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Macedonian lawmakers approve same-sex marriage ban

Constitutional amendment described as ‘discriminatory and undemocratic’



Bekim Asani, Macedonia, gay news, Washington Blade

Bekim Asani, Macedonia, gay news, Washington Blade

Bekim Asani, chair of LGBT United Macedonia, a Macedonian LGBT advocacy group, is among the advocates that oppose efforts to amend the country’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. (Photo courtesy of Bekim Asani)

Macedonian lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Amendment XXXIII passed in the former Yugoslav republic’s assembly by a 72-4 margin less than a year after Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s government introduced the proposal.

“Marriage shall be a life union solely of one woman and one man,” reads the proposed amendment.

Macedonian law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Amendment XXXIII states the country “requires a clear and precise constitutional definition of marriage as a union solely of one woman and one man.”

“Marriage exclusively defined as the union between one woman and one man is an integral part of human history, a constant and centuries-long tradition in this region,” reads the proposed amendment. “Marriage is one of the fundamental pillars of society. Thus, marriage constitutionally defined exclusively as a union between one woman and one man shall contribute to marriage as an institution being further acknowledged and promoted in our society.”

The LGBT Support Center, an advocacy group based in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, is among the organizations in the former Yugoslav republic to criticize the proposed amendment.

“These constitutional changes are not only completely unnecessary and redundant, but discriminatory and undemocratic to their very core,” said the LGBT Support Center in a statement. “The only real effect would be enhancing the negative social stigma on LGBTI people, further marginalizing this already deeply marginalized community and unnecessarily increasing the burden of everyday life of LGBT people in Macedonia.”

Chris Paliare, president of the Macedonian Canadian Lawyers’ Association, in a letter he wrote to Gruevski last October also argued the proposed amendment is unnecessary.

“Constitutionalizing these provisions has no rational legal justification and can only be justified, if at all, for some political gain, something that should never be part of a government program when human rights issues are at stake,” said Paliare.

Macedonia’s LGBT rights record lags far beyond those of most other European countries.

The former Yugoslav republic decriminalized homosexuality in 1996, but the country’s anti-discrimination laws currently do not include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Same-sex couples in Macedonia also lack legal protections.

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain commonplace in the country.

The LGBT Support Center in Skopje has experienced at least six attacks since 2013. Two members of the LGBT Association of Macedonia were injured last October when a group of masked men attacked a coffee shop in the country’s capital where they had gathered to celebrate the group’s second anniversary.

Bekim Asani, chair of LGBT United Tetovo Macedonia in the city of Tetovo, told the Washington Blade before lawmakers approved the marriage amendment that he faces discrimination and threats on a daily basis.

“I can’t be who I am,” he said. “It is the same for every other openly LGBT person (in Macedonia.)”

Tanya Domi, an adjunct professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University who is currently writing a book on the LGBT rights movements in several Balkan countries, told the Blade that many Macedonian advocates have been attacked and “forced to seek emergency health care.” She noted many of them have also been evicted from their homes.

“It is a deeply hostile environment for LGBT persons,” said Domi.

Asani told the Blade he feels the proposed amendment will only worsen the situation for LGBT Macedonians.

“Macedonia is democratic country it should be free but when it comes to LGBT in reality it is not like that,” he said. “With the constitutional changes, a bad situation for LGBT people will get even worse.”

Same-sex marriage is legal in Portugal, Spain, France, England, Wales, Scotland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Irish voters in May are scheduled to vote on a referendum that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Finnish lawmakers in November approved a measure that would allow gays and lesbians to tie the knot in the Scandinavian country. Parliamentarians in Estonia and Malta within the last year have extended civil unions to same-sex couples.

Slovak lawmakers in June 2014 overwhelmingly approved an amendment to their country’s constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Croatia, Hungary and Latvia also define marriage as between a man and a woman in their respective countries’ constitutions.


U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar & lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’



J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Kenyan lawmaker’s bill would further crackdown on LGBTQ rights

Provisions include 50-year prison sentence for gays and lesbians convicted of non-consensual sex



Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

A fresh bid to prevent the recognition of and equal rights for LGBTQ people in Kenya through a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Parliament.

The move is in response to this month’s ruling from Kenya’s highest court affirming its February decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, an outspoken critic of homosexuality, is the sponsor of the new initiative that is part of tightening the noose on LGBTQ people after the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed his petition that challenged its February ruling. 

Kaluma wanted the ruling reversed since the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission advocates for homosexuality, which is against the law, and sought the court’s clarification on the term “sex” to exclude LGBTQ persons.  

Kaluma has already written to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, notifying him of his proposal to have the term “sex” redefined in the constitution by repealing Article 259 (4) which judges perceive to also include consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

“This will seal the constitutional gaps the courts are exploiting to introduce homosexuality into the country under the guise of ‘judicial interpretation’ and secure the legislative mandate retained in Parliament and constitutional-making power remains with the people,” Kaluma said. 

He faults the judges for interpreting the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the constitution to also refer to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, or otherwise, not to be discriminated from sexual identity. 

The controversial court’s verdicts have sparked an uproar in the country since Article 45 of the constitution only recognizes consensual opposite-sex sexual relations and Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

In redefining “sex” in law, Kaluma wants the term to be limited to the biological state of being male or female as assigned at birth and not “foreign sexual orientation and gender identity ideology” which he argues the judges based on wrongly. The MPs proposal to redefine sex, however, would not impact intersex people in Kenya since their recognition and sex identity are protected under a landmark law that took effect in July 2022. 

Kaluma notes that the court’s ruling renders sex/gender fluidity away from the biological state of being male or female “to over 150 current gender categories abbreviated as LGBTQ+” which has serious consequences for women in terms of equality.     

“The courts, unelected arms of government not directly accountable to the people, have been the weakest link in the battle for family values across the world. The Supreme Court of the United States failed the Americans and the European courts have failed the Europeans,” the MP said.  

Kaluma, who has also sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House, added “we are in a war not only to save our society but to salvage humanity from the LGBTQ+ perversion”. 

The lawmaker has also sought to strengthen his anti-homosexuality measure by adding punitive clauses, including one that would impose a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for gays and lesbians who are found guilty of engaging in non-consensual sex. Other provisions include a ban on gay Pride parades, assemblies, street marches, cross-dressing in public and all LGBTQ-related activities.

The MP has also proposed proposes a fine of $14,000 or a 7-year prison sentence for owners of premises used for same-sex sexual practices. 

“I urge all persons and institutions of goodwill to stand firm and ready themselves to fight against homosexuality. Even when we don’t win before the courts as is the case across the world, I am certain we will win before the people’s representatives in parliament,” Kaluma stated. 

Muslim and Christian religious authorities last Saturday staged anti-homosexuality protests in the coastal city of Mombasa, which is the country’s second largest city. Protesters condemned and denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling and asking President William Ruto to “unequivocally denounce LGBTQ” like his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.  

The Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, a leading Muslim governing body, on Thursday also condemned the Supreme Court and demanded the ouster of Chief Justice Martha Koome and other judges who ruled in favor of the LGBTQ community. The group argues the ruling offends Kenya’s social, cultural and religious beliefs while asking the president and Parliament to be “firm” like Uganda, which enacted a harsh anti-homosexuality law in May.    

A presidential education reform working group last month in a detailed report presented to Ruto after gathering views across the country recommended the teachers’ employers to hire pastors and Imams in elementary and high schools to help fight homosexuality and other so-called immoral practices. This call came after the Education Ministry in March confirmed to MPs its decision to form a Chaplains Committee, led by Kenya’s Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, to stop the infiltration of LGBTQ practices in schools.

The working group’s report has yet to be introduced in Parliament.

Kenya’s relentless move to curb homosexuality comes at a time when top government officials, politicians, and during this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York raised concerns over backlash against LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions



U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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