CRUZ, HUCKABEE, AND JINDAL COZY UP TO RADIO HOST WHO URGED SAME-SEX COUPLES TO DIE: Last weekend in Iowa -- home to a majority of voters in favor of marriage equality and LGBT nondiscrimination protections -- candidates Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal nonetheless cozied up to right-wing radio host Kevin Swanson at his “National Religious Liberties Conference” in Des Moines. Swanson has a long history of anti-LGBT rhetoric from suggesting “the nazi party had their birth in a homosexual bar or homosexual bar scene in berlin in the 1920s,” to suggesting his listeners “tell gay couples to die on their wedding day.” The event kicks off renewed activity by anti-LGBT activists in Iowa. Candidates will join the Iowa Family Leader for a presidential forum in Des Moines Nov. 20. Read more here:

SUPPORT FOR NONDISCRIMINATION PROTECTION GROWS IN INDIANA: Following the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s public support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections last week, a new poll by Indianapolis TV station WISH and Ball State University found that a 56 percent majority of Indiana voters support these protections. Andy Downs, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne tells the Indianapolis Star that ‘the poll results and chamber's influence might give Republican leaders cover to pass legislation that goes against popular party thinking, but that might be needed to salvage Indiana's reputation and relieve political pressure from powerful business interests.’ Reeling from the fallout of the RFRA fight last March, many major businesses and corporations in the state are now pushing for fully inclusive civil rights legislation that protects people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, employment and housing. More here:

A.M. MUST READ: Don’t miss Frank Bruni’s weekend column reflecting on the all-too-familiar hate-mongering behind the campaign to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

MORMON LEADER ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN CHURCH’S NEW POLICY: In a new video interview posted Friday, Elder D. Todd Christofferson attempts to explain the Mormon Church’s new policy preventing same-sex couples and their children from receiving rites and blessings in the church, calling same-sex marriages a  “particularly grievous or significant serious kind of sin that requires Church discipline.” The Church’s new policy has categorized same-sex marriage as apostasy, putting it on par with murder and rape. As a result, it has drawn a strong rebuke from Mormon families working to increase acceptance of LGBT people within the church. Watch here:

NEW KY GOV. TO REMOVE CLERKS’ NAMES FROM LICENSES: Last Friday, Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin announced plans to sign an executive order that will remove county clerks’ names from marriage licenses. While on the campaign trail, Bevin consistently touted his support for Kim Davis, even attending rallies in her honor and visiting her in jail. Kentucky’s outgoing governor, Steve Beshear is currently in a legal battle with Davis who sued him because she believes he should have accommodated her personal beliefs. More here: and


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY WEIGHING WHETHER TO ADD PROTECTIONS FOR LGBT RESIDENTS: The Charter Review Board of Hillsborough County in Florida is currently deciding whether to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes under the anti-discrimination section of the county’s charter. If approved, the issue will be on the November 2016 ballot. The approval of a referendum would be a huge turnaround for Hillsborough County which according to the Tampa Bay Times, passed a ban on gay pride celebrations as recently as 2005. The ban was lifted in 2013, and non-discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in government entities was implemented in 2014. More here:

RHODE ISLAND MEDICAID TO REMOVE EXCLUSIONS FOR TRANSGENDER PATIENTS: The Rhode Island Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the state’s Medicaid program has removed coverage exclusions for transgender Rhode Islanders. According to Rhode Island Public Radio, “Previously, Medicaid in Rhode Island offered no coverage for patients seeking hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery. Now, those patients can get those services and mental health treatment too. Jennifer Levi, from the advocacy group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, says the policy will help mitigate the cost of gender reassignment procedures and therapies, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.” While this is a huge step forward, Levi also points out that many private insurers still do not provide these benefits. Rhode Island is now one of 9 states along with the District of Columbia offering transgender inclusive services under Medicaid. More here:

MISSISSIPPI COUPLES CHALLENGE STATE’S ADOPTION BAN: On Friday, a federal judge heard arguments on a legal challenge to Mississippi's ban on adoption by same-sex couples. Mississippi is the only state in the nation that still has an absolute ban that prevents same-sex couples from adopting without regard for their qualifications. The federal lawsuit, Campaign for Southern Equality v. Mississippi Department of Human Services, was filed in August by the Family Equality Council and the Campaign for Southern Equality on behalf of 4 couples in the state. Roberta Kaplan, the lead lawyer in the historic Windsor v. United States Supreme Court case that led to the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, is representing the Mississippi plaintiffs, along with Robert McDuff of the Mississippi based law firm, McDuff and Byrd. More here: and

HAWAII SCHOOLS DRAFTING TRANSGENDER INCLUSIVE POLICIES: Following the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance that schools must give transgender students access to their preferred bathroom or risk losing federal funding, officials of the Hawaii Department of Education are working on proactively developing a new transgender inclusive policy for students. Only twelve states currently have policies that ensure transgender students have equal access to all facilities in schools. More here:


UKRAINE BLOCKED FROM EU TRAVEL AGREEMENT FOR LACK OF LGBT PROTECTIONS: According to Pink News, Ukraine will lose out on the European Schengen zone travel agreement which allows EU citizens to travel visa-free, because the Ukrainian Parliament has overwhelming voted to block a law that would have made it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people. Pink News writes, “Schengen membership is conditional based on a number of factors – and the European Union has consistently maintained that Ukraine must legally ban discrimination against LGBT people before joining….the head of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, told the country’s President that Ukrainian citizens would not be granted a visa-free access deal without judiciary and human rights reforms.” More here:

ONTARIO TO EASE ACCESS TO GENDER AFFIRMATION SURGERY: Health Minister Eric Hoskins has announced that healthcare providers throughout Ontario will now be able to refer transgender patients for surgery, though patients will likely still have to travel outside the province or country for procedures. According to Global News, “Hoskins said every Ontarian has the right to be who they are, and the health-care system should reflect that vision.“I recognize that this is only a first step in our government’s work to strengthen health supports for the trans community,” he said. There’s been a big increase in the number of people in Ontario seeking gender identity services, and the waiting list for sex reassignment surgery referrals at CAMH has grown to more than 1,150 people.” Currently, the Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto is the only facility that is able to refer transgender patients for surgery. More here:


Yahoo! Health covers Ben Carson’s endorsement of “transgender bathrooms” and why that rhetoric is so harmful… The Houston Chronicle highlights what local business leaders are doing to push for equality despite the loss of HERO.

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