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HRC Joins LGBTQ Organizations Standing In Solidarity With Slain Teenager Mike Brown: VIDEO


The Human Rights Campaign along with 16 other LGBTQ organizations have penned an open letter of solidarity expressing their grief over the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb.

“When communities experience fear, harassment and brutality simply because of who they are or how they look, we are failing as a nation," the letter reads. “In light of the recent events in Missouri, it is clearer than ever that there is something profoundly wrong in our country.”

Brown’s death sparked a wave of protests, public outrage, and calls for an investigation into the circumstances that lead to the shooting. Brown, 18, was known as a gentle giant by those who knew him, a description that has become a rallying cry from the communities calling for legal action against the police officer responsible for his killing.

Eye-witness accounts of the shooting differ drastically from those released by the St. Louis Police Department. According to Ferguson Police Chief Jon Belmar Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were confronted by authorities after one of the boys allegedly forced an officer back into his cruiser, assaulted him, and attempted to take his gun. Johnson’s telling of the shooting recalls the officer approaching them, despite their insistence that they were minutes away from their destination and only wanted to go there.

“I saw the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” Johnson told NBC. “I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close.”

Johnson’s claims that neither he nor Brown made an attempt for the officer’s gun, and that Brown had his hands in the air when he was finally gunned down.

The officer responsible for the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave in light of the fallout following Brown’s death. Despite public calls for the publication of the officer’s name, the St. Louis County Police Department has refused, citing its desire to protect his privacy.

Read the HRC’s full letter and watch Dorian Johnson’s interview describing Mike Brown’s shooting AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "HRC Joins LGBTQ Organizations Standing In Solidarity With Slain Teenager Mike Brown: VIDEO" »

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Missouri's Ban on Gay Marriage

6a00d8341c730253ef01a5116a568d970c-800wiLawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging Missouri's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage after two couples were denied marriage licenses in Kansas City. The lawsuit argues that Missouri violates the equal protection and due processes clauses of the U.S. Constitution with its limited definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Missouri ACLU attorney Tony Rothert filed the lawsuit last Tuesday, though the case itself was not publicized until late Friday afternoon so as not to distract from the fight for equality in neighboring St. Louis. Francis Slay, mayor of St. Louis, endorsed his city’s issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples as a challenge to Missouri’s ban. Though the two cities are challenging the ban with different approaches, both Mayor Slay and Rothert hope to eventually strike down the gay marriage ban.

The ACLU previously brought suit against Missouri and its discriminatory ban back in February of this year.

Because of their technical illegality, Chris Koster, Missouri’s Attorney General is currently asking for injunctions against the marriage licenses that have been issued thus far.

"While I personally support the goal of marriage equality, my duty as Attorney General is to defend the laws of the state of Missouri," Koster said last Thursday. "While many people in Missouri have changed their minds regarding marriage equality, Missourians have yet to change their constitution."

Friday Speed Read: Utah, Boulder, St. Louis, Indiana, Recess Appointments, Buffer Zones

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service


Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a statement late Wednesday saying his office intends to file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the Tenth Circuit panel decision striking down the state’s marriage ban for same-sex couples.


Boulder, Colorado, continued issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday, even after the state attorney general said the licenses are invalid.


From July 1 through Labor Day, Speed Read will publish on a weekly basis. When a breaking news story is of great importance, we will get it to you as quickly as possible.


In a move reminiscent of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004, officials in St. Louis, Missouri, on Wednesday issued marriage licenses to four same-sex couples, in open defiance of the state’s marriage ban for same-sex couples. The ceremony for the first couple was held in Mayor Francis Slay’s office, officiated by Municipal Judge Joseph Murphy. City officials said they would use the marriages to launch a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban, according to the St. Louis Dispatch. Meanwhile, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster launched a counteroffensive, filing a lawsuit Thursday against a St. Louis County official who granted the marriage licenses.


Federal Judge Richard Young has still not responded to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s motion for an emergency stay of the June 25 ruling striking the state’s marriage ban for same-sex couples. The Indianapolis Star reported another 200 couples married in Indianapolis Thursday, along with more than 100 in other counties. Zoeller on Thursday filed an appeal with the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.


The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision Thursday that narrows the opportunities for a president to make a recess appointment. Recess appointments have been a means for some presidents to get controversial nominees into office and have them confirmed later. President Clinton used a recess appointment to install gay philanthropist James Hormel as the U.S.’s first openly gay ambassador. President Obama used them twice for gay appointees in 2010 –Chai Feldblum as EEOC Commissioner and Richard Sorian as HHS Assistant Secretary. The high court’s decision, in NLRB v. Noel Canning, limits recess appointments to times when the Senate is in recess for at least 10 days. The decision was unanimous and written by Justice Stephen Breyer.


The Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights submitted a brief in support of a Massachusetts law that attempted to protect women seeking abortions by creating a 35-foot setback or “buffer zone” for anti-abortion protests outside such facilities. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court on Thursday said such buffer zones violate the First Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the opinion, McCullen v. Coakley, noting that public sidewalks are the “traditional public fora” for “assembly, communicating thoughts be­tween citizens, and discussing public questions” and “government may not ‘selectively…shield the public from some kinds of speech on the ground that they are more offensive than others.’” Roberts’ decision characterized protesters as seeking to hand out literature and to make offers of help to women entering the clinics. But the brief from GLAD, NGLTF, and NCLR noted the buffer zones are not to stifle expression but to protect the safety of women. “Women should be free to seek comprehensive medical care—including birth control and abortion—without the fear of harassment and violence from protesters,” said NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey.

© 2014 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

St. Louis Mayor Defies Missouri Ban, Hosts Gay Marriages in His Office


On Wednesday, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and other  officials challenged Missouri's ban on same-sex marriage by issuing four marriage licenses and marrying gay couples in Slay's office. 

One of the newly married couples, John Durnell and Richard Eaton, have been in a relationship for 39 years. Durnell said before the ceremony: “We hope in 20 years people don’t even think about it. We take our freedoms for granted once we achieve them.”

Slay told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

“It makes me proud as a citizen and as a mayor. I, and all of us standing here, are doing this to force the issue and to get the law settled for everyone who wants to get married in the state of Missouri.”

Attorney General Chris Koster, who is charged with enforcing the state’s constitution, went to court today seeking to stop the marriages.  Although St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison denied a temporary restraining order, at a later date he will consider whether to grant an injunction.

Officials have agreed to not issue more marriage licenses to gay couples but they plan to challenge the statewide ban all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

Along with Durnell and Eaton, the other couples to marry yesterday were David Gray and Tod Martin, Miranda Duschack and Karen Davis, and Bruce Yampolsky and Terry Garrett.

Watch a video at the St. Louis Dispatch.

Missouri voters approved the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

Missouri Catholic Diocese Asks Food Pantry Worker To Resign After Discovering Her Wife

When an April 30 profile in a local news-magazine outed lesbian Colleen Simon (pictured left) by mentioning her lesbian wife (pictured right), the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph asked Simon to resign as their social ministries coordinator. But Simon has refused and continued her work in St. Francis Xavier Church’s food pantry.

SimonThe Kansas City Star reports:

Simon’s work as coordinator of social ministries was profiled April 30 in The Star’s 816 news-magazine. The article highlighted Troost Avenue — its history and the many interesting people dedicated to its vibrancy today.

Colleen Simon and her wife, the Rev. Donna Simon of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, were mentioned deep in the story, along with the fact that they are a married couple.

The freelance writer didn’t intend to out the couple. They bear no grudge to her, nor to the priest currently serving St. Francis. The Simons have never hidden their marriage (in Iowa on May 19, 2012).

Rather, Colleen Simon kept a don’t-ask, don’t-flaunt attitude. She said she told the pastor who hired her in July 2013 (he is no longer at the parish) of her marriage. But day to day, she avoided pronouns that would highlight it, substituting “my spouse” or “my beloved.”

“You don’t want your legacy to be one of division and ugliness,” she said. “It’s awful. But there are laws, and until that law gets changed in the church, it is what it is.”

The 58-year-old Simon has reportedly refused to resign and will not leave her position until the Diocese fires her. She maintains that her decision is pragmatic, since she is a three-year survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma with many unpaid medical bills. As an older adult, she worries she won’t be able to find a new job very quickly.

Did A Raytown, Missouri School Do Right Or Wrong By Outing A Transgender Student? - VIDEO


Last Friday, Robinson Elementary School in Raytown, Missouri sent a letter home to parents announcing that a male student known as Adam had returned to school as a female named Jasmine.

According to KMBC.com, the letter — which was sent out at Jasmine’s parents’ request — “asked students and parents to treat everyone at school as they would want to be treated.”

From KMBC.com:

"This is not about who you want to be. This is what you are," said Caroline Gibbs, of the Transgender Institute. "This is a genetic, medical condition, hardwired. One is born with it."

"Gender identity is separate from sexual orientation," said Jessica Farmer, a counselor who works with gay and transgender youth. "They are two separate things. So if you ask a young person if they're male or female, they'll usually have an answer."

Farmer said very young people and their families who deal with these issues at an early age usually have fewer problems adjusting than those who deal with them later on.

Vincent Paolo Villano, Director of Communications for the National Center for Transgender Equality said that the NCTE had an internal conversation about whether the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act meant to protect student educational records applies in this case or whether the letter revealed too many identifying characteristics about the youth.

Furthermore, if the school’s letter meant to make the community aware of Jasmine’s transition as a medical condition, Villano doubted that the school’s action in this case mirrored how it would handle other medical issues, like if a kid had to stay home with chicken pox.

But acknowledging that the school may have sent the letter as a way to raise awareness and forestall bullying, Villano said, “Whenever schools and teachers take action to feel affirm a student’s identity and help them feel good about themselves, that’s to be applauded.”

The district had no additional comment.


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