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LGBT advocates from Caribbean, South America visit U.S.

‘We’re facing some serious issues back home’



Caribbean, South America, White House, LGBT, gay news, Washington Blade

Jamaica, LGBT rights, gay news, Washington Blade

Anti-LGBT violence remains a serious concern for advocates in Jamaica and in other countries in the Caribbean and South America. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Sturtz)

A group of LGBT rights advocates from the Caribbean and South America are in the U.S. this month on a State Department-sponsored trip designed to help them bolster their advocacy efforts in their respective countries.

Advocates from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago arrived in D.C. on June 7 to take part in a trip organized through the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

They attended Capital Pride events and met with Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado, members of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and other advocates while in the nation’s capital. The activists also met with officials at the State Department and the White House.

The group traveled to Memphis on June 14 where they met with what their itinerary described as “small NGOs (non-governmental organizations) serving the LGBT population.” They also discussed “being LGBT within another minority community.”

The advocates on Monday traveled to Little Rock, Ark., and are scheduled to arrive in Iowa City, Iowa, on Thursday. The trip is slated to end on June 23.

“It’s a very intense program,” Donovan Banel, legal advisor of Suriname Men United, a Surinamese LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on June 12 during a mixer at Number Nine with National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and other advocates. “I can take a lot of what I learned back to my home country and then apply it and help support the LGBT community that is in Suriname.”

Mellissa Johnson of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance noted anti-LGBT discrimination and stigma remain prevalent in Antigua and Barbuda. The islands are among the 11 nations throughout the Caribbean and South America in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

“I’m happy for the opportunity to see how far and what progress has been made with the LGBT community here,” Johnson told the Blade. “We are facing some serious issues back home, so we wanted to see how you dealt with it here to see if we can incorporate it back here.”

The Jamaican Supreme Court in November is expected to hear a case challenging the country’s sodomy law filed by a man who claims his landlord kicked him out of his home because of his sexual orientation. The Supreme Court of the Judicature of Belize last year heard a challenge to the Central American nation’s sodomy law that a local LGBT advocacy group filed in 2010.

LGBT issues gain traction, visibility

Same-sex couples can legally marry on the Dutch island of Saba, Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, has spoken out in support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians.

Nearly three dozen countries earlier this month approved a resolution in support of LGBT rights during the Organization of American States’ annual meeting in Paraguay. Belize, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados are among the nations that backed it “with reservations.”

Belizean first lady Kim Simplis-Barrow has publicly spoken out against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in her country. A so-called conscience vote that would allow Jamaican parliamentarians to consult with their constituents on the country’s anti-sodomy law has yet to take place, even though Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller during her 2011 campaign pledged to call for one.

Gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, last week released a video that commemorated Pride month.

Anti-LGBT discrimination, violence persist

Jamaican police on June 15 reportedly rescued a gay man who had been attacked by a mob after he was seen putting on lipstick. This latest incident of anti-LGBT violence in the country took place nearly a year after a group of partygoers killed Dwayne Jones, a cross-dressing teenager, near the resort city of Montego Bay.

Media reports indicate several people in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince were injured last August after a mob attacked a British man and his partner as they celebrated their engagement.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic last June sparked outrage among local LGBT rights advocates after he described Brewster as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a press conference.

A diplomatic reception with Dominican President Danilo Medina and his wife that had been scheduled to take place in January was postponed after several ambassadors said they would not attend because Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Vatican’s envoy to Santo Domingo who organized it, did not invite Brewster’s husband. It took place on March 24 with the gay U.S. ambassador and Satawake in attendance.

David Bustamante Rodríguez, a Cuban LGBT rights advocate with HIV, remains in jail after he staged a “peaceful protest” against the country’s government on the roof of his home near the city of Santa Clara last month.

Luke Sinnette of Friends for Life, a Trinidadian LGBT rights organization, noted to the Blade while in D.C. that Caribbean countries are often connected by culture, colonial-era laws and other factors. He said what happens in a particular nation can reverberate throughout the region.

“If something happens in Belize or happens in Jamaica, you can then use that in Trinidad, or the other way around,” said Sinnette.



Anti-LGBTQ provisions removed from NDAA

New version omits restriction on gender affirming care, book and drag bans



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

Anti-LGBTQ provisions submitted by House Republicans to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have been removed from the defense spending bill, triggering outrage from conservative lawmakers and praise from LGBTQ groups.

The conference version of the bill was released on Thursday.

This week saw the revocation of two measures targeting gender affirming care along with the book ban and drag ban. Language stipulating the list of approved flags that can be flown at military bases was amended such that more flags can be added on a discretionary basis.

“MAGA members of Congress tried to hijack the National Defense Authorization Act to advance their anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, attempting to riddle it with discriminatory riders,” Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf said in a statement to the Washington Blade.

His statement continued, “They failed and equality won. Anti-LGBTQ+ provisions, including efforts to restrict access to gender affirming care, were rejected. The anti-LGBTQ+ agenda continues to be deeply unpopular across the country and a failing political strategy.”

Wolf thanked U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) for “defending equality and defeating attacks on the community.”

Pledging to vote “no” on the bill, Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) said in a post on X, “I was appointed to the NDAA conference committee but NEVER got to work on the final version of the NDAA bc they made the deal behind closed doors and here are the horrible results.”

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Transgender people seek government job consideration in India’s Maharashtra state

Court petition filed on Nov. 29



Transgender flags (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ancient texts in India have recorded the history and cultural importance of transgender people, but the community is still marginalized and vulnerable in the country. Although the government offers many vulnerable castes a specific number of slots for education and government jobs, trans people still have no such benefit and continue to face discrimination across the nation. 

Three trans people from Maharashtra state on Nov. 29 filed an application to the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal seeking slots for trans people in government jobs and a “third gender” option in online job applications. Two applicants had applied for police officer posts, while the other had applied for a revenue officer post — both of which are government jobs in India.

While hearing the application, the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, a court that has all the powers of the High Court, said it cannot direct the state government to give slots for trans people in public employment and education. The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal did say, however, that the state government should take more steps towards inclusivity for the community in mainstream society.

Maharashtra’s government told the tribunal it would not be possible to provide slots to trans people in government jobs or education. 

The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal in a 26-page order directed the state government to give applicants the necessary points to qualify for the job if the applicant has secured 50 percent of the total marks for the concerned post. The tribunal also directed the government to provide age relaxation to trans applicants if they earned 45 points.

In India, every government job seeker goes through an examination to qualify for the job. Government job examinations are one of the toughest in India because there are millions of applications for a few positions, resulting in the need to secure higher marks to get a position.

More than one million applicants applied for 18,331 police officer positions in 2022. The government, however, provides slots to backward class applicants and gives points relaxation in examinations. Trans people in India are most marginalized and vulnerable with no slots in education or employment.

Retired Justice Mridula Bhatkar, who chairs the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal and member Medha Gadgil in the ruling said the fact that not a single trans person who has come out received a job in the government sector speaks volumes.

“The transgender people are humans and are citizens of our great country who are waiting for their inclusion in the mainstream,” said the tribunal. “We have historical, mythological and cultural instances of eunuchs and their participation in political, social or cultural fields.”

The tribunal also said trans people are in the minority. 

Although the majority forms the government, the majority cannot suppress the rights of marginalized sections of society. The tribunal further added the situation in which the trans community finds itself is worse than what women faced in the past while demanding equality.

The tribunal highlighted the mere acknowledgment of the separate identity of trans people was not enough, but they also need to be given opportunities in government jobs.

“The State of Maharashtra has been very progressive in its thought and culture,” said the tribunal. “Therefore, it is desirable on the part of the government to take necessary measures to enable these transgender applicants to get jobs in the government sector.”

The tribunal mentioned Indian Constitution prohibits any kind of discrimination based on sex under articles 15 and 16.

“To get into public employment is a handicapped race for transgenders,” said the tribunal. “Though they are not physically disabled and are able-bodied persons, their activities, actions, growth are paralyzed due to the negative approach of society, family in all schools, colleges in all places at all levels.”

While representing the petitioners, Kranti LC, a lawyer, said that the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Bihar have provided reservations to trans people. The tribunal, however, noted it understands the state has reached the limit of vertical slot of 62 percent, but ordered the law can reach equality and harmony through social engineering.

“The courts are for justice and cannot ignore any societal problem when placed before it,” said the tribunal. “Under such circumstances, though courts are not the lawmakers while interpreting the law, a legally permissible solution is to be applied to meet the ends of justice.”

According to the Indian Supreme Court’s 1992 Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India ruling, nine judges upheld the 50 percent ceiling on slots and denied slots in promotion in government jobs. This means no government agencies or institutions can give slots more than 50 percent of total job openings. Maharashtra state already crossed the limit.

“It is very unfortunate, because transgender people are one of the most vulnerable people in India, and of the most marginalized population in our country,” said Kalki Subramaniam, a trans rights activist and founder of Sahodari Foundation, an organization that works for trans Indians. “For the horizontal reservation, we need to get the support of our government. We need to sensitize our members of Parliament. I think, all political parties do support (the) transgender community, and do understand the plight of the community and difficulties we face.”

Kalki told the Washington Blade the community needs to work hard. She said the community needs to start campaigning for horizontal slots. She said the community needs to MPs to get the necessary support for it.

While talking to the Blade, Rani Patel, an activist and founder of Aarohan, a nonprofit organization that works with trans Indians, said that it is right that the trans community needs to have reservations in jobs and education so that they can be mainstreamed in the society.

“I have been working with the transgender community for last 11 years in Delhi. We had worked very hard for the scraping of section 377,” said Patel. “All the equality and rights given by the Supreme Court of India is of no use until and unless they are not provided with reservation, because there is a stigma in the society against the transgender people, the community feel rejected and detached from the society.”

Patel told the Blade that only a few trans children are getting an education in the country. She said most of the trans people in India need to be skilled in whichever field for which they have an interest. Patel further said that while getting skills, the government should provide slots to trans people, otherwise giving skills will be of no use.

Patel and Aarohan were instrumental in drafting the Delhi government’s trans bill.

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion.

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New bill would protect LGBTQ-owned businesses from lending discrimination

Legislation introduced by Sens. Padilla, Gillibrand and Rep. Torres



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

A bicameral bill introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) would require financial institutions to collect data on access to credit and capital by LGBTQ-owned businesses.

The legislation would thereby allow regulators to better identify and potentially remedy instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in these areas.

CNBC reported in June that a study by the Movement Advancement Project found LGBTQ-owned businesses encountered more rejections than non-LGBTQ-owned businesses that applied for funding, amid a tightening of lending standards across the board.

Specifically, the bill would “clarify that Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) requires financial institutions to collect the self-identified sexual orientation and gender identity of the principal owners of small businesses, in addition to their sex, race, and ethnicity,” according to a press release by Padilla’s office.

The California senator said, “With anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and hate crimes on the rise, LGBTQ+ business owners continue to face persistent and unjust barriers to financial success,” adding that “LGBTQ+-owned small businesses are a cornerstone of local economies, and they deserve equitable resources to help them grow and thrive.”

Padilla’s press release notes the legislation “would also add a definition for businesses owned by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals to the ECOA statute.”

Additionally, “The legislation also includes a Sense of Congress confirming that sexual orientation and gender identity are already covered under the ECOA (including the current data collection requirements)” while clarifying “that the sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity of the principal owners of a business should be collected as three separate forms of information.”

The Congressional Equality Caucus, Ali Forney Center, Center for American Progress, Destination Tomorrow, Drag Out The Vote, Human Rights Campaign, Immigration Equality Action Fund, InterAct, and New Pride Agenda have backed the bill.

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