National News

A grand jury indicted Jussie Smollett on March 8 on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. He was charged for each time he told the story of being attacked by two men on Jan. 29 in an alleged hate crime.

Smollett stands by his story and has engaged high-profile attorney Mark Geragos to represent him since his arrest on Feb. 20, when he was charged with one count of disorderly conduct in the case.

The Equality Act was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on March 13 by Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR).

Cicilline, who has served in the House since 2011, was the first openly gay mayor of a state capital and is a co-chair of the Equality Caucus.

Alaska mayor vetoes LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections

The mayor of Alaska’s second-largest city vetoed a local law that gave sweeping equal rights protections to the LGBTQ community, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Virginia school board delays ending transgender bathroom ban

A school board in Virginia will not take any immediate action to overturn its transgender bathroom ban after some community members spoke in favor of keeping it, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The board’s announcement Feb. 21 came two days after it met some resistance at a public forum over changing the policy. A policy was proposed to allow transgender high school students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.

 On Valentine’s Day, Democrats in Congress introduced the Equal Dignity for Married Taxpayers Act.

The act would change the language used in the federal U.S. tax code, replacing the gendered “husband” and “wife” with the neutral term “spouse” to make the code LGBTQ inclusive.

Trans teacher sues DC-area district, citing discrimination

A transgender English teacher is suing a Maryland school district claiming that she was repeatedly harassed by students, parents and colleagues at three schools in the district, and when she complained to Prince George’s County school officials, they retaliated, according to The Washington Post.

Attorneys for the teacher, Jennifer Eller, said the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined her claims had merit.

The 41-year-old’s complaint said she was called a pedophile, told to present as male, referred to by male pronouns and threatened with rape by a student, among other offenses. She said that after filing formal complaints, she lost her Advanced Placement classes and was brought to a disciplinary hearing. She was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the ordeal.

School officials declined to comment on the specific case, but spokeswoman Raven Hill said they follow state guidance on youth gender identity nondiscrimination.

North Carolina updates gender-change process for licenses

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is issuing a new application form making it easier for some transgender people to list their gender on their driver’s licenses and identification cards, according to a report on WRAL.com.

The left-leaning news outlet NC Policy Watch first reported the change, saying the new form replaces a requirement for a surgeon’s letter when changing the gender marker on the cards. The release said while it still requires authorization from medical providers, it allows for a broader range of providers.

The new form still calls for “male” or “female,” which doesn’t acknowledge people who identify as neither, but LGBTQ advocates call the new form a step in the right direction.

N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Jamie Kritzer said the policy is similar to policies in 13 other states.

Transgender Illinois inmate feels safer after transfer

A transgender inmate who received rare approval from Illinois prison authorities to move from a men’s to a women’s prison said she feels safe in the new accommodations, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Strawberry Hampton, 27, said she no longer worries about being attacked for being a woman.

Hampton, whose legal first name is Deon, was recently transferred to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison in Central Illinois. She’s serving a 10-year sentence for burglary.

The move comes after a yearlong legal battle. Hampton requested the transfer arguing that she’d be less vulnerable to sexual assault, taunting and beatings. Hampton alleged she experienced abuse and sexual assault by inmates and staff at multiple men’s facilities in the state.

Hampton has pending lawsuits against corrections officers at various prisons she said abused or failed to protect her.

Los Angeles group buys gay resort in Oklahoma City

An Oklahoma City hotel that bills itself as the largest gay resort in the Southwest has new out-of-state owners, The Journal Record reported.

Los Angeles-based Alternatives Resorts has bought the 170-room Habana Inn. Oklahoma County property records show the property sold for $2.4 million.

Alternatives Resorts spokesman Arnold Greenspan said the property will be renamed Hotel Habana and that a first phase of renovations will start in the fall.

The resort has two nightclubs, a novelty store and a closed restaurant space.

The hotel recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and is a centerpiece of a string of businesses catering to LGBTQ clientele along a stretch of road that was part of historic Route 66 that connected travelers from Chicago to Los Angeles. 

Compiled by Larry Nichols

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