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Gay journalist, political organizer Doug Ireland dies

New Yorker contributed to Gay City News, Village Voice

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Doug Ireland, gay news, Washington Blade
Doug Ireland, gay news, Washington Blade

Doug Ireland (Photo courtesy of Gay City News)

Doug Ireland, a longtime LGBT rights advocate who switched roles from an organizer of progressive political causes and election campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s to become an internationally recognized journalist and commentator, died Oct. 26 in his home in New York’s East Village. He was 67.

 

Since at least the 1980s, Ireland has worked at various times as a columnist for The Village Voice, The New York Observer, New York Magazine, POZ Magazine, the L.A. Weekly, the Paris-based daily newspaper Liberation, and the French political-investigative magazine BAKCHICH, according to biographical information on his Linked-In page.

 

He served since 2005 as international contributing editor to Gay City News, the New York weekly newspaper for the LGBT community.

 

Ken Sherrill, professor emeritus in political science at New York’s Hunter College and a friend of Ireland’s since the early 1960s, said Ireland emerged in his early career as an “extraordinary” organizer of political campaigns, both for liberal-left causes and for progressive public officials, such as the late-U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y).

 

“He was an excellent campaign organizer,” Sherrill said. “He reinvented himself as an excellent journalist and most important he had a passionate commitment to justice.”

 

Ireland’s longtime friend Valerie Goodman told Gay City News he had been suffering in recent years from diabetes and the after-effects of two strokes.

 

“Despite chronic, at times debilitating pain and frequent hospitalizations, Ireland remained a dogged reporter and book critic in recent years, writing articles for nearly every issue of Gay City News,” said Paul Schindler, the Gay City News editor, in an article published after Ireland’s death.

 

Sherrill and others who knew Ireland said he became involved in the early 1960s with the new left movement initially as a member and later as one of the leaders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) beginning at the age of 17.

 

According to a Wikipedia biography of Ireland, he dropped out of the SDS in 1966 to devote his time and energy to electoral organizing against the Vietnam War, initially with several U.S. labor unions and later on behalf of anti-war candidates running for public office.

 

Among other things, Ireland joined the staff of the 1968 campaign of then Democratic U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who challenged President Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic Party nomination on an anti-Vietnam War platform. Although McCarthy lost his bid for the nomination to then Vice President Hubert Humphrey after Johnson withdrew as a candidate, the McCarthy campaign and Ireland’s efforts have been credited with helping open the way for the election of anti-war candidates to Congress.

 

Two such candidates, Allard Lowenstein of Long Island and Bella Abzug of New York City, won their races for the U.S. House of Representatives with Ireland serving as a lead organizer of their campaigns, Sherrill told the Blade.

 

“He was an extraordinary organizer,” Sherrill said. “He could bring people together who would ordinarily not talk to each other.”

 

Sherrill said Ireland succeeded where some left-leaning political advocates failed because he was “capable of supreme pragmatism” to achieve political objectives, even when, at times, he enlisted the help of machine politicians.

 

New York-based gay freelance travel writer and photographer Michael Luongo praised Ireland’s skills as a reporter as well as a commentator, saying Ireland developed a vast network of sources and contacts in the U.S. and abroad.

 

“I fully admired his work, always amazed at his network of contacts and how he was able to go deep on issues around the world relating to the LGBT struggle,” Luongo said.

 

Luongo said that in his conversations with Ireland in recent years, which were mostly by phone, he was moved by Ireland’s enthusiastic willingness to help him in his own work on travel related stories and to explain how he gathered news for his own reporting.

 

“My phone is always on,” he quoted Ireland as telling him. “I never sleep.”

 

Ireland went on to explain, said Luongo, “There were always people he knew in trouble who might need his help at any time among the activists and contacts scattered around the globe and throughout the time zones. That was what struck me most in my conversations with him,” Luongo said.

 

“You would simply read his stuff and wonder, how did he get that? And then I knew; he was on the phone, on email, constantly trying to find people to interview.”

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Congress

House Republicans pass anti-LGBTQ Parents Bill of Rights Act

Measure passed by 213-208 vote margin

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. House Republicans on Friday passed the Parents Bill of Rights Act, a proposal that would require public schools to share educational materials with parents and also contains provisions that would trigger the outing of LGBTQ students without their consent.

Critics say the legislation’s professed purpose, to equip parents with the information necessary for them to better engage with their children’s educators, is a pretext for its ultimate goals: For schools to censor out content addressing race, or materials containing LGBTQ characters or themes, while also discouraging LGBTQ students from being out at school.

The Congressional Equality Caucus noted the likelihood of that outcome in a statement Friday denouncing the bill, which the group’s chair, U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), called “dangerous” — pointing to its requirement for “schools to forcibly out transgender students, even if it puts those youth in harm’s way.”

“All children deserve access to a safe and affirming school environment,” Takano said in the statement. “Transgender youth have enough challenges already due to harassment, bullying, and anti-transgender state laws,” he said, adding, “My colleagues who voted for this bill should be ashamed.”

House members voted 213-208 for passage of the Parents Bill of Rights, or House Resolution 5, with Republican U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Mike Lawler (N.Y.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.) voting against the legislation with every Democratic member. The bill was first introduced by GOP Rep. Julia Letlow (La.).

With Democrats’ control of the U.S. Senate, movement on the bill will almost certainly be stopped once it reaches the upper chamber, but it may nevertheless still have a harmful impact on the country’s LGBTQ youth.

For example, the National Institutes of Health published a peer reviewed study last year that found a link between anti-trans legislation and “suicide and depression-related Internet searches” using a dataset comprising 40 bills that were introduced and reached committee, of which three were passed and signed into law.

The caucus’ statement noted HR 5 contains “two provisions that would require schools that take steps to respect a student’s gender identity to forcibly out those transgender youth to their parents” along with another that would allow parents to access their children’s answers to survey questions, answers that might include information about a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The risk that their parents will be able to see their answers will incentivize many students to lie about these and other questions, which the caucus said will undermine the federal government’s ability to collect important demographic, statistical and survey data on America’s LGBTQ youth.

Exacerbating that problem is another provision in the legislation, which requires parents to “opt-in” if their children would be asked to share their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, also issued a statement Friday condemning HR 5.

“The bill, which picks and chooses which families have rights and which don’t, has occupied the chamber’s time while extremist House leaders continue neglecting the very real and urgent problems facing our schools, such as gun violence, teacher shortages and educational inequality,” the group said in its statement.

HRC also noted the legislation’s potential to trigger forcible outing of LGBTQ youth “would endanger students instead of fulfilling school officials’ obligation to make judgments on a case-by-case basis in the best interests of the students under their supervision.”

The organization said it expects House Republicans to move “in coming weeks” on House Resolution 734, “a bill to ban participation by transgender youth in school sports,” and drew parallels between the Parents Bill of Rights Act and the “curriculum censorship seen in harmful, unnecessary bills passed in state legislatures recently.”

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stanbury (D-N.M.), a member of the Equality Caucus, echoed that message in her statement Friday, writing that HR 5 was “modeled after bills passed at the state level, which have censored the teaching of American history, allowed book bans, and violated the safety and privacy of transgender and LGBTQ+ students.”

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on Monday addressing the bill, writing “the administration does not support HR 5 in its current form because the bill does not actually help parents support their children at school” and “moreover, instead of making LGBTQI+ students feel included in their school community, it puts them at higher risk.”

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Africa

Kenyan MPs approve resolution to ban public discussions of LGBTQ issues

Some lawmakers argue motion threatens freedom of expression

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Kenya’s parliament has overwhelmingly passed a motion for the government to enforce an immediate ban on “public discussion, reporting and distribution” of LGBTQ content in the country. 

It passed on Wednesday, despite some legislators raising concerns that it is a threat to the freedom of expression, information and the media protected under the Kenyan Constitution. 

Owen Baya, an MP from the ruling United Democratic Alliance party who also serves as National Assembly’s deputy majority leader, termed the motion “controversial” and questioned why it was allowed for debate in the House, even though it violates the law.  

“The republic of Kenya is governed by the Constitution. How can we prohibit freedom of speech? Freedom of speech, reporting and distribution of information are constitutional rights even if same-sex relations are illegal in Kenya,” Baya said. 

The Article 33 of the Constitution under the freedom of expression requires every person to respect the rights and reputation of others. 

Section 2 of the same Article 33, however, curtails freedom of speech when it amounts to war propaganda, incitement to violence, hate speech and advocacy to hatred such as ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm.  

Article 32, which Baya also cited, provides the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion in addition to Article 34 which guarantees the freedom and independence of electronic, print, and all other types of media. 

The sponsor of the anti-gay motion, Mohamed Ali, an MP from the ruling party and a celebrated investigative journalist, in response argued that publicizing homosexuality, which is outlawed in the country, violates the constitution that only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. 

“The constitution gives us the freedom of expression, but not about gay and lesbianism which are unlawful practices in Kenya,” Ali said. 

The legislator stated that his motion banning LGBTQ publicity is motivated by an increase in homosexuality in the country because of LGBTQ-specific content in books and in print and broadcast media.

The government is already cracking down on foreign teenage books with LGBTQ content. 

The Education Ministry and the church have also formed a Chaplains Committee chaired by Kenya’s Anglican Bishop Jackson Ole Sapit to counter what he describes as the infiltration of homosexuality in schools. The committee’s mandate include counseling students who identify as LGBTQ. 

“We recognize that publishing and distributing homosexual content through the press has serious consequences to the family values and opposite-sex relations that should be protected since the increase in same-sex relations threatens the extinction of human beings in the country,” the motion reads.  

The move to curtail homosexuality is also in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling that granted the LGBTQ community the right to register as non-governmental organization. 

The judges’ decision sparked anger and criticism from religious leaders and politicians, including President William Ruto, who has instructed the attorney general to have it overturned through an appeal.  

The motion that lawmakers approved on Wednesday calls for the police and judiciary to enforce it through the Section 162 of the Penal Code that criminalizes consensual same-sex relations with a 14-year jail term and sets the pace for the introduction of an anticipated anti-homosexuality bill that is being drafted.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, who sponsored the bill that seeks to further criminalize and punish homosexuality and the promotion of LGBTQ activities in Kenya, last month notified the National Assembly Speaker about its introduction in the House.    

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman came under fire during the debate on the motion because of her recent remarks in defense of the LGBTQ and intersex community that she made after she met with a group of activists.

“She should respect our religious beliefs, African and Kenyan culture, and our constitution the way we respect the U.S. Constitution. We won’t allow the American culture of gay and lesbianism to rule in Kenya and I ask Whitman to practice the American in the U.S. and the Kenyan culture be left to Kenyans,” Ali said. 

The lawmakers also criticized the West, particularly the U.S., for championing LGBTQ and intersex rights in what they termed as engaging in serious reengineering of the world order to destroy other people’s cultures and humanity. 

The parliament’s move to curtail consensual same-sex rights in Kenya comes at a time when Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is being pressured by the U.N., the U.S. and other Western nations not to sign into law a bill that bans people from identifying as LGBTQ or intersex. Kenyan lawmakers have applauded their Ugandan counterparts for passing the measure, while urging Museveni to assent to it without bowing to any pressure from the Western nations since his firm opposition to homosexuality has made him East Africa’s role model.

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Maryland

As Md. advances bill to fund gender-affirming care, LGBTQ advocates stress it will save lives

Trans Health Equity Act would impact state Medicaid

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Md. state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) speaks at a press conference for the Trans Health Equity Act on Feb. 14, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Linus Berggren)

By John-John Williams IV | Shaylie Elliette wishes the Trans Health Equity Act that appears headed for final passage in the Maryland General Assembly would have been around seven years ago, when she turned 18. She believes that transitioning earlier in life would have eliminated years of torment, abuse and discrimination all linked to transphobia.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner website.

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