “Actually, I came on to talk about the debt crisis we have and the budget.”

According to Gay City News, he continued, “I support the Wisconsin amendment to define marriage between a man and a woman. I don’t know why we are spending all this time talking about this. We’ve got a debt crisis coming and the administration just gave us a budget that simply just charts another path to debt and decline.”

Meanwhile, Ryan would give tax cuts to the wealthy and privatize Medicare, which would cost seniors another $6,000 a year.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.









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