Speed Read: Thursday 21 November 2013

1-    PARTY PRESSURE: The LGBT activist group GetEQUAL will stage a political “block party” this morning on the U.S. Capitol lawn to call on House Speaker John Boehner to move ENDA to the House floor for a vote. The Senate passed the measure November 7, but Boehner has repeatedly indicated he has no intention of bringing the bill to the floor. Boehner says the legislation is unnecessary. Other groups with legislation stalled in the House will also be participating in today’s action, including groups concerned with immigration reform, the environment, and minority rights.

2-   MEDAL CEREMONY: The partners of Presidential Medal of Freedom winners Bayard Rustin and Sally Ride sat next to each other in the center of the East Room stage Wednesday morning. President Obama noted that Rustin, “a giant in the American civil rights movement” and organizer of the 1963 March on Washington organizer was “denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay.” “No medal can change that,” said the President, “but today, we honor Bayard Rustin’s memory by taking our place in his march towards true equality, no matter who we are or who we love.” His long-time partner, Walter Naegle, accepted the award on behalf of Rustin who died in 1987.

3-   LAUDED ROLE MODEL: Astronaut Sally Ride was awarded the Medal of Freedom as the youngest American and the first American woman in space, as well as her work to encourage young girls to excel in math, engineering, and technology. The White House statement read as her partner in life Tam O’Shaughnessy accepted the award on her behalf noted that, “At the end of her life, [Ride] became an inspiration for those battling pancreatic cancer, and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The tale of a quiet hero, Sally Ride’s story demonstrates that the sky is no limit for those who dream of reaching for the stars.”

4-   VERY PRIVATE TO VERY PUBLIC: While Bayard Rustin was openly gay for much of his life’s work, Sally Ride’s being gay was not publicly known until after her death in July 2012. It was then that Tam O’Shaughnessy penned a death notice that identified herself as Ride’s partner-in-life. Following the White House ceremony, O’Shaughnessy acknowledged to reporters, “We were very open with our family and friends, and then very private — very private — with everybody else, not open.” O’Shaughnessy told BuzzFeed that, “a week before Sally died, she said, ‘Tam, I want you to decide how you want to deal with things,’…and I decided that Sally was a very honest person and this was the only area of her life that was — it wasn’t dishonest, but she wasn’t completely honest with the world about who she was in that area and neither was I.”

5-   STATE DEPARTMENT REMEMBERS:  The U.S. State Department issued a statement from Secretary John Kerry yesterday “honoring the memory of lives lost to violence provoked by fear and hatred of transgender and gender non-conforming people.” “In too many cases, crimes against LGBT persons, including murder, are not thoroughly investigated or prosecuted,” said Kerry. “Transgender persons are frequently denied medical care and public services.  They still suffer discrimination in employment, education, and housing. Each of these episodes threatens our common humanity.” White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan also issued a statement marking Transgender Day of Remembrance.

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