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Will session expire before Uganda acts on anti-gay bill?

AP report saying death penalty no longer in bill disputed; Citi and Barclays weigh in

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Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality (photo courtesy of Council for Global Equality)

A new hope is emerging that the legislative session for Uganda’s parliament will expire before lawmakers take action on a draconian anti-gay bill amid new developments related to the legislation on Friday in various parts of the world.

LGBT advocates had previously said the parliament as soon as this week would take up the anti-gay legislation, which would institute a sentence of life prison for homosexual acts and perhaps in some cases the death penalty. The bill would also prohibit the promotion of LGBT rights and fine or jail certain individuals who neglect to report gay people to the authorities.

However, those fears were abated after Parliament Speaker Kadaga Rebecca reportedly suspended sessions this week after a raucous that broke out over an unrelated bill about authority on petroleum agreements.

Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said parliament may come into session again at the start next week, but the oil bill and not the anti-gay bill would likely be the first order the business.

“The parliament is still suspended,” Bromley said. “My understanding is the speaker asked for a report on the raucous two days and that report should go to her on Monday, so I think there’s a chance the parliament might come back into session on Monday, and if so, the expectation is that they will continue with the oil bill, which is still quite contentious and could take up a certain amount time.”

LGBT advocates had been hoping the legislative session for the Ugandan parliament would expire on Dec. 14 before lawmakers have an opportunity to take up the anti-gay bill. Kadaga, a supporter of the legislation, has said Uganda wants to see the legislation passed as a Christmas present.

Bromley expressed hope that these difficulties facing the parliament may mean the legislature won’t take action on the anti-gay bill.

“It’s dangerous to predict anything and certainly the bill is dangerous enough and popular enough that we shouldn’t let our guard down,” Bromley said. “But I think given the intense debate and some of the procedural hurdles that still remain in front of the anti-homosexuality bill, I think there is at least a hope that it could be delayed until after the holiday, which would advocates on the ground and elsewhere more time to really try to make a persuasive case for the parliament to drop the bill altogether.”

Bahati quoted as saying death penalty removed, but report meets skepticism

Perhaps the most noteworthy development on Friday was a report from the Associated Press in which David Bahati, the author of the legislation, asserted the controversial death penalty provision had been removed from the bill.

Parliamentarian David Bahati said the bill, which is expected to be voted on next month, had “moved away from the death penalty after considering all the issues that have been raised.”

“There is no death penalty,” he told The Associated Press.

Bahati said the bill now focuses on protecting children from gay pornography, banning gay marriage, counseling gays, as well as punishing those who promote gay culture. Jail terms are prescribed for various offenses, he said, offering no details. The most recent version of the bill hasn’t been publicly released.

In response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade, Hillary Renner, a State Department spokesperson for African affairs, said she’s unable to confirm the death penalty was dropped and referred to the Uganda government from more information.

“With or without the inclusion of the death penalty, we have made clear on numerous occasions that the United States opposes the anti-homosexuality bill,” Renner added. “The bill is currently in committee and has not reached the full parliament for consideration. As with all domestic legislation, it is up to the Ugandan parliament to determine whether to approve this bill.”

Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway took issue with reporting and — in a blog post titled “AP Is Wrong: Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Still Has The Death Penalty” — warned readers not to believe the report because the only full parliament has the authority to change the bill. Earlier this week, a source at the U.S. embassy in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, told the Blade the committee doesn’t have authority to change the bill or remove its death penalty and can only make recommendations for the full parliament to consider.

Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out, a grassroots organization in the United States drawing attention to the anti-gay bill, was among those expressing skepticism that the death penalty provision has in fact been removed.

“David Bahati is one of the architects of Uganda’s anti-gay bill,” Banks said. “Bahati told the AP the death penalty was removed from the bill, yet no one has actually seen the latest version of the bill to confirm Bahati’s claim, Until we see the bill, and it has moved out of a committee that actually has the power to make substantive changes, we must assume the worst.”

Germany suspends foreign aid to Uganda for structural assistance

Another news development took place in Germany where Dirk Niebel, the country’s minister of Economic Cooperation & Development, reportedly said it is suspending foreign aid for Uganda for three years as result of reports of misuse of 13 million euros in foreign funds.

German funds weren’t affected, and other concerns, such as the misuse of funds and violence in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, are the reason. Nonetheless Niebel cites the anti-homosexuality bill as a reason for concern.

Via Google Translate, Niebel is quoted as saying, “We are concerned that the debate about a tightening of legislation against homosexuals in Uganda resurgence Who fired the debate in Uganda, know the needs that he so the international image of the country causing damage Should human rights discrimination in.. Ugandan Parliament be adopted, it could not remain without consequences for our cooperation.”

Bromley clarified these cuts are related to structural assistance only and wouldn’t affect certain programs.

“My understanding is that the German government decided to cut direct structural assistance from Germany to the government to the government of Uganda, but that their investments in development and other programs will continue,” Bromley said. “So, it’s not an across-the-board cut, but it’s a temporary suspension of direct structural assistance to the government.”

Britain, Sweden and the European Union have also threatened to cut foreign aid from Uganda directly as result of the anti-gay bill if it’s passed into law. U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Scott DeLisi was quoted in a Uganda paper as saying foreign aid won’t be cut to Uganda as a result of the reported misuse of funds, but the United States hasn’t weighed in on cuts as a result of the anti-gay legislation.

Citi, Barclays respond to calls for them to condemn anti-gay bill

Two financial institutions with significant investments in Uganda have also weighed in on the anti-gay petition, although advocates who were seeking statements from the companies say a greater public outcry is needed.

David Roskin, a Citi spokesperson, delivered the response to the Blade via email in response to Change.org petition asking Citibank – as well as Barclays — to speak out publicly against the legislation. As of Friday, the online petition had more than 513,000 signatures.

“While the laws and cultural norms in some countries where Citi operates differ from commonly accepted global standards for human rights, Citi supports equality without regard for race, gender, disability, age, nationality, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics,” Roskin said.

The response makes no direct mention of the anti-gay bill in Uganda. Asked in a follow-up email whether this response mean Citi opposes the anti-gay Uganda legislation, Roskin referred to earlier his statement.

A Change.org statement published on Friday also includes a statement from Barclays saying the company is “engaging at appropriate levels of the Ugandan government” with respect to the anti-gay legislation.

“Barclays has a strong history of supporting all aspects of diversity, both in the workplace and in wider society. Equally, we are proud of playing our part in the development of economies across Africa, and the key role Barclays plays in the lives of millions of our African customers.”

“Barclays is aware of the proposed legislation relating to homosexuality in Uganda and we are engaging at appropriate levels of the Ugandan Government to express our views.”

According to Change.org, Citibank has almost $300 million in assets invested in Uganda and is a major leader in a U.S. Chamber of Commerce based in Kampala. Barclays, Uganda’s third largest bank, has more than 1,000 employees and 51 branches throughout the country.

Collin Burton, a Citibank customer who launched the petition, rebuked the companies for the response — calling the Citi statement “dismissive” and “contradictory” — and said the company needs to come out more explicitly against the legislation.

“I’m disappointed that Citi delivered a dismissive statement that is not only contradictory in its very nature, but also serves as a reminder that Citi’s refusal to speak boldly on the issue poses a very real and dangerous threat to LGBT Ugandans, many of whom are also Citi customers,” Burton said. “I encourage Citibank and Barclays officials to live the values of equality outlined in their non-discrimination policies and courageously come out in staunch opposition to the Ugandan ‘Kill The Gays’ Bill. Their corporate voices will positively amplify those of the over 500,000 global citizens who have already spoken out by signing the petition.”

Asked whether he’ll continue to bank at Citi, Burton replied, “I’ll make that decision based upon the final outcome of our efforts.”

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

Equality Florida quickly condemned the measure

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The Florida State Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Republican majority Florida House Education and Employment Committee on Thursday passed House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion bill, Senate Bill 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23 percent lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Los Angeles Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the press secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85 percent of transgender and non-binary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66 percent) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56 percent of transgender and non-binary youth said it made them feel angry, 47 percent felt nervous and/or scared, 45 percent felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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NCAA adopts new policy amid fervor over transgender athletes

Sport-by-sport approach requires certain levels of testosterone

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NCAA, gay news, Washington Blade
The NCAA has adopted new policy amid a fervor over transgender athletes.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced it has adopted new procedures on competition of transgender athletes, creating a “sport-by-sport” approach that also requires documentation of testosterone levels across the board amid a fervor of recently transitioned swimmers breaking records in women’s athletics.

The NCAA said in a statement its board of governors voted on Wednesday in support of the “sport-by-sport” approach, which the organization says “preserves opportunity for transgender student-athletes while balancing fairness, inclusion and safety for all who compete.”

Although the policy defers to the national governing bodies for individual sports, it also requires transgender athletes to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections. The new policy, which consistent with rules for the U.S. Olympics, is effective 2022, although implementation is set to begin with the 2023-24 academic year, the organization says.

John DeGioia, chair of the NCAA board and Georgetown president, said in a statement the organization is “steadfast in our support of transgender student-athletes and the fostering of fairness across college sports.”

“It is important that NCAA member schools, conferences and college athletes compete in an inclusive, fair, safe and respectful environment and can move forward with a clear understanding of the new policy,” DeGioia said.

More specifically, starting with the 2022-23 academic year, transgender athletes will need to document sport-specific testosterone levels beginning four weeks before their sport’s championship selections, the organizational. These athletes, according to the NCAA, are also required to document testosterone levels four weeks before championship selections.

In terms of jurisdiction, the national governing bodies for individual sports are charged determines policies, which would be under ongoing review and recommendation by the NCAA, the organizational says. If there is no policy for a sport, that sport’s international federation policy or previously established International Olympics Committee policy criteria would be followed.

The NCAA adopts the policy amid controversy over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas smashing records in women’s swimming. Thomas, which once competed as a man, smashed two national records and in the 1,650-yard freestyle placed 38 seconds ahead of closest competition. The new NCAA policy appears effectively to sideline Thomas, who has recently transitioned and unable to show consistent levels of testosterone.

Prior to the NCAA announcement, a coalition of 16 LGBTQ groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Athlete Ally, this week sent to a letter to the collegiate organization, urging the organizations strengthen non-discrimination protections as opposed to weakening them. The new policy, however, appears to head in other direction, which the LGBTQ groups rejected in the letter.

“While decentralizing the NCAA and giving power to conferences and schools has its benefits, we are concerned that leaving the enforcement of non-discrimination protections to schools will create a patchwork of protections rather than a comprehensive policy that would protect all athletes, no matter where they play,” the letter says. “This would be similar to the patchwork of non-discrimination policies in states, where marginalized groups in some states or cities are protected while others are left behind by localities that opt not to enact inclusive policies.”

JoDee Winterhof, vice president of policy and political affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement after the NCAA announcement the new policy was effectively passing the buck.

“If the NCAA is committed to ensuring an environment of competition that is safe, healthy, and free from discrimination, they cannot dodge the question of how to ensure transgender athletes can participate safely,” Winterhof said. “That is precisely why we and a number of organizations across a wide spectrum of advocates are urging them to readopt and strengthen non-discrimination language in their constitution to ensure the Association is committed to enforcing the level playing field and inclusive policies they say their values require. Any policy language is only as effective as it is enforceable, and with states passing anti-transgender sports bans, any inclusive policy is under immediate threat. We are still reviewing the NCAA’s new policy on transgender inclusion and how it will impact each and every transgender athlete.”

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Transgender rights group’s Los Angeles office receives bomb threat

[email protected] Coalition evacuated

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(Public domain photo)

A bomb threat was phoned in Wednesday afternoon to the Wilshire Boulevard Koreatown offices of the [email protected] Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, the president and CEO of the non-profit organization told the Los Angeles Blade.

According to Salcedo, an unidentified male caller told the staff person who answered at approximately 3 p.m., while delivering the threat said; “You’re all going to die.” The staff immediately evacuated everyone from their offices and then contacted the Los Angeles Police Department for assistance.

Officers, specialists and detectives from the Rampart Division of the LAPD responded and swept the building. A spokesperson for the LAPD confirmed that the incident is under active investigation but would make no further comment.

On a Facebook post immediately after the incident the non-profit wrote; “To ensure the safety of our clients and staff members, we ask that you please NOT come to our office.”

In a follow-up post, Salcedo notified the organization and its clientele that the LAPD had given the all-clear and that their offices would resume normal operations Thursday at 9:00 a.m. PT.

“Thank you for your messages and concern for our staff and community,” Salcedo said.

“No amount of threats can stop us from our commitment to the TGI community,” she added.

The [email protected] Coalition was founded in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles as a grassroots response to address the specific needs of TGI Latino immigrants who live in the U.S.

Since then, the agency has become a nationally recognized organization with representation in 10 different states across the U.S. and provides direct services to TGI individuals in Los Angeles.

In 2015, the [email protected] Coalition identified the urgent need to provide direct services to empower TGI people in response to structural, institutional, and interpersonal violence, and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness was born.

Since then, the organization has secured funding from the state and local government sources as well as several private foundations and organizations to provide direct services to all TGI individuals in Los Angeles County.

The [email protected] Coalition’s primary focus is to change the landscape of access to services for TGI people and provide access to comprehensive resource and services that will improve the quality of life of TGI people.

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