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Patrick Smith wins International Mr. Leather 2015

May. 25, 2015 - , Patrick Smith, Mr. Los Angeles Leather 2015, was named International Mr. Leather 2015 at the 37th annual IML Competition in Chicago Sunday, May 24.

Over 2,000 leather enthusiasts packed The Harris Theatre for the annual competition. The night began with a speech from International Mr. Leather (IML) founder and producer Chuck Renslow, 75.

Renslow spoke in support of the Rainbow Railroad, a group that provides refuge to LGBT individuals living under constant threat of violence and death. A collection was taken to support the cause.

Over the past 37 years, nearly 2,000 men have competed for the title of International Mr. Leather. On Sunday, Smith became the 37th person to claim the coveted leather title.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Pierre bested a field of 49 contestants from 5 countries. Participants were judged on stage presence and personality ("pecs and personality"), leather image, presentation skills, and physical appearance.

Kevin Murphy, Mr. Leather Ireland 2015, was named 1st runner-up, and 2nd runner-up was Brian Donner, Mr. TriState Leather 2014.

Representing Chicago, Luis Tipantasig, Mr. Chicago Leather 2015, made it into the top 20 finalists round.

Bamm-Bamm from Phoenix was named International Mr. Bootblack 2015.

International Mr. Leather 2015, including the Leather Market (11 a.m. - 4 p.m.), continues through Monday, May 25, at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 520 S Michigan Ave.

"The market is the social hub of the weekend during the daytime,"  IML Executive Director Jon Krongaard explained to ChicagoPride.com. "People hang out, go shopping, start cruising and go hook up -- if they can take two minutes to look up from their phone," he laughed.

The official closing party, The Black and Blue Ball, begins at 8 p.m. Monday, May 25 at Sound-Bar, 226 W Ontario. DJ Barry Harris and DJ Steve Henderson will spin in the Sound-Bar Main Room, with DJ Milty Evans at the Y Bar Chicago (located next door) spinning in the Pregame Lounge from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

IML draws nearly 20,000 people annually to Chicago.

Photos: IML 2015 Victory Party 

Related: ChicagoPride.com community calendar

LGBT veterans to be honored with monument in national cemetery
May. 25, 2015 - , The first federally approved monument honoring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) veterans will be dedicated at 2 p.m.Memorial Day, Monday, May 25 at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, one hour southwest of Chicago.

The monument was made possible by the Chicago Chapter American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER). It is intended to redress the history of disregard and disrespect for LGBT veterans with a lasting symbol of recognition.

LGBT service members have served throughout the history of the U.S. military, some of that time under an outright ban supported by regulation and some under Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), a policy supported by law.

DADT was instituted by President Bill Clinton in late 1993, after the long-time anti-gay policy was challenged and became an issue of public debate. Before the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 was signed into law by President Barack Obama, nearly 14,000 services members were discharged. Work on open trans inclusion continues today as does work to reexamine and upgrade discharges made under DADT.

The monument will consist of a black granite center block holding a pink granite triangle, centered in a pink granite wall displaying, in bronze, the service seals of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. It will read: "Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have served honorably and admirably in America's armed forces. In their memory and appreciation of their selfless service and sacrifice, this monument was dedicated by Chicago Chapter American Veterans for Equal Rights 'AVER' ( ...with liberty and justice for all )."

The monument design and approval was spearheaded over several years by Stanley J. Jenczyk, junior board member of the Chicago chapter of the American Veteran's for Equal Rights ( AVER ) and was approved late last year by Ronald E. Walters, interim undersecretary for memorial affairs.

The ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. along and within the Memorial Walkway and will feature music by the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus; blessings from Rabbi Cindy Enger, Fr. Chris Myers and Rev. Wayne Bradley; remarks from elected officials, including former Governor Pat Quinn and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, and a Flag Line led by members of Organized Chaos Chicago ( OCC ), some of whom are active duty or veterans of the military.

A free bus will be provided,  boarding at 11:30 a.m. at the Center on Halsted on a first-come, first-served basis. Those wishing to ride may RSVP to jamesdarby@aol.com or (773)752-0058. No RSVP is needed to attend the ceremony.

From a press release

Illinois House passes conversion therapy ban, moves to Senate
May. 19, 2015 - , A bipartisan Illinois House majority on Tuesday approved a measure to protects minors from anti-gay "conversion therapy."  

House Bill 217, the Illinois Youth Mental Health Protection Act, passed 68-43 with sixty-one Democrats and seven Republicans, including the House Republican leader Rep. Jim Durkin, voting in favor. The measure was sponsored in the House by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, and now moves to the state Senate, where it is sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Biss.

Equality Illinois, the state's oldest and largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, is calling on the Illinois Senate to approve House Bill 217 before the scheduled May 31 adjournment of the General Assembly.  

"Ending conversion therapy is our top priority in the legislature right now. Trying to change the unchangeable, our innate sexual orientation and gender identity, should not be attempted because it risks the health of LGBT youth," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

"We thank Rep. Kelly Cassidy, the chief House sponsor of HB217, for protecting the young people of Illinois and advancing this important legislation, and Sen. Daniel Biss, who is now taking up the bill in the Senate," Cherkasov said.

Equality Illinois and allied organizations have held two meetings with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner about the issue, and he expressed concern about the therapy's effect on young people.

The bill prohibits licensed mental health care providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with anyone under the age of 18. Sexual orientation change efforts are defined by the bill as any treatment or practice that seeks to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Such practices can negatively impact the mental and physical health of LGBT youth. For instance, LGBT youth who experience rejection and social stigmatization are more likely to have high levels of depression, more likely to engage in substance abuse, and more likely to attempt suicide.

Every major mental health organization in Illinois supports HB 217, including the Illinois Psychological Association, Illinois Psychiatric Society, American Psychoanalytic Association, Illinois Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The legislation does not apply to religious leaders and would not impact the ability of clergy to practice their religion. Similar legislation is now law in California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia, and the Oregon legislature has sent a bill to the governor. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to the New Jersey law.

From news release.

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