Rundown, Queer 411: Anti-Gay Group Received Federal Funds, Gay Population Boom, White House Honors Trevor Project, NJ’s Gay Book Ban & LGBT Wedding Expo

An LGBT activist’s view of entertainment and world news.

As an LGBT activist, the promotion of queer rights is #1 on my homosexual agenda. This weekly column serves as a forum for me to comment on issues and causes currently affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. My “rundown” of these topics is from the perspective of an LGBT activist; it is my goal that by keeping our community informed, we can all help contribute to the battle for equality.

Anti-Gay Group Received Federal Aide
According to an investigation by the Associated Press, $2.2 million in federal funds were paid to the Iowa Family Policy Center by the Department of Health and Human Services (between 2006 and 2010) for counseling services AND anti-marriage equality efforts in the state. Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader, which includes the Iowa Family Policy Center among its divisions, was a leading force in the state to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who struck down laws banning marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Gay Population Boom
The Census Snapshot of same-sex couples across the U.S. is now complete, with the Census Bureau’s release and the Williams Institute’s analysis of the data on five final states.   The states for which information was released this week include two with significant proportions of gay couples (New Mexico and Rhode Island) and three with smaller numbers (Tennessee, Mississippi, and North Dakota). New Mexico had 9.8 same-sex couples per 1,000 households, making it one of the gayest states, behind Vermont with 10.9, Massachusetts with 10.2, California with 9.98, and Oregon with 9.9. Rhode Island, where lawmakers failed to pass a marriage equality bill this year but did approve civil unions, had 8.9 gay couples per 1,000 households. The largest concentrations of gay couples in New Mexico were in the Albuquerque, Santa Fe area, while Providence had the largest proportion in Rhode Island.

White House Honors Trevor Project
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention program aimed at LGBT young people, was honored this week at the White House as part of the Obama administration’s Champions of Change initiative.  David McFarland, the Trevor Project’s interim executive director and CEO, accepted the honor and met with administration officials to discuss priorities in suicide prevention prior to National Suicide Prevention Week, which begins September 4.   The Trevor Project’s work includes a 24-hour phone hotline, in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources, and advocacy. It is a major resource for the administration’s anti-bullying program, StopBullying.gov, and will participate in the Department of Education’s anti-bullying conference at the end of September.

New Jersey’s Gay Book Ban
High school students in New Jersey won’t be allowed to read Norwegian Wood this fall. Japanese author Haruki Murakami’s celebrated novel about Tokyo college life in the 1960s was banned by the Monroe Township Schools in Williamstown after a public outcry over its supposed inappropriateness.  According to Fox News, school administrators apologized to parents for having initially required sophomores to read Wood, which reportedly contains a lesbian scene, in their English class.  “Some of the language is inappropriate,” said Chuck Earling, superintendent of Monroe Township Schools. “We were not trying to create controversy. We were just trying to get students to read.” Peter Sprigg of the antigay Family Research Council told Fox News Radio the hysteria over the books was warranted.

LGBT Wedding Expo
The first LGBT Wedding Expo will be organized by LOFT, a White Plains, NY-based non-profit that provides services to LGBT residents of the Hudson Valley. LOFT Executive Director David Juhren said the group quickly filled space for 40 vendor tables.  From wedding planners and florists to salons and catering companies, many business owners are seizing the opportunity to work with same-sex couples who are planning weddings.  A report issued by the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference predicts that 66,000 LGBT couples will tie the knot over the next three years. The weddings, the report said, are expected to generate nearly $400 million in revenues by 2014. Here is the link for more information: http://www.loftgaycenter.org/weddingexpo.html.

That’s all folks and I hope you tune in next week!

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