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March 21, 2014

News Briefs

End ban on TG people in the military, says panel

Washington, D.C.--There is no reason to keep the military’s ban on transgender servicemembers, according to a commission put together by the Palm Center at San Francisco State University.

The commission, which released its study on March 13, was headed by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general under President Bill Clinton, and retired Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, a 25-year veteran of the Coast Guard and Public Health Service.

The commission included a retired general and two transgender authorities, and was endorsed by almost a score of military university faculty.

The report recommends lifting the ban on transgender servicemembers, without writing new medical regulations for the healthcare of trans personnel, instead using regular medical practices.

It also calls for using foreign military and American government policies as guidelines for administrative policies.

Fred Phelps is nearing death

Topeka, Kan.--Fred Phelps is dying.

According to his estranged son and sources in the Westboro Baptist Church, he is in a Topeka hospice.

Phelps, 84, founded the small church in 1951. Most of its members are part of his extended family.

Westboro came to national attention in the 1980s whemn members began picketing the funerals of gay men who had died of AIDS, and later those of soldiers and victims of hate crimes like Matthew Shepard. They carry signs saying things like, “God Hates Fags,” “God Hates America” and “Thank God for 9/11.”

According to Nate Phelps, who left the church decades ago, his father was ousted from the church after calling for more kindness between church members after his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, lost a struggle for power between her and a newly-created board of male elders.

The board took the church from Phelps and turned him and his wife out from a upper-story apartment in the church that they had lived in, moving them into another house.

Beer makers drop St. Patrick’s parades

New York City--After Sam Adams and Heineken beer dropped sponsorships of St. Patrick’s Day parades in Boston and New York, the world’s most famous Irish beer, Guinness, dropped out of the New York parade because of their policy barring openly gay groups from marching.

Boston this year would allow gay groups to march, as long as they did not carry any banners or signs.

The mayors of both cities declined to march in this year’s parade because of the ban.

The boycott by the beer companies brought condemnation from Fox News and other conservatives, who accused the companies of violating the religious liberty of the parade organizers.

Proving once and for all that Cleveland rocks, the Cleveland St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a Gay Games contingent, complete with banner and the names of the sports being included.

Tom McManamon, an organizer of the Cleveland St. Patrick’s Day Parade, told WOIO Channel 19, referring to Boston and New York, “Too bad for them. I think it creates controversy that they don’t need.”

“They called us,” Mc Manamon added. “We knew they had the Gay Games here, which is huge for the city. We didn’t want to be part of political controversy and it’s just not a political day for us.”

It was the first time any LGBT group had been in the Cleveland parade.

Tomlin calls out Springfield councilors

Springfield, Ohio--Lily Tomlin played in Springfield on March 8, and took exception to the city’s refusal to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance.

Tomlin was alerted to the three city commissioners who voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity by people posting messages on her website’s guest book, which is now filled with people thanking her for calling out Joyce Chilton, Dan Martin and Kevin O’Neill.

“Thank you for your extraordinary performing in Springfield last evening. And thank you for ‘naming’ and calling out the City Commissioners who have voted against the anti-discrimination ordinance in the City. Most of all, thank you for being you!” wrote Dr. Ed Garten.

Dave Parish posted, “Thank you for coming to Springfield tonight. My face hurt from laughing so much. And Thank You for standing up for what’s right in Springfield. No one [sic] should have to worry about losing their job or the house they rent. Because of who they are.”

Seventeen Ohio localities have passed ordinances protecting LGBT residents from discrimination, including all of the state’s largest cities. No Ohio or federal anti-bias law covers LGBT people.

DeWine criticized for ACA brief

Columbus--Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is earning the wrath of people across the state for submitting a brief in a Supreme Court case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers’ insurance policies cover birth control.

In the case, the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores claims that the measure violates its owners’ religious beliefs. DeWine’s brief used the same argument used for the anti-gay bills that have sprung up across the country in the last few months, including one withdrawn in Ohio and one vetoed by Arizona’s governor. These would allow people and companies to ignore civil rights laws that violate their “deeply held religious beliefs.”

“In January, I condemned the Attorney General’s involvement in this case because it would set a terrible precedent for women’s health, but it is clear now that DeWine’s position could be taken to an even more dangerous extreme” said Rep. Nickie Antonio, Ohio’s first out state representative. “Religious rights for private corporations could lead to a tidal wave of legalized discrimination against the LGBT community, women and many other Ohioans.”

Freedom Ohio, the organization putting forward a pro-marriage amendment this year, echoed her sentiments, as did Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first gay councilor and David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney general.

Teacher contract bars gay ‘lifestyle’

Cincinnati--The new contract put forward by the Cincinnati Archdiocese for teachers in its schools restricts their out-of-school activities, detailing various offenses having nothing to do with the school that could get teachers fired.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which received a leaked copy of the contract, it prohibits gay “lifestyles,” nonmarital relationships, abortions and fertility treatments not approved by the church.

The contracts began going out to principals of Catholic schools on February 6. They came in response to suits by school employees who have been fired in the last few years.

“It seems awfully intrusive and it all seems unfair,” said Tom Miele, president of the pastoral council for the St. Monica-St. George Catholic Church in Cincinnati. “Some of the things they put on that list are not a reflection of what has happened in our society. It’s more about protecting their schools from a lawsuit.”

The contract bans "improper use of social media/communication, public support of or publicly living together outside of marriage; public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock; public support of/or homosexual lifestyle; public support of/or use of abortion; public support of/or use of a surrogate mother; public support or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination."

Pope says church could back civil union

Vatican City--Pope Francis on March 5 opened the door to the possibility of the Catholic Church accepting civil unions, while restating its opposition to same-sex marriage.

In an interview with an Italian newspaper, he said that state-sanctioned unions that bring economic security and ensuring rights could be supported, as Francis did when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

A Vatican spokesperson stressed later that day that it should not be interpreted as the pope supporting civil unions, but that the takeaway from it should be his restated opposition to same-sex marriage.

Gene therapy found safe for HIV use

Washington, D.C.--The National Institutes of Health reported on March 5 that gene therapy as an alternative to drug therapy is safe for use on humans.

The Phase 1 clinical trial took cells from HIV-positive people and modified them to resist HIV infection before reinjecting them into the people from whom they had been taken.

Half of the people in the study stopped taking antiretroviral medication for two to three months, four weeks after undergoing the gene therapy. The genetically modified calls appeared to be HIV-resistant, and one of the patients naturally had the mutation in half of the receptor genes, replication was controlled during the entire gap in treatment.

Further studies will expand the test base and maximize the frequency of gene therapy to disrupt the CCR5 receptor, as well as to increase the duration of the modified cells in the body so that the gene therapy can be used therapeutically.

Queen signs Scotland marriage law

London--Scotland will have same-sex marriage by the end of the year, following Queen Elizabeth’s March 13 assent to the Scottish Parliament’s same-sex marriage bill.

Religious organizations will need to specifically opt in to be able to perform same-sex weddings, and individual clergy and officiants can refuse to perform same-sex marriages. The law will also allow people to remain married to their spouse after undergoing gender reassignment.

England and Wales also passed full marriage last year, and it takes effect there at the end of March.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.


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