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Oklahoma school superintendent’s anti-transgender comments emerge in light of nonbinary teen’s death: New details have emerged about context surrounding the Feb. 8 death of a nonbinary teen in a small Oklahoma town, who passed away a day after they were beaten by older classmates in an Owassa school restroom.  Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters publicly condemned transgender people last year, calling being transgender “an assault on the truth,” reports The Daily Dot. Last month, Walters also appointed the founder of Libs of TikTok, a conservative organization also considered anti-transgender, to a library advisory board, reports the Associated Press. In addition, the family of Owassa teen Nex Benedict, who died after twice being taken to the hospital following the beating, has released screen shots of messages sent by Benedict the night before their passing. Fox23 reports that Benedict texted a family member that they had been jumped by three girls in the bathroom after Benedict poured water on the girls in retaliation for the girls’ bullying of Nex and their friends.  Benedict’s death has received national focus after social media posts suggested the youth’s death was related to their nonbinary identification, and a flood of anti-transgender legislation proposed and passed nationwide this year and last year. A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family and had raised almost $50,000 as of Wednesday morning.

Kansas City shooting of 20 allegedly committed by two men angry at looking at each other: Two men who got into an argument for looking at each other have been arrested and charged with murder for shootings at a Super Bowl celebration parade that killed a popular local DJ and injured 20 others, reports NBC News. Dominic M. Miller of Kansas City and Lyndell Mays of Raytown are accused of pulling guns from their backpacks and shooting at each other, striking each other and others, after arguing about “why they were staring at each other,” investigators announced Tuesday. Meanwhile, another man falsely accused of being part of the shooting, and of being an “illegal alien,” is holding press conferences to try and clear his name, reports News One. Denton Loudermill has been receiving death threats since Feb. 14, when Tennessee Congressman Tim Burchett (R) circulated a photo of Loudermill being arrested for public intoxication and portrayed him as an “illegal alien” being arrested for the Kansas City shooting. “Help us save his life,” said Loudermill’s attorney in pleading with the public to help correct the erroneous information spread by Burchett and several other Republican lawmakers.

Iowa activists sound alarm on Religious Freedom Restoration Act: A bill that applies an existing 1993 federal “religious freedom” act at the state level in Iowa advanced through the Iowa Senate Tuesday, triggering concerns by LGBTQ activists that the law may open the door for discrimination against people because of sexual or gender identity, reports Iowa Capitol Dispatch. Though the bill’s sponsor said research shows the act has never been used at the federal or state level to target LGBTQ+ people, Democrats called the bill a “license to discriminate.” The bill was approved along party lines, with all 31 Republicans voting for it and all 16 Democrats voting against it, reports the Dispatch. It now heads to the House for debate. Nationwide, 23 states including Illinois already have Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, in addition to the federal act.

Polysubstance use becoming more common in “fourth wave” of addiction: More than 90 percent of people in treatment for drug addiction who had fentanyl in their system also showed traces of methamphetamines, heroine, cocaine, or prescription opioids, reports KFF Health News. In addition, methamphetamine — especially dangerous because of its high addictive potential and how it affects breathing and the brain — was found in 60% of those who tested positive for fentanyl. The study involved urine samples of more than 4 million in drug treatment. The presence of multiple substances presents challenges

Columbia is now Missouri’s second LGBTQ+ sanctuary city: Columbia’s city council voted Monday 6-1 to follow Kansas City in offering a “sanctuary” for LGBTQ+ people, a distinction that means publicly and openly “deprioritizing” the enforcement of state laws that disproportionately impact LGBTQ people, writes The Columbia Daily Tribune. Some examples of anti-LGBTQ laws that will not be enforced in because of the new law include transgender health care restrictions; laws that ban people from using the bathroom of their declared identity rather than their birth identity; and drag performance restrictions.

Starbucks launches accessibility campaign: Better sound and lighting, power-operated doors, equipment that is easier for employees to access, and easy-access countertops are among the changse Starbucks is making so that its locations are more accessible to people with physical limitations, reports Forbes. The changes will be included in all new and remodeled locations and were introduced in a Washington, D.C., location last month.


(cover photo features a map of Missouri showing the LGBTQ sanctuary cities Columbia and Kansas City, and Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)