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Gay advocates outside U.S. applaud Supreme Court rulings

Activists say decisions send message to their country’s lawmakers

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Louisa Wall, New Zealand, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade
Louisa Wall, New Zealand, marriage equality, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, gay news, Washington Blade

New Zealand Parliamentarian Louisa Wall (Photo courtesy of the office of Louisa Wall)

LGBT rights advocates around the world joined their American counterparts in celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and struck down California’s Proposition 8.

“This is a fantastic outcome from the U.S. Supreme Court,” Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, an Irish LGBT rights group, said. “The ruling is a pivotal moment in the achievement of equality for lesbian and gay people in the U.S. and the decision will echo across the world.”

A commission charged with reforming the Irish constitution in April overwhelmingly approved a recommendation to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore last Friday said a referendum on the issue will take place in 2014.

The British House of Lords continues to debate a proposal that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales.

Andy Wasley, spokesperson for Stonewall, an LGBT advocacy group in the U.K., told the Washington Blade on Thursday his organization hopes “we’ll be celebrating too within the next few weeks.”

“It’s heartening to see a more enlightened attitude towards the rights of 19 million lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from the Supreme Court,” he said. “We’re delighted for those in California who can now dust off their wedding plans and look forward to their special day.”

Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, a lawyer who represented three same-sex couples in the Mexican state of Oaxaca whom local authorities denied marriage licenses in 2011 and 2012, agreed.

The Mexican Supreme Court in February released its ruling that found the Oaxacan law against same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The three couples whom Méndez represented who petitioned the Mexican judicial system to ensure local authorities would protect their constitutional rights exchanged vows shortly after the country’s highest court announced its decision. Chihuahua and Baja California del Norte that includes the city of Tijuana are among the five other Mexican states in which same-sex marriage efforts are also underway.

“The decision from the (U.S. Supreme) Court is great news,” Méndez told the Blade. “Without a doubt it represents an advance and at the same time it is the realization of the international trend for equality and not to discriminate against the LGBTTTIQ community.”

Canada, Argentina, Iceland, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and South Africa currently allow same-sex marriage.

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

Brazil’s National Council of Justice last month said registrars cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians in neighboring Colombia last Thursday began to apply for civil marriage licenses, even though it remains unclear whether a 2011 ruling from the country’s highest court allows registrars and judges to issue them.

Louisa Wall, the New Zealand parliamentarian who introduced her country’s same-sex marriage bill that received final approval in April, told the Blade she is “incredibly proud” of LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. for “their persistent, progressive and inclusive pursuit of equality under the law.”

“I am also buoyed by the reaction to the decision by President Obama and his directive to officials to identify laws that this decision is relevant to and to expeditiously implement the necessary changes to guarantee legal equality for all couples,” Wall added.

Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said the Supreme Court decisions “sends a powerful message” to his country’s lawmakers on the issue.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision sends a direct message to Australian politicians that our law against same-sex marriage violates basic principles of equality and fair treatment must be removed,” he said.

LGBT rights advocates in other countries in which same-sex couples cannot legally marry echoed Croome.

Three gay Chilean couples who had been denied marriage licenses last September filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights after the South American country’s Supreme Court ruled against them.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh,) a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement on Wednesday the Supreme Court decisions “changed the political and cultural context in relation to same-sex marriage.” The organization added it feels the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will certainly take these changes into account when it considers the case of the three gay Chilean couples.

“The signal given today by the U.S. Supreme Court is that the days of homophobic laws like DOMA are numbered,” Movilh said. “This is a process that nobody can stop.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, Supreme Court

Ugandan activvist Frank Mugisha (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT rights advocate, also welcomed the rulings.

He and other activists in Uganda and around the world have criticized the country’s lawmakers for supporting the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

Mugisha, whom then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored last summer at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, said he feels the Supreme Court decisions “weakens the extreme religious conservatives” whom he categorized as exporting “hate to Africa and Uganda.”

“I celebrate every step towards equality, especially in the United States,” Mugisha told the Blade hours after President Obama applauded the rulings and responded to a question about the criminalization of homosexuality in Senegal during a press conference in the Senegalese capital with the country’s president. “Although our fight in Uganda is at the first step and not about marriage equality, due to the global village, equality for same-sex couples in the United States in certain ways adulterates homophobia in Uganda as Ugandans get used to gay people being normal globally.”

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‘Mercenarismo’: El delito que la Seguridad del Estado de Cuba usa para presionar al activista LGBTQ Raúl Soublett

Se realizó la interrogación el 9 de octubre

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Raúl Soublett López ((Foto cortesía de Twitter de María Matienzo)

Tremenda Nota es el socio mediático del Washington Blade en Cuba. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 9 de octubre.

LA HABANA — El activista LGBTIQ+ Raúl Soublett López fue amenazado este sábado durante una entrevista con la Seguridad del Estado con un proceso penal por “mercenarismo”.

“Cualquier tipo de lucha en #Cuba puede ser criminalizada. A Raúl Soublett López ahora lo quieren procesar por mercenarismo y la notificación se la hace un tipo que tiene tanto miedo que no da ni su nombre real”, denunció la periodista María Matienzo en sus cuentas de Facebook y Twitter.

Según Matienzo, el argumento de la Seguridad del Estado para probar el «mercenarismo» de Raúl Soublett es una serie de videos contra el racismo y la homofobia que produjo el activista.

Al menos uno de esos videos fue publicado por Tremenda Nota.

Camino al Código de las Familias, uno de los videos de Raúl Soublett señalados por la Seguridad del Estado como “mercenarismo”

La Alianza Afro-Cubana, una organización independiente que coordina el propio Soublett, informó este viernes que el activista había sido citado en la mañana del sábado para una entrevista con “agentes de la Seguridad del Estado” en una unidad de policía ubicada en Playa, La Habana.

En coincidencia con la citación, este sábado Raúl Soublett debió asistir a la universidad, donde cursa el último año de una licenciatura en Pedagogía.

María Matienzo advirtió en Facebook que “las citaciones con menos de 72 horas de antelación son ilegales también”.

El mismo día que citaron a Soublett, el presidente Miguel Díaz-Canel se reunió con activistas LGBTIQ+ y funcionarios del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (Cenesex). Malú Cano, la coordinadora de la red TransCuba, que fue una de las invitadas, calificó el encuentro como una evidencia de la “voluntad política de avanzar en el reconocimiento de los derechos de las personas LGBTIQ+”.

Matienzo, que también es lesbiana, observó la coincidencia entre ambos incidentes.

“Ante una comunidad #LGTBIQ que se reúne con el poder en #Cuba, quieren procesar al activista @RaulSoublett”, observó en Twitter.

El propio Soublett posteó en Facebook: “Mientras hay activistas LGBTIQ+ que no se les escuchan, que los acosan, los citan para interrogatorios ilegales, en fin. Esa es la Cuba de ponle corazón. Hipócritas”.

El pasado 25 de febrero, Raúl se reunió con la Seguridad del Estado y acabó autoagrediéndose como resultado de la presión.

“Fue interrogado por más de cuatro horas, según me describe las cuatro horas más horribles de su vida, en la cual usaron los más bajos recursos de intimidación, chantaje, coacción y sobre todo mucha violencia tanto psicológica como verbal”, relató en esa ocasión el periodista Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho.

Según el Código Penal vigente en Cuba, el delito de “mercenarismo” consiste en incorporare “a formaciones militares integradas total o parcialmente por individuos que no son ciudadanos del Estado en cuyo territorio se proponen actuar” a cambio de “un sueldo u otro tipo de retribución material”. 

Las sanciones previstas para estos casos son hasta 20 años de cárcel o muerte. 

Un experto en Derecho consultado por Tremenda Nota, que pidió reservar su identidad, considera que “esta amenaza no pasa de ser un recurso de tortura psicológica”.  “Ese delito es improcedente en este caso y eso sería obvio para cualquiera”, añadió. 

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Texas

Texas House approves anti-trans youth sports bill

HB 25 now heads to state Senate

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GenderCool Project leader and Trans activist Landon Richie (Photo courtesy of Landon Richie)

Texas House Republicans were able to push through the anti-trans youth sports measure Thursday evening after hours of emotional and at times rancorous debate, passing the bill in a 76-54 vote along party lines.

Under the provisions of Texas House Bill 25, all trans student athletes in grades K-12 will be prohibited from competing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The bill will now head to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

The Texas Tribune reported that the University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, already requires that an athlete’s gender be determined by the sex listed on their birth certificate. Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB 25 has said the bill would simply “codify” existing UIL rules.

However, UIL recognizes any legally modified birth certificates. That policy could accommodate someone who may have had their birth certificate changed to match their gender identity, which can sometimes be an arduous process.

HB 25 would not allow recognition of these legally modified birth certificates unless changes were made because of a clerical error. It’s not clear though how it will be determined if a birth certificate has been legally modified or not. According to the UIL, the process for checking student birth certificates is left up to schools and districts, not the UIL the Tribune reported.

“To say that tonight’s passage of HB 25 is devastating is an understatement. For the past 10 grueling, exhausting, and deeply traumatic months, trans youth have been forced to debate their very existence—only to be met by the deaf ears and averted eyes of our state’s leaders,” Landon Richie, a GenderCool Project leader, University of Houston student and Transactivist told the Washington Blade after the vote.

“Make no mistake: This bill will not only have detrimental impacts on trans youth, who already suffer immense levels of harassment and bullying in schools, but also on cisgender youth who don’t conform to Texas’s idea of ‘male’ or ‘female.’ To trans kids everywhere: you belong, you are loved, you are valued, you are deserving of dignity, respect, care and the ability to live freely as your true and authentic selves, no matter where you are. We will never stop fighting for trans lives and a future where trans kids are unequivocally and unwaveringly celebrated for who they are,” Richie said.

“The cruelty of this bill is breathtaking, and the legislators who are pushing it forward are doing irreparable harm to our state. Texas is a place where people value freedom and respect for diversity. This bill is a betrayal of those cherished values, and future generations will look back on this moment in disbelief that elected officials supported such an absurd and hateful measure,” Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade. “The families of these kids deserve better, and the burden is now on the rest of us to do everything in our power to stop this dangerous bill now,” he added.

During the debate on the measure, state Rep. James Talarico, (D-Round Rock), a former middle school teacher, began his remarks by apologizing to the trans kids and families who have gone to the Capitol time and time again this year. He tells the chamber he speaks now as a legislator, and educator, and a Christian.

He quoted Republican Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, the author of HB 25 who said “if one girl wins a game, it’s worth it.” He says he has a different moral yardstick. “If one trans kid dies for a trophy, this bill is grotesque.”

He ended speaking to his “fellow believers” in the chamber. “The worst part in these hearings have been in hearing the Bible used against trans kids to support these bills. Even tonight, ‘God’s law’ was used to present an amendment.” He then quoted the first two lines of the Bible, where God is referred to with two different Hebrew words, one masculine/one feminine. “God is non-binary.” He then prevented an interruption in the chamber and continued telling trans kids that he loves them.

Fellow Democratic state Rep. Jessica González, (D-Dallas County), vice-chair of the Texas House LGBTQ Caucus asked the chamber how many trans Texas kids they are willing to hurt. She reminded her fellow representatives that cisgender women and girls will also be hurt by the bill. She shared a personal story about being outed in high school by a friend, having her locker, home, and car vandalized and losing all of her friends. “Kids are cruel.”

González told lawmakers that her brother encouraged her to try out for soccer, and she was bullied with comments like “shouldn’t she be trying out for the boys’ team.” She went from feeling a bit accepted to being an outsider again. She then reflected on carrying those feelings into adulthood and said that this bill will have long-term affects on trans kids. She asked legislators to listen to the stories of the trans kids who have bravely testified, saying kids will contemplate suicide or complete suicide.

Representative Diego Bernal, (D-San Antonio), told the chamber that some representatives can’t wrap their heads around knowing that there is no problem but there is *real* harm to trans kids, and for whatever reason, that’s not enough it seems to stop moving these bills.

He said that he has heard “if they already have mental health issues and suicide ideation, this can’t make it worse” and “if the debate is harming them, let’s just vote.” The he breaks down the Texas statute’s definition of bullying, telling lawmakers, “The bullying statute doesn’t have an intent requirement. It doesn’t matter if you don’t mean to cause them harm. We are bullying these students. Know that by law … our own definitions and our own words, we are. And we don’t have to.”

“Texas lawmakers voted today to deliberately discriminate against transgender children. Excluding transgender students from participating in sports with their peers violates the Constitution and puts already vulnerable youth at serious risk of mental and emotional harm,” Adri Perez, policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas said in a statement to the Blade.

“There is no evidence that transgender kids pose any threat. It is indefensible that legislators would force transgender youth and their families to travel to Austin to defend their own humanity, then blatantly ignore hours of testimony about the real damage this bill causes. Trans kids and their families deserve our love and support—they’ve been fighting this legislation for months. Texans will hold lawmakers accountable for their cruelty,” she added.

The statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality Texas in a tweet after the vote said; ” We will not stop fighting to protect transgender children.” Then added “We’ll continue to educate lawmakers—replacing misinformation with real stories—and demand the statewide and federal nondiscrimination protections we need to prevent further harms.”

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World

U.S. regains seat on U.N. Human Rights Council

Previous administration withdrew from body in 2018

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global forum, Human Rights Day, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by sanjitbakshi; courtesy Flickr)

The U.S. on Thursday regained a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, three years after the previous administration withdrew from it.

The U.S. won election to the council alongside Argentina, Benin, Cameroon, Eritrea, Finland, Gambia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Montenegro, Paraguay, Qatar, Somalia and United Arab Emirates.

The council in recent years has emerged as a champion of LGBTQ rights around the world, even though Cuba and other countries with poor human rights records are among the 47 countries that are currently members. Venezuela and Russia are also on the council.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first of more than two dozen anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, remains in custody and faces eight years in prison. The Washington Blade last month spoke with several Venezuelan LGBTQ activists who said persecution forced them to flee to neighboring Colombia.

Russia’s crackdown on LGBTQ rights and the Kremlin’s close relationship with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov continue to spark criticism around the world.

Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley during a 2018 press conference that announced the U.S. withdrawal from the council noted Cuba and other countries “with unambiguous and abhorrent human rights record” are members. Haley also said the council has a “chronic bias against” Israel.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.  Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday in a statement said LGBTQ rights will be one of the U.S.’s focuses once it officially rejoins the council on Jan. 1.

“Our initial efforts as full members in the Council will focus on what we can accomplish in situations of dire need, such as in Afghanistan, Burma, China, Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen,” she said. “More broadly, we will promote respect for fundamental freedoms and women’s rights, and oppose religious intolerance, racial and ethnic injustices, and violence and discrimination against members of minority groups, including LGBTQI+ persons and persons with disabilities.  And we will oppose the council’s disproportionate attention on Israel, which includes the council’s only standing agenda item targeting a single country.”

President Biden in February issued a memorandum that commits the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The previous White House tapped then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to lead a campaign that encouraged countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations, but many LGBTQ activists in the U.S. and around the world have questioned its effectiveness. The Washington Blade in August filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department that seeks Grenell’s emails around his work on the decriminalization initiative.

“The President and Sec. Blinken have put democracy and human rights—essential cornerstones of peace and stability—at the center of our foreign policy,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday after the U.S. regained a seat on the council. “We have eagerly and earnestly pursued these values in our relationships around the world.” 

“We will use our position to renew the council’s focus on the core human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Charter, which undergird the council’s founding,” added Price at the beginning of his daily press briefing. “Our goal is to hold the U.N. Human Rights Council accountable to the highest aspirations of its mandate and spur the actions necessary to carry them out.” 

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