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Michelle Bachelet wins first round of Chile presidential election

Same-sex marriage supporter will face Evelyn Matthei in Dec. 15 run-off

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Michelle Bachelet, Chile, Socialist Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Michelle Bachelet (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert of Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Sunday won the first round of her country’s presidential elections.

Bachelet received slightly less than 47 percent of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. Her main rival, Evelyn Matthei, came in second with 25 percent of the votes.

Bachelet needed at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off.

The left-leaning Socialist whose father was tortured to death following the 1973 coup that toppled then-President Salvador Allende’s government was Chile’s president from 2006-2010. She and Matthei squared off against seven other candidates.

Bachelet vowed to address long-standing socio-economic inequalities in the South American nation and reform the country’s education system during the campaign. She has also publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

“Inequality is Chile’s huge scar,” Bachelet told supporters during a campaign rally on Nov. 14 as Reuters reported. “It’s our main obstacle and the stone in our shoe when we really think about becoming a modern country.”

Neighboring Argentina is among the 15 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in July gave the Chilean government a two month deadline to respond to a same-sex marriage lawsuit the LGBT advocacy group Movement for Homosexual Integration (Movilh) filed last year. The group said last month that two members of outgoing President Sebastián Piñera’s cabinet with whom it met assured them the government has already begun the “process of internal consultations” to respond to the case.

More than 40 Chilean lawmakers have urged Piñera to make a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions a priority before he leaves office early next year.

Bachelet backs efforts to strengthen pro-LGBT laws

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in February 2012 ruled in favor of lesbian Judge Karen Atala who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband in 2005 because of her sexual orientation. The Chilean government last December formally apologized to Atala.

The fatal beating of Daniel Zamudio, who was gay, inside a park in Santiago, the country’s capital, in March 2012 prompted Chilean lawmakers to approve a hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. A court on Oct. 28 sentenced the convicted mastermind of the attack to life in prison.

Bachelet’s platform supports efforts to strengthen the anti-discrimination statute named in honor of Zamudio. She also backs efforts that would extend additional rights to trans Chileans.

Bachelet and Matthei will face each other in a run-off on Dec. 15.

We have won this election and with a ample majority,” Bachelet said on Sunday after the polls closed as the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio reported. “We are going to work towards a decisive victory in the second round.”

LGBT rights advocates also celebrated Claudio Arriagada’s election as the first openly gay member of the Chilean Congress.

Arriagada, who was the mayor of the Santiago suburb of La Granja from 1992 to 2012, came out in July. The Bachelet ally who is a member of the centrist Christian Democratic Party won is race to represent La Granja in the lower house of the Chilean Congress with nearly 53 percent of the vote.

Movilh President Rolando Jiménez lost in his bid to represent the Santiago suburb of Conchalí in the same legislative chamber.

“When we were founded in 1991 the possibility of an openly gay parliamentarian would not have been part of our dreams,” Movilh said in response to Arriagada’s victory. “Least of which one would not have thought the first would be from the Christian Democrats. And here, after more than 22 years of cultural transformations it has happened.”

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District of Columbia

Bernie Delia, attorney, beloved Capital Pride organizer, dies at 64

Activist worked at Justice Department, White House as attorney

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Capital Pride, No Justice, No Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Bernie Delia (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Bernie Delia, a founding member of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. LGBTQ Pride events, and who served most recently as co-chair of World Pride 2025, which D.C. will be hosting next June, died unexpectedly on Friday, according to a statement released by Capital Pride Alliance. He was 64.

“It is with great sadness that the Capital Pride Alliance mourns the passing of Bernie Delia,” the statement says. “We will always reflect on his life and legacy as a champion, activist, survivor, mentor, friend, leader, and a true inspiration to the LGBTQ+ community.”

The statement says that in addition to serving six years as the Capital Pride Alliance board president, Delia served for several years as president of Dignity Washington, the local LGBTQ Catholic organization, where he helped create “an environment for spiritual enrichment during the height of the AIDS epidemic.”

“He also had a distinguished legal career, serving as one of the first openly gay appointees at the U.S. Department of Justice and later as an appellate attorney,” the statement reads.

Delia’s LinkedIn page shows that he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for 26 years, serving as an assistant U.S. attorney from 2001 to 2019. Prior to that, he served from 1997 to 2001 as associate deputy attorney general and from 1994 to 1997 served as senior counsel to the director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, which provides executive and administrative support for 93 U.S. attorneys located throughout the country.

His LinkedIn page shows he served from January-June 1993 as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel during the administration of President Bill Clinton, in which he was part of the White House staff. And it shows he began his career as legal editor of the Bureau of National Affairs, which published news reports on legal issues, from 1983-1993.

The Capital Pride Alliance statement describes Delia as an avid runner who served as the coordinator of the D.C. Front Runners and Stonewall Kickball LGBTQ sports groups.

“He understood the value, purpose, and the urgency of the LGBTQ+ community to work together and support one another,” the statement says. “He poured his soul into our journey toward World Pride, which was a goal of his from the start of his involvement with Capital Pride.”

The statement adds, “Bernie will continue to guide us forward to ensure we meet this important milestone as we gather with the world to be visible, heard, and authentic. We love you, Bernie!”

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Africa

Prominent South African activist elected to country’s parliament

Steve Letsike founded Access Chapter 2

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

A prominent South African LGBTQ activist has won a seat in the country’s parliament.

Steve Letsike, a lesbian woman who founded Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group, is a member of the African National Congress. She is also part of the ANC’s National Executive Committee that determines the party’s direction.

Letsike won a seat in the South African National Assembly in national and provincial elections that took place on May 29.

The ANC lost its parliamentary majority that it had had since Nelson Mandela in 1994 won the South African presidency in the country’s first post-apartheid elections. MPs earlier this month re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa after the ANC and the Democratic Alliance, the country’s second largest political party, formed a coalition government.

Letsike in a statement to the Washington Blade described her election as “a milestone for the people of South Africa, and also affirmative of our party’s posture that is inclusive and intention to transformation agenda.”

“I am not in parliament for myself but the people that trusted the ANC to send individuals that will put people first,” said Letsike. “In that cohort that includes the LGBTI people like myself. Rooted in the teaching of a just society, that seeks equality and believes in the rule of law. That demand on developmental agenda from a queer lens and clear priorities of the people is important.” 

“I am delighted by this task, trust and hope for our people,” she added.

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The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

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First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

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