Thursday, February 6, 2014

Around The Nation

Congressman's Facebook page anti-gay comments about same-sex marriage protested
Protesters march to U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo's office
Photo via AP/John Fitzhugh
GULFPORT -- A crowd of activists from the local LGBTQ community marched through this coastal Mississippi city Wednesday ending with a protest outside the District office of Republican U. S. Congressman Steven Palazzo.  The protest had been sparked by a comment on Palazzo's Facebook page about same-sex marriage that criticized the televised mass same-sex wedding ceremony at the Grammy Awards last month;
"Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn't value the same conservative beliefs we do in Mississippi." Palazzo wrote adding, "Last night's demonstration at the #Grammys is a perfect example of their disconnect."
Reaction from the city's LGBTQ community leaders condemned Palazzo's comments telling local media that his public remarks were anti-gay.
In a statement issued Tuesday to the Clarion-Ledger newspaper, Hunter Lipscomb, the Congressman's Deputy Chief of Staff defended him saying,
"Congressman Palazzo is a Christian. This is his view, and he believes in the traditional values that he read and learned in the Bible."
Palazzo himself later issued a written statement to the paper that read;
“As a Christian and firm believer in traditional family values, I believe that marriage is a sacred promise between one man and one woman. Mississippi voters passed a constitutional amendment supporting this position by a 6-to-1 margin. Unfortunately, Hollywood elites take every opportunity to depict the world in their own view, and that is a view that I believe moves away from traditional beliefs firmly founded in the Bible." 
“I always value the feedback on social media I receive from Mississippians of all viewpoints, but I will continue to work to protect the sanctity of marriage.”
One of the local activists and the protest's chief organiser Jeff White told reporters, 
"We're meeting up and we’re going to have a march on Congressman Steven Palazzo's office to deliver a petition that has 850 signatures." The protesters hope to get an apology.
A staffer for his office confirmed that Palazzo was not present at his Gulfport office during the protest.

Transgender Student Facing Battery Charge Enters Restorative Justice Program
Jewlyes Gutierrez
HERCULES, Calif. — A transgender teenager who says she has been repeatedly bullied by other students at a California high school was in court Thursday and entered into an agreement that allows her to participate in a restorative justice program, and defers prosecution on the charges she is facing.
Judge Thomas M. Maddock of the Juvenile Division of Contra Costa County Superior Court ordered Jewlyes Gutierrez, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hercules High School, to report back to his courtroom in May to check on her progress in the program, which offers alternatives to the more traditional juvenile and criminal justice systems and school discipline processes to achieve reconciliation with her peers.
Gutierrez's Public Defender Kaylie Simon said that after the Judge's review, the criminal misdemeanor battery charge will be dismissed upon successful completion of the programme. 
Gutierrez was charged on Nov. 25 for a school fight that was captured on camera. Jewlyes said the girls in the incident had taunted, harassed and bullied her about her gender identity prior to the Nov. 13 incident.
Jewlyes and other three students involved in the fight were suspended and later apologised to each other, and since the incident, there has been no further harassment.
Kimberly Aceves, Executive Director of the Richmond, California based RYSE youth advocacy centre who has worked with Gutierrez and her family said in a statement;
“As a youth leadership organization committed to the safety and well-being of all young people, RYSE is pleased to see and support a restorative process outside of the justice system that involves and addresses the needs of Jewlyes and all the students, and which fosters the opportunity for genuine healing and community building. 
Jewlyes’ honesty, courage, and commitment to reconnecting and healing with her peers is a compelling and inspiring call for RYSE and our partners to continue to shed light on and shift the current conditions of unwelcoming and unsafe school environments that cause harm for all students, including transgender youth and youth of color.”
Gutierrez and her family were also assisted by the San Francisco based Transgender Law Center.
Its executive director Masen Davis told LGBTQ Nation in an emailed statement Thursday;
“I am relieved to know that Jewlyes will now have the chance to find peace and safety outside of the criminal justice system. Youth belong in schools not jails. All students, including transgender students, should be able to go to school feeling safe and supported."