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Gay-Straight Alliance Arouses Controversy In Rural Tennessee….

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The formation of a gay-straight alliance at a high school in rural Tennessee has sparked backlash from the community, and its continued existence will be the subject of debate at a school board meeting tonight.

Officials at Franklin County High School in Winchester OK’d the group in December, reports the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. It has been meeting weekly, with about 50 students attending last week’s session. But as word of the club has spread, several district residents have spoken out against it, with some using extremely harsh rhetoric.

One of them, John Wimley, wrote on his Facebook page in January that if the GSA is not quashed, “the next thing you know they will have F.I.M.A. (Future ISIS Members of America).”

Wimley set up an event page on Facebook in addition to his personal page, calling for a rally in conjunction with tonight’s board meeting, but it has now been taken down, according to a page for supporters of the alliance. But the Franklin County School Board has placed a review of school club policies on the agenda, notes the supporters’ page, which urges allies to come to the meeting.

Wimley told the Daily News Journal that anti-LGBT discrimination isn’t a problem at the 1,500-student high school. “It’s everyone else that’s trying to make it a problem,” he said. He also said clubs dealing with sexuality or religion should meet off-campus only, and of the ISIS comment, he said, “Maybe it was a mistake. But it was a statement that needed to be made.”

Jennie Turrell, faculty adviser for the GSA, called the statement “outrageous” but said she encouraged students not to respond in kind. “When I talk to my students about it I say, ‘OK, folks. This is outrageous. You don’t need to get worked up about it because you know it’s outrageous,’” she told the newspaper.

Turrell and others said there is indeed anti-LGBT harassment at Franklin County High School. “This is a particular group of students that’s found hostility in the community,” Turrell told the Daily News Journal. “If we can’t give them a safe space in their faith community or in the community, then where else are they going to find it but in a public school system?”

Student Allie Faxon, who has been dating another girl for two years, said schoolmates have directed slurs at her, and posters for the GSA have often been torn down. “We all have common troubles,” she said of her fellow GSA members. “By having the club, even people who aren’t out can come and have a place to be themselves.”

Last month, posters advertising the GSA were torn down, with some vandalized, crossed out with a circle akin to a “No Smoking” sign, and the words “straight pride” scrawled across the top. After administrators took down the posters, several students pinned them to their shirts — and were not punished for doing so.

Franklin County Schools director Amie Lonas said GSA organizers “followed the proper procedure to establish the club” and that it has a right to be on campus under the federal Equal Access Act of 1984. She also took issue with the assertion by Wimley and other opponents that the club is focused on sexuality. “It’s a safe environment for students to get together and just talk,” Lonas told the Murfreesboro paper.

The Franklin County School Board will meet at 6:30 tonight. Representatives of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network are scheduled to be on hand to support the GSA.

Trudy Ring – The Advocate

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Evangelicals At Odds With Business Over Convention Losses….

In this July 30, 2015 photo, Daniel Lavely, of Vincennes, Ind., checks out a display of replica weapons in the exhibition hall of the Gen Con gaming convention in Indianapolis. Tourism officials say Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in revenue after a dozen conventions picked cities other than Indianapolis amid the uproar over the state’s controversial religious objections law. The state Senate is scheduled to take up measures addressing LGBT rights on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

In this July 30, 2015 photo, Daniel Lavely, of Vincennes, Ind., checks out a display of replica weapons in the exhibition hall of the Gen Con gaming convention in Indianapolis. Tourism officials say Indiana may have lost as much as $60 million in revenue after a dozen conventions picked cities other than Indianapolis amid the uproar over the state’s controversial religious objections law. The state Senate is scheduled to take up measures addressing LGBT rights on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Passage of the new measures is far from certain and Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who supported the religious objections law, has said he will prioritize religious freedom over LGBT rights.

The results of the survey by Visit Indy, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday ahead of its Thursday release, found that 12 out-of-state groups all cited the uproar over the law as one reason they chose different locations for their conventions.

Visit Indy, which has backed LGBT protections, put the impact of those conventions at $60 million, including hotel room rentals, meal purchases, entertainment expenditures and shopping figures, as well as state and local taxes. That’s against $4.4 billion a year in economic impact such gatherings have yielded in recent years.

To business leaders, the findings confirm Indiana’s economy was harmed by the law, which drew swift and largely negative attention. Companies and groups such as the NCAA, Cummins Inc. and Eli Lilly and Co. say it underscores the need for protections for anyone fired from a job, denied service or evicted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We’ve been saying all along that the impact to our state is very real,” said Jon Mills, a spokesman for the Columbus-based diesel equipment manufacturer Cummins. “We need to create an environment that is welcoming and inclusive if we want other people to come here, whether that’s top talent we want to recruit and retain, or conventions.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg said the report illustrates a “failure” by Pence and is proof that his policies hurt Indiana’s economy. Pence’s office said Monday that Indiana was a “welcoming” state and many organizations have expanded their role or recommitted to hosting events in the state.

Evangelical groups questioned whether the impact was even significant amid signs of an improving economy and low statewide unemployment. They also accuse Indiana’s business establishment of using the issue to coerce lawmakers into adopting laws that could compel Christian business owners to provide services to LGBT people against their religious beliefs

Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana doubts all the conventions would have indeed chosen Indianapolis. “It’s speculative,” he said. “That’s like me saying I’m boycotting Ferraris. Well, I was never going to buy a Ferrari anyway.”

Visit Indy said all 12 groups surveyed said without being prompted that the law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.

The AP independently confirmed that one organization, the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, bypassed Indianapolis due in part to the law. Indianapolis was a finalist after the group decided to no longer hold its four-day event in Las Vegas, said Marla Calico, the association’s president and CEO.

“There were some of our members who were aware that the city was under consideration, and a few were very vocal that they didn’t think it would be appropriate,” Calico said.

She said the reaction to the new law was “a piece of the equation” when her group decided not to choose Indianapolis, which she said was otherwise appealing because of its amenities and central location.

Brian Slodyshko – The Associated Press

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Maine Governor Stops Rules For Protecting Transgender Students….

Gov. Paul LePage speaks to reporters shortly after the Maine House and Senate both voted to override his veto of the state budget, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Gov. Paul LePage is stopping the Maine Human Rights Commission and the Department of Education from issuing rules protecting transgender students. Schools instead are being given guidelines that lack the force of law.

A lead Democrat on the issue said LePage is putting vulnerable teens at risk.

Rep. Matthea Daughtry of Brunswick says the rules are required by the 2013 Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in favor of Nicole Maines, a transgender student in Orono who was barred from using a bathroom appropriate for her gender.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said LePage has read the court decision and believes it requires the Legislature to take action, and that new rules are not required.

Daughtry said LePage is misinterpreting the court’s decision.

“The governor is violating the law by refusing to let the rule-making go forward,” she said. “He’s putting our students at risk.”

Richard Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said the vast majority of Maine’s high schools have already addressed the points in the guidelines, such as allowing transgender students to play sports with teams corresponding with their gender identity.

He said the new guidelines “have no teeth to them” because schools face no penalties if they disregard them.

“The positive thing about this is most school systems are already moving in this direction anyway,” he said.

Associated Press

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Daughter Of Ronald Reagan: Dad’s Ignorance During AIDS Crisis Was “A Really Tragic Flaw”….

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Ronald Reagan’s daughter puts at least part of the blame for her father’s years of inaction during the AIDS crisis on those around him when he was president of the US from 1981-89.

‘I’m not gonna make excuses for the failure of his administration to address the AIDS crisis when it was going on. It was a failure. And it hurts my heart that that happened on so many levels,’ Patti Davis, the youngest of Reagan’s four children, tells James Duke Mason in a new interview.

‘One of my father’s flaws was that he delegated authority to other people and relied on them to give him the appropriate information on things. Presidents get briefings every morning. So they do rely on people to bring them information on what’s going on and there were people around him who did not want him dealing with the AIDS crisis.

‘I’m not making excuses for him,’ Davis adds. ‘I’m saying that’s a flaw of his, and in this case it turned out to be a really tragic flaw. He didn’t really know the extent of what was going on until Rock Hudson died.’

Reagan did not utter the word ‘AIDS’ until he was into the second term of his presidency despite the staggering number of Americans – mostly gay men – who died from complications from the disease.

He first said the word ‘AIDS’ publicly in 1985 while responding to a reporter’s question. That was the same year his old Hollywood friend, closeted movie star Hudson, succumbed to the disease.

But Reagan did not give his first major address on the disease until 1987 and by that time there were more than 12,500 known deaths from AIDS in the US, according to AMFAR.org.

Greg Hernandez – Gay Star News

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High School Students Wear “Straight Pride” Signs To Protest Gay-Straight Alliance….

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It began when a group of students at Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tennessee (pop.8,527) formed a Gay-Straight Alliance earlier this month.

When parent and small business owner John Wimley learned of the group, he launched a Facebook page encouraging people to attend the next school board meeting to stand up against the “future ISIS members of America” (AKA gay kids) and “protect traditional marriage.”

“OK F.C. [Franklin County] if we do not ban [SIC] together and stop this B.S. the next thing you know they will have a F.I.M.A. (Future ISIS Members of America) #PutGodInSchoolsPlease,” Wimley rallied. “Time to Stand Up for what is RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Others were quick to join the cause.

“GOD bless you for standing for what is right,” Tina K. Millson wrote. “These gays have no right forceing [sic] their lifestyle of sin on these poor children of GOD.”

“Why is it so important for the LBGT WXYZ community to have 100% support with no opposing opinions?” Greg Gunn added.

“School is for learning, library is for reading, restaurants for eating,” Kayla Ehlers said. “Lets [sic] keep loving, hugging, hand holding, kissing, and sexual ordination for our personal lives at home.”

In response, supporters of the GSA launched their own Facebook page calling on people to boycott Wimley’s business, the Tennessee Car Care Center.

But the damage caused by Wimley was already done.

In a Facebook post, one supporter of the GSA reported that some students has begun wearing “Straight Pride” signs around school and that the GSA’s posters advertising the club’s meetings had been defaced with words like “no gay allowed” and “faggots.”

Despite all this, members of the school’s GSA refuse to be intimidated.

“We are incredibly grateful for this extraordinary showing of love and support for our LGBT community here in rural TN,” the club’s faculty advisor wrote. “We never imagined that the love in the world for us was this strong. Thank you for walking with us on our journey.”

LGBTQ Nation

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Mom Of Gay Teen Sues High School Claiming Teacher Harassed, Threatened To Kill Her Son….

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A mother is suing an Oregon school district, claiming a teacher threatened to kill her son, who is a special education student and gay. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, also names five employees, including the teacher, Brett Trosclair, and says her son was subjected to repeated acts of “harassment and discrimination” by school staff. She’s filed a federal First and Fourteenth Amendment lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated. The suit will also test the federal Title IX law, alleging sex discrimination.

The Oregonian reports that in a March assembly last year, her son “told his friend that he thought another student was cute, according to the lawsuit. Trosclair then turned around, the son said, and told the boys to ‘shut up.’ Then the teacher threatened to kill them and throw them down the stairs, the suit alleges.”

“Defendants had an unofficial policy, custom or practice of condoning harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation,” the lawsuit states. “Defendents’ conduct toward Plaintiff was extreme and outrageous and constitutes an extraordinary transgression of the bounds of socially tolerable conduct,” it adds.

Dicintio’s son, identified in the suit only as “J.D.,” and the student he was talking with complained, and the teacher was placed on administrative leave.

The lawsuit details other times Dicintio says school staff engaged in harassment or bullying of her son.

“In May 2014, she alleges, the school’s dean of students refused to help the student while he was being verbally and physically assaulted in the lunchroom,” the Oregonian reports.

In September 2014, Dicintio alleges, another teacher told her son “to stop being a diva and a priss.” After Dicintio complained, the superintendent’s executive council reviewed the district’s policies on bullying and harassment. The district also offered multiple two-hour trainings so staff could learn about LGBTQ and gender issues to better meet the needs of gay and transgender students.

Still, Dicintio’s lawsuit says district officials did not do enough and instead caused her son “emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, stress and fear.”

Meanwhile students have rallied around the teacher, who has retuned to the school. They say he was joking, and they’ve created a Facebook support page for him and on Twitter are using the hashtag #TeamTrosclair to offer support to the teacher.

David Badash – The New Civil Rights Movement

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