Rundown Queer 411: Party Hate Crime, ENDA Bill + more

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.

MSNBC’s New Gay Anchor

The new weekend anchor at MSNBC came out of the closet in a moving column in 2011.  With the announcement this week that liberal journalist Steve Kornacki of Salon will take over weekend roundtable show, Up, MSNBC is adding its third openly gay anchor to the lineup.  Kornacki succeeds Chris Hayes of The Nation who is getting his own show on weekdays at the 8 p.m. time slot once helmed by Ed Schultz. It’s the lead-in to The Rachel Maddow Show, the cable news channel’s highest rated program. Maddow, who is gay, often called upon Kornacki as a guest.  Thomas Roberts, who was recently married to Patrick Abner in New York, also hosts his own midday show on the channel and was before that anchor for The Advocate‘s online newscast, which is no longer in production.  Kornacki came out in 2011 at age 32 in a very personal Salon column, titled “The Coming Out Story I Never Thought I’d Write,” in which he recounted losing the man who seemed to be the love of his life after refusing to come out of the closet.

Party Hate Crime

A man has been jailed for killing a gay teenager with Asperger syndrome by setting his genitals on fire.  Steven Simpson, 18, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, died after sustaining “significant burns” last June.  Sheffield Crown Court heard that Jordan Sheard, 20, coated Steven Simpson with tanning oil at his 18thbirthday and then flicked a lighter at his groin.  The victim instantly went up in flames with Sheard and others running away instead of helping him.  Steven, who lived alone and had Asperger syndrome, epilepsy and a speech impairment, died the next day in hospital from 60% burns.  Sheard, who initially tried to blame Steven for setting himself on fire, eventually admitted manslaughter, and was jailed for three-and-a-half years on Thursday.  The victim was bullied at the party over his disability and the fact he was gay, before being dared to strip to his boxers.  Judge Roger Keen told Sheard: “Egged on by others you sought to put a flame to Steven.  What it did was engulf him in a fire. You tried to briefly assist and then you ran away. That in my judgment is serious aggravation.”  Steven was openly gay and had moved to the flat where he lived alone because of bullying at his previous address.  Andrew Smith, defending, said: “It was the result of a criminally stupid prank that went wrong in a bad way.”  Sheard, of Cudworth, near Barnsley, initially tried to blame Steven for setting himself on fire.  He was jailed for three-and-a-half years after he admitted manslaughter.  On Friday, Labour MP Diane Abbott criticized the sentence on Twitter as being “shockingly low”.

ENDA Bill

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) will be introduced in April by Congressman Jared Polis, one of six openly gay or bisexual Representatives in this session of Congress.  ENDA aims to address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  ENDA was first introduced to protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people in 1994, and has been reintroduced in every session of Congress since, barring the 109th session. It has evolved since its debut to include protection for transgender people.  Mr. Polis told the Washington Blade the language of the bill was being reconsidered carefully before this session’s attempt: “We’re going through ENDA now and have been working with many of the advocacy groups and my staff.  “We are in the process of listening to folks in the equality community — both the transgender community as well as the gay community,” he added. “We’ve gotten a lot of good input into improving the bill. We’re trying to see where we can forge consensus, and again, no decisions have been made about the final language.” In February a group of 37 senators called on President Obama to bypass Congress by implementing ENDA by executive order.

Russian Gay Pride Legal

A judge in Russia has just ruled that a ban on gay pride marches and rallies is illegal. The Civil Chamber of Kostroma Regional Court has ruled that the region’s ban on gay and lesbian pride and two rallies is illegal–a ruling that goes against the local law that bans gay propaganda toward minors. The court found that gay pride marches and rallies are not propaganda, but, according to GSN, “a way of conveying information to the public.” The decision takes immediate effect, so organizers can already begin applying for permits.

Supreme Oral Arguments on DOMA

They are already lining up outside the U.S. Supreme Court for public seating at next week’s oral arguments on same-sex marriage.  People arrived on Thursday night when temperatures in the capital dipped into the 30s and had grown to about a half-dozen people by Friday afternoon.  Those assembled at the base of the high court plaza were bundled in heavy coats and sitting in portable chairs.  Groups will be allowed into the Supreme Court starting on Tuesday ahead of 10 a.m. ET arguments on California’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage known as Proposition 8.

A separate challenge to the federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act will be argued Wednesday.  There are about 250 seats for the general public for each.  High-profile cases typically attract lines early on. Some are spectators, while others are place-holders for big law firms or advocacy groups.  Last year, spectators also lined up the weekend before the Supreme Court heard arguments on the health care reform law.  Two lines eventually form out front of the court’s marble exterior, one for those who want to watch an entire argument and the other for those seeking a glimpse of the proceedings. There will be rallies outside the court by several LGBT rights organizations and all across the country. You can find a rally near you at LighttoJustice.org and UnitedforMarriage.org.

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

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