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National gaze | April 9, 2015

Forced sterilization proposed in Tennessee plea deals

Prosecutors in Nashville, Tennessee, made sterilization of women part of plea negotiations at least four times in the past five years. The district attorney banned his staff from using the invasive surgery as a bargaining chip after the latest case.

In that case, first reported by The Tennessean, a woman with a 20-year history of mental illness was charged with neglect after her 5-day-old baby mysteriously died. Her defense attorney says the prosecutor assigned to the case wouldn’t go forward with a plea deal to keep the woman out of prison unless she had the surgery.

Defense attorneys say there have been at least three similar cases in the past five years, suggesting the practice may not be as rare as people think and may happen more often outside the public view and without the blessing of a court.

Blaze ruins historic gay resort on Fire Island

A blaze on Fire Island, New York, destroyed several structures, including two well-known landmarks in a historic gay resort, and required dozens of firefighters to respond by ferry from the mainland.

The fire, reported at about 1:30 a.m. on March 27, ruined an apartment complex known as Holly House, as well as the Grove Hotel, and left three firefighters with minor injuries.

A nightclub attached to the hotel called the Ice Palace avoided serious damage.

Cherry Grove has been known since the late 1940s as a sanctuary where gay writers, actors and businesspeople from New York City and beyond escape to relax, hold hands and show affection in public.

In other national news …

• LEAVE ON HOLD: U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked a recent rule change to the Family and Medical Leave Act from the U.S. Department of Labor. The decision prevents legally married same-sex couples in Texas from exercising their FMLA rights.

• SOUTH DAKOTA DESIST: A federal court ordered South Dakota officials to stop violating the rights of Indian parents and tribes in state child custody proceedings. The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and a Rapid City attorney on behalf of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The lawsuit charges that Native American children are being removed from their homes in hearings that lasted as little as 60 seconds and that parents have no chance to present evidence.

• Not going there: Nevada Republicans are dropping two proposed bills that would have added religious freedom protections to state law that critics have hounded as legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. Assemblyman Erv Nelson and Sen. Joe Hardy said they would no longer pursue passage of the bills, which contained language similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

• Paying it forward: Apple CEO Tim Cook, 54, is joining a list of magnates who plan on leaving their money to charities when they die. Cook, an out gay man, revealed his intentions during an interview with Fortune magazine. Cook said that after deducting the cost of a college education for his 10-year-old nephew, he’ll donate the rest of his money to philanthropic causes. The charitable commitment echoes pledges made by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, among others. Gates, Buffett and Ellison each have a net worth of at least $54 billion and rank among the five richest people in the world, according to Forbes magazine.

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