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SD GOVERNOR UNDER PRESSURE TO VETO SHAMEFUL LEGISLATION TARGETING TRANS KIDS: Yesterday, the South Dakota Senate passed extreme and dangerous legislation attacking the rights of transgender children in public schools. Despite repeated warnings from HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota about the devastating impact of the bill on trans youth -- who already face higher rates of bullying, harassment and suicide -- the hateful legislation would prevent transgender students from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. HRC President Chad Griffin criticized the state legislature, which “disgracefully failed to fulfill its most fundamental obligation – to protect the state’s young people from harm” and called on Governor Daugaard to veto the legislation, which is expected to land on his desk by tomorrow. If signed by the Governor, South Dakota would be in direct conflict with federal non-discrimination protections under Title IX - leaving schools and families open to the costs of defending the policies in court. The legislation also ties the hands of school administrators and teachers who would no longer have the flexibility they need to find workable solutions in coordination with transgender students and their parents. South Dakota schools are incredibly concerned about the expensive legal costs this discriminatory legislation would force them to pay in resulting legal challenges. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has pleaded with the Senate to abandon the discriminatory bill.

ONE SOUTH DAKOTA WOMAN’S HEARTFELT PLEA TO GOVERNOR DAUGAARD: While South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard claimed he had never met a transgender person before, Kendra Heathscott, an openly transgender woman, shared in her powerful letter in the Argus Leader, that she met the Governor on several occasions at her old school. “I have many fond memories of you sitting at my table and talking with the other students and me during lunch. I loved hearing the stories that you would share with us,” she shared. “Do you remember that story you used to tell us about the mountain lions? Or do you maybe remember the Christmas show we used to put on at Methodist Church?” Passed by the South Dakota Senate yesterday, Heathscott urges the governor to reject HB 1008, legislation that would only exacerbate the discrimination and harassment that transgender students already face. Read her letter here:


VA SENATE MUST KILL DANGEROUS BILL ALLOWING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST LGBT PEOPLE, SINGLE MOTHERS: Following a 56-41 vote by the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday to advance the anti-LGBT HB 773, HRC and Equality Virginia are calling on the Virginia State Senate to block the bill when it comes up for consideration. HB 773 -- which passed despite bipartisan opposition -- would allow taxpayer-funded service providers to refuse to serve LGBT people based on their religious beliefs. Members of both parties also joined together to oppose the bill in committee late Thursday. Taxpayer-funded organizations like homeless shelters and adoption agencies would be able to invoke HB 773 in order to refuse service to same-sex couples, transgender people, and anyone suspected of having sex outside of a heterosexual marriage (such as single mothers or a cohabiting straight couple) without losing taxpayer funding, contracts, licensing, or other forms of state recognition. Two other anti-LGBT bills (HB 781 and HB 385) were defeated in committee last week, while the Virginia Senate recently passed two LGBT non-discrimination bills, SB 67 and SB 12, similar legislation last year failed to pass the House of Delegates. More here:


ITALY POSTPONES CIVIL UNIONS BILL: According to Reuters, Italy has postponed a vote on its civil rights bill due to concerns about a provision that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children if one of the partners is the child’s biological parent. Opponents have argued that it would lead to surrogacy--which is strictly banned in the country. Reminder: Italy remains the only country in Western Europe that still does not have some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples, and supporters have been holding rallies and protests for weeks ahead of the vote, urging lawmakers to take action. The European Court of Human Rights has already censured Italy for violating the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to recognize same-sex unions in any capacity. The debate will restart on February 23. More here:

MOROCCO LEADER SAYS MARRIAGE EQUALITY NOT POSSIBLE: Earlier this week, in no uncertain terms, Abdelilah Benkirane, Morocco’s Head of Government, made it clear that the country has no plans to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples because it’s “an Islamic State.” During a meeting with his party, Benkirane said that western countries want “to force all countries to adopt this cause,” but “the phenomenon of homosexuality” is not “in the interest of the individual, the family and is not acceptable in [their] religion.” Though same-sex relationships are illegal in Morocco, Benkirane did make it clear that he was referring to the recognition of rights, not what citizens do in their private lives. More here:

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN INDONESIA?: Muslim leaders in Indonesia have released a statement that not only rejects the promotion and support of LGBT groups in the country, but asks the government to make the promotion of LGBT activities explicitly forbidden. According the Associated Press, “Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the government respected individual rights of sexual expression, ‘but it is wrong to encourage other people ... and to campaign for legalization of same-sex marriage.’” Earlier this week the government asked the U.N. Development Program to stop funding LGBT programs and last week began demanding that all instant messaging apps ban LGBT-related stickers, emojis and emoticons. More here:

SCOTLAND EDUCATION GROUP CROWDFUNDS FOR LGBT TEACHER TRAINING: A Scottish education group is calling for teachers to have trainings on LGBT issues to help tackle discrimination in schools. The group, Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money so Scottish teachers can receive the proper training. The organization’s mission comes after a proposal to include LGBT-inclusive education in Scottish schools was rejected by the country’s parliament. Local studies show that a quarter of Scottish LGBT youth have attempted suicide and half have self-harmed as a result of bullying. More here:


Gay Star News details where Germany’s political parties stand on marriage equality… The Guardian profiles a new travel firm that caters specifically to LGBT travellers… and Buzzfeed covers the push by 40 religious leaders to stop a public vote on marriage equality in Australia.

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