Hazing death may be bias-based

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Nov. 19, 2011, Florida A&M University student Robert Champion Jr. (pictured) was found unresponsive aboard a band bus after the school’s biggest game of the year. Police ruled the death a homicide from hazing. However, the recent revelation by the parents of the victim, a 26-year-old drum major in the university’s famed marching band, that their son was gay has added a new wrinkle.

In response to the news, the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s largest Black LGBT civil rights organization, has called on the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service and Civil Rights Division as well as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to launch an investigation into the slaying as a potential anti-gay hate crime.

Sharon Lettman-Hicks, the head of the NBJC, said, “Anti-gay violence is not only a civil rights issue; it is a Black issue. It is a Black issue because violence against gay and transgender individuals is disproportionately affecting our Black youth. The civil rights community can no longer stand on the sidelines while our sons and daughters continue to suffer in silence. Mr. Champion is one of our own and his death will not be in vain.

Resource for cleaning discharges

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has launched a new online toolkit to help veterans discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (or prior regulations) change their discharge paperwork. These changes include upgrading discharge characterizations, modifying the narrative reason for discharge and changing the reentry code.

Using the online tool, veterans who believe they may qualify (estimated to be as many as 100,000) are able to connect with the National Archives Veterans Records Office to obtain copies of their discharge paperwork, as well as provide necessary information to SLDN in just a few easy steps to begin processing.

In one case, Melvin Dwork, a World War II veteran discharged in 1944 for being gay, sought SLDN’s legal assistance in early 2011 to upgrade his discharge paperwork. In September 2011, he was granted an “honorable” discharge in place of the previous “Undesirable” characterization, allowing him to qualify for long overdue benefits and right a wrong of nearly 70 years.

The online toolkit is available at sldn.org/page/s/vetdischargechanges.

Rep. wants state DADT law

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-Oklahoma City) says he will push for a state law that is a more extreme version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when the state government’s new legislative session begins Feb. 6. The proposed measure would bar gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals from serving in the Oklahoma National Guard. The bill goes beyond the bias of the now-repealed federal statute by allowing officials to directly question someone about their sexual orientation.

Laura Belmonte, chair of the state LGBT rights group The Equality Network, said, “Mike Reynolds has a long-standing history of representing fringe views that rarely have the best interests of all Oklahomans at heart. This legislation is demoralizing to Oklahoma’s LGBT community and our supporters, and it sends a message that it is acceptable to discriminate against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Stonewall Dems name new E.D.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jerame Davis has been selected as the new executive director of National Stonewall Democrats. He had been serving as the group’s interim director since late 2011. Before joining the staff, he was vice president of the Indiana Stonewall Democrats affiliate and was actively involved in Democratic politics in the Hoosier state.

In addition to serving in the leadership of many Indiana LGBT organizations, Davis has consulted for a variety of clients on using technology for better organizing and messaging. He is also the co-founder of a popular national LGBT politics and culture website, The Bilerico Project.

Lesbians raise happy kids

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands — The quality of life of 17-year-olds reared in lesbian-parent families did not differ from that of a matched group of adolescents who grew up in heterosexual-parent families, according to a new study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

“Consistently, over the past three decades, researchers have found that the daughters and sons of same-sex parents are psychologically well-adjusted. And now our new data demonstrate that 17-year-olds raised from birth by lesbian mothers are as happy as their peers,” said lead author Loes van Gelderen of the University of Amsterdam.

The study also found, among teens with lesbian mothers, no difference in quality of life based on donor status (whether they had been conceived by known or unknown donors), stigmatization (whether or not they had experienced discrimination), or maternal relationship continuity (whether their mothers were still together or had separated).

Employers ranked for gay support

LONDON, England — Equality group Stonewall has published its Top 100 Employers 2012 ranking, showcasing Britain’s best employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. Ernst & Young tops the list. In second place is the Home Office and Barclays comes third. British national security agency MI5 secures a position on the Top 100 for the first time, and is one of 25 new entries.

According to reports, the 2012 Index was compiled using the most demanding criteria to date, introducing new weighting for global employers that support LGB equality worldwide.

Accenture claimed the award for Employee Network Group of the Year and the Department of Energy and Climate Change was named Most Improved Employer.

David Stout is the former associate editor of QNotes.