TN Bill Would Out LGBT Students
In its latest iteration, the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill—now called the "Classroom Protection Act"—prohibits "classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction" in grades kindergarten through eight in Tennessee. The bill specifically excludes "answering in good faith" questions students ask. Instead, the student will have to see the school counselor and the conversation will then be reported to the student’s parent or guardian. The Tennessee Equality Project questions the “chilling” effect on counseling when a student has personal questions of identity that need to be explored with care and discretion. They argue that, because counselors will be required to notify parents or guardians after counseling takes place, students will be left without any confidential resource in a place where they might be enduring bullying or other issues related to their sexuality, gender, or other factors.
Phelps’ Family Members Leave Westboro
The Westboro Baptist Church, known for its inflammatory anti-LGBT demonstrations, has lost two high-profile members. Granddaughters the church’s founder and pastor, Fred Phelps Sr., announced their defection in an online statement. Megan Phelps-Roper and her younger sister, Grace, expressed regret for their past actions, but also admitted that it was difficult to leave the only life they had ever known behind."We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people," they wrote. "Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt." According to the statement, the girls and their family are no longer speaking. "We know that we dearly love our family," they said. "They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.” After the announcement, Steve Drain, a spokesman for the Westboro group, told the Kansas City Star that if Megan and Grace don’t return to the church, they will “go to hell.”
Pentagon to Extend Some Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses
The Pentagon announced that it will extend new benefits to the spouses of gay personnel. According to the Associated Press, it is likely that the benefit will include housing privileges, access to base recreational facilities, and joint duty assignments for uniformed couples. However, the AP also reported that the Pentagon is unlikely to find a way to offer health-care coverage and more than 100 other spousal benefits while the Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman — remains in effect. In related news, President Obama is considering issuing an Executive Order offering protections to gays and lesbians who work for government contractors if Congress doesn’t pass broader legislation for protection of gays and lesbians in the workplace. A letter signed by 37 senators was sent to Obama urging him to do just that.
Facebook Users Save “Gay” Dog
A Tennessee man left his dog at a Jackson, Tenn. animal shelter because he believed the dog to be gay. The healthy American Bulldog mix was scheduled to be put down when a woman put a post on Facebook about the dog. "His owner threw him away bc [sic] he refuses to have a 'gay' dog!" she wrote. "Don't let this gorgeous dog die [because] his owner is ignorant of normal dog behavior!" Word spread quickly via the social media network and was eventually picked up by the blog, Gawker. The Tennessean reported that, as a result of the story, the shelter was inundated by calls from people wanting to save the dog and he was quickly adopted by the canine rescue group, WOOF Connections.
Paternity Suit Ends in Birth Certificate Listing Three Parents
A Miami-Dade circuit judge approved a private adoption allowing three people — a gay man and a married lesbian couple — to be listed on the birth certificate of their 23-month-old daughter. This decision is the result of a two-year legal battle for paternity in which a lesbian couple did not want to share parental rights with their friend who donated his sperm. According to the Miami Herald, Massimiliano “Massimo” Gerina, only did so because he was under the assumption that he would be able to participate in the child’s life. Before the case was set to go to trial, the attorneys for all parties settled. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Antonio Marin approved the settlement and the court adoption clerk submitted paperwork for the child’s new birth certificate.
Former First-Round Draft Pick Arrested for Assaulting Ex
Former San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Raiders offensive lineman Kwame Harris was publicly outed after being arrested for assaulting his ex-boyfriend. According to the San Mateo County Times, Harris broke bones around Dimitri Geier's eye socket resulting in a metal plate being installed in his face to repair the physical damage from the beating. Harris was subsequently arrested.
Happy Valentine’s from Ill. Senate
Illinois is one step closer to becoming the 10th state to grant gays and lesbians the right to marry. On Valentine’s Day, the state Senate approved legalizing gay marriage in a vote one backer described as "one for the history books." The Chicago Sun Times reported that the legislation, which was authored by state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), passed 34-21 will now be sent to the House.