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Colombia marriage deadline approaches

Some notaries and judges will refuse to allow gays to register relationships

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Colombia, Senate, gay news, Washington Blade
Colombia, Senate, gay news, Washington Blade

The Colombian Senate (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Even though same-sex couples in Colombia will be able to legally register their relationships on Friday, it remains unclear whether some notaries and even judges will allow them to do so.

The country’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled gays and lesbians can legally register their relationships after June 20 if lawmakers failed to extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage. The Colombian Senate in April overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed same-sex couples to tie the knot in the South American country.

Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, executive director of Colombia Diversa, an LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Monday that some notaries have already said they will not marry same-sex couples after the court’s deadline passes. They would instead allow them to enter into a “solemn contract” that is similar to an agreement between two people who buy a house together.

“This in the view of Colombia Diversa does not comply with the Constitutional Court’s order,” Sánchez said.

Colombia Diversa and other LGBT advocacy groups are advising couples who encounter a notary or a judge who refuses to allow them to register their relationships–or enter into a civil marriage as Sánchez and other activists have described it–to petition a court to reverse the decision. Lina Cuéllar, director of Sentiido, an LGBT website she co-publishes in Bogotá, the country’s capital, told the Blade she expects some notaries and judges will accommodate gays and lesbians in the same way they treat heterosexual couples.

She said they will follow the court’s order, but it remains unclear how exactly they will interpret it.

“It is difficult to state concretely what is going to happen after June 20,” Cuéllar told the Blade.

Argentina is among the 12 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Gays and lesbians will be able to tie the knot in Uruguay and New Zealand in August.

Brazilian lawmakers have yet to consider a nationwide same-sex marriage bill in spite of a ruling from the country’s National Council of Justice last month that said registrars in the South American nation cannot deny marriage licenses to gay couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court later this month will issue rulings on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Advocates remain critical of government’s response to marriage debate

Dr. Zayuri Tibaduiza, an advisor to Vice President Angelino Garzón, told the Blade during an interview last month at her Bogotá office the Colombian government respects both the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the Senate’s vote against the same-sex marriage bill. Advocates remain critical of President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration for what they maintain is its continued silence on the issue.

“There is a general discontent on how the government managed the situation, since they could have legislated on this topic,” Cuéllar said. “They instead waited until the Constitutional Court’s deadline when nothing could have been done.”

Even though she said one can describe the tribunal’s ruling as “ambiguous,” Sánchez told the Blade it did not explicitly deny same-sex couples the right to marry.

“As of June 20, we are going to put this interpretation to the test,” she said. “We hope it will hold up because it is the one that recognizes equality for couples.”

Centro de Cuidadanía LGBTI Sebastián Romero, The Sebastián Romero LGBT Community Center, Teusaquillo section, Bogotá, Colombia, gay news, Washington Blade, Bogota

Centro de Cuidadanía LGBTI Sebastián Romero (The Sebastián Romero LGBT Community Center) in the Teusaquillo section of Bogotá. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Laura, a transgender woman who works at the Sebastián Romero LGBT Community Center in the Teusaquillo area of Bogotá that is named in honor of the first openly gay person elected to political office in Colombia told the Blade last month many people have what she described as a “limited understanding” of the same-sex marriage debate.

She noted during the same interview that anti-trans discrimination, homelessness and general mistreatment of LGBT people on the streets are among the problems that she and her colleagues continue to confront.

A report that Colombia Diversa released last month indicates 58 of the reported 280 LGBT Colombians who were murdered between 2011-2012 were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) noted in a separate report that 61 Colombian trans women have been reported murdered between 2005-2011.

“There are those who are definitely not interested in the (same-sex marriage campaign,) but simply want to gain their rights,” Laura said.

Opposition to same-sex marriage remains strong in Colombia, but Cuéllar said the “equality for all” message that came from the campaign in support of the issue has had a positive effect.

“A lot of allies have joined the cause,” Cuéllar said. “This has helped to widen the scope of what equality means in a country like Colombia.”

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

Malaysian prime minister reiterated opposition to LGBTQ rights at UN

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

AUSTRALIA

A group has petitioned the Australian Human Rights Commission for an exemption to hold ‘Lesbians Born Female only’ events that exclude transgender people at the Victorian Pride Center for the next five years.

Lesbian Action Group Melbourne, wrote in their petition to apply for the exemption that the group, exclude “heterosexual, bisexual and gay males, heterosexual and bisexual females, transgender people and queer plus people.”

The Sydney Star Observer, Australia’s largest LGBTQ media outlet, reported that the event would be held to celebrate International Lesbian Day at the Victorian Pride Center on Oct. 15, 2023.

Under Australian codes the AHRC is empowered under Section 44 of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 (Cth) to grant temporary exemptions for up to five years from the provisions of the anti-discrimination law.

According to the Star-Observer, the group said it was set up to promote and organize events for “lesbian born females “without the fear of being hauled before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, as we have in the past and told our exclusive lesbian born female events are illegal and having to cancel them.” 

The group claimed that over the past two decades, they were able to “organize and hold private lesbian meetings and gatherings over these past 20 years to avoid any more challenges by the transgender community.” The application then went on to allege that “lesbians who publicly speak out about lesbian rights are also sacked from their jobs, ridiculed and threatened with all kinds of abuse.”

Basketball star suspended over anti-gay remarks

Australian NBL professional basketball star Corey Webster was suspended for two games after he posted homophobic remarks to his X/Twitter social media account. In the now deleted tweets, Webster replying to a post that asked: “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this flag,” accompanied by the LGBTQ Rainbow Pride flag,” said: “mental illness.”

After Perth Wildcats fans and followers started calling out him for the blatant homophobia Webster posted a follow-up that read in all caps: “PROTECT THE CHILDREN,” and put his social media profile on private.

The team reacted issuing an apology and also released an apology from Webster. In his statement the player said:

“While it certainly wasn’t my intent, I understand the hurt my comments have caused and I am sincerely sorry for this. It wasn’t how I intended my comments to be perceived and I will take a break from social media and use that time to better educate myself on the impact comments such as this can make on individuals I may have offended.”

Corey Webster (Photo courtesy of Perth Wildcats)

Perth Wildcats team owner Richard Simkiss said: “We are really disappointed in these comments and have made this clear to Corey. They don’t reflect our values, and we have committed to working with Corey to help educate him about the harm such comments can bring. As a community driven club, we stand for inclusiveness and have strongly supported the NBL’s Pride Round. We look forward to promoting this initiative again in the upcoming season. Our values are clear — we want to bring people together in a positive way and we understand our responsibility as leaders in the community to live these values both on and off the court.”

VIETNAM

Vogue dance battle in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (YouTube screenshot)

A decidedly queer subculture import from the U.S. that gained rapid popularity this vibrant southern Vietnamese metropolis is providing a safe haven for gay and trans youth. 

Al Jazeera contributor Xuan-Tung Le reported during a recent event, a catwalk for would-be models with fiery dance-off battles, as well as an emotional celebration of kinship between Vietnam’s queer people — all rolled into a single evening of deep connections for trans people especially.

Le notes that not to be confused with ballroom dancing, which evolved from the heterosexual courtship tradition of European aristocrats, ballroom culture emerged in the 1960s among marginalized Black and Latino queer people in the U.S.

Gathering at a “ball” function, queer people “walk” to show off their talents in dancing, lip-syncing, performing and catwalk modelling as a way to both compete on the night and, more broadly, transcend the everyday realities of gender identities, occupational roles and social status assigned in society.

Viral videos of voguing battles have also been helped by the digital power of YouTube and TikTok algorithms, giving people around the world access to the dance form Le added.

“Ballroom is more than dancing,” Minerva Sun Mizrahi, using a stage name preferring that their real name not be used, told Al Jazeera.

“Here, people can vogue, do runway walk, or simply look and act straight-passing — all are considered talents,” Minerva said.

“It is a space to empower queer people.”

Another queer performer told Al Jazeera that social acceptance of transgender people also lags behind in Vietnam, even in Saigon where gay men and women enjoy relative acceptance in society. Naomi Sun, also using a preferred stage name, told Al Jazeera: “That is why ballroom events are so unique, as they are one of the few safe spaces in Saigon where trans women can just ‘let loose and have fun,’” Sun said.

“You don’t have to do anything to your body or take hormones; just dress up as a fem queen [which is the ballroom slang for a trans woman], go there, and live your dream as a fem queen,” she said. “It’s fine! That’s how ballroom is.”

Related: Vietnam’s “ballroom” culture: A safe space to celebrate trans people (link)

MALAYSIA

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim says Malaysia will never recognize LGBTQ rights. Recently prison sentences were threatened for selling rainbow watches. “I wouldn’t defend that,” Ibrahim told the veteran journalist. He says he’d like to see things change, but must respect the consensus of the people.

Anwar said that as prime minister, he has to respect the consensus of Malaysians and that they do not accept public displays of LGBTQ (people and issues.) “The Muslims, non-Muslims, Christians, Hindus or Buddhists, they have a consensus in the country. They do not accept this (LGBTQ+),” he said. However, he said while there is a need to exercise some degree of tolerance, harassment has to be avoided.

UNITED KINGDOM

Aristedes Haynes, the 17-year-old behind a number of racist and homophobic vandalism incidents in South Wales (Booking photo via the South Wales Police)

A 17-year-old teenage boy from South Wales has been publicly named after being convicted and sentenced on Sept. 21, for a homophobic and racist vandalism crime spree in South Wales and Cardiff. 

Haynes and a second 15-year-old male accomplice carried out several racially and homophobically charged counts of criminal damage across South Wales, including extremist Nazi graffiti on a Windrush mural in Port Talbot where the teen was living at the time.

British LGBTQ media outlet PinkNewsUK reported that just hours after the mural, depicting local beloved nurse Donna Campbell and her mother Lydie, was complete, it was daubed with swastikas, the words “Nazi zone,” and a racial slur.

The presiding justice, Jeremy Baker, sent the teen to jail for one year and seven months and ordered the former Royal Air Force Cadet to an additional one year’s probation. 

According to Sky News, Counter terrorism police in Wales last year began investigating the two teenagers in connection with “several offenses of racially and homophobically aggravated criminal damage.”

A smoke bomb was also rolled into the Queer Emporium, an LGBTQ business in Cardiff city center.

The 15-year-old, from Tonyrefail, South Wales, appeared at Cardiff Youth Court and pleaded guilty on Aug. 15 to one charge of criminal damage and four charges of racially aggravated criminal damage. He was given community service for one year, and probation for two additional years and ordered to pay £100 ($122.42) compensation to the Queer Emporium.

In the case of Hayes, Baker said the teen had “essentially became self-radicalized” and held “entrenched” racist, antisemitic and homophobic views.

“I am satisfied that not only did you hold entrenched racist, antisemitic and homophobic views at the time of the commission of these offenses, but that these are views which you have not genuinely disavowed,” the judge told him at his sentencing. “It is apparent that you were not someone who limited your behavior to the expression of your views online, but were prepared to put some of those views into action,” he added.

The judge also noted, “It is of particular concern that not only had you asserted that one of your goals in life was to kill someone … but you had already carried out research as to the availability of one of the components for constructing a gun.”

According to Counter Terrorism Policing Wales Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Williams who spoke at the sentencing: 

“For the older boy in particular, it became evident that he was also involved in the online distribution of extreme right-wing material, which clearly fell into the space governed by terrorism legislation,” he said.

“The offences were particularly abhorrent in nature and understandably caused upset to many people, both within the communities the boys targeted, and beyond.

“The sentencing today concludes the investigation and enables professionals to work intensively with them in the hope that they can lead far more productive lives in their respective futures.”

The Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland (Photo courtesy of scotcourts.gov.uk)

The court battle over to overturn the UK Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack’s veto block of the Gender Recognition Reform ended this week with a ruling by Judge Lady Shona Haldane of the Court of Session in Edinburgh not expected for “some time” according to a statement from the court.

Haldane said after the judicial review concluded a day earlier than expected — that she will take “some time” to reach her decision on the matter. She added she write her opinion following what she described as a “unique, very interesting and challenging case.”

The Gender Recognition Reform bill introduced by the Scottish government to Parliament last spring was passed in a final 86-39 vote days before this past Christmas 2022. The sweeping reform bill modifies the Gender Recognition Act, signed into law in 2004, by allowing trans Scots to gain legal recognition without the need for a medical diagnosis.

The measure further stipulates that age limit for legal recognition is lowered to 16.

Jack had released a statement indicating that with the backing of 10 Downing St., he would use a Section 35 order under the Scotland Act to block the king’s signature which is referred to as royal assent.

Under Section 35 of the Scotland Act, UK ministers can stop a bill getting royal assent. Jack can do so if he is of the opinion that a Scottish Parliament bill would modify laws reserved to Westminster and have an “adverse effect” on how those laws apply.

PinkNewsUK reported the legislation itself was not discussed, with the case instead focusing on whether or not the Jack had the legal right to veto the bill. 

Whoever loses the case, when Haldane issues her ruling, will have the right to appeal the outcome at the Court of Session Inner House. Whoever loses that appeal will have the option to take the case to the Supreme Court in London. 

This means, regardless of the result, the political and legal battle could go on for months, or even years.  

Additional reporting from the Star Observer, Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky News and PinkNewsUK

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Africa

Kenyan lawmaker’s bill would further crackdown on LGBTQ rights

Provisions include 50-year prison sentence for gays and lesbians convicted of non-consensual sex

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

A fresh bid to prevent the recognition of and equal rights for LGBTQ people in Kenya through a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Parliament.

The move is in response to this month’s ruling from Kenya’s highest court affirming its February decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, an outspoken critic of homosexuality, is the sponsor of the new initiative that is part of tightening the noose on LGBTQ people after the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed his petition that challenged its February ruling. 

Kaluma wanted the ruling reversed since the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission advocates for homosexuality, which is against the law, and sought the court’s clarification on the term “sex” to exclude LGBTQ persons.  

Kaluma has already written to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, notifying him of his proposal to have the term “sex” redefined in the constitution by repealing Article 259 (4) which judges perceive to also include consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

“This will seal the constitutional gaps the courts are exploiting to introduce homosexuality into the country under the guise of ‘judicial interpretation’ and secure the legislative mandate retained in Parliament and constitutional-making power remains with the people,” Kaluma said. 

He faults the judges for interpreting the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the constitution to also refer to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, or otherwise, not to be discriminated from sexual identity. 

The controversial court’s verdicts have sparked an uproar in the country since Article 45 of the constitution only recognizes consensual opposite-sex sexual relations and Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

In redefining “sex” in law, Kaluma wants the term to be limited to the biological state of being male or female as assigned at birth and not “foreign sexual orientation and gender identity ideology” which he argues the judges based on wrongly. The MPs proposal to redefine sex, however, would not impact intersex people in Kenya since their recognition and sex identity are protected under a landmark law that took effect in July 2022. 

Kaluma notes that the court’s ruling renders sex/gender fluidity away from the biological state of being male or female “to over 150 current gender categories abbreviated as LGBTQ+” which has serious consequences for women in terms of equality.     

“The courts, unelected arms of government not directly accountable to the people, have been the weakest link in the battle for family values across the world. The Supreme Court of the United States failed the Americans and the European courts have failed the Europeans,” the MP said.  

Kaluma, who has also sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House, added “we are in a war not only to save our society but to salvage humanity from the LGBTQ+ perversion”. 

The lawmaker has also sought to strengthen his anti-homosexuality measure by adding punitive clauses, including one that would impose a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for gays and lesbians who are found guilty of engaging in non-consensual sex. Other provisions include a ban on gay Pride parades, assemblies, street marches, cross-dressing in public and all LGBTQ-related activities.

The MP has also proposed proposes a fine of $14,000 or a 7-year prison sentence for owners of premises used for same-sex sexual practices. 

“I urge all persons and institutions of goodwill to stand firm and ready themselves to fight against homosexuality. Even when we don’t win before the courts as is the case across the world, I am certain we will win before the people’s representatives in parliament,” Kaluma stated. 

Muslim and Christian religious authorities last Saturday staged anti-homosexuality protests in the coastal city of Mombasa, which is the country’s second largest city. Protesters condemned and denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling and asking President William Ruto to “unequivocally denounce LGBTQ” like his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.  

The Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, a leading Muslim governing body, on Thursday also condemned the Supreme Court and demanded the ouster of Chief Justice Martha Koome and other judges who ruled in favor of the LGBTQ community. The group argues the ruling offends Kenya’s social, cultural and religious beliefs while asking the president and Parliament to be “firm” like Uganda, which enacted a harsh anti-homosexuality law in May.    

A presidential education reform working group last month in a detailed report presented to Ruto after gathering views across the country recommended the teachers’ employers to hire pastors and Imams in elementary and high schools to help fight homosexuality and other so-called immoral practices. This call came after the Education Ministry in March confirmed to MPs its decision to form a Chaplains Committee, led by Kenya’s Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, to stop the infiltration of LGBTQ practices in schools.

The working group’s report has yet to be introduced in Parliament.

Kenya’s relentless move to curb homosexuality comes at a time when top government officials, politicians, and during this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York raised concerns over backlash against LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

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Canada

Eight jailed across Canada during anti-LGBTQ sex ed rallies

Prime minister condemned bigotry; counterprotests outnumbered demonstrations

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Protests sparked across Canada over gender policies in schools took place on Sept. 20, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube CBC)

A highly coordinated series of anti-LGBTQ protests rocked more than 80 cities across Canada on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tactics by Canada’s anti-LGBTQ extremists.

The coordinated protests dubbed 1 Million March 4 Children are demanding an end to discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in Canadian classrooms. They come as several Canadian provinces have enacted policies that require students to have parental permission to change their preferred name or pronoun used in schools, and shortly after the federal Conservative Party adopted a series of anti-trans policies at its national convention.

According to its website, 1 Million March 4 Children is calling for “the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.” The website also lists among its supporters numerous groups that were opposed to masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccine groups, groups that promote conspiracy theories, and groups that support the truck convoys that laid siege to Ottawa and several U.S. border crossings last year.

Protests happened from coast to coast, in big cities, suburbs and small towns, but in most cases, they were met with coordinated counter-protests in support of LGBTQ rights who greatly outnumbered the protesters. 

CBC reported that counter-protesters numbered roughly double the anti-LGBTQ protesters in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  

Inclusive sex education has long been part of school curriculums in most provinces in Canada and has generally enjoyed support from all major political parties.

While the protests where mostly peaceful, at least four anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested after getting into altercations with counter-protestors in British Columbia, and police advised that the protest in front of the provincial legislature had become “unsafe.”

Police in Nanaimo, British Columbia, tackled and arrested one man who attempted to flee after allegedly getting into a physical altercation at City Hall. Two protestors were also arrested in Victoria, British Columbia, as they demonstrated in front of the provincial legislature, and another protester was arrested in Vancouver. Police in both cities did not provide additional information.

Ottawa police also arrested two protesters for allegedly inciting hatred and another for causing a disturbance in at the protest in front of Parliament.

And Toronto police arrested 47-year-old protester Julia Stevenson for allegedly bringing a weapon to the demonstration outside the provincial legislature. Police did not give further details about what kind of weapon she is alleged to have been carrying.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, condemned the anti-LGBTQ protests in a tweet on X, formerly Twitter.

“Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country — you are valid and you are valued,” he wrote.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre did not put out any statement on the protests, nor did deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, who is openly lesbian and has previously spoken out on LGBTQ issues on behalf of the party. 

The leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh joined the counter-protestors who demonstrated in Ottawa and marched toward Parliament Hill.

“We know that there’s a lot of folks that don’t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division that’s targeting vulnerable people,” Singh told CTV. “But then you see a lot of people coming together, and it shows the strength of solidarity, of us supporting each other, of having each other’s back.”

Alberta Teachers’ Association President Jason Schilling says the protesters are part of a North America-wide movement fomenting hatred against queer people using misinformation and lies.

“Using ‘parental consent’ as camouflage, this rally was part of a coordinated strike across North America to promote misinformation, intolerance and hate toward the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, as well as toward teachers who work to protect the safety and well-being of all students,” Schilling said in a statement.

In many cities, the anti-LGBTQ protests were officially condemned by mayors and school boards.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who has publicly supported LGBTQ rights since the 1980s, issued a strong statement condemning the protests

“We stand against all forms of discrimination, hatred and bigotry, and for the safety and well-being of all young people. Some wish to target our schools and libraries to spread hate. We know these must be spaces that welcome everyone, especially students,” Chow wrote.

The city of Whitehorse, Yukon, issued a statement condemning bigotry in advance of the protests.

“While the city supports people’s right to organize and protest, we stand by our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members and their right to live their true selves safely and free of harassment and hate. The promotion of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ ideas has no place in our community and messages that target fellow community members will not be tolerated,” the statement says.

However, New Brunswick Primer Blaine Higgs, who was the first to introduce a “parental consent” policy for trans students, joined the protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Fredericton. 

“I think our parents should become knowledgeable about what their kids are being taught and what is important for them to learn in schools and what’s important for parents to make decisions on with kids that are under 16-years-old,” Higgs told reporters.

British Columbia Conservative Party leader John Rustad went further in a statement on the protests. While he says he doesn’t “officially” support the protests, if his party wins next year’s election, he promised to cancel the province’s sex ed curriculum and implied he would ban transgender girls from sports.

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