Connect with us

National

LGBT issues not discussed during Obama meeting with Francis

Argentinian activist says Catholic hierarchy supports anti-gay persecution.

Published

on

Pope Francis, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis met with President Obama at the Vatican on Thursday. (Photo by Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

President Obama on Thursday did not raise LGBT-specific issues with Pope Francis during their meeting in the Vatican.

“I would say that the largest bulk of the time was discussing two central concerns of his,” Obama told reporters after the meeting. “One is the issues of the poor, the marginalized, those without opportunity and growing inequality.”

Obama said he and the pontiff discussed immigration reform and the possibility of a papal trip to the U.S. The president stressed there was also “some specific focus” during their 50 minute meeting on the Middle East – and specifically Syria, Lebanon and the fledgling peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

“The theme that stitched our conversation together was a belief that in politics and in life the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for someone even if they don’t look like you or talk like you or share your philosophy – that that’s critical,” said Obama. “It’s the lack of empathy that makes it very easy for us to plunge into wars.”

Obama said he did not discuss the Affordable Care Act – and specifically exemptions for religious institutions during his meeting with Francis. The president noted to reporters he “briefly” discussed the issue with Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s chief diplomat.

A Vatican press release described Obama’s meeting with Francis as “cordial.” The Holy See noted “views were exchanged on some current international themes.”

“It was hoped that, in some areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved,” said the press release.

The Vatican noted Obama and Francis discussed “questions of particular relevance for the church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform.”

“Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated,” added the press release.

LGBT rights advocates earlier this week pressed Obama to discuss the Vatican’s opposition to marriage rights for gays and lesbians, a Ugandan law that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts and other issues.

“At a time when members of the LGBT community are being arrested, attacked, and ‘outed’ in situations that make them vulnerable to violence, there is a real urgency for U.S. leadership,” said Human Rights First President Elisa Massimino and Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, in a letter they wrote to Obama before he traveled to Europe earlier this week. “There is particular value for Pope Francis to raise this issue publicly in Uganda because his words will reverberate throughout Africa and worldwide at this time, and we hope he would raise these issues consistently.”

Obama on Wednesday referenced gay rights during a speech to European and NATO allies in Brussels against the backdrop of the escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

“Instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights,” said the president.

Dignity USA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke told the Washington Blade on Friday she feels there is “probably a nice compatibility between” Obama and Francis on immigration and income inequality-related issues. She added she feels Secretary of State John Kerry and his Vatican counterpart likely discussed differences over the Affordable Care Act, LGBT rights and other topics.

“I certainly hope that the Obama administration continued to be clear about its position that LGBTQ justice issues are part of their human rights initiatives and that they’re really committed to global equality,” said Duddy-Burke.

Esteban Paulón, Argentina, LGBT Federation of Argentina, gay news, Washington Blade

Esteban Paulón (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)


LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón expressed disappointment that Obama did not specifically discuss LGBT-specific issues with the pope who was the archbishop of Buenos Aires before he succeeded Pope Benedict XVI last year.

“Even though we did not have high expectations, we believed that within the context of the meeting President Obama would have brought to the table his administration’s concern that it has expressed, and that we have shared, about the climate of hostilities towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in many parts of the world,” Paulón told the Blade on Friday. “In many of those countries this persecution happens with the support, or at the very least with the complicity and silence, of the Catholic hierarchy.”

LGBT Catholics have welcomed Francis’ more moderate tone on marriage, homosexuality and other gay-specific issues since he succeeded Benedict. The church’s position on the aforementioned topics has not changed in spite of the Argentine-born pontiff’s more conciliatory tone.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

State Department

State Department travel advisory warns of potential anti-LGBTQ violence

FBI issued similar warning this week

Published

on

(Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The State Department on Friday issued a worldwide travel advisory that warns of potential violence against LGBTQ people and LGBTQ-specific events.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” reads the advisory. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.”  

The advisory further urges U.S. citizens to:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, including Pride celebrations and venues frequented by LGBTQI+ persons.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive information and alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency overseas.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Homeland Security Investigations earlier this week issued a similar advisory.

The advisory notes June 12 will mark eight years since the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Continue Reading

The White House

White House acknowledges IDAHOBiT, reiterates support for global LGBTQ rights

WHO on May 17, 1990, declassified homosexuality as a mental illness

Published

on

Pride flags fly from an apartment's terrace in Warsaw, Poland, on April 11, 2024. The International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia commemorates the World Health Organization's declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Biden-Harris administration on Friday used the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia to reiterate its support of LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

“On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, my administration stands in support and solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) people around the world as they seek to live full lives, free from violence and discrimination,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “This is a matter of human rights, plain and simple.” 

“The United States applauds those individuals and groups worldwide working to defend the rights of LGBTQI+ people wherever they are under threat,” he added. “We are grateful for the contributions that LGBTQI+ people make every day across our nation.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden.

“On this day, we reflect upon the violence and discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons worldwide suffer and re-commit ourselves to opposing these acts,” said Blinken in his own statement. “This year, like every year, we state unequivocally: LGBTQI+ persons deserve recognition of their universal human rights and human dignity.” 

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder on May 17, 1990.

Blinken in his statement notes LGBTQ and intersex people around the world “continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination.”

Dominica last month became the latest country to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

“Even as more countries make meaningful advancements towards full equality; LGBTQI+ persons continue to be sentenced to death for daring to live their sexual orientation or gender identity, subjected to coercive conversion ‘therapies’ and ‘normalization’ surgeries, discriminated against while receiving health services, restricted from exercising fundamental freedoms, and denied the dignity of same-sex partnership and fulfillment of family,” said Blinken. 

“As we reflect upon the injustices that LGBTQI+ persons and their allies endure, we must not forget that today is fundamentally a day of action,” he added. “On this day and every day, the United States stands with LGBTQI+ persons around the world. We will continue to advocate for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons not just because we have a moral imperative to do so, but because it helps to strengthen democracy, bolster national security, and promote global health and economic development.”

The Tonga Leitis Association is among the myriad LGBTQ and intersex rights groups around the world that acknowledged IDAHOBiT.

Continue Reading

Federal Government

Biden-Harris administration takes major step toward reclassifying marijuana

New regulations could lessen criminal penalties for cannabis

Published

on

President Joe Biden discusses his administration's move toward reforming drug policy on cannabis (Screen capture: X)

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday took a major step toward loosening the federal government’s regulation of marijuana by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which outlines a proposal to reclassify it under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The move comes pursuant to the Biden-Harris administration’s April 30 announcement of plans to recategorize cannabis as a Schedule III substance, which could substantially lessen the criminal penalties for those convicted of using, possessing, selling, distributing, or cultivating the drug.

A 60-day public comment period will begin after the NPRM is published on the Federal Register, along with a concurrent review of the proposed regulatory reforms by an administrative law judge assigned by the DEA.

Since the CSA was passed in 1971, cannabis has been listed under Schedule I, the category reserved for drugs that are considered to be the most dangerous and lacking any currently accepted medical use in the U.S.

In a press release, a senior administration official noted that “marijuana is currently classified higher than fentanyl and meth – the drugs driving our Nation’s overdose epidemic.”

President Joe Biden posted a video on X in which he said the proposal to house cannabis under the Schedule III regulatory regime constitutes “an important move towards reversing longstanding inequities.”

“Today’s announcement builds on the work we’ve already done to pardon a record number of federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana,” the president said. “It adds to the action we’ve taken to lift barriers to housing, employment, small business loans, and more for tens of thousands of Americans.”

“Look folks no one should be in jail for merely using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said. “Period.”

The president added, “Far too many lives have been upended because of a failed approach to marijuana and I’m committed to righting those wrongs. You have my word on it.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade

Advertisement

Popular