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Advocates: Supreme Court ruling bolsters global marriage efforts

Homosexuality remains criminalized in nearly 80 countries



Obergefell v. Hodges, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade, Vin Testa, David Baker, Samuel Knode, John Becker

LGBT rights advocates around the world say the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples will bolster efforts in their respective countries. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LGBT rights advocates around the world on Friday celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry throughout the country.

Stonewall, an LGBT advocacy group in the U.K., took to Twitter to applaud the decision.

Gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster also applauded the ruling in a statement he released to the Dominican media.

“We celebrate today with our fellow Americans worldwide and our friends and allies around the world knowing that our democratic values became stronger with the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said, referring to the opinion that Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. “A true democracy treats every individual equally, allowing its citizens the same opportunity and dignity therefore creating a more perfect union.”

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Jessica Stern also praised the U.S. Supreme Court.

“For weeks and months to come, Americans will celebrate today’s historic ruling — a dream come true for tens of thousands of LGBTI community members and tens of thousands of their loved ones and extended family, clergy, teachers, employers and allies across the country,” she said.

Jeffrey Smith of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights told the Washington Blade the U.S. Supreme Court ruling sends a message to LGBT rights advocates around the world.

“Today’s historic Supreme Court decision undoubtedly helps cement the fact that LGBT rights, and respect for basic human dignity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are part of the broader spectrum of internationally recognized human rights,” he said. “Today’s ruling hopefully sends a clarion message to the world, and beleaguered human rights activists in particular, that progress, while sometimes slow, ultimately bends toward the just.”

Marriage ruling ‘is wonderful’ for gay Americans

The U.S. joins Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Iceland, Scotland, England, Wales, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, New Zealand, Pitcairn Island and several states in Mexico in which gays and lesbians can marry.

Ireland last month became the first country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples through a national referendum.

Kieran Rose, chair of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland, in a statement noted the vote in his country and the U.S. Supreme Court decision “mark a turning point in the advance of liberty, equality and acceptance for LGBT people across the world.”

“It has been a long struggle for our rights, here in Ireland, in the U.S. and across the world,” he added. “Today’s outcome is wonderful for lesbian and gay citizens across the U.S., in particular for those living in states, which had banned marriage. Like Ireland, all that will happen now is that lesbian and gay couples will get married.”

Other advocates said they hope the U.S. Supreme Court ruling will bolster efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in their respective countries.

Colombia Diversa in a statement said it celebrates the U.S. Supreme Court decision from which thousands of same-sex couples in the U.S. who are from the South American country will benefit. The group said it hopes the Colombian Constitutional Court will “definitively decide” the issue of marriage rights for gays and lesbians and “follow the dignified example of the U.S. Supreme Court and definitely project same-sex families.”

Three same-sex couples from Chile who are seeking marriage rights in 2012 filed a lawsuit against the South American country with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Chile’s civil unions law is scheduled to take effect in October, but the LGBT advocacy group that represents the three same-sex couples in the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hopes the U.S. Supreme Court ruling will prompt the Chilean government to reach an “amicable” settlement.

“We are hoping that the Chilean state will now also take note of where the world is moving (on the issue of same-sex marriage,)” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in a statement.

Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, a gay Cuban blogger and LGBT rights advocate on the Communist island, on Friday sought to equate the U.S. Supreme Court decision to the ongoing process to normalize relations between Havana and Washington.

“Congratulations to the entire LGBTI community of the United States for the Supreme Court’s decision that legalizes marriage for gay people throughout the country,” he said in a statement he posted to his Facebook page. “This coincidence in the need of inclusive politics to stop discrimination based on sexual orientation can be an important point in closer ties with Cuba in the actual process of re-establishing diplomatic ties and further normalization of relations.”

’Work is far from over’

Consensual same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in nearly 80 countries. The State Department’s annual human rights report that it released on Thursday notes Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the countries in which homosexuality remains punishable by death.

Then-Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in January 2014 signed a law that, among other things, sentences those found guilty of entering into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison. Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence — especially against transgender people — remains pervasive throughout the U.S., Brazil and other countries and jurisdictions in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.

“In this moment of celebration and joy, we make a call to the international community to remain committed to equality and redouble the effort to fight against violence and discrimination in which our community lives in many countries for who they are,” said LGBT Federation of Argentina President Estebán Paulón in a statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling.

Stern made a similar point, noting countries continue to criminalize homosexuality and target trans people.

“Our work is far from over — not in the United States and not around the world. Marriage equality is one slice of the pie, but homophobia and transphobia morph into different shapes in law and practice,” she said. “Name a country and almost daily, you will find grotesque acts of homophobia and transphobia.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards



Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade


A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami



Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)


MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

















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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness



Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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