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30 Colombian LGBT advocates attend USAID-backed training

Program seeks to promote greater involvement in country’s politics



Jhosselyn Pájaro, Colombia, LGBT rights, gay news, Washington Blade
Jhosselyn Pájaro, Colombia, LGBT rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Colombian LGBT rights advocate Jhosselyn Pájaro (Photo courtesy of Jhosselyn Pájaro)

Thirty activists from across Colombia are attending a four-day training in the city of Cartagena designed to encourage LGBT people to become more involved in the country’s political process.

The program, which the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute and the Colombian LGBT advocacy groups Caribe Afirmativo and Colombia Diversa organized, is the second to take place in the South American country as part of the USAID-backed LGBT Global Development Partnership that will contribute $11 million over the next four years to advocacy groups in Ecuador and other developing countries. Thirty activists attended the initiative’s first Colombia training that took place in Bogotá, the country’s capital, from May 30 – June 2.

Denis Dison of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute; Claire Lucas of USAID; National Democratic Institute Director Francisco Herrero and Tatiana Piñeros, a transgender woman who runs Bogotá’s social welfare agency, are among those who took part in a panel on Thursday that Colombia Diversa Executive Director Marcela Sánchez moderated on how out political leaders and officials can advance the Colombian and American LGBT rights movements. Jhosselyn Pájaro, a trans woman who ran for municipal council in the city of Arjona outside of Cartagena; Ramón Rojas, a councilman in the city of Chaparral in central Colombia and María Rachid, an Argentine lawmaker and LGBT rights advocate who led campaigns in support of the country’s same-sex marriage and trans rights laws that took effect in 2010 and 2012, also spoke.

“I will have the opportunity to build my capacity and be able to realize a good and better platform in regards to the next campaign,” Pájaro told the Washington Blade before the Cartagena training began. “To know how to implement a good strategy that will allow me to reach my voters is something that excites me greatly.”

The training is taking place roughly five weeks after two gay men in Bogotá became the country’s first legally recognized same-sex couple.

Colombia’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled gays and lesbians could seek legal recognition of their relationships within two years if lawmakers in the South American country failed to extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

The Colombian Senate in April overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

The Constitutional Court’s June 20 deadline passed amid lingering confusion as to whether same-sex couples could actually marry in Colombia because the 2011 ruling did not contain the word “marriage.”

Sánchez and other LGBT rights advocates consider Carlos Hernando Rivera Ramírez and Gonzalo Ruiz Giraldo married after a Bogotá civil judge solemnized their relationship on July 24. Many notaries have said they will allow gays and lesbians to enter into a “solemn contract” that is similar to an agreement into which two people enter when they purchase a home together as opposed to a civil marriage.

Anti-LGBT violence in Colombia remains a serious problem in spite of efforts to extend relationship recognition to same-sex couples in the country.

Colombia Diversa estimates 58 of the reported 280 LGBT Colombians who were murdered between 2010-2011 were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. A report from the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender Women (REDLACTRANS) notes 61 trans Colombian women have been reported killed between 2005-2011.

Caribe Afirmativo, which works in Cartagena and other cities along Colombia’s Caribbean coastline, documented 79 LGBT residents in the region suffered “violent deaths” since the murder of the organization’s founder, Rolando Pérez, in February 2007. The group also noted 86 incidents of anti-LGBT police harassment during the same period.

Edgar Plata of Caribe Afirmativo, who uses art as a way to advocate in support of LGBT rights, and Alondra Márquez of the Santamaría Fundación, a group based in the city of Cali that advocates on behalf of trans women, discussed violence against LGBT Colombians during a D.C. panel on Aug. 22 that coincided with an Organization of American States meeting on human rights.

Edgar Plata, Caribe Afirmativo, Alondra Márquez, Santamaría Fundación, Global Rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Edgar Plata of Caribe Afirmativo and Alondra Márquez of Santamaría Fundación take part in a panel on anti-LGBT violence at Global Rights in Northwest D.C. on Aug. 22, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Caribe Afirmativo Director Wilson Castañeda told the Blade on Thursday that Colombian political parties have yet to include gay-specific issues in their platforms. He added LGBT Colombians who seek to enter politics lack support and money for their campaigns and face what he described as the traditional political class that “functions more like electoral businesses than an ideological process.”

Castañeda added he feels working with the media to create visibility for LGBT Colombians is also important.

“It is important to immediately begin to generate synergies with the parties; with the current elected officials to ensure they, without being LGBT, are open to the idea,” Castañeda said.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute President Chuck Wolfe, who spoke on a panel during the Bogotá training, applauded the Cartagena gathering and the LGBT Global Development Partnership.

“This groundbreaking training puts into action the U.S. government’s commitment to global LGBT equality,” he told the Blade. “We are excited to work with our partners in-country and at USAID to grow the domestic participation of the LGBT community in Colombia.”

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Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate



transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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Comings & Goings

Hazen inducted into Cooperative Hall of Fame



Paul Hazen

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Paul Hazen on his being inducted into the 2022 Cooperative Hall of Fame.  On receiving the honor, he said, “I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to combine my work in international development with my volunteer cooperative development work in Washington DC.”

Hazen is executive director, U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and has devoted his career to elevating the cooperative voice domestically and internationally. U.S. co-ops include Ace Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Sunkist, REI and the Associated Press. Hazen helped establish federal legislation promoting rural co-op development.  

Prior to joining OCDC, he was CEO of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. During his 25-year tenure with the organization, he held key positions, including chief operating officer, vice president of public policy, vice president of member services and director of consumer cooperatives.

He worked for Rep. Al Baldus (Wisc.). He was executive director of Rural Housing Inc. in Madison, Wisc., where he developed co-ops and affordable housing projects in rural communities. 

As a volunteer, Hazen formed the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) with 12 congregations in D.C.  In 2020, CPA secured more than $18.7 million in contracts resulting in an investment of $13 million in D.C.-based small businesses owned by people of color.

Ben Finzel

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel, who was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, he said “To be recognized by your peers is wonderful; to be honored by them is amazing. I still can’t quite believe I have done enough to be worthy of this recognition, but I know enough to be thankful and appreciative of this high honor. Thank you PRSA National Capital Chapter for including me in such inspiring company; I will be forever grateful.”

Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a D.C.-based public affairs, communications consulting firm. In 2004, he helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international firm, Fleishman Hillard, and served as its first global chair. He started DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communications professionals. Finzel served on the Victory Campaign Board of the LGBTQ Victory Fund from 2007 to 2017.

His firm is currently celebrating its seventh year in business. To recognize that accomplishment, Finzel is launching an endowed scholarship at his alma mater, Texas Tech University. His business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”



Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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