Kansas-based hatemongers from the Westboro Baptist Church plan to picket Constance McMillen’s graduation from her Mississippi high school.
Constance McMillen gained notoriety when she asked her school, Itawamba Agricultural High School, to allow her to attend prom with her girlfriend. She also wanted to wear a tuxedo instead of a prom dress.
According to a statement on the Westboro Baptist website , “The parents of Fulton, MS feign outrage that a filthy dyke wants to parade her ‘girlfriend’ around at their night of fornication called a prom. They had a duty to teach their children what the Lord requires of them. They shirked this duty.”
McMillen graduates May 22.
It’s Washington Blade. No, it’s DC Agenda . No, it’s Washington Blade, again.
The Washington Blade, Washington, D.C.’s 40-year-old LGBT publication, will be returning to newsstands on Friday under its original name. In November, Windows Media, which owned the Blade and a host of other LGBT publications across the country, went belly up , declaring bankruptcy and unexpectedly telling employees the publications would cease.
Immediately, former staffers of the Blade created DC Agenda, an online LGBT news site.
This week, DC Agenda’s owners announced a win in bankruptcy court that included being awarded the Blade name, all trademarks and copyrights and the entire 40-year archive.
DC Agenda surveyed readers on whether to return to the Washington Blade name. The majority of respondents favored the move.
“The power, effectiveness and strength of the Washington Blade came from the spirit and intensity of those who wrote the stories and worked with the local community,” publisher Lynne Brown told DC Agenda . “We now have the opportunity to both restore and refresh a powerful, venerable news gathering institution and to make the treasure trove of our vibrant gay rights and liberation movement history accessible to the public.
Stumped on when to send out your STDs (save-the-date announcements)? Don’t know who should be invited to your rehearsal dinner? Get the answers to all your wedding etiquette questions by submitting your dilemma to email@example.com 
I have relatives who have made it clear they’re uncomfortable with me being gay. But I’m still unsure if I should invite them to my wedding. Am I being the bigger person if I send an invite? I don’t want to get my feelings hurt.
Unfortunately, being related to someone doesn’t guarantee fair treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people. And as sad as that is, we’re probably all used to it on some level or another and are constantly working to heal those wounds.
Your wedding is your day to celebrate your love and commitment to each other with your family and friends—the ones who love you and believe in your love. So why would you want to invite anyone who wouldn’t allow themselves to feel the love?
If you want to reach out to them to see how they’d feel or behave at your wedding, give them a call and talk to them about your feelings and hesitation. And if that’s a bit much for your taste, send them a wedding announcement after the big day.
It requires no response, but lets them know you’ve taken the leap with your—gasp—gay lover.
Kirsten Palladino is Editor in Chief of Equally Wed, the nation’s premier same-sex wedding magazine, online at www.equallywed.com . Equally Wed offers gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples an extensive, trustworthy and fashionable guide of inspiration, ideas and trends for planning their engagements, weddings and honeymoons, as well as their happily ever after. The photo-rich site is home to Equally Wed’s Local Resources, a veritable marketplace of vetted GLBT-friendly wedding vendors across the United States and abroad. It also offers an interactive social community to talk to other readers about all things wedding, as well as the latest news from the frontlines of the fight for marriage equality
Rep. Deb Mell, a state legislator in Illinois (and, full disclosure, a friend of my partner) said Tuesday on a local Chicago TV news show that she would be announcing her engagement to her partner Christin Baker on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives.
Mell and Baker were engaged April 10; but at the moment, they would not be able to marry in Illinois.
“I want to spend the rest of my life with her, and I want to get married in Illinois,” Mell said on Chicago Tonight on Tuesday evening. “I mean, we could go to Iowa and Iowa’s great… I went to school in Iowa. But you know what? It’s not the state where I represent, and it’s not the state where I grew up in.”
She plans to tell her fellow legislators, “That you can’t legislate who you love and can’t punish people for it,” she said. “That we are a regular couple, pay taxes, own a home, have a great belief in God.”
Wrote Carol Marin, a local legend among Chicago journalists, in the Chicago Sun-Times :
“What will make this moment historic in the annals of Illinois politics is that Mell’s fiancee, Christin Baker, is a woman.
“Unlike only five states, Illinois has never come close to approving civil unions, much less same-sex marriage.
“Bills to change that are buried in committee with no prayer of being passed this session. They wouldn’t even if this weren’t an election year.”
Marin noted that Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn his Republican rival Sen. Bill Brady are both opposed to same-sex marriage (as is former Illinois legislator Barack Obama).
Mell said that she hopes to start a conversation in Illinois about gay marriage – but most likely, she and Baker will be marrying in Iowa in 2011.
Attorneys for three teens accused of trying to push a lesbian classmate off of a cliff are calling the incident “staged,” the Lexington Herald-Leader  reported.
Cheyenne Williams, 18, said three of her classmates kidnapped her, took her to picturesque Flat Lick Falls, and tried to push her over a cliff.
The attorneys for the three defendants dispute that story.
James Baechtold, who represents one of the teens, said Williams’ story contains “distinct falsehoods” the Herald-Leader reported. “There’s no merit to any of these allegations at all.”
The Kentucky Equality Federation, an LGBT advocacy group, told Williams they would support her potential lawsuit financially. The group also vowed to push to have the incident classified as a hate crime, which would mean tougher penalties if the teens are convicted.
A video that Williams took with her cell phone appears to be a key piece of evidence.
“I have seen the video and I will not comment on what it shows other than to say that is what I base my opinion on. It was staged performance and the alleged victim was a participant,” Sharon Allen Gray, an attorney for one of the defendants told KYMT .
A hearing Thursday is likely to reveal more details in the case.
The New York State Senate voted today to pass a bill protecting New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS from having to choose between paying rent and buying groceries.
Says NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn:
“I thank and applaud the New York State Senate for overwhelmingly voting today to provide affordable housing protection to over 11,000 New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom are on the verge of eviction. State Senator Tom Duane and Assembly Member Deborah Glick deserve particular praise for skillfully sheparding this bill through the legislature.
“By voting in favor of a 30 percent income contribution cap for New York State’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA) clients, the legislature is coming to the aid of New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS who currently pay as much as 70 percent of their benefits toward rent, leaving many of them to live on a little over $11 per day.
“It is my hope that Governor Paterson will sign this bill into law soon. We must stand for fair and equitable housing policy. By making this bill a law, much needed relief will be provided to a most vulnerable community.”
A post on HousingWorks.org gives the background:
Nearly 11,000 low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS are at risk of becoming homeless due to a flaw in the HIV/AIDS Services Administration’s (HASA) rental assistance program. HASA clients receiving rental subsidies pay between 50 to 85 percent of their disability income (SSI, SSDI, Veteran’s Benefits) towards rent each month, which leads to high rates of arrears, evictions and homelessness. Those who keep their apartments are forced to choose between paying their rent or buying essential household items like soap and toilet paper.
This bill was originally introduced in 2006, and came about after the State and City announced that they would no longer honor the federal law that caps rental contribution at no more than 30 percent of income for approximately 2,200 HASA clients living in federally subsidized housing. Some clients would see a 200 percent increase in rent virtually overnight.
With a few days to spare, Housing Works and co-counsel Matthew Brinckerhoff rushed to federal court and secured an injunction against the proposed policy, preventing the rental increases. Thereafter, with the injunction in place, the City and State agreed to abandon the proposed policy and honor the 30 percent federal rent cap. They continue to do so to this day. But the 30 percent cap only covered clients in federally funded housing, and that this essential protection should be extended to all HASA clients under New York State law as well. So Housing Works’ Legal Department worked with State legislators to draft a new State law extending the 30 percent rent cap to all HASA clients, and not merely those in federally funded housing.
Momentum has been growing over the last year. The Assembly passed the affordable housing bill , and the Senate already passed it by a margin of 52 to 1  once last July. Governor Paterson told NYCAHN leaders  he would sign the bill when it reached his desk.
Autumn Sandeen, a 20-year veteran of the Navy, wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama on Monday decrying the intense discrimination she was subjected to as a transgender woman after being arrested at the White House last week.
Sandeen (top left in the photo) and five former and current members of the armed forces, including Lt. Dan Choi, chained themselves to the White House on Friday as part of a GetEQUAL protest of the military’s discriminatory stance on gay service.
Sandeen wrote on Pam’s House Blend , “When I handcuffed myself to the White House fence, I wasn’t an impersonator wearing a costume; I was proudly wearing an appropriate uniform for my gender identity.”
Yet Park Police treated her as less than human. Several people, she wrote, overheard one U.S. Marshal say, “Did you see it? The nerve of it to be wearing a Navy uniform. Did you see the shim in the Navy Uniform?”
Her outrage is understandable. And her message is clear: “President Obama,” she wrote, ”your U.S. Marshal calling me ‘it’ and ‘the shim’ is the equivalent to calling an African-American by the N-word, or calling a gay-American by the anti-gay F-word, it is absolutely unacceptable.”
The Illinois House of Representatives voted unanimously Friday to approve legislation making schools safer for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
The anti-bullying legislation specifically prevents harassment of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Passing a statewide anti-bullying bill was one of our top legislative priorities for this year,” CEO of Equality Illinois Bernard Cherkasov told ChicagoPride.com  last week.
Schools will be required to adopt policies that protect students from bullying and violence.
The bill’s next stop is Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk for signing.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is on the war path. In a not-so-subtle way, she is marginalizing and discriminating against nearly every minority group in her state.
To start the week off, Brewer cut domestic partner benefits for state employees  and their dependents – on the pretense of saving a few bucks. She saves $3 million by cutting the benefits of roughly 800 affected employees. How much does she spend on benefits for everyone else? About $625 million. Looking at it that way, $3 million is merely a drop in the budgetary bucket.
The Arizona Daily Star reported: “Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday that she believes ‘God has placed me in this powerful position as Arizona’s governor’ to help the state weather its troubles.”
Somebody please remind Brewer and her ilk of the phrase “separation of church and state.” It’s in the Constitution.
The move, of course, follows on the footsteps of the legislation she signed on Friday that makes racial profiling legal. If someone is suspected of being illegally in the United States – and a description of that is quite fuzzy – a police officer is legally required to ask for paperwork proving citizenship. The law is not only detestable, it is likely illegal .
San Francisco officials have called for a boycott  of Arizona. And flights from Mexico to Phoenix are being canceled by Aeromexico airlines. But that’s just the beginning. If Brewer wants to create her own Aryan-zona, her state will suffer the economic consequences. It’s just a matter of time.
Visit msnbc.com for breaking news , world news , and news about the economy 
Speaking of unnecessary laws, California finally addressed a decades-old piece of legislation  that compared homosexuality to child molestation – both were in need of a “cure.”
Unlike Arizona, California is moving in the right direction as the House of Representatives adopted a measure that directs the Department of Mental Health to remove statements that dictate the agency research “causes and cures of homosexuality.” The measure is now headed to the Senate.
I can almost hear the California Legislature saying, “Cures, we don’t need no stinkin’ cures.”
In more good news from California, a leader in the state’s nurses’ union, Mary Kay Henry , was picked to head the Service Employees International Union. Henry, an out lesbian, will represent more than 2 million workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
She becomes both the first woman and the first person in the LGBT community to head the union.
And, finally, something that has nothing to do with politics or immigration or any anti-gay sentiments, I found this little nugget of, well, sparkle power: Canned unicorn meat .
ThinkGeek, for the low, low price of $9.99, is offering Spam-inspired containers of precious unicorn meat, which is noted as “an excellent source of sparkle.”
In a moving tale of selflessness, we learn about the Sisters at Radiant Farms, who “have dedicated their lives to nursing these elegant creatures through their final days.”
Then they chop the unicorns up and process them for a profit. Mmm, mmm good.
(Liverpool, England) Health experts are holding up a perhaps unlikely country as a model for fighting AIDS in drug users: Iran.
Experts at an international AIDS conference this week are studying how the hardline Islamic republic’s methadone clinics and needle exchange programs may be a model for other countries, including some in the West.
Being right next to Afghanistan’s opium fields, Iran has long struggled with large numbers of drug addicts.
When AIDS arrived in Iran, the virus first hit the country’s heroin users. To curb the outbreak and prevent it from spilling into the general population, Iranian leaders adopted an approach that appeared surprisingly progressive for an authoritarian regime.
“It might be seen as socially liberal, but from a public health point of view, it’s just pragmatic,” said Joumana Hermez, an AIDS expert at the World Health Organization’s office in Cairo. On Tuesday, Hermez and other officials were addressing how the Middle East has responded to the disease at the International Harm Reduction Association’s 2010 conference in Liverpool.
For years, Iran had a hard-line drug policy, and it still executes people for certain drug trafficking crimes.
Experts say attitudes began to shift about a decade ago when doctors and academics managed to convince religious and governmental authorities that unless they helped drug users kick the habit, Iran would face a much bigger AIDS epidemic.
“They began to understand it was better to have a (drug) addiction problem than an addiction problem with HIV,” said Dr. Seyed Ramin Radfar, an executive manager at an Iranian non-governmental organization that runs methadone clinics and needle exchange projects throughout the country.
Religious leaders issued fatwas declaring that drug users shouldn’t be prosecuted if they sought help. In 2005, Iran’s top judge decreed initiatives to combat the spread of AIDS were aimed at protecting society and should not be blocked.
That led to a change in how addicts were treated. “If drug users agreed to accept treatment, then they could be viewed as patients, not criminals,” said Radfar.
Methadone clinics to help wean addicts off heroin and provide clean needles first started in Iranian prisons where drug abuse is rampant. The clinics only popped up in regular communities when authorities realized released prisoners had nowhere to continue their treatment. The government has since set up more than 200 methadone clinics and there are more than 1,000 private clinics.
Even in countries like Australia, Canada and the U.S., it is hard for prisoners to get methadone or clean needles. Until recently, the U.S. refused to fund needle exchange programs – in which addicts get clean needles in exchange for used ones – as part of foreign aid.
“Iran is absolutely a model for the world in certain respects,” said Susie McLean, a senior adviser in HIV and drug abuse at the International AIDS Alliance. “No one ever would have thought they would make delivering services to junkies a priority.”
Still, McLean said the country is far from perfect and the initiatives still need to be rolled out on a much bigger scale.
There are also occasional problems with the methadone supply and services across the country can be patchy.
Though officials are still conducting surveys to find out how many people are infected with HIV in Iran, they say the country’s policies have probably made a dent in the virus’ transmission. Still, the number of people infected is growing and in 2008, the health ministry estimated there were from 70,000 to 100,000 people with HIV in Iran.
With more cases now being picked up beyond drug users, experts say it is time for Iran to fight the virus in other vulnerable groups: gay men and prostitutes. So far, Iran has made no attempt to protect them, and homosexuality, adultery and prostitution remain illegal. Condoms are distributed in prison, but only for conjugal visits. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once declared there were no gay people in the country, and there are no AIDS initiatives aimed at gay men or sex workers.
If Iran is to stop AIDS, that may be the next frontier.
“There are a lot of contradictory things happening in Iran, but they seem to get around it for controlling HIV,” said Gerry Stimson, executive director of the International Harm Reduction Association.
Stimson has visited a methadone clinic inside an Iranian prison close to Tehran. He was impressed with the prison’s cleanliness, Iranian carpets and free condoms, but admitted he was probably shown the facility’s best parts.
“They have made some good progress on things we never would have expected,” Stimson said. “But I still wouldn’t want to be inside an Iranian prison.”