NO SURPRISES HERE, ANTI-LGBT ACTIVIST BOB VANDER PLAATS ENDORSES TED CRUZ: Yesterday, Bob Vander Plaats and leaders of Iowa’s worst anti-LGBT group, the Family Leader, endorsed Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential election. Cruz and Vander Plaats share a long and repugnant history of anti-LGBT rhetoric and activism, and yesterday’s endorsement puts Cruz even farther outside the American mainstream in a state that’s had marriage equality for six years. Just a few weeks ago, the Family Leader was a sponsor of a conference in Des Moines whose organizer -- radically anti-LGBT radio host Kevin Swanson -- “raved approvingly that the Bible justifies killing gay people” according to the Des Moines register. Cruz, Jindal and Huckabee were widely criticized for attending the event, dubbed as the “death to gays” conference, and Cruz pretended he was oblivious to Swanson’s long record of violent commentary against LGBT people. Vander Plaats’ -- and Cruz’s -- anti-LGBT views are out of step with the majority of Iowans who support marriage equality by an overwhelming 57-37 margin, according to the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. Cruz has also been endorsed by ultra-conservative Iowa Congressman Steve King and Sandy Rios of the American Family Association - an organization that has been classified a hate-group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Learn more about the shared anti-LGBT rhetoric between Vander Plaats and Cruz here:

MEANWHILE, DAILY BEAST CHRONICLES RUBIO’S MOVE RIGHT: The Daily Beast upends the bogus conventional wisdom that Marco Rubio is somehow a moderate on LGBT issues, noting that he committed this week to repealing President Obama’s executive orders protecting federal contractors from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The piece also highlights another threat to LGBT equality, noting that “Rubio would appoint justices who would overrule Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down all bans on same-sex marriage. The supposedly sane candidate wants to void marriages, allow states to ban all abortions of any kind, and turn back the clock for women and gays.” More here :

  • ONE DAY EARLIER: GOP LEADERS WORRY RUBIO MOVING TOO FAR RIGHT Earlier this week, National Review’s Tim Alberta and Eliana Johnson took a deep dive into Marco Rubio’s Iowa operation. Among the concerns? “Establishment Republicans, meanwhile, have the same concerns about Rubio’s organization, but worry that Rubio is flirting too aggressively with Iowa’s social conservatives.” Read more here:

HRC AND HHS JOIN FORCES TO PROMOTE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FOR LGBT AMERICANS: HRC President Chad Griffin and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell teamed up to write an op-ed for The Advocate today urging LGBT people to get informed and get covered during LGBT Open Enrollment Week. “Thanks to the Obama administration and the work of many dedicated organizations working with the LGBT community, nearly 18 million Americans … can finally receive necessary health care,” they wrote. “But too many LGBT people are still living without access to the medical coverage that could change their lives for the better. It’s time to take action.” More here:

YOUR HEARTWARMING HOLIDAY READ: If you’re looking for some good news, check out Johanna Eager’s terrific piece also in The Advocate. Eager, who heads the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program, describes the most profound experience in her professional life: working with local parents and advocates in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin these last couple of weeks to support a transgender six year-old and her family after the anti-LGBT Liberty Counsel threatened her school with a lawsuit for fostering acceptance. “What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary,” Eager writes. Read all about it here: and think about gifting Jazz Jenning’s I Am Jazz to the young person in your life this holiday season:
WATCH: AMBASSADOR POWER INTERVIEWS CAITLYN JENNER: In honor of Human Rights Day, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power sat down with Caitlyn Jenner to talk about the lack of rights for transgender people around the world, who are often stigmatized, harassed, and even murdered for who they are. Jenner shared her struggle to live openly and her hope to set an example for people who desire to do the same. Watch here:

GLOBAL YEAR IN REVIEW: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY: From the U.S. to Russia to Egypt and Mozambique, the HRC Foundation’s MB Maxwell looks back at the best and worst developments in the global fight for LGBT equality:

SAVANNAH CITY COUNCIL VOTES TO PROTECT LGBT CITY EMPLOYEES: Yesterday, officials in Savannah, GA unanimously approved an ordinance that will protect LGBT city government employees, by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected characteristics in the city’s nondiscrimination law. Equality Georgia released the following statement praising the news: “Savannah has long enjoyed a reputation of being a welcoming and diverse city, and this ordinance is an important step toward ensuring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people feel safe and protected when visiting or residing in Savannah. Georgia Equality will continue to work with members of the City Council and the Mayor to add additional, necessary protections for LGBT people to city code.” More here:

UNREAL: ANTI-LGBT ACTIVISTS THINK INDIANA’S RFRA ‘FIX’ VIOLATES THEIR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: Yesterday, anti-LGBT activists filed a lawsuit challenging the measure that was passed and signed into law early this year limiting the damage of Indiana’s RFRA. Claiming the “fix” violates their “religious liberty,” the Indiana Family Institute and the American Family Association of Indiana are challenging not only the state’s law, but also non-discrimination ordinances in Indianapolis and Carmel that include sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Freedom Indiana blasted the legal challenge in a statement to the Indianapolis Business Journal: “RFRA taught us that Hoosiers have no tolerance for creating a license to discriminate against those who have historically been treated unequally,” said Jen Wagner, a spokesperson for the organization. “We hope lawmakers ignore this distraction and listen instead to the voices of job creators, faith and community leaders, local public servants, grassroots supporters and families who want our state to be a safe, welcoming place for all people." More here:
ARKANSAS SUPREME COURT BLOCKS BIRTH CERTIFICATES FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES: Yesterday, following an appeal by the attorney general, the Arkansas Supreme Court temporarily blocked the ruling of Pulaski Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox, who ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who sued to be listed on the birth certificates of their children. The State Supreme Court ruled that, “the best course of action is to preserve the status quo with regard to the statutory provisions while [they] consider the circuit court's ruling.” Similar suits have also been filed in Indiana and Florida. More here:

LGBT ADVOCATE CHALLENGING SODOMY LAWS IN JAMAICA: This week, leading Caribbean LGBT and HIV advocate Maurice Tomlinson of Jamaica, filed a claim challenging the constitutionality of the country’s sodomy laws, calling them a “gross violation of [his] human rights.” According to the Associated Press, the laws have been on the books since 1864. In the past, Jamaica had been described by TIME as “the most homophobic place on earth.” LGBT Jamaicans struggle against legal and societal discrimination, and an ever-present threat of violence. Last year, a Jamaican man filed a suit challenging the anti-sodomy law but withdrew after threats of violence to his family. Currently a lecturer and HIV policy analyst, Tomlinson is also a founding member of Dwayne House in Jamaica, the country’s first charity focusing exclusively on providing basic services to homeless LGBT youth. More here:
MARRIAGE EQUALITY COMING TO GUERNSEY: Yesterday, lawmakers on Guernsey voted 37-7 in favor of introducing marriage equality. According to the Gay Star News, “Guernsey currently does not offers Islanders the right to enter a civil partnership, making it the only place in the British Isles to not offer same-sex couples any form of official partnership.” A date for a second vote has not yet been set. More here:

UN RELEASES VIDEO ON THE COST OF LGBT EXCLUSION: This week, in honor of Human Rights Day, the United Nations released a compelling video as part of their Free and Equal initiative, highlighting the harsh discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community every day. The video emphasizes how stigma and discrimination play out in various contexts such as the high rate of LGBTQ youth truancy and homelessness; the increased likelihood of contemplating suicide; and rampant workplace discrimination. Narrated by out actor Zachary Quinto, the video also explores “the cost of homophobia and transphobia” on a country’s economy and workforce. The UN has called fighting the stigma a “human rights priority and development imperative.” Watch here:
CNN gives us an inside look at the world’s only transgender bodybuilding competition…. New York Magazine explores how Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has locked in the support of the Christian right in Iowa… and an opinion piece from calls for Gov. Snyder of Michigan to support LGBT rights in the state.
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