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East Grand Rapids Becomes 36th Michigan City To Add LGBT Protections: VIDEO

EGREast Grand Rapids became the 36th city in Michigan to add LGBT protections on Monday. 

The City Commission in East Grand Rapids, population 10,000, voted unanimously to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's existing nondiscrimination ordinance. reports: 

The majority of those in attendance at the public hearing before the official vote spoke in favor of the move. A few told personal stories and described inequalities that exist even when laws are present, and many praised East Grand Rapids as a "welcoming place" that has allowed them to live peacefully in whatever lifestyle  they choose. Several commented that because the community has generally been so inclusive, they were surprised when they found out that the law wasn't already on the books.

Former City Mayor Cindy Bartman offered her support for what she called "this very important ordinance."

"EGR has a long and proud history as an open and inclusive community," said Bartman. "East was the very first high school to establish a Gay-Straight Alliance and today following our lead, almost every high school in the state has one. A lesser known fact," she said, "was when the state offered a constitution banning gay marriage. If you look back at those results, you will find EGR was the only community in Kent and Ottawa County that said no."

WOOD-TV has more from the meeting: 

“When we were looking to where we wanted to raise our kids, there were multiple factors we took into consideration,” said East Grand Rapids resident Mary Whiting, who is in a same-sex relationship. “One was property values, safety, education and a sense of community, but the one that we had to consider that other people don’t have to consider is how would our family be perceived?” ... 

The city commission and residents who spoke Monday night were all in agreement, supporting the measure.

“It’s something that I can’t even understand the thought of a no vote,” First Ward Commissioner Bill Graham said.

The ordinance was first proposed over a year ago, but city officials hoped the state Legislature would add LGBT protections, which did not happen. Under the new ordinance, the city can fine violators up to $500 or seek an injunction against them in court. 

"Maybe by us passing this along with so many other communities, it will provide our state legislators the go ahead to do the right thing at the state level, where it (the law) would have more teeth," Mayor Amna Seibold told "But this is very basic equal rights for all."

Watch a report from WOOD-TV, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Openly Trans Former New Hampshire Lawmaker Turns Herself In For False Bomb Threat

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Stacie Laughton, New Hampshire’s first openly transgender lawmaker, turned herself in to the police last week for her involvement in a bomb scare that shut down a local hospital. Laughton, who has struggled with bipolarity, admitted to calling in a false tip about a bomb to local officials during a moment of manic impulsivity. According to Laughton, she had gone without her proper medication for some time.

“I have had a mental illness my whole life, and I guess this was my worst break with it,” she explained to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “I wasn't trying to hurt anyone, and it was totally out of character for me. I have put a lot behind me, and I never thought I would do this in a million years.”

Following a brief stay in a mental health and addiction facility Laughton is expected to be charged with a felony for calling in the bomb threat. Laughton had her first major run in with the law some time ago before she transitioned or became part of the New Hampshire legislature. Barry Laughton, as she was then known, was convicted for attempting to commit identity theft. That run-in with the law would ultimately cost Laughton her hard-won position within New Hampshire’s House of Representatives in 2012 as she had not paid all of the necessary fines associated with her conviction.

“I never thought I would see the inside of a police station again,” Laughton explained. “I am extremely remorseful. I have been crying frequently, and I wish I had never done it.”


Oregon House Of Representatives Passes Measure Outlawing Conversion Therapy

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The Oregon House voted on Tuesday to outlaw the dangerous practice of conversion therapy, with several lawmakers arguing the practice is heavily discredited and can cause irreparable emotional and mental damage reports The passage of HB 2307 makes it illegal for social workers or licensed mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists or psychologists, to practice conversion therapy on children under the age of 18 in the state of Oregon. The bill even received support from Rep. Knute Buehler, a Bend Republican.

Said Buehler:  

"Conversion therapy itself can cause incredible emotional and mental trauma to people, particularly young people in the process of coming to terms with their sexual identities."

The measure passed 41-18 and now heads to the Senate. New Jersey and California recently passed laws banning the dangerous therapy with Federal appeals courts upholding the bans. However, others such as Rep. Duane Stark, a Republican from Grants Pass who voted against the bill, felt there should be an opt-in option for the treatment should youth choose to pursue the treatment on their own volition.

Said Stark: 

"It's a normal, common practice that when people come in they can request from their therapist what sort of therapy they want to receive. I felt like there should be some sort of opt-in option for youth and empower them in that client-centered therapy."

However, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have both condemned the dangerous therapy, with proponents of the bill saying the therapy leads to anxiety, depression and destructive behaviors in children. 

Texas Lawmakers May Have Set A Record For The Most Anti-LGBT Bills In The History Of Any State


Jon Stewart was dead on last night when he said Texas lawmakers are munching on some serious hate cake

The Texas Observer reports today that they've now apparently set a record for the most anti-LGBT legislation in the history of any state. 

At least 20 anti-LGBT measures were introduced prior to last week's filing deadline. That's more than what is believed to be the previous record of 16 in Oklahoma this year. 

But in the Sooner State, 15 of those bills have already died, and LGBT advocates in Texas say they're confident they'll have similar results. 

From the Observer

EqTxDaniel Williams, legislative specialist for Equality Texas, said the group is “well-positioned” to defeat every piece of anti-LGBT legislation. Williams called it the worst session for LGBT rights since 2005—when the state’s marriage amendment passed and a proposal to ban gay foster parents was defeated on the House floor.

“What’s different about this Legislature than 2005 is that Texas, like most of the nation, has evolved on LGBT issues, and that mainstream voice is emerging and is being heard in the Texas Legislature,” Williams said. “It damages the Texas brand, and I think that’s why you’re seeing so many business voices get involved. … We also know how this process works better than our opposition does.”

Bell.CecilThe anti-LGBT legislation in Texas ranges from proposals targeting same-sex marriage, to religious freedom "license to discriminate" amendments, to bans on local LGBT protections, to bills that would criminalize transgender bathroom use.

GOP Rep. Cecil Bell (right), who's leading the charge with four anti-LGBT bills, told the Observer

“Unfortunately, I think it gets couched as ‘anti.’ It’s not about ‘anti.’ It’s about being pro-states’ rights. It’s about being pro-traditional values,” Bell said. “We’re seeing the results of a federal court system that doesn’t seem to be respecting the rights, the sovereignty, of the states and of the people. Because of that, you see the state legislatures pushing back.”

Pena.GilbertAnd GOP Rep. Gilbert Pena (right), the author of two of the four transgender bathroom criminalization bills, said this:

“This bill really is trying to establish the students’ rights to privacy,” said Rep. Gilbert Pena (R-Pasadena), who wants to make schools liable for damages if they allow transgender students to use restrooms based on how they identify. “How many girls in our high schools are going to be willing to allow some transgender male into their bathroom? Would you allow that for your daughter? I would not allow it for my daughter.”

Apparently, Pena doesn't quite understand the concept of transgender, since his bill would actually require transgender males to use the restroom alongside his daughter. 

Ahh, Texas. 

#WeJustNeedToPee Trans Activist Speaks Out, Says Going To Bathroom In High School Was 'Nightmare': VIDEO


Michael Hughes, the Minnesota transgender activist behind the #WeJustNeedToPee campaign, says he endured intense bullying in high school and just going to the bathroom was a nightmare.

As we reported earlier this week, Hughes is the bearded, tattooed transman from Rochester, Minnesota, who followed the lead of a Canadian activist and began taking selfies in women's restrooms. The campaign is designed to highlight the stupidity of legislation in Minnesota, Florida and Texas that would bar transgender adults and students from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identity. 

In an interview with Rochester's KTTC-TV, Hughes explained how he does it: 

Hughes"So I come in, go right to the mirror with a female friend behind me, and we quick get the selfie, and get back out before anybody comes in and gets startled by my presence in the women's restroom,” Hughes said, pointing his cell phone at the mirror of the women's restroom at the People's Food Co-op. ... 

"I'm hoping that even the most conservative lawmakers and voters will be able to look at them, take a step back," said Hughes.

Although the Minnesota bill, which deals with schools, wouldn't affect Hughes, he said the campaign is ultimately about trans youth: 

"Those youth, those 16, 17-year-old people just coming to terms with who they are. It's going to hurt them. It's going to be tremendous,” said Hughes.

Hughes worries the bill could make things more awkward with an already vulnerable group.

"Just going to the bathroom in high school was a nightmare for me," Hughes said, thinking back to his own experiences. "I would get nauseous just at the thought of having to go."

Hughes told The Rochester Post-Bulletin that like many transgender youth, he once tried to take his own life:  

"That's the most vulnerable part of our community. That's pretty scary for me," he said.

When Hughes was in high school, Hughes said he endured intense bullying because of his gender identity. He became suicidal at age 16 and attempted to end his life at 19. He said he wants to gather a group of transgender individuals and supporters and travel to St. Paul to urge lawmakers to reject these proposals.

Watch KTTC-TV's report and check out some of the latest tweets from the #WeJustNeedToPee campaign, AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Steven Universe Continues To Be One of the Most Queer-Positive Cartoons On TV - WATCH


“Steven Universe” is a television show currently airing on Cartoon Network about a young boy Steven, his father, and his three alien humanoid guardians known as the Crystal Gems. On its surface “Steven Universe” continues in Cartoon Network’s long history of vibrant, whimsical children’s shows. Beneath that, though, “Steven Universe” has been doing some of the most interesting work towards including positive themes of gender and sexual queerness in current television.

Over the show’s two seasons its writers have repeatedly used the Gems ability to fuse with one another to explore the intricacies of physical and emotional identities. In a lighthearted episode entitled “Alone Together” Steven, who is half Gem, accidentally fuses with his female friend Connie and becomes a physically androgynous being whose sole focus is to find a banging dance party. Though Stevonnie presents physically as being predominantly female, the character’s gender is left undefined and Stevonnie the person is uniformly admired by everyone that they meet.


During this season’s past few story arcs “Steven Universe” has hammered home its usually subtle messages about accepting love in all forms in much more explicit ways. In this week season finale’s “Jail Break” we learn that Garnet, voiced flawlessly by Estelle, is actually a near permanent fusion of two separate Gems with a deep romantic love for one another. The significance of the plot twist may seem minor, but as Mey Valdivia Rude writes for Autostraddle messages like Garnet’s can be powerful for young audiences:

Steven“Representation is vitally important for children. Study after study and expert after expert says that when kids see people like them positively portrayed in the media they consume, they are positively impacted, and when they don’t see that same representation, it negatively affects not only them, but how others view and treat people like them.

Especially when we’re still developing, and especially when we are still discovering and exploring our genders and sexuality, it’s important for us to know that we’re not alone and that we have the possibility of a bright future. One way to do this is by creating fictional characters and narratives that show that bright future for people like that.”

Check out a clip of Garnet’s origin story here AFTER THE JUMP...

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