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Chilean Senate committee approves civil unions bill

LGBT advocates describe vote as ‘step forward’

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A Chilean Senate committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a civil unions bill. (Photo by the Photographic Collection of the Library of the National Congress of Chile; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A Chilean Senate committee on Tuesday voted unanimously to advance a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The vote sets the stage for a potential vote on the measure in the full Senate.

“Today we have taken a step forward in this fight for civil unions that we began a decade ago,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in a statement. “The step that was once a dream is becoming real.”

Luis Larraín, president of Fundación Iguales, another Chilean LGBT advocacy group, also applauded the vote.

“We are one step closer to the state of Chile recognizing that there are distinct types of family and that all of them deserve protection,” he said.

Former President Sebastián Piñera first introduced the civil unions bill in the Chilean Congress in 2011.

Senators in January voted 28-6 to move the proposal out of committee.

President Michelle Bachelet, who took office in March, publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples in the South American country during last year’s presidential campaign.

Chile’s highest court in 2011 ruled the country’s ban on nuptials for gays and lesbians is constitutional in a case the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights.

The Piñera administration argued in a brief it filed with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights last November in response to the same-sex marriage lawsuit that the plaintiffs have “not exhausted domestic remedies to obtain the nullification of the administrative act for [the] alleged violation of fundamental rights.” Lawyers representing the three couples have repeatedly urged Bachelet to reject her predecessor’s position in the case.

Anti-LGBT violence casts shadow over advances

LGBT rights advocates have seen a number of legal and political advances in the conservative South American country in recent years.

Piñera in 2012 signed an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and anti-discrimination bill that had languished in the Chilean Congress for seven years. It is named in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a 24-year-old man whom a group of self-described neo-Nazis beat to death inside a park in Santiago, the country’s capital, earlier that year.

The country’s Senate in January advanced a bill that would allow trans Chileans to legally change their name and sex without sex reassignment surgery.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012 ruled in favor of Karen Atala, a lesbian judge who lost custody of her three daughters to her ex-husband seven years earlier because of her sexual orientation.

Claudio Arriagada last November became the first openly gay person elected to the Chilean Congress.

Jaime Parada Hoyl, a former spokesperson for the Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation, in 2012 won a seat on the municipal council in Providencia, a wealthy Santiago enclave.

Voters in the Santiago suburb of Lampa re-elected transgender Councilwoman Alejandra González during the same municipal elections. Trans activist Zuliana Araya also won a seat on the Municipal Council in the coastal city of Valparaíso.

Anti-LGBT violence remains a serious concern in spite of these political and legal advances.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation said in a press release on Tuesday that Zaconi Orellana Acevedo, a 22-year-old trans woman, was killed earlier this week in a town outside of Santiago.

“We cannot forget that the female transsexual population is particularly vulnerable, because from an early age all doors are closed for them and a great many of them are forced to engage in commercial sex work to survive,” said the advocacy group. “The lack of a gender identity law that would allow trans people to change their name with a simple process in the Civil Registry and not in the judiciary as occurs right now, would bring more development possibilities to this social group.”

A rash of other anti-LGBT attacks over the past year have sparked outrage among Chilean advocates. These include the death of Esteban Parada Armijo in January after two men stabbed him in Santiago’s Bellavista neighborhood where several gay bars and clubs are located.

Guillermo Aguilera Guerrero allegedly stabbed Alejandro Alfredo Bustamante Godoy to death inside his Valparaíso home a few weeks before Parada’s murder.

Bachelet has said she supports efforts to strengthen Chile’s hate crimes and anti-discrimination law.

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Trudeau’s party wins Canada election

Prime minister champions LGBTQ rights

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters at the U.N. in 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won the country’s election that took place on Monday.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation projected Trudeau’s party won, even though polls have not closed in all provinces and territories. Erin O’Toole of the Conservative Party was Trudeau’s main challenger.

Trudeau has been prime minister since 2015.

He won re-election in 2019, even though a picture of him in blackface emerged a few weeks before the vote. His party lost its majority in Parliament.

Trudeau last month called a snap election in the hopes his party could once again have a majority government.

The prime minister in 2017 formally apologized to those who suffered persecution and discrimination under Canada’s anti-LGBTQ laws and policies and announced the Canadian government would settle a class-action lawsuit filed by those who were forced to leave the military and civil service because of their sexual orientation.

A law that added gender identity to Canada’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes also law took effect in 2017. Trudeau supports a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Canada in 2018 joined the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership the U.S. launched in order to promote LGBTQ rights around the world. Canada has also said it would offer refuge to LGBTQ Afghans who are fleeing their country after the Taliban regained control of it in August.

The Washington Blade will update this article.

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McAuliffe participates in Virginia Pride roundtable

Gubernatorial candidate highlighted plans to keep Va. ‘open and welcoming’

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(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

Terry McAuliffe on Monday met with Virginia Pride in Richmond to discuss his plans to keep the state “open and welcoming” for the LGBTQ community.

“Great opportunity to speak with @VA_Pride in Richmond this AM,” McAuliffe tweeted following the roundtable that took place at Diversity Richmond’s headquarters. “VA is the #1 state for business because we are open and welcoming — but that’s all at risk this November. Glenn Youngkin’s far-right social agenda would harm LGBTQ+ Virginians and send our economy into a ditch.”

McAuliffe and Youngkin are running a close race for the governorship, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released Saturday that shows the former Virginia governor leading by a 50-47 percent margin among likely voters.

The Human Rights Campaign endorsed McAuliffe, who was governor from 2014-2018, for his record of supporting LGBTQ rights, including supporting marriage equality and signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees as his first action in office. 

“LGBTQ leaders in Richmond had a great meeting with Gov. McAuliffe where he was able to lay out his agenda for building on the tremendous progress Virginia has made towards equality,” said Virginia Pride Program Director James Millner in an email to the Washington Blade. “The governor talked extensively about his record on LGBTQ issues and promised to work with us to ensure that every LGBTQ Virginian is able to live openly and authentically.”

McAuliffe’s legacy includes welcoming businesses turned off by North Carolina’s passage of its anti-transgender “bathroom bill.” 

When North Carolina’s House Bill 2, a law requiring students to use public restrooms and locker rooms aligned with the gender on their birth certificates, took effect in 2016, McAullife recruited CoStar, a real estate information company that operates databases for Apartments.com, ApartmentFinder.com and similar companies, to move its headquarters to Richmond. This recruitment brought 730 jobs to the state.

David Dorsch, a senior vice president at Cushman and Wakefield, which represented CoStar nationally, told the Charlotte Business Journal that CoStar’s primary reason for choosing “Richmond over Charlotte was HB 2.”

Youngkin is a former business executive who previously ran the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm named by the HRC in 2019 as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. HRC, however, has called out Youngkin for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his current campaign.

McAuliffe in April released an LGBTQ rights platform that includes a call to repeal the so-called “conscience clause,” which allows religious-based adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Governor Ralph Northam, who was McAuliffe’s former lieutenant governor and has signed historic LGBTQ-inclusive legislation during his time in office, also endorsed McAuliffe for governor.

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Biden recognizes 10th anniversary of end to ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Pete Buttigieg, Gina Ortiz Jones named in White House statement

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President Biden recognized in a statement on Monday the tenth anniversary of the end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law that once discharged service members from the military for being openly gay or bisexual.

“Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members,” Biden said. “The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all.”

Biden recognized high-profile openly gay appointees in his administrations who are also veterans, naming Air Force Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Biden also names Shawn Skelly, assistant secretary of defense for readiness, who would have been discharged from the military under President Trump’s transgender military ban.

“On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation,” Biden said. “We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.”

Technically speaking, the anniversary of Obama signing repeal legislation was in December. Today is the anniversary of defense officials certifying the military is ready, which put an end to the policy.

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Tenth Anniversary of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ten years ago today, a great injustice was remedied and a tremendous weight was finally lifted off the shoulders of tens of thousands of dedicated American service members. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which formally barred gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from openly serving, helped move our nation closer to its foundational promise of equality, dignity, and opportunity for all. It was the right thing to do. And, it showed once again that America is at its best when we lead not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Despite serving with extraordinary honor and courage throughout our history, more than 100,000 American service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—including some 14,000 under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Many of these veterans received what are known as “other than honorable” discharges, excluding them and their families from the vitally important services and benefits they had sacrificed so much to earn.

As a U.S. Senator, I supported allowing service members to serve openly, and as Vice President, I was proud to champion the repeal of this policy and to stand beside President Obama as he signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act into law. As President, I am honored to be Commander-in-Chief of the strongest and most inclusive military in our nation’s history. Today, our military doesn’t just welcome LGBTQ+ service members—it is led at the highest levels by brave LGBTQ+ veterans, including Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Shawn Skelly, who served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I was gratified to appoint the first openly gay Senate-confirmed Cabinet member, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Afghanistan veteran who joined the military under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. And during my first week in office, I proudly delivered on my pledge to repeal the discriminatory ban on open service by patriotic transgender service members.

On this day and every day, I am thankful for all of the LGBTQ+ service members and veterans who strengthen our military and our nation. We must honor their sacrifice by continuing the fight for full equality for LGBTQ+ people, including by finally passing the Equality Act and living up to our highest values of justice and equality for all.

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