Friday, March 1, 2013

Around The Nation

Poll: Majority Of San Franciscans Oppose Renaming Airport After Harvey Milk
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- The results of a poll commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce last month and published Friday showed that a majority of San Francisco's residents are opposed to renaming the city's international airport after slain gay civil rights icon Harvey Milk. The poll found that only 31 percent of likely voters supported the change, while 61 percent opposed.
The poll results showed that opposition came from all demographics of the city, even with those San Franciscans who reside in Milk's former supervisorial district in the Castro, where support barely cracked 50 percent. According to the city's leading daily paper, The San Francisco Chronicle, 45 percent of respondents who identified as LGBT supported the idea. 
The paper notes that some have suggested that Supervisor David Campos'- who sponsored the proposed legislation-  airport renaming effort is in part a move to increase his profile and fundraising in advance of a run for state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's seat, but poll respondents in that Assembly district also broadly oppose the plan, with 58 percent against compared with 36 percent in favor, according to the poll.
Campos estimated that renaming the airport would cost between $50,000 and $250,000.
"[Milk] is the most important figure in the history of the LGBT community, and he played such a critical role in modern San Francisco politics," Supervisor Scott Weiner, who represents Milk's old district and co-sponsors Campos's bill, explained to the Chronicle. "San Francisco has always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT equality, and so people come here from around the country and around the world because of that, and for 40 million people a year to land at Harvey Milk International Airport sends an incredible message to the world."
"It's one of those things where the opposition is fairly broad-based," said Jim Lazarus, the chamber's senior vice president for public policy. "There should be a better way to honor the memory of Harvey Milk," adding, "[We find the poll] to be reflective of voter turnout, not necessarily the entire demographic of the city."
Anne Kronenberg, Milk's former political aide noted that media attention about the idea has mostly been negative and public opinion won't truly be formed until the issue is vetted at the board. Besides, she said, the legislation would only put the issue before voters.
"The voters will decide one way or the other - that's the way it should be," she said.
Milk, was elected as the first openly gay municipal official in the United States. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in their City Hall offices by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back.

Lesbian Assaulted Protecting Child Claims It Was A Hate Crime Attack
MESQUITE, TX -- Police officials in this eastern suburban Dallas Texas, city are searching for an assailant who attacked a 27 year old lesbian on a playground at Mesquite’s Seabourn Elementary February 17, breaking her jaw in the assault.
According to the victim, Mesquite resident Sondra Scarber, she and her girlfriend Hillary Causey, 26, had taken Causey's four year old son out to play at the playground when a scuffle broke out between Causey's son and some older children. 
Scarber had asked one of the other children who was bigger to leave Causey's son alone when one of the other parents stepped in. The women told police officials that the man became angry when he realised that Scarber, who wears her hair short and dresses in nondescript baggy clothes was a female and that the pair were lesbian.
“When he walked up thinking it was father and mom with the kid, he wasn’t as angry,” said Causey in an interview with a Dallas area TV station WFAA recently,“but then when he figured out she [Scarber] was a female, he got like super pissed, and I don’t know why.”
She said the man punched and kicked Scarber repeatedly, hurling homophobic slurs at her while she lay on the ground, unconscious.
“He was like, ‘well if you think you’re a man… I’m going to treat you like a man,’” Causey said. “All she kept saying was, ‘I’m a female. I’m a female…' She never even had time to take her hands out of pockets to try and block herself.”
Mesquite Police Lieutenant Bill Hedgpeth said that investigators are not certain that under Texas statutes the assault qualifies as a hate crime as the scuffle among children was the initial trigger. 
“At this point, we have no indication the assault occurred because of her sexual orientation,” he said adding,“regardless of motive, we want to catch them.” 
Based on the women's account, law enforcement officials are looking for a black man, about 5’7", who weighs 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans, and was driving an early 2000's silver Chevrolet Impala with temporary tags. Police also said he was with a black woman, about 5’5”, 140 pounds, wearing a white T-shirt and jeans.
Scarber and Causey, who have been friends since the third grade and girlfriends for three years, are convinced the attack was a hate crime and are frustrated with what they feel is the police department’s lack of urgency with their case.  
Scarber told WFAA that she is anxious to see her attacker caught, but she’s most worried about how this will affect Jaxon. He is having troubling sleeping and is afraid to return to the park. She herself now faces months of recovery after surgeons implanted a metal plate in her jaw.
“I think it’s evil to treat somebody in such a way and get away with it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s okay to put someone in this much pain because you don’t think it’s okay for me to raise my son.”
Health Spa Openly Rejected Transgender Client
Riya Suising
CENTREVILLE, VA -- When Palo Alto, California businesswoman Riya Suising paid a visit to a suburban Washington D. C. health spa on a business trip in 2012, she was asked to leave by a manager and when she asked why, she was told because "she looked different." 
Suising, a Chinese-American transgender female, said she was told by the Spa World's manager that five other customers had lodged complaints about her presence. Suising said she is very tall and muscular and has very broad shoulders, which may distinguish her from natural-born females, but that otherwise her gender presentation is very feminine.
“None of the complaints, as they were described to me, referenced my genitalia in any way,” she said.“I can’t believe that they would discriminate based on physical appearance. I was not doing anything but keeping to myself.”
Suising, a California licensed massage and acupressure therapist, after receiving a refund left the spa and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Fairfax County, Virginia where the spa is located. 
According to the local Fairfax Times Newspaper, the Better Business Bureau opened an investigation, and on January 28, Spa World's owner, Sang K. Lee, responded to the BBB in writing by stating;
“It is our policy to not accept any kinds of abnormal sexual oriented customers to our facility such as homosexuals, or transgender(s).”
The Spa World written reply goes on to say that the spa stands by this policy for the sake of young children who utilize the facility.
“Also, for the safety and the comfort of young children at Spa World, we strongly forbid any abnormal sexual behaviors and orientation in our facility. Despite the controversial issue of homosexuality and transgender, it is our policy to not accept them,” Lee wrote.
When she received it, Suising said she could not believe the response.
“In California, this would be illegal,” she said. “I am not sure exactly what the state of LGBT equality is in Virginia, but I hope it is more progressive than this.”
When contacted Friday by LGBTQ Nation, a manager on duty, James Lee, defended his owner saying that there was a misunderstanding and a language problem.
"The Korean-English barrier just made a small miscommunication, Mr. [Sang] Lee meant to write only that sexual activity, either gay or straight, is not allowed at Spa World." 
"There was a woman inside of the woman's sauna, and we had many complaints about that particular person, stating there was a man inside of the woman's locker room," Lee said.
He did acknowledge that a transgender woman using Spa World's bathing and changing facilities doesn't violate the bathhouse's policy, however, "It caught us all off-guard," he says.
Lee says that the business will welcome and allow customers of any sexual orientation or gender identity. He said that transgender customers in the future will not be asked to leave.
Suising said she is not seeking any financial compensation and does not plan to file any legal actions against the spa, but said she would like an apology, and ultimately says she wants people to know that what happened to her is a form of discrimination that needs to be addressed nationwide.
“This has happened to me a few times before in other parts of the country, and perhaps I am pushing the boundaries of this type of discrimination, but I am not purposely looking for controversy. That is not my goal. I too, think it is correct to prohibit ‘abnormal sexual behavior’ in a public place, but a transgender person just being there, behaving appropriately like any other customer should not count as such.”
There are no provisions in Virginia or  Fairfax County's codes that protects against gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination.
Fairfax County lawmakers indicate that the county is willing to pass a non-discrimination ordinance, but is not allowed to under the state’s “Dillon Rule,” which prevents localities from enacting measures such as a non-discrimination ordinance without prior permission from the state government.
The state's lawmakers have been unable to pass a state-wide bill protecting the state's LGBTQ residents against discrimination.

Virginia’s First Openly Gay Judge Takes Oath
Tracy Thorne-Begland
RICHMOND, VA -- In a long nomination process that he said left him physically and mentally exhausted, Tracy Thorne-Begland was sworn in Friday as Virginia's first openly gay judge. The former U. S. Navy fighter pilot and Deputy Commonwealth's attorney for the city of Richmond- the state's capital- was sworn in as a full-time Richmond General District Court judge. Afterwards he turned and kissed and hugged his partner of 20 years and their two children amid applause from colleagues, other family members, and friends.
The Richmond Circuit Court had appointed him to serve an interim position last June as state lawmakers dragged out the process of his nomination. He met with lawmakers to answer questions again this January. Those questions did not surround his sexual orientation, but rather his service in the Navy and concerns by lawmakers over “activism.”
“Some say you lied on your application to be in the military because it asks if you are gay,” St. Delegate David B. Albo, Chair of the Courts and Justice Committee, asked Thorne-Begland.
“In 1988 and 1989 when I was going through the process of joining the military I didn’t know I was gay,” Thorne-Begland had replied.
Prince William County Republican Delegate Bob Marshall tried to have Thorne-Begland’s named removed from a list of proposed District Court judicial appointments last year.
“I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior,” said Marshall, who called Thorne-Begland “a homosexual activist."
Newly minted Judge Thorne-Begland said that his history-making appointment would not be possible without the help of his sponsor in the House of Delegates, Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-Richmond).
“So the fact that his sexual orientation has nothing to do with it,” Loupassi said. “If you’re black or Latino or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Can you do the job? Are you qualified for the job? If you’re qualified and you can do the job then you’ll you should be able to get the job, too.”
The city's Mayor Dwight Jones, released a statement congratulating its newest judge;
“The City of Richmond was pleased to be able to host this historic event at City Hall today. Judge Tracy Thorne-Begland is a demonstrably competent addition to the bench and it is a joy to see this day come,” Jones said.