California

Man Charged With Murder Of Jewish Gay Student Was Supposedly A Neo-Nazi

Last week, we shared with you the story of Blaze Bernstein and Samuel Woodward.

Now, we have new information that Woodward has ties to several neo-Nazi and extremist groups.

Bernstein, who was an Ivy league student at the University of Pennsylvania, was visiting his family in California at the start of January. During that time, Bernstein went missing and his family looked towards the police to help find him.

Unfortunately, Bernstein’s body was found in a park a few days later and it appeared he had died of about 20 stab wounds.

Later, police connected a former high school classmate of Bernstein’s, Woodward, to the crime. Not only were DNA tracings found on his car and his fingernails chipped and covered with dirt, but they also found out that Woodword had met with Bernstein the night he went missing.

While at first Woodward said he dropped Bernstein off at home and then went to his girlfriend’s house (who’s name and address he couldn’t remember), he later confessed to his crimes.

In addition, some suspect Woodward’s motive was because Bernstein shared the fact that the two had kissed with friends and said that he was going to pursue Woodward while they were on break from school.

That might not be all to the story however, as now the Advocate reports that Woodward is, in fact, a neo-Nazi and Berntein was Jewish.

This news comes from two of Woodward’s friends. They say that Woodward is a member of an alt-right group called Atomwaffen Division.

Atomwaffen Division has been tied to a bomb plot and to four other murders in the past eight months, according to ProPublica.

While Woodward is awaiting arraignment on Feb. 2, he has yet to enter a plea. If found guilty, he could face up to 26 years to life.

Palm Springs Swears In Newly Elected All LGBT Council

At Wednesday night’s council meeting, the City of Palm Springs swore in the two most recent elected council members, Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege. Middleton and Holstege are the two local politicians that had a record-breaking win last month and made Palm Springs, the gay Mecca, the first California city with an all LGBTQ council.

Holstege is the youngest councilmember who identifies as bisexual.

Middleton is, remarkably, the first transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in the entire state of California.

After her win, Middleton shared with the Desert Sun:

We’re very proud of being an inclusive community. And I’m absolutely convinced that commitment to inclusivity is one of the factors in the growth and the Renaissance of Palm Springs.

 

 

Middleton and Holstege join Mayor Robert Moon & Councilmembers J.R. Roberts and Geoff Kors.

Here’s a video posted by a council meeting attendee that welcomes the two councilmembers to the city.

 

 

California Approves LGBT History Books For Grades K-8

On November 9th, California became the first state to approve the adoption of 10 LGBT inclusive history books for grades K-8. Two additional texts were denied because they exclude LGBT history, a violation of the CA 2011 Fair Education Act. California will now require for history and social studies curriculum to include the achievements of LGBT leaders as well as people with disabilities.

It's no shock that California is the first state to adopt this type of legislation, with many gay cultural hubs scattered throughout the Golden State like San Francisco, West Hollywood, Palm Springs, and San Diego among many others.

The legislation was written be Senator Mark Leno, a champion of LGBT organizations and causes.

According to Advocate, the Executive Director of Equality California, Rick Zbur, has praised the state for their decision to be more inclusive in the classroom.

This long fought victory is the next step for California students to learn about the contributions and history of LGBTQ people. Approval of these textbooks means that California schools will now have access to approved materials that accurately represent LGBTQ people, and Equality California applauds the State Board of Education for this historic decision.

Adoption of the textbooks into California classrooms will grant LGBTQIA students the opportunity to see themselves represented. Additionally, others will be able to learn about the contributions queer people have made, which will hopefully bring us strides closer to tolerance, acceptance, and inclusivity for all.

I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way. Bravo, Cali! 

 

Lambda Is Supporting A Court Case To Legalize Sex Work

Lambda is throwing its support towards legalizing sex work.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments for the Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) v. Gascón case. This case ultimately is centered on California’s laws that criminalize sex work.

Back in March of 2015, California sex workers, and their employed representatives ESPLERP, legally challenged the state penal code that makes prostitution illegal and are saying that said sections are unconstitutional and undermine public health goals.

The lawsuit was initially dismissed and thus is now being raised to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and in this newest trial Lambda is standing in the wings of support for legalizing sex work.

Lambda is a legal organization that’s focused on getting equal rights for everyone. Or, as its website states, they are “committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.”

“Criminalizing sex work does not reduce the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections: in fact, just the opposite is true,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal.

“The evidence is clear that laws making it illegal for consenting adults to engage in private sexual activity in exchange for money hurt public health because they lead to fear of law enforcement and criminal prosecution, deter use of condoms—they are often used as evidence of intent to commit this crime—and create hurdles to health care for sex workers and their clients.

The lower court ruling was ill-informed and misguided, and the Ninth Circuit should direct the lower court to reinstate the case and to consider the effects of these laws on public health,” adds Schoettes.

In addition, Lambda has filed a brief explaining their backing of the sex workers and how the current laws get in the way of reducing HIV and STI exposure.

Part of the brief goes:

“Lambda Legal’s landmark Supreme Court victory in Lawrence v. Texas, the case that struck down laws that criminalized sex between same-sex partners, underscored that our right to liberty protects our decisions about adult, consensual sexual intimacy,” said Kara Ingelhart, Lambda Legal Law Fellow.

“It is merely logical that Lawrence extend to the adult, consensual sexual intimacy that occurs between sex workers and their clients; the fact that money is exchanged shouldn’t matter.”

We will keep you updated as the trial progresses.

h/t: GayPopBuzz