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Gay advocates outside U.S. welcome Obama’s inaugural address

Activists say it reaffirms administration’s commitment to LGBT rights.

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Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade
Barack Obama, Inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama made history by including gays and lesbians in his 2013 inaugural address in two instances. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT advocates around the world continue to praise President Obama for including gays and lesbians in his second inaugural address.

Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals or ABGLT in Portuguese, described the specific references to the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and “our gay brothers and sisters” as a “bold stance.”

“May the position you have taken publicly serve as an example for many politicians who are our allies but who remain in the closet when it comes to defending our rights publicly, or those that yield to political pressure from leaders opposed to gay rights and veto affirmative public policies for the LGBT population in exchange for political support,” he said in a press release. “Your gesture has demonstrated the importance of taking a firm and unambiguous position.”

Simón Cazal, chief executive officer of Somosgay, an LGBT advocacy organization in Paraguay, also applauded the president’s speech.

“President Obama’s declarations were received with much happiness in Paraguay because of the positive global impact they have on the LGBT movement,” he told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “It gives hope to activists in countries where we confront violence and even death for simply being who we are.”

LGBT rights around the world became a cornerstone of the White House’s foreign policy during the president’s first term.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Dec. 2011 declared “gay rights are human rights” during a landmark speech in Geneva that commemorated International Human Rights Day. The White House on the same day released a presidential memo that directed agencies responsible for American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights.

The State Department has also spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Honduras, Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries — Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha is among those Clinton honored at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the East African country’s capital, in August.

The former First Lady also spoke at the International AIDS Conference that took place last summer in D.C.

“Both achievements and failures in LGBT rights issues of America and other developed countries are often watched closely by emerging, young LGBT communities such as [the] LGBT Centre of Mongolia,” Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel, the group’s executive director, told the Blade in reference to Clinton’s speech in Geneva. “This time we are proud of Mr. Barack Obama who is in sync with the voice for equal rights and justice for all human beings. Mongolia — a small but ambitious nomadic mentality between two big powers — has been attempting to adopt democratic principles, values and ways of thinking into its post-socialistic transitional society and the United States of America is our third ally and definitely a role model of democracy.”

The president’s second inaugural speech also coincided with same-sex marriage debates that are currently underway in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, México and other countries.

New Zealand Parliamentarian Louisa Wall told the Blade she feels media coverage of the speech in her country “is contributing positively to the marriage equality debate” there.

“His words spoke to the heart of national identity based on passed social developments — all of us are created equal — recounting Seneca Falls, the evolution of women’s rights, Selma, [the] evolution of racial equality and Stonewall, the beginning of the evolution of the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s to live open and honest lives,” she said. “Marriage equality will fulfill the values envisaged in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — that all people have the ability to be born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

She added Obama’s LGBT-inclusive inaugural address reaffirm Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s previous comments against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“[For] President Obama to say ‘Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well’ enshrines his commitment to full equality and non-discrimination in this his second presidential term,” Wall said. “This leadership is clear and concise — a truth that Obama is completely committed to, that of one law for all and the belief in and realization of full equality, in status, rights and opportunities for all.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, who last October became Chile’s first openly gay candidate elected to office when he won a seat on the Providencia municipal council outside Santiago, the country’s capital, agreed.

“Today’s most important [world] leader is actually saying to the rest of us that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from discrimination and abuses motivated by sexual orientation,” he told the Blade. “This cannot be overlooked. We expect a lot from Obama’s second term on this matter and hope that this will be able to translate to the rest of the world.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

Jaime Parada Hoyl on Oct. 28 became Chile’s first openly gay candidate elected to office. (Photo courtesy of Jaime Parada Hoyl)

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South America

Colombia’s first leftist president takes office

Gustavo Petro has pledged to support LGBTQ, intersex rights

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Gustavo Petro took office as Colombia's first leftist president on Aug. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Colombian government)

Former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro on Sunday took office as Colombia’s first leftist president.

The former Colombian senator who was once a member of the M-19 guerrilla movement that disbanded in the 1990s, in June defeated former Bucaramanga Mayor Rodolfo Hernández in the second round of the country’s presidential election. Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez, on Sunday took office as Colombia’s first female vice president of African descent.

Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez. (Photo courtesy of Márquez’s Twitter page)

Petro before his inauguration named Néstor Osuna, an openly gay man, as the country’s new justice minister.

“I am honored and thankful to President Gustavo Petro for the appointment as Colombia’s justice minister,” tweeted Osuna on Sunday. “I commit myself to working with your team to achieve the change for which so many of our compatriots yearn.”

Petro in his inaugural speech did not specifically reference LGBTQ and intersex Colombians, but OrgulloLGBT.co, the Washington Blade’s media partner in the country, published pictures that show LGBTQ and intersex people were among those who attended the inauguration.

Petro during the campaign pledged to fight violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to implement policies “for the reaffirmation of gender and sexual orientation identities without barriers for all nonbinary and transgender people in Colombia.” Márquez noted LGBTQ and intersex Colombians after she and Petro won the election.

Wilson Castañeda, director of Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group in northern Colombia, told the Blade after Petro and Márquez won the election that the campaign held “various meetings” with advocacy groups. Castañeda also noted that Petro, among other things, named Tatiana Piñeros, a transgender woman, to run Bogotá’s social welfare and tourism office when he was mayor.

Castañeda and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power are among those who attended Sunday’s inauguration that took place in Bogotá’s Bolívar Square.

“Full squares; happy faces; the flags of Colombia, Bogotá; rural, indigenous and LGBTI communities received the president and the vice president in an emotive and historic act that inaugurated the first popular and leftist Colombian government,” tweeted Bogotá Mayor Claudia López on Sunday.

López is married to Angélica Lózano, a bisexual woman who in 2018 became the first LGBTQ and intersex person elected to the Colombian Senate.

Lozano in March won re-election in the country’s national elections. Colombians also elected five openly LGBTQ and intersex people to the country’s House of Representatives.

Tamara Argote in March became the first non-binary person elected to the Colombian Congress.

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Africa

Landmark intersex rights law takes effect in Kenya

Activists praise Children Act 2022

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(Photo courtesy of Rarrarorro via Bigstock)

A new law that took effect late last month in Kenya has granted equal rights and recognition to intersex people 

Intersex people are now recognized as Kenya’s third gender with an ‘I’ gender marker in response to the Children Act 2022. Kenya is the first African country that has granted the intersex community this universal right.

The new law requires intersex children to be treated with dignity and have equal access to basic services like medical treatment and education, in addition to social protection services as a special need. It also requires the accomodation of intersex children in child protection centers and other facilities.

Courts are also required to consider the needs of intersex children who are on trial — including the calling of an expert witness — before they issue any ruling. The law further stipulates that anyone can be a foster parent without restrictions of gender, age or marital status.

It also protects intersex children from so-called sex normalization surgeries, and such procedures will only be done with a doctor’s recommendation. Those who violate the law will face at least three years in jail and a fine of at least $5,000.

“This is a great and major milestone globally for Kenya. We are now way ahead and can teach our neighbors and the whole globe good practices,” said Jedidah Wakonyo, a human rights lawyer and former chair of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya

The long journey for recognition started dramatically in 2006 when some human rights organizations petitioned courts about a detainee who had been accused of a violent robbery.

Authorities perceived the suspect was a man after police strip-searched him before he entered prison.

This followed numerous court battles by intersex people who demanded the right to recognition as another gender in their birth certificates.

Being denied birth certificates from the discriminatiory law that only recognized male and female genders further limited their access to national identity cards, passports and other crucial documents and government services.      

The Births and Deaths Registration Act under the new law’s Section 7 (3) “shall take measures to ensure correct documentation and registration of intersex children at birth.” 

Intersex people commonly have a combination of male and female gonads (ovaries or testicles) or ambiguous genitalia. 

Wakonyo, who also chaired the Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee and was named the International Court of Justice’s 2020 jurist of the year, describes the law’s enactment as a historic moment because of its comprehensive definition of an intersex person.

It defines an intersex child as “a child with a congenital condition in which the biological sex characteristics cannot be exclusively categorized in the common binary of female or male due to inherent and mixed anatomical, hormonal, gonadal or chromosomal patterns which could be apparent before, at birth, in childhood, puberty or adulthood.”

Kenyan law considers anyone under 17 to be a child.

“Defining an intersex from a child’s perspective while taking care of many aspects and not just the physical notion of being intersex is the best practice because in future they don’t find themselves in the state of gender confusion between males and females like the current situation,” stated Wakonyo. 

This provision essentially protects intersex persons from being deprived of their constitutional rights of gender recognition under the country’s Bill of Rights.

Veronica Mwangi, the deputy director at Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights, that helped secure the law’s implementation, said it addresses issues for which the intersex community has been fighting for years.    

“It is very progressive and we are glad about the gains because it provides for the existence of the intersex which all state actors have to accept. Full implementation is what we now need to focus on,” she said.

The law took effect roughly five years after Kenya became the first African nation and the second country in the world after Australia to count intersex people in a Census. The 2019 survey showed 1,524 Kenyans were intersex.

Intersex rights groups had initially petitioned the courts for a total ban of surgeries on intersex children unless they were a medical emergency.

Wakonyo backs the provision for a doctor’s approval on grounds that the surgeries will only be done “in the best interest of the intersex child, informed consent of the parents and the participation of the child depending on the age.” Wakonyo and other activists say the relaxation of the requirements for adopting intersex children not only seeks to end the problem of neglect and abandonment but also the stigma that has left some to die by suicide.

The law safeguards adoptive parents’ rights and parental responsibility and intersex children from child labor, online expuse and other forms of exploitation.

“Intersex children who are just like other children will no longer be killed at birth because of their gender ambiguity,” said Wakonyo.   

Despite the law’s huge benefits for the intersex community, Wakonyo notes it is a “very significant foundation” for the group because gender-specific accommodations in social gatherings and facilities remain needed.

Another historic win for intersex Kenyans this year was the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights’ decision to hire an intersex commissioner.

“Dr. Dennis Wamalwa applied as an intersex (person), interviewed as an intersex (person), and the shortlist comprised male, female, and ‘I’ gender for intersex. He emerged (at the) top and his intersex friends and associates came to witness his swearing,” stated Wakonyo, who also served as a Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights commissioner.

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Canada

Montreal Pride organizers cancel parade

A lack of security personnel prompted last-minute decision

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(Courtesy of 𝐅𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐭é 𝐌𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫é𝐚𝐥 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞/Facebook)

Citing a lack of adequate security personnel, the organizers of the Fierté Montréal Pride Parade abruptly cancelled Sunday’s parade. The event organizers told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the decision was made in collaboration with Montréal police.

CBC reported that other Pride events taking place at the Esplanade du Parc olympique from 2 p.m. local time, including the closing show with Pabllo Vittar, will go on as as planned. Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the parade.

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