Tag Archives: LGBT

Idaho man pleads not guilty to hate crime in killing of gay man

An Idaho man charged with a federal hate crime in the beating death of a gay man pleaded not guilty in Boise’s U.S. District Court.

A March trial was set for 23-year-old Kelly Schneider, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in state court this week.

He was indicted earlier this month on the hate crime charge that accused him of attacking Steven Nelson last year because he was gay.

Few documents have been filed in the federal court case so far, but the details of the attack are outlined in the related state court case: Prosecutors say Schneider used an online personals ad on Backdoor.com to lure the 49-year-old Nelson to a remote recreation area near Lake Lowell in southwestern Idaho.

There Nelson was robbed, stripped, beaten and left.

Despite being critically injured, naked and barefoot, Nelson managed to walk to a home about a half-mile away for help. He was able to give police information before he died a few hours later.

Schneider pleaded guilty in state court to first-degree murder.

But Idaho’s state hate crime law doesn’t extend protections to people who are gay or lesbian, and so Schneider was transferred to federal custody to face the hate crime charge.

Schneider was one of four men charged in connection with the attack in Idaho’s state courts.

On Monday, Schneider pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, saying that he intended to rob Nelson but not kill him. He acknowledged that he kicked Nelson repeatedly and that his actions caused Nelson’s death.

In exchange for his guilty plea, state prosecutors agreed to drop robbery, theft and conspiracy charges. He now faces life in state prison, as well as a possible life sentence in federal prison if he is convicted on the federal hate crime charge.

The other three men in the state case — Jayson Woods, 28; Kevin R. Tracy, 21; and Daniel Henkel, 23 — are still awaiting trial on first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy charges.

Schneider has a lengthy criminal history in Idaho. But the only other violent crime on his record is an injury to an officer conviction that appears to stem from his time spent in the Canyon County jail in 2012.

Still, Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Chris Boyd said during Schneider’s state court arraignment last year that he believed Schneider had lured and beaten other victims many times before and the sheriff’s office said at the time they had received tips about others who may have been victimized in the same way.

However, no additional cases have been filed against Schneider in state court.

Obama commutes Chelsea Manning’s sentence; Ryan calls decision dangerous

The Obama administration announced the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for disclosing classified information that raised public awareness regarding the impact of war on innocent civilians.

Manning reportedly will be freed in May.

“I’m relieved and thankful that the president is doing the right thing and commuting Chelsea Manning’s sentence,” stated Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning.

“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”

Manning, a transgender woman, is in the seventh year of an unprecedented 35-year sentence and has been forced to serve her sentence in an all-male prison.

The ACLU previously filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the appeal of Manning’s conviction, arguing the prosecution of Manning under the Espionage Act violated the Constitution because it leads to prosecutions where a court gives no consideration to the public interest. The ACLU also argued that such cases give the government too much leeway to selectively prosecute disfavored speakers.

Nancy Hollander and Vince Ward, Manning’s appellate counselors, said in a joint statement, “Ms. Manning is the longest-serving whistleblower in the history of the United States. Her 35-year sentence for disclosing information that served the public interest and never caused harm to the United States was always excessive, and we’re delighted that justice is being served in the form of this commutation.”

The ACLU said the president’s decision comes after an outpouring of support for Manning since her unfair and egregious sentence and the ongoing mistreatment throughout her incarceration.

In December, the ACLU and more than a dozen other LGBT groups sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to grant clemency to Manning. An official White House petition with the same request contained more than 100,000 signatures.

The ACLU has represented Manning in a lawsuit against the Department of Defense that was first filed in 2014 over the department’s refusal to treat Manning’s well-documented gender dysphoria.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., responding to the White House news, issued this statement: “This is just outrageous. Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”

For the record

The following is a statement released on Jan. 17 by the White House and from Neil Eggleston, counsel to the president:

Today, 273 individuals learned that the president has given them a second chance.

With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the president has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any president in this nation’s history.

President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants — which includes 504 life sentences — is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.

Today, 209 commutation recipients — including 109 individuals who had believed they would live out their remaining days in prison — learned that they will be rejoining their families and loved ones, and 64 pardon recipients learned that their past convictions have been forgiven.

These 273 individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward.

Today, 273 individuals — like President Obama’s 1,324 clemency recipients before them — learned that our President has found them deserving of a second chance.

While the mercy the president has shown his 1,597 clemency recipients is remarkable, we must remember that clemency is an extraordinary remedy, granted only after the president has concluded that a particular individual has demonstrated a readiness to make use of his or her second chance.

Only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively in the service of public safety.

Editor’s note: This story will be updated.

Read the open letter more than 150 LGBT elected officials sent to Trump

More than 150 LGBT elected officials, representing millions of people from across the country, are calling on President-elect Donald Trump to respect LGBT Americans and continue efforts to advance equality.

In an open letter to the president-elect, 156 elected officials express grave concerns about his cabinet appointees and implore Trump to “be a president for all Americans.”

The letter is signed by U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Mark Pocan, as well as openly LGBT mayors, state legislators, city councilmembers and other LGBT elected officials.

“These LGBT elected officials represent America at its best — diverse leaders who make the values of inclusion, fairness and justice the cornerstone of their policy positions and decision-making,” said Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, resident & CEO of the Victory Institute.

“This letter urges the president-elect to govern by those core American values, and to put forward legislation and policies that improve quality of life for all Americans. They are using their collective voice to demand continued progress on equality, and to make clear they will oppose any efforts that threaten our rights or families.”

More than 40 LGBT elected officials began work on the open letter during a strategy session at Victory Institute’s International LGBT Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 2016.

Full text of open letter to President-elect Donald Trump:

January 13, 2017

Dear President-elect Donald Trump:

Congratulations on being elected the 45th President of the United States. We are 156 proud lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elected officials representing millions of constituents, and we urge you to join us in embodying the highest ideals of our great and diverse nation.

The long and divisive presidential campaign is over, and now more than 300 million Americans depend on you to bring our nation together. To do this, we ask you deescalate the hostility and intolerance expressed by a small but vocal minority throughout the election season. We ask you appoint individuals with inclusive policy solutions that aim to better the lives of all Americans. And we ask you declare full support for LGBT equality, and remain true to earlier statements promising to be a president supportive of our rights.

We believe in an America that values and accepts everyone, and a country that strives to improve quality of life for all people, regardless of their background or beliefs. These principles are what distinguish America in an often-troubled world – they are what make America great. And it is the elected leadership of our nation that determines whether our government embodies or undermines those ideals. It is elected leaders like ourselves – from the U.S. president to city councilmembers – that either appeal to the better angels of our fellow Americans, or use fear and rancor to spur unproductive discord.

While we hope you appeal to those better angels and support inclusive and fair-minded policies, we have grave concerns given the individuals appointed to your administration thus far. Nearly all hold anti-LGBT views aimed at denying our community acceptance and inclusion in American society. Many proudly tout legislative records opposing basic rights for LGBT Americans, and others express disdain for our lives and relationships. Intended or not, these appointments signal a Trump administration preparing to rollback recent advances for LGBT people, and an administration opposed to LGBT people living open and free.

Our concern is not unfounded, given our historic gains are recent and vulnerable. Openly LGBT men and women can now proudly serve in the Armed Forces; committed same-sex couples can legally marry nationwide; federal contractors can no longer discriminate against LGBT employees or job applicants; the U.S. State Department is leading the world in advancing global LGBT equality; and more than 300 openly LGBT individuals were appointed to positions in the federal government over the past eight years. These hard-fought advances transformed our place in American society, and we are disturbed that most of your appointees opposed these efforts.

Mr. President-elect, our nation will be weaker if LGBT military personnel are prevented from serving openly and equally. America will be worse off if discrimination protections for LGBT government employees or students are revoked. The entire country will suffer if there is a national attempt to implement “religious exemptions” that allow businesses to turn away LGBT customers. And the world will be a darker place without America speaking against anti-LGBT violence and injustices abroad. We need you to vocally reject our country moving backward – to reject the anti-LGBT positions of your appointees and promise a pro-equality Trump administration.

We also must emphasize the LGBT community is as diverse as our nation. We are black, we are Latino, we are white, we are immigrants, we are Muslim, we are Jewish, we are women, and we are people with disabilities. LGBT elected officials know well the sting and consequences of discrimination, injustice and intolerance, and we carry that lived experience into our policy positions, legislation and decision-making. We hold central the American values of fairness, justice and liberty – and ensure these values are the foundation for our work as public servants. As the nation debates economic security, immigration, women’s rights, voting rights, policing, and mass incarceration, we ask you also apply the American values of fairness, justice and liberty, and ensure the best interests of all communities are incorporated into your policies and positions.

Americans of every political party, ideology, race, ethnicity and religion support LGBT equality – it does not need to be a partisan issue. As elected officials, we understand support for LGBT equality as both morally appropriate and politically shrewd. History looks fondly upon leaders who stand for social justice when those around them argue otherwise. History also views harshly those who fail to recognize and support morally righteous causes – and history will undoubtedly view LGBT equality as both moral and righteous.

We sincerely hope you aim to be a president for all Americans – including LGBT Americans of every race, ethnicity, gender and religion. As representatives of the LGBT community, we will hold your administration accountable for actions that infringe upon our rights and opportunities, and will oppose presidential appointees who denigrate or harm our community. But we much prefer to work with you to continue the incredible progress toward LGBT equality – to have you stand with us on the right side of history. We hope you voice your support for existing rights and protections for LGBT Americans, and commit to furthering LGBT equality during your presidency. We promise to be a strong and persistent voice for equality either way.

Sincerely,

Federal 

Representative Sean Patrick Maloney

U.S. House of Representatives

New York, Congressional District 18

 

Representative Mark Pocan

U.S. House of Representatives

Wisconsin, Congressional District 2

 

Alabama

 

Representative Patricia Todd

Alabama House of Representatives, District 54

 

Arizona 

 

Representative Daniel Hernandez

Arizona House of Representatives, District 2

 

Representative Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete

Arizona House of Representatives, District 30

 

Lawrence Robinson

Governing Board Member

Roosevelt School Board

 

Karin Uhlich

Councilmember, Ward 3

Tucson City Council

 

Arkansas

 

Kathy Webb

Vice Mayor

Little Rock City Board

 

California

 

Senator Toni Atkins

California State Senate, District 39

 

Jovanka Beckles

Councilmember

Richmond City Council

 

Kevin Beiser

Board Vice President

San Diego Unified School District

 

Sabrina Brennan

Commissioner

San Mateo County Harbor Commission

 

Mayor Christopher Cabaldon

West Sacramento

 

Adam Carranza

President

Mountain View Board of Education

 

Chris Clark

Councilmember

Mountain View City Council

 

John D’Amico

Councilmember

West Hollywood City Council

 

John Duran

Councilmember

West Hollywood City Council

 

Representative Susan Talamantes Eggman

California State Assembly, District 13

 

Joel Fajardo

Vice Mayor

San Fernando City Council

 

Ginny Foat

Councilmember

Palm Springs City Council

 

Larry Forester

Councilmember

Signal Hill City Council

 

Mayor Robert Garcia

Long Beach

 

Assemblymember Todd Gloria

California State Assembly, District 78

 

Georgette Gomez

Councilmember, District 9

San Diego City Council

 

Steve Hansen

Councilmember, District 4

Sacramento City Council

 

John Heilman

Mayor Pro Tem

West Hollywood City Council

 

Gabe Kearney

Councilmember

Petaluma City Council

 

Geoff Kors

Councilmember

Palm Springs City Council

 

Senator Ricardo Lara

California State Senate, District 33

 

Steven Llanusa

Vice President, Board of Education

Claremont Unified School District

 

Assemblymember Evan Low

California State Assembly, District 28

 

Rafael Mandelman

Trustee

City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

 

Alex Randolph

Member

City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

 

Jeff Sheehy

Supervisor, District 8

San Francisco Board of Supervisors

 

Rene Spring

Councilmember

Morgan Hill City Council

 

Tom Temprano

Trustee

City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees

 

Wanden Treanor

Trustee

Marin Community College District

 

Christopher Ward

Councilmember, District 3

San Diego City Council

 

Scott Wiener

California State Senate, District 11

 

Ken Yeager

Supervisor, District 4

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

 

Colorado

 

Representative Joann Ginal

Colorado House of Representatives, District 52

 

Representative Leslie  Herod

Colorado House of Representatives, District 8

 

Debra Johnson

Clerk and Recorder

Denver

 

Representative Paul Rosenthal

Colorado House of Representatives, District 49B

 

Robin Kniech

Councilmember, At-Large

Denver City Council

 

Gwen Lachelt

Vice Chair, County Commissioner, District 2

La Plata County Commission

 

Senator Dominick Moreno

Colorado State Senate, District 21

 

District of Columbia

 

Jack Jacobson

President, Ward 2

District of Columbia State Board of Education

 

Florida

 

Heather Carruthers

Commissioner, District 3

Monroe County Commission

 

Lesa Peerman

Commissioner

Margate City Commission

 

Representative David Richardson

Florida House of Representatives, District 113

 

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith

Florida House of Representatives, District 49

 

Georgia

 

Representative Park Cannon

Georgia House of Representatives, District 58

 

Representative Karla Drenner

Georgia House of Representatives, District 85

 

Representative Sam Park

Georgia House of Representatives, District 101

 

Alex Wan

Councilmember, District 6

Atlanta City Council

 

Idaho

 

Representative John McCrostie

Idaho House of Representatives, District 16A

 

Illinois

 

James Cappleman

Alderman, Ward 46

Chicago City Council

 

Representative Kelly Cassidy

Illinois House of Representatives, District 14

 

Representative Gregory Harris

Illinois House of Representatives, District 13

 

Raymond Lopez

Alderman, Ward 15

Chicago City Council

 

Colette Lueck

Trustee

Oak Park Village Board

 

Deborah Mell

Alderman, Ward 33

Chicago City Council

 

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa

Alderman, Ward 35

Chicago City Council

 

Debra Shore

Commissioner

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

 

Mark Tendam

Alderman, Ward 6

Evanston City Council

 

Thomas Tunney

Alderman, Ward 44

Chicago City Council

 

Iowa

 

Representative Liz Bennett

Iowa House of Representatives, District 65

 

Senator Matt McCoy

Iowa State Senate, District 21

 

Kansas

 

Mike Poppa

Councilmember, Ward 4

Roeland Park City Council

 

Maine

 

Senator Justin Chenette

Maine State Senate, District 31

 

Representative Ryan Fecteau

Maine House of Representatives, District 11

 

Representative Lois Reckitt

Maine House of Representatives, District 31

 

Representative Andrew McLean

Maine House of Representatives, District 27

 

Maryland

 

Delegate Luke Clippinger

Democratic Caucus Chair

Maryland House of Delegates, District 46

 

Delegate Bonnie Cullison

Maryland House of Delegates, District 19

 

Delegate Anne Kaiser

Majority Leader

Maryland House of Delegates, District 14

 

Byron Macfarlane

Register of Wills

Howard County

 

Senator Richard Madaleno

Maryland State Senate, District 18

 

Delegate Maggie McIntosh

Maryland House of Delegates, District 43

 

Mayor Jeffrey Slavin

Somerset

 

Massachusetts

 

Senator Julian Cyr

Massachusetts Senate, Cape & Islands District

 

Jeremy Micah Denlea

Vice President, Ward 5

Attleboro Municipal Council

 

Eileen Duff

Councilor, District 5

Massachusetts Governor’s Council

 

Mayor Kevin Dumas

Attleboro

 

Representative Jack Patrick Lewis

Massachusetts House of Representatives, Middlesex District 7

 

Mayor Alex Morse

Holyoke

 

Mayor E. Denise Simmons

Cambridge

 

Michigan

 

Mayor Jim Carruthers

Traverse City

 

Mayor David Coulter

Ferndale

 

Mayor Amanda Maria Edmonds

Ypsilanti

 

Representative Jon Hoadley

Michigan House of Representatives, District 60

 

Brian McGrain

Commissioner, District 10

Ingham County Board of Commissioners

 

Jason Morgan

Commissioner, District 8

Washtenaw County Commission

 

Representative Jeremy Moss

Michigan House of Representatives, District 35

 

Richard Renner

Township Supervisor

Pioneer Township

 

Mayor Kenson J. Siver

Southfield

 

Minnesota

 

Representative            Susan  Allen

Minnesota House of Representatives, District 62B

 

Carol Becker

President

Minneapolis Board of Estimate and Taxation

 

Representative Karen Clark

Minnesota House of Representatives, District 62A

 

Senator D. Scott Dibble

Minnesota State Senate, District 61

 

Representative Erin Maye Quade

Minnesota House of Representatives, District 57A

 

Missouri

 

Shane Cohn

Alderman, Ward 25

St. Louis Board of Alderman

 

Representative Randy Dunn

Missouri House of Representatives, District 23

 

Nebraska

 

Barbara Baier

Member, District 3

Lincoln Board of Education

 

Nevada

 

Representative Nelson Araujo

Nevada State Assembly, District 3

 

Senator David Parks

Nevada State Senate, District 7

 

New Hampshire

 

Mayor Dana Hilliard

Somersworth

 

Christopher Pappas

Councilor, District 4

New Hampshire Executive Council

 

New Jersey

 

Michael DeFusco

Councilman, Ward 1

Hoboken City Council

 

Assemblyman Tim Eustace

New Jersey General Assembly, District 38

 

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora

New Jersey General Assembly, District 15

 

Pamela Renee

Councilwoman

Borough of Neptune City Council

 

Edward Zipprich

Councilmember

Borough of Red Bank Council

 

New Mexico

 

Senator Jacob Candelaria

New Mexico State Senate, District 26

 

Mayor Javier Gonzales

Santa Fe

 

Linda Siegle

Governing Board Secretary

Santa Fe Community College Board of Trustees

 

Senator Liz Stefanics

New Mexico State Senate, District 39

 

New York

 

Assemblymember Harry Bronson

New York State Assembly, District 138

 

Matt Haag

Councilmember, At-Large

Rochester City Council

 

Gregory Rabb

President, At-Large

Jamestown City Council

 

Michael Sabatino

Councilmember, District 3

Yonkers City Council

 

Assemblymember Matthew Titone

New York State Assembly, District 61

 

North Carolina

 

Representative Cecil Brockman

North Carolina House of Representatives, District 60

 

Mayor Lydia Lavelle

Carrboro

 

LaWana Mayfield

Councilwoman, District 3

Charlotte City Council

 

Damon Seils

Alderman

Carrboro Board of Aldermen

 

North Dakota

 

Representative Joshua Boschee

North Dakota House of Representatives, District 44

 

Ohio

 

Representative Nickie J. Antonio

House Minority Whip

Ohio House of Representatives, District 13

 

Sandra Kurt

Clerk of the Court

Summit County Clerk of Courts

 

Oregon

 

Representative Karin Power

Oregon House of Representatives, District 41

 

Pennsylvania

 

Mayor Matt Fetick

Kennett Square

 

Bruce A. Kraus

Councilman, District 3

Pittsburgh City Council

 

Robert Langley

Councilmember

Meadville City Council

 

Lori Schreiber

Commissioner, Ward 14

Abington Township Board of Commissioners

 

Representative Brian Sims

Pennsylvania House of Representatives, District 182

 

Tennessee

 

Chris Anderson

Councilmember, District 7

Chattanooga City Council

 

Nancy VanReece

Councilmember, District 8

Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County

 

Brett Withers

Councilmember, District 6

Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County

 

Texas

 

Representative Mary González

Texas House of Representatives, District 75

 

John Turner-McClelland

President, District 11-A

Denton County Fresh Water Supply Board of Directors

 

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Dallas County

 

Utah

 

Arlyn Bradshaw

Councilmember, District 1

Salt Lake County Council

 

Senator Jim Dabakis

Utah State Senate, District 2

 

Vermont

 

Representative Bill Lippert

Vermont House of Representatives, Chittenden-4-2 District

 

Virginia

 

Delegate Mark Levine

Virginia House of Delegates, District 45

 

Michael Sutphin

Councilmember

Blacksburg Town Council

 

Washington

 

Mayor Dave Kaplan

Des Moines

 

Senator Marko Liias

Washington State Senate, District 21

 

Representative Nicole Macri

Washington House of Representatives, District 43

 

Ryan Mello

Councilmember, At-Large Position 8

Tacoma City Council

 

Michael Scott

Councilor, Central Ward

Bainbridge Island City Council

 

West Virginia

 

Kevin Carden

Councilmember and Town Recorder

Corporation of Harpers Ferry

 

Wisconsin

 

Vered Meltzer

Alderperson, District 2

Appleton Common Council

 

Michael Verveer

Alder and Council President, District 4

Madison Common Council

 

Wyoming

 

Representative Cathy Connolly

Minority Floor Leader

Wyoming State House of Representatives, District 13

 

Gospel singer Kim Burrell makes no apology for calling gays ‘perverted’

Gospel singer Kim Burrell says she makes “no excuses or apologies” for a sermon at a Houston church where she referred to gays and lesbians as perverted.

A tape of Burrell preaching at the Love & Liberty Fellowship Church began circulating online.

She said that “the perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women.” She referred to specific homosexual acts as perverted.

Burrell was scheduled to sing a duet this week with Pharrell on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. The singers were to perform “I See Victory” from the soundtrack of the new movie “Hidden Figures.”

DeGeneres’ said Burrell would not be making an appearance on the show. DeGeneres tweeted this week: “For those asking, Kim Burrell will not be appearing on my show.”

Pharrell posted on Instagram that “I condemn hate speech of any kind.”

It wasn’t immediately clear when Burrell gave the sermon.

She spoke on Facebook Live late last week about the tape that had circulated, referring to unspecified “enemies” for spreading only a portion of her speech.

She said that she has never discriminated against gays and lesbians. “I love you and God loves you,” she said. “But God hates the sin.”

Failed deal to undo anti-LGBT law marks rocky start for governor

North Carolina’s next Democratic governor has seen a deal he helped broker to repeal the state’s law limiting LGBT protections fall apart and had several of his powers stripped away by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.

And he hasn’t even been sworn in yet.

Gov.-elect Roy Cooper has vowed to keep his campaign promises to bend back the rightward course of the state.

But with only a 10,000-vote victory over GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and bitter partisan distrust in this deeply divided state, he’s already slipped along the rocky path he must walk to work successfully with the legislature. And Republicans will maintain veto-proof majorities in 2017.

“My future negotiations with them are certainly going to have to be instructed by this,” a somber yet angry Cooper told reporters after the deal to repeal the law known nationally as the “bathroom bill” collapsed.

Two December special sessions, one of which saw raucous protests against Republicans and dozens of arrests, have created further strain in a divided state that chose Republicans Donald Trump for president and Richard Burr for U.S. Senate but went with a Democrat for governor.

“There’s a complete lack of trust between the legislative leadership and Cooper at this point in time,” longtime state Democratic consultant Brad Crone said. “That does not bode well for an incoming governor.”

Missing out on ending House Bill 2 — which also directed transgender people to use bathrooms in public buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate — prompted finger-pointing between Cooper and legislative leaders. It would have been a major accomplishment to repeal a bill that has been blamed for job losses, canceled concerts and sporting events and staining North Carolina’s reputation.

“I think Roy Cooper did everything he could to sabotage a reasonable compromise,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

Cooper shot back: “My mom and dad used to tell me that when you sat down and looked somebody in the eye and told them something you should keep your promise, and clearly they have not done so.”

Even before the General Assembly sessions, Cooper already was at a disadvantage.

Cooper is a 30-year veteran of state politics — 14 years in the legislature before 16 as attorney general — and claimed victory on election night.

But it was another 27 days before McCrory conceded while dozens of ballot protests and a partial recount worked out the results.

Set to take office Jan. 1, Cooper hasn’t yet announced a single Cabinet appointment — something McCrory had done by this time after his 2012 election — and faces new hurdles for his choices. One law the General Assembly approved this month requires his Cabinet choices be confirmed by legislators. The state Constitution gives the Senate the ability to “advise and consent” to the governor’s appointees by a majority vote, but that provision hadn’t been used in at least several decades.

GOP legislators argued they are only rebalancing the powers between the legislative and executive branches, but Democrats and their allies call it a brazen, unlawful power grab.

Another law reduces the number of political appointees Cooper can hire. Republicans had expanded the number of such policymaking jobs for McCrory from 400 to 1,500. That number goes back down to 425 for Cooper.

Cooper previously threatened lawsuits to challenge the efforts to scale back his power. “They will see me in court,” he told The Charlotte Observer last week.

Even as lawmakers held special sessions, the board of North Carolina’s private nonprofit tasked with luring companies to the state _ now filled with appointees from McCrory and the legislature — passed a bylaw change that will make it hard for Cooper to put his board choices on quickly.

The bad blood with lawmakers could portend Cooper’s difficulties to follow through on other campaign platform planks, such as accelerating public education funding and shifting tax burdens away from the middle class. He’s also vowed to preserve voting and abortion rights, after Republicans passed laws in 2013 scaling back early in-person voting and extending the abortion waiting period to three days.

But both Cooper and GOP lawmakers have said they could locate areas of agreement.

“I am optimistic that we can strike a good balance with the governor-elect in trying to build a consensus agenda and move our state forward,” said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. “Relationships have changed between the legislative and the executive branch, but that doesn’t mean … we can’t work together.”

George Michael dies at age 53

British singer George Michael, who became one of the pop idols of the 1980s with Wham! and then forged a career as a successful solo artist, died at his home in England on Sunday. He was 53.

In the mid-1980s, Wham! was one of the most successful pop duos ever, with singles like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Careless Whisper”, “Last Christmas” and “The Edge of Heaven.”

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period,” his publicist said in a statement.

“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage,” the statement said.

British police said Michael’s death was “unexplained but not suspicious.”

Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou June 25, 1963 in London to Greek Cypriot immigrant parents in a flat above a north London laundrette, Michael once played music on the London underground train system before finding fame with Wham!.

With a school friend, Andrew Ridgeley, he formed Wham! in 1981, a partnership that would produce some of the most memorable pop songs and dance-floor favorites of the 1980s.

“I am in deep shock,” said Elton John. “I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans. @GeorgeMichael #RIP.”

‘I WANT YOUR SEX’

The duo had their first hit with their second release “147;Young Guns (Go For It)” (1982) before their debut release “Wham Rap” became a hit the following year. The 1984 album “Make It Big” was a huge success in the United States.

“No way could I have done it without Andrew,” Michael once said. “I can’t think of anybody who would have been so perfect in allowing something which started out as a very naive, joint ambition, to become what was still a huge double act but what was really … mine.”

But Michael was keen to reach beyond Wham!’s teenage audience and to experiment with other genres. Wham! announced their split in 1986.

A pilot solo single “I Want Your Sex” was banned by daytime radio stations but was one of his biggest hits.

“I want your sex, I want you, I want your sex,” he sang. “So why don’t you just let me go, I’d really like to try, Oh I’d really love to know, When you tell me you’re gonna regret it, Then I tell you that I love you but you still say no!”

In the space of the next five years, Michael had six U.S. No. One hit singles including “Faith”, “Father Figure,” “One More Try,” “Praying For Time” and a duet with Aretha Franklin “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.”

Questions about his sexuality were raised when he was arrested in 1998 for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public restroom of the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California.

“I feel stupid and reckless and weak for letting my sexuality be exposed that way,” Michael told CNN at the time. “But I do not feel shame )about my sexual orientation”, neither do I think I should.”

“I can try to fathom why I did what I did,” he continued, “but at the end of the day, I have to admit that maybe part of the kick was that I might get found out,” he told CNN.

Though he had relationships with women and once told family members that he was bisexual, Michael, then 34, said he was gay.

“Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael,” said Star Trek actor and LGBT rights activist George Takei. “You’ve found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you.”

While Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was in power, Michael voted for Britain’s opposition Labour Party but criticized Tony Blair’s support for George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Sad to hear that George Michael has died,” said current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. “He was an exceptional artist and a strong supporter of LGBT and workers’ rights.”

Michael’s death comes at the end of a year that has seen the passing of several music superstars, including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen. Rick Parfitt, the guitarist of British rock group Status Quo, died on Saturday at 68.

North Carolina Republicans back out of pledge to repeal bathroom bill

A supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law — also known as the bathroom bill — collapsed, meaning the state will remain a pariah shunned by corporations, entertainers and high-profile sporting events.

After more than nine hours of backroom discussions and sporadic public effort, Republican state legislators quit trying to repeal House Bill 2 and went home Wednesday night.

The law omits gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protections, bars local governments from passing non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT citizens from being denied civil rights in employment and housing. It orders transgender people to use bathrooms and showers that align with their sex at birth, even if they’ve physically transitioned into the gender they identify with. The bill forces muscular, bearded men who were born as girls into using ladies’ rooms and feminine women in high heels and makeup into using men’s rooms.

But social conservatives defended the bathroom bill as necessary to prevent heterosexual men from presenting themselves as women in order to molest women and girls in bathrooms.A supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law collapsed, meaning the state will remain a pariah shunned by corporations, entertainers and high-profile sporting events.

The issue of transgender bathroom use “wasn’t a problem North Carolina was facing,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Legislators “should admit they messed up and repeal the bill.

The U.S. Justice Department and others contend the threat of sexual predators posing as transgender persons to enter a bathroom is practically nonexistent.

The bathroom bill has been blasted by gay-rights groups and resulted in many millions of dollars worth of economic benefits, as conventions, jobs and sporting events, such as the NBA All-Star Game, now shun the state. Corporate critics of the law included Deutsche Bank and Paypal, which both backed out of projects that would have brought hundreds of jobs to North Carolina.

“The NCAA’s decision to withhold championships from North Carolina remains unchanged,” spokesman Bob Williams said.

Repealing the state law could have ended protracted and expensive legal challenges by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents. Much of that litigation has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a separate Virginia case on transgender restroom access.

“I’m disappointed that we have yet to remove the stain from the reputation of our great state that is around this country and around the world,” Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said.

He said he and his staff worked for more than a week on forging an agreement to repeal the law, talking with lawmakers from both parties, businesses, sports industry representatives and LGBT leaders.

GOP legislators who see themselves as business-friendly appeared shaken by a months-long backlash as major companies like BASF, IBM and Bank of America described HB2 as bad for business.

A compromise touted by both Cooper and outgoing GOP Gov. Pat McCrory called for Charlotte to eliminate its anti-discrimination ordinance in exchange for lawmakers undoing the anti-LGBT law.

But North Carolina’s religious-right never wanted to repeal the law, and GOP lawmakers cried foul when Charlotte leaders initially left part of the city’s ordinance in place.

McCrory signed the law and became its national face. HB2, along with other right-leaning bills he signed, turned this fall’s gubernatorial campaign into a referendum on the state’s recent conservative slant. He lost by about 10,000 votes to Cooper.

Mississippi man pleads guilty to hate crime in killing of transgender teen

A Mississippi man has pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime, admitting he killed Mercedes Williamson because she was a transgender girl.

Williamson was 17 years old and resided in Alabama at the time of her death.

Joshua Brandon Vallum, 29, of Lucedale, Mississippi, was charged with violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The plea was announced by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi and FBI Agent Christopher Freeze.

“Our nation’s hate crime statutes advance one of our fundamental beliefs: that no one should have to live in fear because of who they are,” Lynch said in a news release.  “Today’s landmark guilty plea reaffirms that basic principle and it signals the Justice Department’s determination to combat hate crimes based on gender identity.

Lynch added, “While Mississippi convicted the defendant on murder charges, we believe in the fundamental value of identifying and prosecuting these bias-fueled incidents for what they are: acts of hate.  By holding accountable the perpetrator of this heinous deed, we reinforce our commitment to ensuring justice for all Americans.”

“Congress passed the Shepard-Byrd Act to protect our most vulnerable communities, including the transgender community, from harm,” said Gupta.  “No conviction, even such a historic one, can relieve the grief and anguish facing this victim’s family.  But this guilty plea sends an unequivocal message that violence based on one’s gender identity violates America’s defining values of inclusivity and dignity.”

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, in the late spring or early summer of 2014, Vallum, a member of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation, began a sexual relationship with Williamson.  During his romantic relationship with Williamson, Vallum kept the sexual nature of the relationship, secret from his family, friends and other members of the Latin Kings.

Around August or September 2014, Vallum terminated his romantic and sexual relationship with Williamson and had no contact with her until May 2015.

On May 28, 2015, Vallum decided to kill Williamson after learning that a friend had discovered Williamson was transgender.  Vallum, according to his admission, believed he would be in danger if other Latin Kings members discovered that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with a transgender teenager.

On May 29, 2015, Vallum went to Alabama to find Williamson, planning to take Williamson to Mississippi and kill her there.

After locating Williamson at her residence, he used false pretenses to lure Williamson into his car so he could drive her to Mississippi. Vallum drove Williamson to his father’s residence in Lucedale, where he parked behind the house.  As Williamson sat in the vehicle’s passenger seat, he assaulted her.  After using a stun gun to electrically shock Williamson in the chest, Vallum repeatedly stabbed Williamson with a 75th Ranger Regiment pocket knife. Williamson attempted to flee at least twice, but Vallum pursued her. He repeatedly stabbed his victim and hit her with a hammer.

Later, Vallum falsely claimed to law enforcement that he killed Williamson in a panic after discovering Williamson was transgender.

In pleading guilty on Dec. 21, Vallum acknowledged that he had lied about the circumstances surrounding Williamson’s death and that he would not have killed Williamson if she was not transgender.

Vallum faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for the federal crime.

He previously pleaded guilty to murdering Williamson in George County, Mississippi, Circuit Court, where he was sentenced to life in prison.

The federal government prosecuted the hate crime charge because Mississippi does not have a hate crimes statute that protects people from bias crimes based on their gender identity.