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Remembering the LGBT Heroes, Victims of 9/11

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FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge, Flight 93 Passenger Mark Bingham Made Ultimate Sacrifice 15 Years Ago Today

On the 15th anniversary of the terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the nation pauses again to remember all who lost their lives in the assaults on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and in the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Among the most celebrated heroes of 9/11 are two gay men, Father Mychal Judge and Mark Bingham.

Judge (pictured), a Franciscan friar and a Roman Catholic priest who served as chaplain to the Fire Department of New York City, rushed with some off-duty firefighters to the North Tower of the World Trade Center, which had just been hit by the first hijacked plane, American Flight 11.

Soon after, Judge became the first recorded fatality of the attack. (He was not the first person to die in the attack — that distinction probably belongs to flight attendants on American Flight 11 — but his was the first officially recorded death.) He was struck by falling debris in the tower while administering the last rites to another victim.

Judge, a gay man who ministered to AIDS sufferers and served as chaplain to Dignity, an organization of gay Roman Catholics, exemplified a Catholic ideal of service. As biographer Michael Ford has noted, Judge’s “ministry … helped many gay people, alienated from the church, reconnect with their faith. Father Mychal was a living symbol of the church as it ought to be.”

Even before his death, many considered Judge a saint because of his compassion and service to others, especially his embrace of the homeless and those suffering from AIDS, as well as the deep spirituality he exhibited.

His former teacher and spiritual advisor, John J. McNeill, a Jesuit who pioneered the development of “queer theology” before being expelled from the order, told Judge’s biographer that he achieved an “extraordinary degree of union with the divine. We knew we were dealing with someone directly in line with God.”

Judge is the subject of a documentary film, Saint of 9/11 (2006, directed by Glenn Holsten). Narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, it is a touching portrait of Father Judge, capturing the man not only in his enormous sense of duty and service to others but also in his gifts as a witty storyteller with an irrepressible sense of humor and an abiding belief in hope.

In June 2002, Congress passed the Mychal Judge Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush over the objections of Attorney General John Ashcroft. The legislation authorized the payment of federal death benefits to anyone named as a beneficiary on the insurance policy of a firefighter or police officer who died in the line of duty. Previously, only spouses, parents, and children had been eligible. The passage of the Mychal Judge Act meant that, for the first time, gay and lesbian partners could receive a federal benefit.

Mark Bingham, an openly gay businessman who owned a public relations firm and was an avid rugby player, was the last passenger to board United Flight 93 in Newark, New Jersey. Soon after the doomed flight began its journey to San Francisco, it was hijacked by terrorists who redirected toward Washington, D. C., where they apparently planned to crash it into either the Capitol or White House.

Flight 93 passengers learned from cell phone conversations that the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had already been attacked. Bingham and three other athletic young men sitting in the rear of the plane — Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick — are believed to have stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to crash into an empty field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

Although all passengers on the plane were killed, the actions of Bingham, Beamer, Burnett and Glick undoubtedly saved the lives of many more.

The heroism of the brave passengers of Flight 93 has been celebrated in a number of films and television reenactments, including Paul Greenglass’s feature film United 93 (2006) and Peter Markle’s TV film Flight 93 (2006), as well as a memorial at the crash site.

Bingham has been memorialized in a number of ways, including the establishment of the Mark Bingham Leadership Fund at the University of California at Berkeley and the naming of a San Francisco gym in his honor. Along with the other passengers on Flight 93, Bingham was also posthumously presented the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2002.

Most fittingly, given his passion for rugby — as an undergraduate at Berkeley, he played on two national championship teams, and later for the San Francisco Fog, a predominantly gay team — the International Gay Rugby Association has named its biennial tournament the Bingham Cup.

Bingham’s heroism on 9/11 came as no surprise to his former partner, Paul Holm, who told Jon Barrett in The Advocate‘s Sept. 11, 2002 feature on Bingham as “Person of the Year,“ that, in addition to the physical courage he showed on the rugby field, Bingham had also foiled mugging and robbery attempts, including one at gunpoint. Many others also attested to the 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pound Bingham’s protectiveness and love of action. (Barrett’s feature story was expanded into a book entitled Hero of Flight 93: Mark Bingham. A Man Who Fought Back on September 11 [2002]).

Bingham’s mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant, has been an unfailing supporter of LGBT rights and a fierce protector of her beloved son’s memory.

Melissa Etheridge’s “Tuesday Morning” is a tribute to Bingham that specifically contrasts his heroism with the denial of equal rights that he experienced as a gay man.

Bingham is the subject of a documentary by Scott Gracheff, The Rugby Player (2013). Below is a trailer for the film, which was formerly titled With You.

Among other LGBT victims of the terrorist attack are the following: Carol Flyzik, passenger on Flight 11; David Charlebois, co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon; Graham Berkeley, passenger on United Flight 175, the second hijacked plane that crashed into the World Trade Center; Ronald Gamboa and Dan Broadhorst, a gay couple who were traveling with their adopted son, David, on Flight 175; James Joe Ferguson, a passenger on Flight 77; Jeffrey Collman, a flight attendant on Flight 11; and Waleska Martinez, a passenger on Flight 93.

The following LGBT victims of 9/11 worked at or near the World Trade Center: Pamela J. Boyce, John Keohane, Eddie Ognibene, Eugene Clark, Wesley Mercer, Luke A. Dudek, Michael Lepore, William Anthony Karnes, Seamus O’Neal, Catherine Smith, Patricia McAneny and Renee Barrett.

Sheila Hein worked at the Pentagon. When Virginia’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund administrators refused to recognize Hein’s partner Peggy Neff as anything more than a “friend,” she sued. In January 2003, the federal government’s 9-11 Compensation Fund recognized Neff as Hein’s partner and approved compensation for her.

It is believed that several of the firefighters, police officers and rescue personnel who perished on 9/11 were also members of the LGBT community, but have not been identified as such. More information about the LGBT heroes and victims may be found here

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‘Breathtaking’: Economists Stunned by Job Growth ‘Boom’ as Unemployment Drops to Level Not Seen Since 1969

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The year was 1969: Congress certified the results of the election, officially declaring Richard Nixon would be the 37th President of the United States, Joe Namath led the New York Jets to win Super Bowl III, The Beatles released the soundtrack from their hit film “Yellow Submarine,” and unemployment was 3.4%.

It’s been 54 years since unemployment was at 3.4%, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released January’s report  Friday morning, stunning economists who expected unemployment to go up, not down.

Economists projected 187,000 new jobs would be added to the U.S. economy in January. Instead, the number came in at 517,000, Forbes reported. Prior months were also adjusted to be better than first reported.

READ MORE: ‘Anyone Who Thinks This Is Economy Is in Recession Is Bananas’: Economists Cheer ‘Hot’ Biden Jobs Report

“This is a breathtaking number. That spike in stories about layoffs? It was about a small unrepresentative slice of the economy. Real America is still getting back to work,” crowed Professor Justin Wolfers, the popular University of Michigan School of Economics professor, a senior fellow at Brookings.

“Average job growth over the past 3 months is a cracking +356k. A boom!” Wolfers cheered.

“We haven’t seen unemployment this low since before Woodstock, baby,” he added. “Groovy.”

Wolfers wasn’t done. He blasted those who continue to talk about recession: “This is a final nail in the coffin of all the 2022 recessionistas. When average job growth is this high we call it a BOOM.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

For those who just want the bottom line, Wolfers offered this take on the jobs report: “It’s all good news.”

“January marked the 25th straight month of solid job growth,” The Washington Post reports, observing that the “labor market shattered expectations.” The Post adds: “the labor market remains formidable, inflation is beginning to normalize and there are signs that the global economy may be on stronger footing than originally feared.”

 

Image: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy, Thursday, January 26, 2023, at Steamfitters Local 602 United Association Mechanical Trades School in Springfield, Virginia. Official White House Photo by Erin Scott via Flickr

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‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

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For the past two decades teenaged women participating in Florida high school athletics have been asked to submit their menstrual history, including the date of their first period, the date of their last period, and how many periods they have had in the last 12 months. The board of directors of the Florida High School Athletic Association, the organization in charge of coordinating high school athletics in the Sunshine State, will debate later this month if they will make divulging that information mandatory for participating in sports. According to the FHSAA website that board is comprised of 14 men and two women. Not one is a physician or medical professional.

Critics are voicing concerns over a variety of issues, including the right to privacy, the need for the highly personal medical information, who has access to it, how it is stored, and how it could be used against the students, including to determine possible pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, or if the athlete is transgender.

“Many parents and doctors are worried that schools will use the menstrual data to monitor students for late or missed periods, a possible sign of pregnancy, or to out transgender students by watching for girls who don’t get periods or boys who do,” The New Republic reports, calling it “a terrifying glimpse of our dystopian post-Roe world.”

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely Repulsive’: Some House Republicans Are Now Wearing an Assault Weapon Lapel Pin

The three-page form, called the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation, asks:

“When was your first menstrual period?” “When was your most recent menstrual period? “How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to the start of another?” “How many periods have you had in the last year? and “What was the longest time between periods in the last year?”

A draft form slightly alters the questions, asking instead, “Have you had a menstrual period?” and “How old were you when you had your first menstrual period?” in addition to the other three questions.

While it currently states answering is optional, at the end of this month those questions could become mandatory, although the reason for the possible change has not been disclosed.

READ MORE: ‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

Because the information is not being given by the athletes to a physician or other medical professional or organization, the information is not subject to HIPAA regulations. And in some school districts the inform action is stored on a third-party platform, possibly exposing it to other entities.

“This is clearly an effort to further stigmatize and demonize transgender people in sports [and] meant to further exclude people who aren’t assigned female at birth in girls sports,” the  president of PRISM, a South Florida nonprofit organization that provides sexual health information to LGBTQ+ youth, Maxx Fenning, told The Tampa Bay Times. “Beyond that, I think there’s concern among LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ [students] alike. This is an extremely invasive mode of gleaning into someone’s reproductive history, which is especially dangerous in this post-Roe world we live in.”

TIME adds that critics “have noted that this policy would be a major challenge for transgender athletes who may have to out themselves with their responses to the questions. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved a bill last year—which is currently under legal fire—that bans transgender female students from playing on women and girls’ sports teams.”

READ MORE: Trump Vows to Use DOJ and Congress to Make Being Transgender Illegal While Promoting the ‘Nuclear Family’

According to the fan-checking site Snopes, “these written forms with students’ medical information are submitted to school officials, contrary to a number of other states where only a doctor’s signature is required to clear an athlete for play.”

Snopes adds that “concerns grew as many states worked to criminalize abortions after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and transgender athletes faced scrutiny. In Florida, abortions are banned after 15 weeks, with only a few exceptions.”

“Any forms (physical or digital) could be subpoenaed. Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, nearly all athlete-registration forms moved online, which meant reproductive data for athletes was being stored by a third-party software company called Aktivate. Other counties were also planning to digitize their forms.”

Last October NBC News reported that an Aktivate spokesperson said a student’s information could be removed but only with parental and school district consent.

Image via Shutterstock

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George Santos Says Man Interviewed for Staff Position ‘Violated’ His Trust After Secretly Recording Conversation

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U.S. Rep. George Santos is angered a man interviewed for a staff position in his Capitol Hill office secretly recorded the conversations, claiming it “violated the trust that we had in him.”

The freshman New York Republican lawmaker who is believed to be under multiple DOJ and local investigations, suggests the candidate handed the recordings over to Talking Points Memo, and says he expects an article will be published there Thursday evening, after the news site contacted his office.

“According to Santos, his office had been in the process of hiring Derek Myers for a position, but paused when they saw he faces wiretapping charges in Ohio after publishing recorded court testimony — obtained from a source, he said — as part of a story for a small newspaper,” Semafor reports. “FIRE, a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to First Amendment issues, has defended Myers, arguing local authorities in the state were criminalizing legitimate journalism.”

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely Repulsive’: Some House Republicans Are Now Wearing an Assault Weapon Lapel Pin

“While they said they expect the audio will just show them questioning him about his specific circumstances, it’s unknown if he recorded other exchanges.”

Regardless, Santos is taking action.

The GOP congressman accursed of deceiving his constituents with countlessly false claims that helped get him elected, says he is going to report Myers to the Biden administration, claiming he has a White House press pass.

Santos says he wants Myers’ White House press pass to be revoked, after Myers, the congressman says, claimed to have one.

“He should have that revoked if it’s true, if it’s even remotely true he has it,” Santos told Semafor.

It’s not known if Myers does, and if so it’s unlikely it’s a permanent hard pass. It’s also unlikely it would be revoked if Myers did not break the law.

Semafor adds in Washington, D.C. it is legal to record your own conversation with another party without obtaining their consent.

READ MORE: ‘Firehose of Disinformation’ Sarah Huckabee Sanders Picked to Deliver State of the Union Response in Nod to Trump (Video)

 

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