Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Phoenix Police Arrest And Charge Two Suspects With Hate Crimes After Two Gay Men Attacked Thursday, Lincoln Nebraska Women Maintains That Hate Crime Attack In Fact Happened, Washington State Senator Ed Murray Become Country’s Only Gay Senate Majority Leader, ACLU Sues Utah School District Over Decision To Remove Book About Lesbian Mothers From Elementary Libraries, J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons Comes Out Publicly, Channing Tatum Named People’s Sexiest Man Alive, Neil Patrick Harris, Zac Efron, David Beckham,

In Arizona, Austin Head has heard stories of hate crimes, but until late last week, the gay rights activist, and focus of a recent HIV-positive documentary never thought he would become a victim. "I've always felt safe in downtown Phoenix," Austin said. According to ABC 15, While walking home from a bar late Thursday night, Austin and a friend were attacked by two men. He said the two men started yelling gay slurs, and then began swinging. During the fight, Austin was knocked out cold. "After being knocked unconscious, I woke up in the emergency room," he said. During the beating, Austin suffered cuts, an eye injury and a broken bone in his face. Police did catch up to the pair who allegedly attacked the two men. Ernie and Jermon Barnes were charged with aggravated assault. Investigators said because they apparently targeted Austin and his friend because they are gay, the charges were elevated. "These two suspects targeted these victims strictly based on their sexual orientation. Once you start to target people for those types of things, that's what makes it a bias crime," Phoenix Police Sergeant Steve Martos said. Austin said he will recover with his pride intact. With time, he hopes people will learn to accept others. "There's always going to be people who are intolerant of something. The only way you can combat that is by making your voice heard, and educating them."

A former University of Nebraska women's basketball star accused of faking a hate-crime attack against her is standing by her story in e-mails to news organizations and in an online video. In the YouTube video and e-mails sent to several media outlets, Charlie Rogers, 34, insists she did not make up the July attack, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. "The perpetrators of my crime are still out there. They are. It wasn't me," Rogers said in the 15-minute video. "I wouldn't say I did it then, and I won't say I did it now. I am innocent." Rogers told police that three masked men broke into her home, and that one of them pinned her down while another sliced a cross into her chest, cut the front of her thighs and shins and carved derogatory words in her arms and abdomen. She said they then rolled her onto her stomach and cut her buttocks, the back of her thighs and the back of her right calf. She also said they tried to burn down her house. Rogers crawled from her home naked, bleeding and screaming for help, a neighbor told police. Police arrested her August 21 for allegedly staging the attack, and prosecutors charged her with making a false report to police, a misdemeanor. She pleaded not guilty September 27. Both prosecutors and Rogers' attorney have said they expect the case to go to trial. Investigators did not follow up on leads in the case, Rogers said. They did not interview a woman who had a key to Rogers' house, didn't check out men taking photographs of her at a public event and didn't secure the crime scene in the days after the attack, she said. Instead, Rogers said, authorities have painted her as mentally ill and tried her in the court of public opinion. Police Chief Jim Peschong countered that investigators have worked diligently on the case and brought in an FBI agent to help. Peschong said investigators never found any evidence to back up Rogers' story. He said there was no sign of a struggle at Rogers' house and no blood on the bedspread where she said the men cut her. An FBI forensic pathologist determined that Rogers made the cuts herself or they were done with her permission, her arrest warrant says.

In Olympia, Washington, budget-committee chairman Sen. Ed Murray was picked Tuesday to be the new state Senate majority leader. Murray (D-Seattle) was chosen by his caucus to replace retiring Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, a Democrat from Spokane. According to the Seattle Times, the move makes Murray the highest-ranking openly gay lawmaker in the state. He also would be the country's only gay state Senate majority leader, according to the D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which closely tracks gay lawmakers. Murray, who has served as the Senate Ways and Means chairman for the past two years, will have a slim Democratic majority to work with and the prospect that conservative members of his caucus could defect to work with Republicans. There's even been talk in recent days — by Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Bellevue) and Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) — of a power-sharing arrangement with the GOP. Both Tom and Sheldon crossed party lines last session, along with retiring Sen Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup) to give Republicans control of the Senate budget. "I think that leadership and committee chairs and committee assignments should be decided by the entire body," Sheldon said. Murray dismissed the idea. He said he's open to some committees being chaired by Republicans but, "My belief is that somebody needs to be in control, otherwise we'll have chaos on the floor." If it came down to a power-sharing deal, Murray said, it might be better for Tom and Sheldon to caucus with Republicans and let the GOP take control. Republican Senate Leader Mike Hewitt's responded by saying, "Gosh, I like the way he thinks." Both Tom and Sheldon ruled out caucusing with the Republicans. Currently, Democrats control the Senate by a 27 to 22 majority. It is possible Republicans could pick up one seat, depending on the outcome of a close race between Republican state Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver) and Democratic Rep. Tim Probst. Benton pulled ahead Tuesday afternoon by 65 votes, a matchup surely headed for a recount. If Benton wins, Tom and Sheldon would be key swing votes for Republicans. If he loses and Democrats keep the current majority, talk of sharing power may become moot. In any case, Murray said that as majority leader, he will reach out to Republicans. Murray also said that finding ways to put more money into K-12 and higher education will be his top goal. He's also considering a possible run next year as Seattle's mayor and said a decision on that will be made either before the session starts, or after it ends. In either case, he will stay on as majority leader this session, he said.

In Utah, a Kaysville parent sued the Davis School District on Tuesday, alleging her children’s First Amendment rights were violated by a school committee’s decision earlier this year to remove a book about lesbian mothers from shelves of elementary libraries. Students can read the picture book, In Our Mothers’ House, by Patricia Polacco, only if they have a permission slip signed by parents. The policy decision brought applause from parents who felt the story wasn’t appropriate for young children and criticism from opponents who believed it was unjustified censorship and hurtful to gay and lesbian families. The Salt Lake Tribune reports Tina Weber, who has three children in the Davis district, is named as the lead — and so far only — adult plaintiff in the class-action complaint filed in Salt Lake City’s federal court against the district. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah is representing Weber on the case. The Utah Library Association, Utah Pride Center, Ogden OUTreach Resource Center, Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are also lending support, said John Mejia, legal director for the ACLU of Utah. "Students have the right to access books in their library free from the administration’s discrimination based on the viewpoint of those books," Mejia said. "Ultimately, we feel this is a question of interpreting the law. The school district has claimed that ... there’s a Utah statute that schools can’t advocate homosexuality under the health curriculum. The school has taken a public position that the libraries are an extension of the curriculum, and therefore this law would apply to make this book run afoul of the law. We question that interpretation of the law." Davis spokesman Chris Williams said Tuesday that the district hadn’t yet been served with the lawsuit, but added that it stands by the decision to require children to get a permission slip to check out the book. "I would say the district still feels comfortable with the process it undertook and at no time has any parent’s rights been curtailed," Williams said. "Parents still have the opportunity to have their children read the book." The lawsuit is the latest development in the district’s saga involving In Our Mothers’ House, a picture book about a lesbian couple raising children that was removed from the shelves of grade-school libraries in Davis County last spring after parents voiced concerns about the story’s suitability. The decision to keep the book behind the counter, accessible to children with a permission slip, followed an April 30 meeting during which a seven-member committee determined the book didn’t align with district curriculum standards. The committee, comprised of teachers, administrators and parents, voted 6-1 to keep the book off shelves, with Bountiful High librarian Trudena Fager casting the dissenting vote. Williams said previously the panel’s decision was based on a state law that bars school curriculum from advocating homosexuality. Committee members also determined the book was not age-appropriate. The dispute bubbled up in January, when the mother of a kindergartner at Windridge Elementary in Kaysville became upset when her child brought the book home. The mother and her husband took their concerns to elementary school officials, according to Williams. A committee at the school level decided to move the title — recommended for pupils in kindergarten through second grade — to a section for grades 3 to 6 after determining the book was better suited for older readers, Williams said. That didn’t appease the kindergartner’s parents, who gathered 25 signatures on a petition to move the discussion to the district level. The district committee voted in April to place the book behind the counter. Parents who signed the petition were notified of the move in May. Williams said the book was purchased in part because a student who attended Windridge has two mothers and librarians wanted to foster inclusion. Weber, the lawsuit’s plaintiff, said she was disturbed to learn that the book’s accessibility had been limited. After hearing about the controversy, she checked out the book to read to her 6-year-old, who was a kindergartner at Windridge last year. "It’s just a sweet story about a mixed family that learns to love each other," said Weber, who contacted the ACLU to see if she could help make a case against the district. Her children are also named as plaintiffs. "As a parent, I believe that it’s my role to help them understand certain issues and explain to them our particular values and stances on things," she said. "I don’t believe it’s for anybody else to tell me how to raise my family. I would just hope to see the book get back on the shelf so all children have access to it." Mejia said the suit asks the court to order copies of the book be returned to shelves, order a permanent injunction that would bar schools from restricting books based on an interpretation of homosexual themes and make declaratory judgments stating the school district violated students’ First Amendment rights in limiting access to the book and that the school erred in citing a Utah statute prohibiting homosexuality in curriculum as the reason to limit access to the book. The plaintiffs also seek $1 in damages from the district. The ACLU and Davis School District had conversations about the book before the lawsuit. Williams said he thought the two sides were working toward common ground on the issue. "My impression is at least we felt good about the meetings," Williams said of discussions between the ACLU and the district. "Apparently they didn’t."

J. Crew style superwoman Jenna Lyons came out publicly at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards, accepting her award, Lyons thanked her son Beckett and her girlfriend Courtney, “who has shown me new love.”

People magazine has named Channing Tatum the Sexiest Man Alive for 2012. Bradley Cooper and Richard Gere also made the list. Matt Bomer, who, unlike the former mentions, is openly gay, was named as well.

Neil Patrick Harris carries a bag.

Zac Efron and David Beckham spotted (separately, sadly) along the sidelines of the Los Angeles Lakers home game Tuesday against the San Antonio Spurs.

No comments: