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Gays in Egypt join anti-gov’t protests

Activists hopeful ‘revolution’ will improve conditions for LGBT citizens

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A large number of LGBT Egyptians have joined the massive street protests in Cairo and other cities and are in full solidarity with calls for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the creation of a new democratic government in Egypt, according to a gay human rights activist.

Scott Long, former LGBT coordinator for Human Rights Watch, an international human rights group, said he has been in contact with gay Egyptians over the past week.

Many have informed him that LGBT people are among the hundreds of thousands who have assembled in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand an end to what they view as an oppressive government that has persecuted a diverse segment of the population, including gays, lesbians and transgender people.

“There are LGBT people marching and joining the protests, not as LGBT people,” Long said. “They’re not marching under a rainbow flag. But certainly friends of mine are out there.”

Long said at least two gay men he knows were arrested in the first street protest in Cairo on Jan. 25 — not for being gay but on a charge of disturbing the peace. Authorities arrested protesters on that charge in an initial attempt to stop the demonstrations last week before determining they were too large to control.

“I’m impressed by the bravery of everyone in Egypt,” he said. “But also by the bravery of LGBT people who are standing with the rest of the opposition. And beyond that, I don’t think anybody knows what will happen in the future.”

Long currently serves as a senior fellow at Columbia University School of Law’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

In 2004, while with Human Rights Watch, he was the principal author of a lengthy report on anti-gay persecution in Egypt that the group published in English and Arabic. The Arabic edition of the report received 80,000 individual visits on the Human Rights Watch website in the first year it was released, Long said.

Among other things, the report said well over 1,000 gay men had been arrested in cities and towns throughout Egypt between 2001 and 2004 in a crackdown against LGBT people.

“We documented hundreds of arrests,” Long said. “I would say that probably thousands of people were arrested in raids on private homes and through entrapment over the Internet.”

Long and others monitoring the rapidly changing developments in Egypt this week have said the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization considered to be the most organized opposition group to the Mubarak government, bills itself as a fundamentalist faction that would never embrace LGBT rights.

But Long said the Muslim Brotherhood is not an extremist entity like the Taliban is in Afghanistan and is expected to join a coalition of mostly secular factions to form an interim government should Mubarak agree to resign.

“The Brotherhood joined the opposition movement late,” he said. The opposition on the streets is being led by young secular leftists. I don’t think the Brotherhood can stake a claim to being the leader of this revolution.”

Pro-Democracy activists in Egypt have been pushing for Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize winner and former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei to become the head of a transition government.

“ElBaradei, who everyone hopes will become the transition president, is a secular, liberal figure,” Long said. “I think he’s a good man.”

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have spoken out in the past for human rights protections for LGBT people throughout the world. It could not be immediately determined whether the Obama administration would push for human rights protections for LGBT people in Egypt as part of his behind-the-scenes effort to persuade Mubarak to resign and his call for immediate democratic reforms in Egypt.

The 2004 Human Rights Watch report said authorities charged the mostly gay men ensnared in the anti-gay crackdown with violating a provision in Egypt’s anti-prostitution law that prohibits the “habitual practice of debauchery.”

According to Long, Egyptian courts interpreted the sweeping law to cover consensual, non-commercial sexual relations between people of the same sex. He said police used the law to arrest gays, even though it was clear that the men charged were not engaging in prostitution.

The report also documented widespread use of torture against the gay men arrested in the crackdown, with many of them sent to the same police detention centers known for physical abuse of political prisoners that Egyptians participating in the past week’s protests have denounced.

Following a 2004 news conference in Cairo called to release the Human Rights Watch report, the anti-gay crackdown stopped, Long said. He said “debauchery” related arrests of gays resumed to a lesser degree in 2008 after authorities alleged that gay men with AIDS were endangering the public by engaging in promiscuous sex. Long said those arrests subsided a short time later.

“I think the accounts of torture we gave in the report really did have an effect on average Egyptians’ perceptions of homosexuality,” Long said. “We made a very deliberate decision to frame it as a report about part of the ongoing torture crisis in Egypt. They understood that gays are people like them, subject to similar fears of police brutality and arbitrary state actions.”

Long said that although the anti-gay crackdown begun in 2004 was precipitated, in part, by pressure from Islamic leaders to curtail homosexuality, he said sources familiar with Egyptian politics believe Mubarak himself started the crackdown in an attempt to go after an opposing political faction.

“I’ve never gone on the record with this before but will now,” Long said. “There were widespread rumors that Gamal Mubarak, Mubarak’s son whom he was trying to anoint as his successor, was gay. And the first people arrested in the crackdown were relatives of another leading family in Egypt whom the Mubaraks suspected of having spread this rumor.”

Long noted that the rival family members arrested on homosexuality related charges were on board the Queen Boat, a commercial entertainment vessel on the Nile River that was known to host gay parties. The so-called “Queen Boat” raid marked the start of the 2004 crackdown against gays in Egypt.

“I think the whole thing started as a kind of political ploy to send a message that you don’t insult Gamal Mubarak,” Long said. “And after that, police officers across the country got the message that, well, cracking down on these people is a good thing to do. It’s good for your career, and so the crackdown spread.”

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National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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Mississippi

Art used to spotlight people of color lost to AIDS in the South

National AIDS Memorial, Southern AIDS Coalition created Change the Pattern exhibit

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The National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition have announced a new initiative to raise awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS among communities of color in the South. (Photo courtesy of the National AIDS Memorial)

The National AIDS Memorial has joined forces with the Southern AIDS Coalition to stage a series of art exhibitions and educational forums to honor Black and Brown people in the South who have been lost to HIV/AIDS.

The initiative, titled Change the Pattern, began in Jackson, Miss., on Wednesday with curated quilt exhibitions, displays, educational forums, advocacy, storytelling and quilt-making, according to a press release from the National AIDS Memorial. A $2.4 million grant from the biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., funded Change the Pattern.

More than 500 hand-stitched quilt panels from the area were featured in what the National AIDS Memorial says is “the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever” in Mississippi.

“By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas and continue the legacy of advocacy that the quilt represents,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in the release. 

Change the Pattern was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium that took place in August. 

The conference, which was heavily attended by LGBTQ activists from the South, featured 100 quilt panels, and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new quilt panels representing their loved ones.

Interested LGBTQ advocacy organizations in the South were invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities so as to ensure that the legacies of Black and Brown people are captured through newly-sewn panels on the quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program, according to the National AIDS Memorial press release. 

The application process opened on Sept. 15 with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving as much as $5,000 to support hosting local workshops. 

The first major Change the Pattern Quilt was founded 35 years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS, according to Southern AIDS Coalition Executive Director Dafina Ward.

“Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Ward. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”

As the Change the Pattern initiative occurs, conversations about how to handle health epidemics within LGBTQ communities of color have become national topics, especially with the prevalence of monkeypox cases amongst Black gay men.

Despite earlier panic about the disease, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a report released on Wednesday said that individuals who were vaccinated against the disease were less likely to be affected over the summer compared to those who weren’t. 

The effectiveness and duration of immunity after a single dose, however, is not known, and few individuals in the current outbreak have completed the recommended two-dose series, according to the report. 

The most recent CDC data reports that 25,509 monkeypox cases have thus far been confirmed in the U.S. Only one death has been reported.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Doctor, transgender spouse indicted for passing information to Russia

Jamie Lee Henry first active-duty Army officer to come out as trans

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Jamie Lee Henry and their spouse Anna Gabrielian (Photos from social media)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday handed down an indictment of a Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist and her spouse, a doctor and major in the U.S. Army, with conspiracy and for the disclosure of individually identifiable health information related to their efforts to assist Russia in connection with the conflict in Ukraine.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland in a press release stated Anna Gabrielian, 36, and her spouse, Jamie Lee Henry, 39, both of Rockville, Md., both of whom had secret clearances, were attempting to provide medical information about members of the military to the Russian government.

Gabrielian and Henry met with an individual they believed to be associated with the Russian government, but who was, in fact, an Federal Bureau of Investigation Undercover Agent.

Court documents indicate Gabrielian told the FBI agent posing as a Russian operative that she had previously reached out to the Russian Embassy by email and phone, offering Russia her and her spouses’ assistance.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Gabrielian told the FBI agent that, although Henry knew of Gabrielian’s interaction with the Russian Embassy, she never mentioned Henry’s name to the Russian Embassy.

In the narrative released by the U.S. Attorney’s office, on Aug. 17, 2022, Gabrielian met with the FBI at a hotel in Baltimore. During that meeting, Gabrielian told the FBI she was motivated by patriotism toward Russia to provide any assistance she could to Russia, even if it meant being fired or going to jail. 

She proposed potential cover stories for her meeting with the “Russians” and stressed the need for “plausible deniability” in the event she was confronted by American authorities. Gabrielian also told the FBI that, as a military officer, Henry was currently a more important source for Russia than she was, because they had more helpful information, including how the U.S. military establishes an army hospital in war conditions and information about previous training provided by the U.S. military to Ukrainian military personnel. 

Henry identifies as a “transgender military physician” on their Twitter account.

Henry received public attention in 2015 after becoming the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as trans.

Henry was at one point a member of SPARTA, the nation’s largest nonprofit representing actively-serving trans U.S. servicemembers. A spokesperson for SPARTA, in an emailed statement commenting on the announcement of the arrest and indictment of Henry and their spouse told the Washington Blade:

“Transgender people are as diverse as the societies to which they belong. One’s gender identity neither increases nor decreases a propensity towards alleged criminal activity.”

As stated in the indictment, Gabrielian is an anesthesiologist and worked at Medical Institution 1 in Baltimore.  

Henry, a major in the U.S. Army who held a secret-level security clearance, is Gabrielian’s spouse and a doctor. During the time of the alleged conspiracy, Henry worked as a staff internist stationed at Fort Bragg, the home of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, headquarters of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the Womack Army Medical Center.

Gabrielian was scheduled to have initial appearance at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brendan A. Hurson. Henry is also expected to have an initial appearance today, although a time has not yet been set.

Full statement from SPARTA:

“SPARTA, a non-profit advocacy organization representing transgender Service members in the United States, is saddened to learn of the arrest and indictment of Jamie Lee Henry, an officer in the U.S. Army and a medical doctor.

SPARTA has long advocated for the inclusion and total equity for transgender persons throughout the United States uniformed services. Today, thousands are serving honorably and authentically at home stations worldwide.

The actions alleged in the indictment do not reflect Henry’s identity as transgender. Their alleged actions are those of an individual and should not be taken as a representation of transgender people broadly or transgender members of the military specifically.

All people in the United States are entitled to the same rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence in this case. SPARTA does not condone any actions alleged in the indictment and expects the process to play out fairly and equitably as it would for anyone accused of a crime.”

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