NBC announced on Thursday (25 July) the upcoming season of Will & Grace is the last.
Will & Grace, which ushered in visibility for LGBTI people (primarily gay men), premiered in 1998. It lasted for eight seasons, before NBC brought it back for a revival in 2017.
David Kohan and Max Mutchnik created the series.
It follows best friends Will Truman (Eric McCormack), a gay lawyer, and Grace Adler (Debra Messing), an interior designer. Rounding out their quarter is Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes), a gay actor, and Karen Walker (Megan Mullaly), a self-centered socialite.
Over the course of its many seasons, the show focused on the friends’ love lives, careers, and general shenanigans.
The revival brought the show back in both familiar and new ways. Old characters made triumphant returns, but jokes were now firmly rooted in 2017 and beyond.
Season 10 drew in 3 million weekly viewers, down 45% from the revival’s first season.
‘The way Karen Walker thinks of martinis’
Mutchnik, Kohan, and executive producer David Barrows, released a statement about the show’s end.
‘We think of the Will & Grace [revival] episodes the way Karen Walker thinks of martinis — 51 is not enough, 53 is too many,’ they said. ‘That is why, after consulting with the cast, we all have decided this will be the final season of Will & Grace.’
Over the course of its life, the show became one of the most successfuly and widely watched series with gay main characters.
Its popularity helped contribute to people’s growing acceptance of the LGBTI community in the 90s and 2000s, albeit in a white a
The Philadelphia Police Department are set to fire 13 officers for offensive social media posts, which included homophobic and racist sentiments.
This discipline was the result of research done by by the Plain View Project. They published thousands of Facebook posts from jurisdictions around the country, including Philadelphia, in June.
Following the publication of these posts, the Philadelphia Police Department launched an internal investigations.
Overall, the department removed 72 officers from street duty. They gave 13 a 30-day suspension with the intent to formally dismiss them.
Four other officers received a 30-day suspension, three received no other formal discipline, and the rest received varying consequences from formal reprimands to 5-day suspensions.
What did the messages say?
Most of the messages reviewed were homophobic, racist, and Islamophobic in nature.
In one post from 2014, an officer wrote a suspect ‘should be taken out back and put down like the rabid animal he is’. More recently in February, a different officer commented on a news article about an alleged murderer and wrote: ‘Hang him.’
In other posts, officers described Islam as a ‘cult’ which glorified death.
Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney held a press conference about the matter on Thursday (18 July).
Ross said the 13 officers set to be fired all made posts that advocated violence. He added every officer going forward will receive training about social media and off-duty behavior.
Kenney commented at the conference: ‘We have a duty to represent ourselves and our city. We will not allow this incident to break down the progress we have made and we pledge to do better.’
A project investigating police
A group of Philadelphia attorneys created Plain View Project in 2016. They formed the database when they learned numerous police officers made social media posts that ‘appeared to endorse violence, racism and bigotry’.
As a research project, Plain View identifies such posts.
‘We believe that these statements could erode civilian trust and confidence in police, and we hope police departments will investigate and address them immediately,’ the group states on its website.
A new survey reveals most LGBTI Americans are welcoming of police and other groups, such as corporations, at annual Pride parades.
BuzzFeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies conducted the survey from 5-10 June, speaking to 801 LGBTI people in the US. Most of the respondents identified as bisexual (46%). Gay and lesbian respondents were next, at 29 and 17%, respectively. Finally, 7% of respondents identified as transgender and nonbinary, respectively.
The survey asked a broad range of questions, including ones about Pride, gay icons, and the Pride flag.
Pride parades should be inclusive and open
Police at pride has become a controversial and heated debate in the LGBTI community.
Numerous cities have declared police in uniform are not welcome at their Pride parades, such as Portland and Sacramento. Based on this survey, however, a majority of LGBTI Americans — 79% — said police should be welcome. This includes cops marching in the parade.
The survey did not specify if the question specifically meant police in uniform, or in general.
Results of question about police at Pride | Photo: BUzzFeed News
The survey also found 7 in 10 respondents believe police sometimes discriminate against LGBTI people.
Despite this belief, only 8% said police should absolutely not be allowed to participate at Pride events, such as parades.
This welcoming attitudes towards Pride events extended to groups beyond police. A majority said both corporations (76%) and kink groups (72%) should be able to participate as well. People who responded no unequivocally were equal or lesser to 1 in 10.
Results of question about corportations Pride | Photo: BuzzFeed News
People’s critiques of kink groups present at Pride events often offer family and children as the reasoning for the critiques.
The respondents of this survey, however, also said families with children should be allowed and welcomed. Specifically, 87% said they should be present, even alongside the kink groups.
Chart showing results about kink groups at Pride | Photo: BuzzFeed News
Teaching LGBTI history — and having diversity
Another component of the survey included questions on diversity and history.
Less than half (45%) said they attended a Pride event this year (or had plans to), but an overwhelming 90% also responded they believe Pride advances LGBTI equality.
Only a little over half (54%) said they knowledge of the Stonewall Riots, but tellingly, 89% said they believed LGBTI history should be taught in schools.
How inclusive lessons or the promotion of LGBTI rights will be remains to be seen, as most respondents (56%) said they do not approve of adding black and brown stripes to the Pride flag to acknowledge LGBTI people of color.
Chart about making the Pride flag more inclusive | Photo: BuzzFeed News
Is Taylor Swift a gay icon?
Not according to this survey.
Only 9% of respondents classified her as a gay icon — three points above the Babadook.
Ellen DeGeneres was the clear winner, with 78% of LGBTI people saying she’s a gay icon. Figures like RuPaul (65%), Lady Gaga (53%), Cher (40%), and Madonna (36%) followed.
Finally, a slight majority of people (53%) also believe public figures have a responsibility to come out if they identify as LGBTI.
Tony Perkins, a vitriolic anti-LGBTI and Islamophobic figure, has been tapped to lead the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Perkins, who is also the president of the far-right Christian lobbying organization the Family Research Council, was initially named chair of the Commission last year.
With this new appointment, he will oversee the mission of the USCIRF for at least a year.
Created by the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, the USCIRF ‘uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress’.
The President and Congressionals leaders from both parties appoint commissioners.
Hateful views instead of freedom
Despite leading a group advocating for freedom, Perkins’ various views counter the ‘freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly’ as outline by the Commission’s definition of religious freedom.
His thoughts on LGBTI rights are extensive and hateful.
Most recently, he called trans pride flags ‘unpleasant’.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also lists the Family Research Council, which endorses conversion therapy, as an anti-LGBTI hate group.
Perkins is also extremely Islamophobic.
In 2010 while appearing on CNN, he said people who follow the literal teachings of Islam ‘have perpetuated great evils on society’.
He also wrote that only 16% of Islam is a religion. The rest, he claimed, ‘is a combination of military, judicial, economic, and political system’ and therefore ‘Sharia is not a religion in the context of the First Amendment’.
Religious freedom as a weapon
Since Trump assumed office, his administration has used religious freedom as a guise to attack the LGBTI community and other marginalized communities.
Democrats, however, are trying to combat the use of religious freedom as a weapon. In February, they reintroduced the Do No Harm Act, which protects religious minorities and freedoms, while not bypassing anti-discrimination laws.
In the middle of Pride month and on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the United States Senateconfirmed a new judge — another anti-LGBTI Trump appointee.
Matthew Kacsmaryk achieved his lifetime appointment to the federal bench in the Northern District of Texas with a 52-46 vote.
The vote happened along party lines. Only one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (ME), voted against Kacsmaryk. She cited his ‘extreme statements’ on LGBTI and reproductive rights, stating they ‘reflect poorly on Mr. Kacsmaryk’s temperament and suggest an inability to respect precedent and to apply the law fairly and impartially’.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) referenced Collins’ choice in his remarks on the vote.
‘Mr. Kacsmaryk has demonstrated a hostility to the LGBTQ bordering on paranoia,’ he said.
‘It’s unbelievable that this man has been nominated, and he’s not alone. The parade of narrow-minded, often bigoted people who we’re putting on the bench. . . . One Republican senator rightfully voiced concerns about this man’s fitness. Where are the others?’
What has this judge said about LGBTI rights?
Kacsmaryk’s anti-LGBTI comments are extensive.
He has previously described identifying as transgender as a ‘mental disorder’ and disputed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) stance that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects sexual orientation and gender identity.
He also claimed ‘sexual revolutionaries’ cause married and unborn children to become less important than ‘erotic desires of liberated adults’.
Failing the basic requirement of ‘equal under the law’
Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign’s Legal Director, described Kacsmaryk as one of the Trump administration’s most anti-LGBTI judge picks.
‘He has a long history of virulently anti-LGBTQ opinions and positions — including his deeply disturbing opposition to same-sex marriage, his vocal hostility towards legal protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, and his shocking refusal to recognize the basic humanity of transgender people,’ she continued.
‘Kacsmaryk fails the basic expectation of impartiality and commitment to equality under the law that we demand of every member of the bench.
‘The Human Rights Campaign will continue to raise the alarm about Kacsmaryk and future nominees who refuse to protect the rights of all Americans.’
In the early hours of 6 June, North Carolina authorities found the body of Chanel Scurlock, a black transgender woman, in Lumberton.
They found Scurlock’s body in a field near Old Town Road in the city. She was shot to death and her car was missing.
Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins told local news outlet The Robesonianinvestigators have ‘great leads’ into her death.
‘Robeson County sheriff’s detectives are currently working diligently to bring closure to a grieving family,’ Wilkins added.
‘This cowardly act has to be addressed and a person or persons will be held accountable and brought to justice.’
The Robesonian and other outlets, however, are misgendering and deadnaming Scurlock in their reporting.
According to the Raleigh TV news station WRAL, someone posted a photo of Scurlock in feminine clothing, but then deleted it. Scurlock was allegedly going to meet the person Tuesday (5 June).
Her mother reportedly said Scurlock had recently made a connection with the man who posted the photo. She also said it was a ‘red flag’ that Scurlock was going to meet him.
Friends on Facebook paid tribute to Scurlock and identified her as a transgender woman.
‘Blurred lines. Who ever thought this would be the last time we talked,’ one friend, Kandice Stigger, wrote.
‘RIP baby. You lives [sic] your life as you wanted. I’m proud of you for being unapologetically correct about your feelings and expectations of YOU. Rosha McNeill call me. Brenda Scurlock I’m here. I love you all.’
A violence that needs to end
Scurlock is the fifth known black transgender woman murdered in the US in the last month. She is also the ninth trans person killed in the country in 2019 so far. All of them have been black transgender women.
In an about-face, YouTube announced it would start removing channels promoting extreme views. This included reversing a decision about right-wing commentator Steven Crowder.
The video platform has recently received a slew of criticism for its handling of the Crowder situation.
It all began when YouTube announced an investigation into Crowder after journalist Carlos Maza claimed Crowder was targeting him with racist and homophobic harassment.
A few days later, YouTube said Crowder’s videos did not violate its harassment policies.
All of that changed on Wednesday (5 June) with a new policy change from the company.
YouTube bans extremism
The company said in a blog post it would be banning video ‘alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status’.
‘This would include, for example, videos that promote or glorify Nazi ideology, which is inherently discriminatory,’ the post continued.
‘Finally, we will remove content denying that well-documented violent events, like the Holocaust or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, took place.’
While they did not name any specific channels, numerous right-wing people reportedly began complaining their videos had been deleted, according to the New York Times.
Crowder was one of the casualties of this policy change.
YouTube updated its Twitter thread about Crowder, writing its management decided to suspend the channel’s monetization.
‘We came to this decision because a pattern of egregious actions has harmed the broader community and is against our YouTube Partner Program policies,’ the company wrote.
Google employees unhappy
YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, and employees of the parent company are reportedly pushing back against YouTube’s whisplashing decisions.
‘Not everyone will agree with the calls we make — some will say we haven’t done enough; others will say we’ve gone too far,’ YouTube said in an expanded statementon Crowder.
‘In the subsequent days, we saw the widespread harm to the YouTube community resulting from the ongoing pattern of egregious behavior, took a deeper look, and made the decision to suspend monetization,’ it said.
‘In order to be considered for reinstatement, all relevant issues with the channel need to be addressed, including any videos that violate our policies, as well as things like offensive merchandise.’
Despite the reversal, Google employees are starting to use the hashtag #NoPrideInYT on Twitter.
Sources told BuzzFeed News a petition began circulating within Google ‘demanding that management remove pride branding from its public social media accounts’. Employees reportedly find the Pride branding — things like rainbow logos — hypocritical in the face of YouTube’s handling of Crowder.
Three American diplomats confirmed the reports from the embassies to NBC News. They said requests from Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia have all been denied request to fly rainbow flags outside their buildings.
While the embassies are allowed to display the rainbow flag elsewhere, including inside the buildings, they are not allowed to fly it on the main flagpole.
According to NBC’s reporting, Brian Bulatao, the State Department’s undersecretary for management is the one issuing the denials.
This is also another reversal of policy during Barack Obama’s presidency. His administration allowed embassies to fly the Pride flag.
‘Gives me pride… to fly the gay pride flag’
Richard Grenell, the most senior openly gay person in the Trump administration, is the ambassador to Germany. He is also the person leading the Trump administration’s apparent plan to decriminalize homosexuality worldwide.
In a statement to NBC, he still expresses a willingness to fly the Pride flag, despite these denials.
‘The President’s recognition of Pride Month and his tweet encouraging our decriminalization campaign gives me even more pride to once again march in the Berlin Pride parade, hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy recognizing our pride, host multiple events at the Embassy and the residence, and fly the gay pride flag,’ he said.
German embassy spokesman Joseph Giordono-Scholz, when asked if the rainbow flag would fly on the main flagpole, responded: ‘The pride flag will be on as many places as it can at the Embassy.’
The bill banned any flag or emblem from flying at US embassies other than the American flag. Though the bill didn’t pass, it was introduced again in January.
The late Gilbert Baker created the rainbow flag as a symbol for the LGBTI community.
As Baker wrote in his upcoming memoir, before the rainbow flag, the symbol of the community was the pink triangle. This image, however, had a dark history in its association with World War II and the Holocaust. Nazis made gay men in concentration camps wear pink triangles to label them.
‘I thought of the American flag with its thirteen stripes and thirteen stars, the colonies breaking away from England to form the United States,’ he wrote.
‘I thought of the vertical red, white, and blue tricolor from the French Revolution and how both flags owed their beginnings to a riot, a rebellion, or revolution,’ before continuing, ‘I thought a gay nation should have a flag too, to proclaim its own idea of power.’
On Wednesday (5 June), the Trump Administration implemented a new policy ending research done by government scientists using fetal tissue. This severely limits research done on HIV.
According to the Washington Post, the Administration also canceled a university’s multi-million dollar laboratory contract. The university used fetal tissue in testing new HIV treatments.
‘Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,’ the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.
The tissue used in such research comes from elective abortions. Many scientists and researchers say there are no other alternative approaches to the research at this time.
This is political, not scientific
The HHS’ decision is a political one. It stems from the lobbying of the anti-abortion bloc, who cite moral qualms with using fetal tissue in research.
It then suspended a study looking into a ‘cure’ for HIV because of its use of human fetal tissue.
‘This is a pro-life, pro-science administration,’ HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) at the time.
Currently, funding for nongovernmental research using fetal tissue will not be disturbed. Going forward, however, the HHS said applications for federal funding will face an ethics review.
The reason for the review is due to ‘the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved’.
A continuing epidemic
Globally, 36.9 million people were living with HIV in 2017. That same year, 1.8 million people became newly infected and another 940,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses.
In the US, 1.1 million people currently live with HIV.
Since the peak of the epidemic in the mid-1990s, both new infections and related deaths have decreased. Still, it has taken the lives of over 35 million people worldwide since then and continues to be a worldwide health crisis.
The bill would ban the use of ‘these hateful defenses’ in federal courts nationwide.
Someone’s identity is not reason to attack them
As in the last iteration of this bill, the act states: ‘No nonviolent sexual advance or perception or belief, even if inaccurate, of the gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation of an individual may be used to excuse or justify the conduct of an individual or mitigate the severity of an offense.’
In the language of the bill, such defenses characterize LGBTI people’s identities as ‘objectively reasonable excuses for loss of self-control’. They also ‘appeal to irrational fears and hatred of LGBT individuals’.
Finally, the bill also demands the Attorney General submit an annual report to Congress about court cases involving crimes against LGBTI people where the motivation seemed to be the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Panic defense is an outdated notion
Markey and Kennedy, with the reintroduction of this bill, seek to ‘end the antiquated notion that LGBT lives are worth less than others and to reflect modern understanding of LGBT individuals as equal citizens under law’.
One of the most well-known cases of the gay panic defense was the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1988.
More recently, an Ohio man used the defense to try and get off death row — but the Ohio Parole Board stayed his execution date of 18 July.
A Texas man, meanwhile, was found not guilty of manslaughter and murder after using the defense.
Only four states have outright banned the defense, including California, Illinois, Rhode Island, and most recently, Nevada. This bill, however, would ban it across the country.
‘Gay and trans ‘panic’ defenses have long stood as a symbol of dangerous and outdated thinking,’ said D’Arcy Kemnitz, Executive Director of the National LGBT Bar Association. ‘The Gay and Trans ‘Panic’ Defense Prohibition Act would protect LGBTQ+ lives and send a clear message that hate has no place in the federal courtroom.’