#AM_Equality Tipsheet: February 8, 2017

by Allison Turner

DeVos confirmed, Sessions today; Evan Rachel Wood’s powerful words at HRC’s gala; TN Sen. cmte advances anti-LGBTQ proposal

DEVOS IS CONFIRMED, SESSIONS VOTE TODAY: Betsy Devos was confirmed yesterday as Secretary of Education, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie. While this vote is disappointing, we certainly hope our substantial concerns about her commitment to maintaining and advancing protections for LGBTQ students are disproven. Meanwhile, the Senate reached cloture on a vote for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), which will be held today. For more on Sessions’ dangerous record on LGBTQ equality, click here.

MUST WATCH -- “YOUR VOICE MATTERS”... EVAN RACHEL WOOD’S POWERFUL WORDS AT HRC EVENT: At an HRC event last weekend, Evan Rachel Wood, star of HBO’s Westworld, shared her compelling journey to coming out as bisexual -- describing how she buried who she was out of fear until realizing the power of being out and visible for others. She spoke out about her experience with intimate partner violence, and the powerful video she released last year describing her struggle to come to terms with her identity. “Words matter,” she said. “Your voice matters. How you use it matters and why you use it matters.” More from The Hollywood Reporter.

TN SENATE COMMITTEE ADVANCES ANTI-LGBTQ PROPOSAL PROMOTING TAXPAYER-FUNDED DISCRIMINATION: Yesterday, a Tennessee Senate Commerce and Labor Committee vote to advance SB 127 -- legislation promoting taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ Tennesseans and their families. The discriminatory proposal would prohibit state agencies and municipalities from requiring businesses, organizations, contractors, and grantees, to not have policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people. “This bill is a thinly veiled legislative assault on LGBTQ Tennesseans and their families,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Taxpayer funds should never be used to discriminate. This proposal would forbid crucially important LGBTQ non-discrimination protections from being implemented by state and local government agencies. The Tennessee Senate should reject this shameful, discriminatory overreach of power.” SB 127 states, “A government entity shall not take discriminatory action against a business entity on the basis of the internal policies of the business entity, including, but not limited to, personnel and employee benefit policies that are in compliance with state law.” The measure defines business entities so broadly that it would apply to for-profit entities, non-profit entities (both secular and religious), and in some circumstances, even individuals. More from HRC.

WHAT WE’RE READING WEDNESDAY: It may seem ironic that writer Lilah Sturges (@Lilah_Sturges) once struggled to compose a simple letter. But this letter was no ordinary missive -- in it, she would come out to the world as transgender. The 46-year-old comic book author, novelist and video game writer spoke with The Oregonian’s Will Nevin (@WillNevin), about her path to coming out -- both to herself and to others. Sturges says she began to understand herself more after watching transgender filmmaker Lana Wachowski's 2012 acceptance speech when honored with HRC’s Visibility Award. “Something about seeing her, she's so charming and smart and witty and someone I already looked up to as a creator. That's when it clicked with me -- Oh, I'm like her. This is real. I have to deal with this,’” Sturges said. More from The Oregonian.

VA GOVERNOR VOWS TO VETO ANTI-LGBTQ LEGISLATION: At a reception last night hosted by Equality Virginia, Governor Terry AcAuliffe said he would veto any bill that discriminates against the LGBTQ community. He said, “They’ve slipped a few bills through, but they’re not going to slip through the governor’s office. I’m going to veto them.” More from Inside Nova.

LGBT EQUALITY CAUCUS DOUBLES MEMBERSHIP: Congress’ LGBT Equality Caucus announced that it will begin the 115th Congress with 102 members, nearly doubling from 53 members at the beginning of the 114th Congress. More from The Washington Blade.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR -- AIDSWATCH IS MARCH 27-28 IN DC: The nation’s largest annual constituent-based HIV and AIDS advocacy event will take place March 27-28 in Washington, D.C. AIDSWatch brings together those living with HIV, their allies, and their elected officials in Congress to talk about what’s at stake for those living with HIV and AIDS. HRC is a proud sponsor of the event. More from AIDS United.

#BEINTHEKNOW -- NATIONAL BLACK HIV AND AIDS AWARENESS DAY: Yesterday marked National Black HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, an opportunity to focus the nation’s attention on the impact of HIV and AIDS on Black/African Americans. In more than 30 states people living with HIV can be tried and imprisoned simply because a partner accuses them of withholding their HIV status. There’s no evidence that these laws work, and they run counter to public health by perpetuating stigma and deterring people from getting tested or treated for HIV. More from HRC.

GROUPLOVE JOINS HRC’S EQUALITY ROCKS CAMPAIGN: American indie-rock band Grouplove has joined HRC’s Equality Rocks campaign. More on their work for equality from HRC.

CALL IT OUT -- HUNGARIAN MAYOR - GAYS AND MUSLIMS NOT WELCOME HERE: László Toroczkai,  mayor of the small Hungarian village of Asotthalom, needs to attract new residents to fill empty houses in the area. However, Toroczkai told BBC  that he does not want Muslims or LGBTQ people moving in. The village recently passed a law banning “homosexual propaganda.” Shameful. More from The Independent.


BuzzFeed shares the fierce Twitter clapbacks -- and outpouring of love  -- after an Australian reality show airs a mother’s heartbreaking refusal to accept her gay son… HRC highlights five pro-equality moments from the Super Bowl ��… In the Advocate, Daniel Ramos of One Colorado writes about how Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, a fellow Coloradan, could undermine LGBTQ rights… The News Minute features the story of a transgender Indian woman and her husband overcoming strife before marrying…

Have news? Send us your news and tips at AMEquality@hrc.org. Click here to subscribe to #AM_Equality and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!

A.M. Equality