LGBT week in review: MLB names ambassador for inclusion, CDC releases LGBT health data

LGBT week in review headerBY CANDY PARKER

What did you miss this week in the world of LGBT news? Check out our round-up and you’ll be ready to gather ’round the rainbow-colored water cooler to talk about four of the biggest, best and most interesting stories for July 13 – July 19.

MLB teams with Athlete Ally

With the annual Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star game as a backdrop, the league announced the expansion of its association with Athlete Ally, an organization committed to ending homophobia in sports.

According to a statement from the league, MLB, in conjunction with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), has formed a strategic alliance to provide education and training on respect and inclusion in the workplace.

“Athlete Ally will work not only with players, but also with front office personnel on these issues,” MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred said.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig also named former outfielder Billy Bean, who came out after he retired, as the league’s first ambassador for inclusion.

“We’re not here to change the way people think—We’re here to give them the opportunity to make the best decision,” Bean said. “This is not a desire to find out information about players or encourage them to do something they’re not ready to do. It’s to protect them and let them make their own decisions and be the best players they can be.”

Selig was joined in the announcement by Lutha Burke, sister of late major league outfielder Glenn Burke who came out to his teammates and team owners during his time with the Dodgers, but didn’t come out publicly until two years after leaving the game.

Selig told reporters he wished “our game had someone in place to whom Billy and Glenn could have turned when they played; a friend, listener, a source of support.”

CDC reveals LGBT health survey results

On Tuesday, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) released data from the National Health Interview Summary, the government’s premier tool for assessing Americans’ health and behaviors. For the first time, the annual survey included a question regarding sexual orientation, allowing researchers to examine how one’s sexual preference may affect health-related behaviors or status.

In the survey, only 2.3 percent of respondents identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Another 1.1 percent indicated they were “something else” or “didn’t know the answer” and 96.6 percent identified as straight.

Data indicated higher rates of cigarette smoking and binge drinking among the LGB population as compared to straight people, as well as higher rates of serious psychological stress among bisexuals.

Some LGB health advocates have questioned the CDC survey figures, noting that the 2.3 percent identifying as LGB is slightly lower than other recent surveys, such as a 2012 Gallup Poll in which 3-4 percent of those surveyed identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual. The CDC health data was collected in face-to-face interviews, a setting in which respondents may be less likely to openly reveal their orientation.

David Mariner, executive director of the Washington, D.C., Center for the LGBT Community, told USA Today, “”I think regardless of whether the number is this number or higher, we’re still talking about millions of Americans that are disproportionately affected by a lot of health indicators.”

St. Louis cop sentenced for harassing LGBT couple

Former St. Louis police officer Jeffrey Leveque was sentenced this week after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of harassing an LGBT couple last January.

Leveque, 45, was accused of accosting Meg Hensley and her transgender male partner Kendan Elliott, over the display of a gay pride rainbow flag. Leveque and another man parked outside the couple’s home and yelled threateningly at them as they tried to leave for work.

According to court documents, Leveque was sentenced to one year of supervised probation and could face six months in prison if he violates the terms of his probation.

According to the St. Louis Dispath, Leveque served with the St. Louis Police Department from 2001 to 2004 before resigning while under investigation by Internal Affairs for an unspecified allegation.

Lesbian sheriff candidate in New Mexico dies suddenly

Mylessa Denny, an openly lesbian deputy sheriff in New Mexico who received statewide attention for her bid to become the first elected female sheriff in the state since the 1960s, died suddenly Tuesday. New Mexico State Police believe a “medical episode” contributed to Denny’s death.

Denny, 39, was found on the ground next to her squad car shortly after completing her shift at 4p.m., apparently having collapsed as she was getting into the car.

Sheriff Dennis Cleaver said, “It’s a terrible shock for our department and our community … We’re all in shock.”

In a recent interview, Denny, a U.S. Army veteran said, “I don’t have an agenda. I am openly gay, which is kind of odd for a small town. I believe you should run on how well you can do the job and not the fact that you are male, female or gay.”

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