News Round-Up: June 22, 2021

Some news items you might have missed:

New York Times: Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation to come before Congress in a generation, using the filibuster to deal a blow to a bid by President Biden and Democrats to counter a wave of state-level ballot restrictions. The vote to begin debate on the bill failed with 50 Democratic votes and 50 Republican votes.

Washington Post: The Vatican has taken a highly unusual step against its neighbor, sending a diplomatic note to the Italian government that protests a draft law aimed at preventing hate and violence against LGBT people.

Instagram: When Las Vegas Raiders DE Carl Nassib came out as gay yesterday, he announced he was making a $100K donation to The Trevor Project and challenged others to contribute as well. The NFL says it will match his donation with another $100K to The Trevor Project.

Justice Department: James Dale Reed, age 42, of Frederick, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to threatening then-former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in October 2020. Reed left a letter on the doorstep of a Maryland resident which also stated, “…if you are a Biden/Harris supporter you will be targeted. We have a list of homes and addresses by your election signs. We are the ones with those scary guns. We are the ones your children have nightmares about…”

The Advocate: The group behind Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ Pride celebration has disbanded and canceled this year’s festivities due to a controversy. Philly Pride Presents had been criticized for a transphobic Facebook post that cast police as victims in the Stonewall riots.

Out Music: Acclaimed singer-songwriter, producer, and DJ Planningtorock (aka Jam Rahouja Rostron) released their new single, “Gay Dreams Do Come True,” which is also the title track to their upcoming new EP of the same name.

About the euphoric new track, Planningtorock says, “This song is a dedication to my love, my wife Riinu and too the Black trans women who fought for the rights we have today as queer, gay, non binary lesbians.”

Philly Mayor: Trump Needs To ‘Put His Big Boy Pants On And Acknowledge He Lost’

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (screen capture)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters Friday that Trump needs to “put his big boy pants on” and acknowledge that “he lost and he needs to congratulate the winner.”

“Just as Jimmy Carter did, just as George H.W. Bush did and frankly just as Al Gore did,” added Kenney. “Stop this and let us move forward as a country.”

As of 1:24 p.m., Biden leads with about 13,492 votes in Pennsylvania with just under 112,000 mail ballots left to count, according to the secretary of state’s website.

Supreme Court May Rule In Favor Of Adoption Agency That Won’t Work With LGBTQ Couples

(stock photo via Depositphotos)

After hearing arguments in a case involving LGBTQ discrimination and foster parenting in Philadelphia, the Supreme Court appeared to lean in favor of a Roman Catholic adoption agency that wouldn’t certify same-sex couples to foster children.

From CNBC:

The adoption agency case (Fulton v. City of Philadelphia) arose after the city of Philadelphia learned in 2018 that Catholic Social Services, a foster care services provider affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, would not certify same-sex couples as suitable parents for children in the city’s foster care system.

After Philadelphia learned about CSS’ policy, the city stopped referring the group new children, citing a city law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, and updated its 2019 contract with foster care services providers to explicitly forbid such discrimination against potential parents.

Catholic Social Services argues that Philadelphia’s exclusion of it from the city’s foster care system amounts to religious discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment’s protections for religious exercise.

This case is the first to come before newly-confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett’s history of anti-LGBTQ views were raised during her Senate confirmation hearings last month.

News Round-Up: June 15, 2020

Some news items you might have missed:

SCOTUS: I’m still on cloud nine over today’s landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that current civil rights laws prohibit discriminating against LGBTQ people in the workplace. Read my post on the momentous ruling here.

Instinct Magazine: The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri now officially has a gay Black man in charge. The Rt. Rev. Deon K. Johnson, who is not only Black and gay but also a married Barbadian-immigrant and father of two children, was elected in a landslide of 115 votes out of 164. As the 11th bishop for the diocese, he represents 42 parishes in the Eastern half of Missouri.

Quibi: The new streaming app premieres its new program from ’60 Minutes’ titled, ‘60 in 6.’ Stories include features, investigations, and profiles in 6-10 minutes. In this episode, Wesley Lowery takes you to Minneapolis to go in-depth, in minutes. Download Quibi here and try it out for two weeks for free.

Out Music: Heather Mae and Crys Matthews’s new single “6 Feet Apart” showcases the phenomenal talent of the award-winning Mae (who has been described as Stevie Nicks meets Sara Bareilles) and the unique fusion of Matthews’ Americana folk/jazz sound.

In addition to the new single, the duo has announced their LGBTQ+ virtual Pride concert tour, “The Singing OUT Tour,” with dates scheduled throughout the month of June. The concerts will feature not only music but games and giveaways as well.

CBS News: Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on policing Tuesday that aims to accomplish three things — to incentivize police departments to use modernized best practices, to increase information sharing by tracking people who have “excessive” use-of-force complaints, and to address mental health, homelessness, and addiction.

Philadelphia Inquirer: A Philadelphia court supervisor has been fired after a video surfaced on Monday of him tearing down Black Lives Matter protest signs made by children at a South Philadelphia park.

Officer Benson Churgai Makes History In The City Of Brotherly Love

Benson Churgai (screen capture)

As the latest class of police recruits gathered at the Police Academy in Philadelphia to pose for their class photo last week, newly-minted police officer Benson Churgai shared a personal secret with his fellow graduates.

Addressing his classmates from a prepared speech, Churgai began, “I want to be honest with everyone here. In April 2016, I made a decision that was best for me. I came out as a transgender male.”

“I struggled for a long time with who I was,” he continued. “I knew that if I continued to live my life as [a] female, it was not going to work out.”

Over the next few minutes, the 24-year-old explained he’d “rather have a discussion with everybody” in an effort to “help prevent feelings of betrayal.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports Churgai’s class responded with a rousing standing ovation.

In coming out to his fellow graduates, he becomes the first transgender recruit to graduate from the Philadelphia Police Academy. Churgai notably graduated as the salutatorian of his class.

Before Churgai’s announcement, only a few commanders involved in recruitment and training were aware he was transgender.

“I wanted to go through the academy like every other recruit,” Churgai told local ABC News affiliate WPVI. “I didn’t want people to know I was transgender because I didn’t want to be treated differently. I wanted to be held to the same standards as everybody else.”

“Sometimes it seems that your hopes and dreams are not possible when you come out as transgender, but it is possible,” added Churgai. “It is possible to be who you want to be and do the career you want to have, it’s possible. Just because your trans it doesn’t mean you can’t.”

Philadelphia Police Inspector Verdell Johnson, who supervises the recruits, told the Inquirer Churgai was selected solely “on his ability to pass a rigorous background test and physical training.”

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told the Inquirer among his department’s top priorities is to “ensure that our ranks are diverse, inclusive, and reflective of the communities we serve.”

“I was proud of him,” said fellow classmate Jarrett Ross. “We need more of this in our department. We need people from all different walks of life, people who can relate to different things.”

Churgai says it has been his dream to be a police officer his whole life because “you get to people on the best and what could be one of the worst days of their lives.”

(Source: Philadelphia Inquirer)

News Round-Up: June 7, 2019

(via Instagram/JoeBlizzard)

Some news items you might have missed:

• InstaHunk Joe Blizzard (above) has one lucky dog.

• Less than half of the 20+ presidential candidates mention LGBTQ rights on their campaign websites.

• Brad Pitt has demanded the organizers of the so-called ‘Straight Pride Parade’ in Boston to cease and desist using his name and likeness for their event.

• Christians surprise LGBTQ Pride parade marchers with signs apologizing for anti-LGBTQ views.

• Sad news from Philadelphia – Deputy Sheriff Dante Austin, the department’s LGBT liaison, was found dead in his office on Friday morning of what is thought to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

• Pride Flag flies over Wisconsin capitol for the first time; Republicans whine, “This is divisive.”

• Carolyn Vaughn, a county commissioner in Texas, refused to sign a Pride Week proclamation honoring the lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting. “Just because you’re the LGBT—whatever it’s called, community, does not mean that I have to suck it up and support it.”

• And how about one more from InstaHunk Joe Blizzard as I send you all into the weekend 🙂

Philadelphia Gay Man Attacked By Homophobic Mob Outside Popular Gay Bar

Josh Schonewolf (screen capture via 6ABC)

The Philadelphia LGBTQ community is shook after another violent attack took place on Sunday night outside a popular gay bar.

The victim, a 50-year-old patron of The Toasted Walnut, was standing right outside the bar around 11PM on Sunday night when the assault took place.

According to police reports, four men and a woman took part in the assault.

Josh Schonewolf, the bartender who was working that night, saw the attack as it happened.

“All of a sudden a car full of guys decided to jump out and attack one of the patrons here right in front,” said Schonewolf.

Schonewolf tells local news station 6ABC that the attackers “were definitely calling him some gay slurs as they were beating him up.”

Some witnesses attempted to stop the assault, but were attacked as well.

“The general manager happened to be outside, and he was also punched in the face,” said Schonewolf.

The mob of attackers jumped back in their car and fled the scene before police arrived.

The victim was treated at the hospital for a head injury.

Police tell 6ABC that hate crime charges may be added once they have finished their investigation. The final determination will be made by the district attorney’s office.

In the meantime, LGBTQ folks in Philly are rattled by the attack in their own gayborhood.

Said Schonewolf, “Some people refer to this part of town as Midtown Village but to me – I’m from Philly – it is always going to be the Gayborhood.”

“And if this is happening at 13th and Walnut, I don’t know where we’re supposed to feel safe,” he added.

The LGBTQ community has seen similar attacks not only in Philadelphia, but in Chicago where openly gay Empire star Jussie Smollett was brutally assaulted with bleach and a noose, as well as Austin, Texas, where two gay men were beaten for holding hands as they were leaving a gay bar.

In all of those assaults, the victims report their attackers using homophobic slurs.

Documentary: ‘The Last Mile’ Explores Impact Of 1993’s ‘Philadelphia’ On Stigma Of AIDS

In advance of this year’s World AIDS Day (December 1) and as a long-standing supporter of HIV/AIDS awareness and research, Coca-Cola is partnering with (RED) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking film, Philadelphia, with a new documentary titled, The Last Mile.

Inspired by the progress made in HIV/AIDS since the 1993 release of Philadelphia, The Last Mile features cast members Tom Hanks, Mary Steenburgen and Denzel Washington along with writer, Ron Nyswaner, discussing director Jonathan Demme’s sensitive vision for the film.

The illustrious group also discusses how the film changed perceptions about HIV/AIDS from fear to compassion, from stigma to empathy.

“It’s hard for people now to realize how intense that moment in time was,’ Steenburgen says in the newly-released trailer. “There was a tremendous amount of fear and a lack of knowledge.”

“I remember the different scarred faces – people with scars on their faces. I remember the sadness,” says Washington.

“Going in and out of New York City, you ended up seeing it all over the place ― men were pushing other men around in wheelchairs,” adds Hanks, who would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his powerful performance of a Philadelphia lawyer diagnosed with AIDS.

Tom Hanks

The documentary short is produced by Coca-Cola as part of the beverage giant’s social initiative Project Last Mile, which works to improve availability of life-saving medications to more and more regions of Africa.

The film shares the work of dedicated healthcare workers in Africa who are changing the face of the AIDS epidemic.

“The strides, they’re extraordinary,” says Hanks of the work being done there. “But, there is still a massive amount of need for attention that something like the pandemic of AIDS is going to require.”

“We have come a long way,” adds Steenburgen. “I think it’s time to continue to be inspired.”

Health worker in Africa delivering HIV medications

In terms of progress, there are nearly 22 million people living with HIV who now have access to treatment. But in 2017, nearly 1 million people around the world died from AIDS – a disease that is both preventable and treatable.

The new documentary hopes to help empower those on the front lines of the epidemic by reinforcing continued awareness and support.

The Last Mile will be available on November 15 at

Watch the trailer below.

Philadelphia Transit Strike Threatens Election

In what looks to be a reckless, irresponsible move by the 4,700 workers of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the union decided to strike early Tuesday morning affecting nearly one million riders a day.

Plus, being in the middle of early voting and Philadelphia being a huge Democratic stronghold, it could affect the outcome of the election.

From the New York Times:

The authority’s regional rail service — the commuter lines that extend from the city into the suburbs — continued operating, providing an alternative in some parts of the city for riders who would usually take buses or subways. The commuter trains accepted transit passes and express trains made local stops to take on more passengers.

But the regional rail service, which normally provides 130,000 rides a weekday, could absorb only a fraction of the overflow. Trains became crowded and some ran as much as an hour late into the Center City area. The transportation authority warned of possibly dangerous overcrowding on commuter rail platforms during the evening rush.

Members of Transport Workers Union Local 234 had voted to go on strike at midnight if a contract settlement was not reached, and negotiations on Monday failed to produce an agreement. The union last walked out in 2009, in a strike lasting six days.

(h/t JoeMyGod)