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17 Killed in Central U.S. Tornado Strikes, Drone Footage Shows Widespread Destruction: VIDEO

Drone

At least 17 people have been killed following a series of massive tornadoes that ripped through Arkansas and Oklahoma on Sunday.

Reunters reports:

Arkansas authorities said at least 10 people had died in Faulkner and six more across the state - the first reported fatalities of this year's tornado season. Another person was killed in neighboring Oklahoma, said the sheriff's department.

Searchers were continuing to dig through rubble in Vilonia and a spokesman for the County Sheriff's office said there was a "mass casualty situation".

"An entire neighborhood of 50 or so homes has been destroyed. Many homes are completely gone except the foundation ... There is more devastation like this in other parts of Arkansas," state congressman Tim Griffin told Reuters.

Stormchaser Brian Emfinger was also able to shoot aerial drone footage of the tornado’s destructive aftermath in Mayflower, Arkansas.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "17 Killed in Central U.S. Tornado Strikes, Drone Footage Shows Widespread Destruction: VIDEO" »


Judge to Rule on Arkansas Gay Marriage Ban Within Two Weeks

Piazza

Following hearings yesterday, Circuit Judge Chris Piazza said he would rule within two weeks on a challenge to Arkansas' ban on gay marriage, the Arkansas News Bureau reports:

Twenty-one same-sex Arkansas couples — and one woman seeking a divorce from a woman she married in New York — allege in a lawsuit that Amendment 83 to the Arkansas Constitution, which was approved by voters in 2004 and defines marriage as between one man and one woman, violates rights guaranteed under both the state and federal constitutions.

The state attorney general’s office maintains that banning same-sex marriage preserves state interests and does not violate any fundamental rights.

ArkansasJack Wagoner, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, said during Thursday’s hearing that since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal definition of marriage as between one man and one woman in the U.S. v. Windsor case last year, 18 federal and state court decisions have been issued addressing the issue of equality based on sexual orientation, and all have been decided in favor of equality.

“I love coming to court when the facts are all on my side,” Wagoner said.

Assistant Attorney Colin Jorgensen argued that in the Windsor ruling, the Supreme Court addressed federal law only and did not block states from defining marriage as they wish.

More on the hearing here.

Said Piazza following the three-hour arguments: "I’ve already got an idea where I’m going, but I’m still drifting."


Circuit Judge in Arkansas to Hear Challenge to Gay Marriage Ban

Marriage_arkansas

Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is set to hear a case challenging Arkansas' ban on same-sex marriage today at 1 pm in Little Rock, the AP reports:

Late last year, Piazza refused to grant a motion by the state that sought to dismiss the lawsuit, but he also refused to grant a motion by the couples suing, who asked him to block enforcement of the ban. The plaintiffs include 21 same-sex couples and a woman who wants to dissolve her New York marriage to another woman.


Arkansas Student Excluded from Yearbook for Being Gay Faces New Bullying from Peers, Teachers

Taylor_ellis

Over the past few days we've bee reporting on Taylor Ellis. Ellis's school, Sheridan High School is refusing to run a yearbook profile on Ellis because he's openly gay.

Chad_griffinThe disgusting censorship led to the Human Rights Campaign staging a rally at the Arkansas State Capitol demanding the school change its mind. Instead, the school administrators dug in their heels. Ellis's case is now drawing national attention and has been featured on CNN.

Sheridan School District Superintendent Brenda Haynes released a statement:

Haynes“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook...It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the district have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so."

But what's happening back at school is even more disgusting. Ellis tells Slate:

T_ellisToday was my first day back [after a school trip]. People were talking about it while we were on our trip, texting all of us, making comments. I was about to lose it...

At first, everybody kept quiet. I’m in choir—that’s a good group. All the guys were nice. People were telling me I’m doing a good thing. My teacher said if I had any problems in any other classes I could just come back and sit in her room. … Geometry was fine, too. The teacher was fine with it; she understood and talked to me a little bit. She told me, “it’ll all pass, it’ll all be fine.” She’s a really good teacher. I don’t think she said anything negative to me.

[By] fifth period I was ready for the day to be over. All these people were negative, quiet—just weird.  I was ready to be home, just trying to get away from everything. Then I got in the Instagram page someone made that said “Sheridan School = No Gays.” I was looking at all the people [at Sheridan] who liked it and who followed it—people I don’t need to talk to. Three of them were in that class, sitting right across from the room from me.

A screenshot of the page, which is still live, is below. Ellis adds:

I asked [a few other students] why they were following this hate page [on Instagram]. And my teacher said, you don’t need to be talking about that in class. You need to go sit down. You have assignments to do. This teacher has never gotten onto me, never had a problem with me. But now she just kept saying stuff and I was just sitting there, shaking and crying. That’s what I do when I get mad—I shake and cry.

Stay strong. Taylor. We are with you.

Nogays


Arkansas Transwoman Fired For Using Women's Restroom: VIDEO

Kaye Bowens

Kaye Bowens of Star City, Arkansas claims she was fired from her job at McDonald's for using the women's restroom. Bowens is transgender, a fact that she was up front with from the very beginning of her employment, and had been using the women's room for three months without issue. Then one day two weeks ago a shift manager confronted her about it, and the next day Bowens was called into the general manager's office and fired. 

Bowens threatened with a lawsuit and was offered her job back, but only on the condition that she used the men's room going forward. The franchise owner Michael Retzer issued the following statement about the incident:

We believe in the value of a diverse workforce, equal opportunity and a workplace free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment.  As such, we continue to do our best to meet the needs of our employees and customers, and we are reviewing this situation carefully. It is important for us to share that the employee in question is a current employee and has not been terminated. We have asked the employee to discuss this issue with us, but we have not received a response.

Bowens in the meantime has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and is considering hiring a lawyer. You can watch a news interview with Bowens AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Arkansas Transwoman Fired For Using Women's Restroom: VIDEO" »


Arkansas Superintendent Defends Censorship of Gay Student from Yearbook: VIDEO

Chad_griffin

On Monday we reported that Sheridan High School in Arkansas was refusing to run a student's yearbook profile because the student, Taylor Ellis, is openly gay.

The Human Rights Campaign, which sent a letter to school officials demanding the profile be replaced after the "unconscionable" decision to exclude it, rallied on the steps of the state capitol in Little Rock on Tuesday, led by HRC President and native Arkansan Chad Griffin. Ellis was also there.

Watch a news report on the rally, and interviews with Ellis and the yearbook editor who exposed the censorship, AFTER THE JUMP...

HaynesMeanwhile, the Sheridan School District Superintendent Brenda Haynes is digging in her heels.

Said Haynes in a statement to the Arkansas News:

“We must make decisions that lead in the proper direction for all of our students and for our community. We must not make decisions based on demands by any special interest group. The seven profiles will not be published in the yearbook...It is clear that the adults who have the responsibility for the operation of the district have the obligation to make decisions which are consistent with the mission of our school. We have done so."

Watch KATV's report on yesterday's rally, AFTER THE JUMP...

Taylor_ellis

Continue reading "Arkansas Superintendent Defends Censorship of Gay Student from Yearbook: VIDEO" »


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