Missouri Cop Told To ‘Tone Down Gayness’ Agrees To $10M Settlement

Lt. Keith Wildhaber of the St. Louis County Police Department, who was awarded a $20 million judgment in a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit last October, has agreed to a $10.25 million settlement.

It’s believed the county planned on appealing the ruling, and so Wildhaber came to this agreement to avoid a protracted appeals process.

You may recall Wildhaber, who is openly gay, sued St. Louis County after being passed over for promotion 23 times. Wildhaber said he was being discriminated against due to his sexual orientation.

In the lawsuit, Wildhaber alleged a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners told him that if he wanted to get promoted, “you should tone down your gayness.”

More from ABC News:

According to the settlement papers filed Tuesday morning in a St. Louis County court, Wildhaber is to receive a little more than $6.4 million and his attorneys will get about $3.8 million.

Prior to going to trial last year, Wildhaber and his lawyers offered to settle the case for $850,000 plus an immediate promotion of Wildhaber to lieutenant, according to a timeline of the case released by Page’s office. Steve Stenger, the previous St. Louis County Executive, ignored the offer, according to the timeline.

Stenger was later indicted on federal charges in a pay-for-play scandal. He pleaded guilty in August to charges of bribery, mail fraud and depriving citizens of honest services of a public official and sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Following the October jury verdict in Wildhaber’s case, Belmar promoted Wildhaber from sergeant to lieutenant. Belmar also created the police department’s Diversity and Inclusion Unit and put Wildhaber in charge of it, Page said.

Just hours before the settlement was made public, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar announced he will retire in April. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said the retirement had nothing to do with the settlement.

Sure, Jan…

Dying Man’s Funeral Refused By Church Because His Son Is Gay

L-R Brandon Smitty, Jessie Goodman (image via WTVC)

For years now, the LGBTQ community has endured reports of being denied services – like trying to buy a wedding cake or wedding invitations, or enrolling children of same-sex parents at private schools – all because of ‘deeply held religious beliefs.’

But a church in Tennessee is now denying a dying man’s request to host his funeral because his son is gay.

Jessie Goodman’s father is 71-years-old, very ill and dying.

His father has two requests after he is gone: that Jessie sing “The Anchor Holds” at the funeral, and that the services be held at Lee’s Chapel Baptist Church in Sweetwater, Tennessee. It’s the church the father first attende

But when Jessie, who is engaged to Brandon Smitty, approached the church about the service, Pastor Jay Scruggs and several members of the church told him neither he nor his fiancé could be involved in the funeral because they are gay.

Goodman told local ABC affiliate WTVC News 9, “As long as I was going to take part in any way, he (Goodman’s father) could not have his service there.”

Goodman was reportedly told the funeral could be held at the church if Jessie would attend alone, and not be a part of the service at all.

And if his fiancé showed up, he would be asked to leave.

News 9 reached out to Scruggs, but the pastor refused to comment saying he would speak to the press “after Jessie’s father is in the grave.”

“They’re punishing my dad for a lifestyle choice I’ve made,” said Goodman. “It’s not me up there in a casket. It’s him.”

The father, whose name is being withheld at the family’s request, has been told that his services will not be held at his own church.

“He did know that his funeral wouldn’t happen there,” said Goodman. “And he had a very hurt look on his face when we told him that.”

The family has since found a different funeral venue in the area to host the services.

And Goodman will sing “The Anchor Holds” at his father’s funeral.

News Round-Up: March 25, 2019

Gus Kenworthy

Some news items you might have missed:

• Out Olympic medalist Gus Kenworthy recently debuted his new hair style he jokingly dubs “petty in pink.” #PinkIsSassy

• Only 55 percent of Americans believe that gay and lesbian people face a lot of discrimination in the U.S., down from 68 percent in 2013.

• Lawyer Michael Avenatti has been arrested on charges related to an alleged $20 million extortion of the athletic apparel company Nike. His famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels, says said Monday that she is “saddened but not shocked” at the charges.

• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked a move by Senate Democrats to call on Attorney General William Barr to release special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report on the Russia investigation. It’s ‘too soon’ says McConnell.

• Police are looking for a man who opened fire at the gay bar, Toucan’s Tiki Lounge, in Palm Springs, California, this weekend. Two gun shot victims were taken to the hospital where they were reported to be in stable condition.

• Randy Report favorite Marina dropped her new music video last week, “Orange Trees.”

While we’ve only just passed the spring solstice, clearly Marina has her head in the summertime as she takes us to the beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with the upbeat electro-pop track and video.

Her upcoming album, LOVE + FEAR, is available April 26.

Dallas Wedding Venue Kicked Off Wedding Planning Website For Dissing Gay Couple

A Dallas area wedding venue has been dropped from a major wedding planning site for turning away a gay couple’s business.
Jeffrey Cannon & Aaron Lucero (image via Facebook)

A Dallas area wedding venue has been dropped from a major wedding planning site for turning away a gay couple’s business.

Jeffrey Cannon and Aaron Lucero had been dating for three years when they became engaged last summer.

The couple decided they wouldn’t make a rush to the alter as Lucero is a teacher. “We knew we wanted to wait over a year just because of all the stresses of starting the new school year,” Lucero told OUT.

They had opened a couples profile on the popular wedding planning site, The Knot, which helps connect wedding vendors with possible clients.

So, after spending some weeks doing online research for options for their big day, the couple set out last Saturday to check out possible venues.

But at the end of a day of viewing venues, the couple received an email from The Venue at Waterstone, just outside of Dallas. The couple had visited The Venue that day and it was their leading choice for their wedding.

The owner of the wedding company, Lyle Wise, shared with the couple that the business was founded 27 years ago after he had a vision ‘from God.’

Writing that “The design for marriage that we hold to is based upon the design [God] set forth which is a representation of the bride of Christ joined to the groom,” Wise informed Lucero and Cannon that The Venue does not host same-sex weddings.

“Though we do not host LGBTQ weddings or receptions,” added Wise, “we are more than happy to converse and further explain our beliefs and the love God has shown us as well as how He is conforming our lives to himself.”

The couple posted the email to their Twitter account.

Note: nowhere on the website for The Venue does the company state it is a religious-based organization.

Lucero told OUT the email felt like “a punch to the gut.”

Cannon chose to respond to the email sharing with Wise that they, too, grew up with a religious background.

“Our prayer is that God will one day open your hearts as well so that you will be able to welcome all of His children into your beautiful venue,” wrote Cannon.

“Until that day comes however, we would petition you to please make your faith known to the public on your website and with Knot.com so that other same sex couples do not have to go through the same rejection that we have gone through with you,” he added.

After the denial, the couple decided to reach out to other venues and disclose they were gay in an effort to avoid any further awkward situations.

It turns out two of their appointments set for Sunday cancelled on the couple upon receiving the news saying they were not ‘well-equipped’ to host same-sex weddings.

Now, The Knot has a strict policy about discrimination which includes LGBT people.

In a June 2018 Instagram post, The Knot’s CEO Mike Steib, wrote, “When we learn that a vendor has violated these terms of service, we will remove the vendor’s storefront and refund his or her money.”

“We love our couples, and all of our couples deserve a marketplace free of unfair prejudice,” he added.

The parent company for The Knot, XO Group, issued a statement to OUT, which read, “Our company supports everyone’s right to marry the person they love and prohibits any vendor on our site from discriminating against a couple based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.”

OUT has since confirmed that The Venue at Waterstone has been banned from The Knot.

Lucero admits the action by The Knot was appreciated, but he says the website should be more transparent about vendors’ positions on same-sex weddings.

“They have the power to make a difference, not just by kicking companies off their market place, but by using their influence and power to really make a difference,” he told Out.

Apparently, companies can get a badge for their profile on The Knot that shows they welcome same-sex couples, but the website doesn’t offer a way to filter or search for those LGBT-inclusive businesses.

Brittny Drye, editor-in-chief of Love Inc. Magazine, says even though the U.S. is years past the legalization of marriage equality nationwide, there are still many wedding vendors who are not open to working with same-sex couples on their big day.

“While most are, I still receive responses from many who are not, even in progressive cities like New York and San Francisco,” says Drye. “Enough for me to know that we still have a long way to go.”

(h/t OUT)

Anti-LGBT Arizona Artists “Prepared To Go To Jail” If They Lose State Supreme Court Appeal

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski 

Having already lost twice in court, the owners of a wedding invitation design firm in Phoenix, Arizona, have appealed to the state Supreme Court to determine if a public accommodation ordinance that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination violates their First Amendment rights of free religion and free speech.

The co-owners of Brush & Nib Studio, Breanna Koski and Joanna Duka, said in an interview with conservative radio host Todd Starnes they are prepared to go to jail if the state’s high court rules against them.

“I mean that’s that’s a possibility that we’re hoping we won’t have to face,” Duka told Starnes. “We’re hopeful that the Arizona Supreme Court will affirm some rights of artists that will never violate our beliefs and our conscience.”

They are being represented at the state Supreme Court by the virulently anti-LGBTQ law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom.

It’s important to note that no gay couple has asked Brush & Nib Studio for wedding services, nor has anyone has filed a complaint against the artists with the city.

The duo decided to file their initial lawsuit, in May 2016, as a pre-emptive strike of sorts against Phoenix’s non-discrimination ordinance.

The Phoenix City Council added sexual orientation and gender identity to its existing ordinance in 2013.

After losing in the Maricopa County Superior Court, the artists went to the state Court of Appeals. And lost there, too.

Now, the Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to hear their appeal.

The city of Phoenix issued the following statement regarding the issue:

“Phoenix’s non-discrimination ordinance is about access to goods and services on equal terms. The ordinance does not tell businesses what to write, what to think, or what to believe. The city’s legal team made this point to the Arizona Supreme Court. Four judges have already agreed that businesses in Phoenix must be open to everyone.

“Those legal rulings protect all and confirm that everyone should be treated fairly and equally regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, or disability. The city of Phoenix will continue to observe these shared community values, allowing the non-discrimination ordinance to protect and respect the rights of all residents.”

(screen capture)

Some LGBTQ activists, like Joe Jervis of JoeMyGod, have wondered aloud if the company might have been created by Alliance Defending Freedom to surreptitiously present a challenge to the Phoenix ordinance.

When their initial lawsuit was filed in 2016, the company didn’t appear to have a physical address. And the artists’ social media accounts were only months old, making it credible that the company might have been created just to file the lawsuit.

The video below, titled “Getting to Know the Artists of Brush & Nib,” was uploaded to YouTube just days before the lawsuit was filed, and the comments section is closed.

Additionally, the video is listed as “Unlisted.”

Now, why have a “getting to know” video be “unlisted” on YouTube?

#ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm…

In the video, the artists make a point to say their teaming up was a “God thing,” “beautiful things just come from God,” and how “special” they view their work on wedding invitations.

JoeMyGod also notes that the firm has an online store on Etsy despite the fact the website has a very clear anti-discrimination policy that protects LGBT people.

LGBTQs In Indonesia Face Harsh Treatment In Police Crackdown

Women hosed down in public via fire truck (image via Twitter/AndreasHarsono)

Even though it is not explicitly illegal to be homosexual in Indonesia, police and local vigilantes have recently taken severe actions against LGBTQ people.

Last Friday, police conducted a beach raid in the town of Lampung reports Gay Star News. The raid, conducted in an effort to ‘provide safety and maintain public order,’ resulted in the arrest of three women suspected of being transgender.

In a statement, Indonesian police said, “The growing issue of [LGBT] behavior has troubled the public. Almost every day we get reports from the public regarding this LGBT issue.”

Upon their arrest, the three women were humiliated by being publicly hosed down using a fire truck.

Officials called this a ‘mandatory bath’ or ghusl, which is done to cleanse the body after sex or at the end of a menstrual cycle.

Police officials took photos of the women during the public humiliation and posted them to social media.

Local and international human rights organizations denounced the hideous treatment.

Amnesty International’s Executive Director, Usman Hamid, issued a statement which read, in part, “The humiliation of these three transgender women is appalling and constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment which is absolutely prohibited under international law.”

“Raiding people and using a fire truck to hose them down in public are totally unacceptable, as is any other act of violence and discrimination against transgender women or other LGBTI people,” he continued.

According to Gay Star News, authorities began a crackdown on LGBTQ people in 2006 as conservative Islamic groups have gained more and more influence.

In addition to the arrest of the three women, the next day police arrested 10 women suspected of being lesbian due to a photo posted on social media of two women hugging.

On October 19, a gay couple were arrested for launching a gay-themed Facebook page titled, Gay Bandung. The men were charged with “distributing electronic information which contain violation decency.”

And on October 31, two women were arrested for being in a lesbian relationship by police in West Pasaman, West Sumatra.

The same police arrested six people suspected of being transgender earlier that month.

Authorities reportedly said the police actions were, “To ensure that the city is clean from LGBT.”

(h/t Gay Star News)

India’s High Court Overturns Dehumanzing Anti-LGBT Law

Awesome news from India this morning as the country’s high court has overturned a colonial-era law which made same-sex relations illegal.

From The New York Times:

In a groundbreaking victory for gay rights, India’s Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down one of the world’s oldest bans on consensual gay sex, putting to rest a legal battle that stretched for years and burying one of the most glaring vestiges of India’s colonial past.

After weeks of deliberation in the Supreme Court and decades of struggles by gay Indians, India’s chief justice, Dipak Misra, said that the colonial-era law known as Section 377 was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.”

“We have to bid adieu to prejudices and empower all citizens,” he told a packed courtroom.

The court said that gay people were now entitled to all constitutional protections under Indian law and that any discrimination based on sexuality would be illegal.

“This monumental decision by India’s Supreme Court finally ends a deeply discriminatory law that violated the dignity and most fundamental human rights of LGBTQ people in India,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb. “We congratulate the plaintiffs in this case and the LGBTQ advocates who worked tirelessly for decades to achieve this tremendous victory.”

“We hope this decision in the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country will set an example and galvanize efforts to overturn similar outdated and degrading laws that remain in 71 other countries,” Cobb added.

“The soul of this nation had been bruised and battered because of this archaic law,” said Harish Iyer, an Indian LGBTQ advocate who was involved in the legal challenge to Section 377. “Today, we have reaffirmed our right to our bodies and our right to love. The rainbow flag is proudly hoisted in our hearts and minds as we celebrate this victory.”

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, which accounts for 17% of the world’s population, India is the largest democracy in the world.

Until this ruling, India was the most populous of 72 countries that criminalize same-sex relations.

In 10 countries around the world, homosexual activity may be punishable by death.

Gay Parents Separated During ‘Family Boarding’ On Airline

(image via Twitter)

A same-sex couple traveling from San Francisco to Taipei via EVA Air was apparently told only one of the men could board the flight with their child during family boarding.

Attitude is reporting that Jeff Cobb and his husband made a point of getting to their gate at the San Francisco airport in order to board early and get settled with their 19-month-old child.

But upon arrival, Cobb was informed that it was airline policy to only allow ONE parent to board early with a child. But when Cobb joined his husband onboard after waiting in the normal line, it turns out straight families were allowed to board all together.

“My husband and I were told only one of us could join our 19 month old in the family boarding group of EVA Air 27 from SFO on 9/1/18,” Cobb shared via Twitter. “I explained we were both the fathers of the child, and they said it was their policy that only one parent can board…and the other has to wait in the normal line. Not having flown EVA before, I accepted it and let my husband and child go while I boarded later. When I met him on the plane, he said there were many other (straight) families all boarding together.”

When the family boarded their connecting flight on the same airline in Thailand, no one at the gate raised an issue of ‘one parent per child’ boarding.

Cobb expressed his consternation with EVA Air: “I’m very disappointed that the EVA ground staff at SFO thinks it’s ok to separate same-sex families during boarding. I will definitely not be flying this airline again after this incident.”

The airline issued a statement in response to the kerfuffle saying the incident was “due to a misunderstanding.”

“EVA Air and most especially our San Francisco International Airport team sincerely apologise to all the passengers affected by this incident.

“It is our policy that passengers traveling with infants can have priority boarding. The policy does not limit the number of accompanying adults or specify the relationship to the infant.

“This unfortunate incident was due to misunderstanding. Our San Francisco ground-handling agent understood that only one parent could board with an infant.

“We have apologised to our passengers and reminded our airport staff and agents about our priority boarding policy so that we can prevent this kind of incident from happening again.”

What do you think, readers? Was this just a ‘misunderstanding’ or was there something else in play here?

Alaska Airlines Responds To ‘Seat-Gate’

Yesterday, I reported on a gay couple being asked to move to separate seats on a flight from New York City to Los Angeles on Alaska Airlines.

The partner of gay businessman Dave Cooley was asked to move from his premium seat to coach in deference to a straight couple who said they wanted to sit together.

The unfortunate incident ended up with Cooley and his partner departing the plane before it took off and Delta Airlines accommodated the men.

Alaska Airlines reached out to me this morning with the following statement:

“This unfortunate incident was caused by a seating error, compounded by a full flight and a crew seeking an on-time departure and nothing more than that. It’s our policy to keep all families seated together whenever possible; that didn’t happen here and we are deeply sorry for the situation. We’ve reached out to Mr. Cooley to offer our sincere apologies for what happened and we are seeking to make it right. Alaska Airlines has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind. All of us at Alaska value inclusion for our guests and each other.”

“Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of Alaska Airlines. We are an airline for everyone and reflect these values through our work with dozens of nonprofit LGBTQ organizations, Pride Parades along the West Coast and a perfect score in the HRC’s Equality Index. We’ll keep building on this commitment, with our employee-led LGBTQ business resource group.”

Attorney General Announces ‘Religious Liberty Task Force” to Promote & Protect Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced a task force to promote and protect so-called 'religious liberty' which includes allowing LGBTQ discrimination in the name of religious beliefs
Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the creation of a ‘Religious Liberty Task Force” in order to help implement a 25-page memo he issued last October regarding the protection and promotion of ‘religious liberty.’

Speaking at the Justice Department today, Sessions told reporters he will chair the new task force.

“A dangerous movement, undetected by many, but real, is now challenging and eroding a great tradition of religious freedom,” said Sessions with a dramatic sense of foreboding. “There can be no doubt it’s no little matter. It must be confronted intellectually and politically and defeated.”

In today’s political climate, it’s clear the subject being discussed includes legal challenges brought by the LGBTQ community regarding discrimination in the public sector. Sessions referenced anti-LGBTQ baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple in Colorado.

More from The Hill:

“We’ve seen nuns ordered to buy contraceptives. We’ve seen U.S. senators ask judicial and executive branch nominees about dogma—even though the Constitution explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. We’ve all seen the ordeal faced so bravely by Jack Phillips,” he said, referring to the Colorado baker who took his case to the Supreme Court after he was found to have violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws for refusing to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Sessions said the guidance he issued in October lays out 20 fundamental principles for the executive branch to follow, including the principles that free exercise means a right to act — or to abstain from action — and that government shouldn’t impugn people’s motives or beliefs.

“In short, we have not only the freedom to worship—but the right to exercise our faith. The Constitution’s protections don’t end at the parish parking lot nor can our freedoms be confined to our basements,” he said, according to his prepared remarks.

Sessions also shared that he believes the issue of ‘religious liberty’ is one reason why Donald Trump was elected president. “In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith,” said Sessions. “He declared we would say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

You can watch the full speech by Sessions below, and you can read a full transcript of his speech here.