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LGBT advocates from Kyrgyzstan visit D.C.

Anti-gay propaganda bill remains before lawmakers

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Terry Stone, gay news, Washington Blade

Terry Stone, gay news, Washington Blade

Two LGBT rights advocates from Kyrgyzstan traveled to D.C. and New York last week. (Photo by torbakhopper; courtesy Flickr)

Two LGBT rights advocates from Kyrgyzstan met with U.S. government officials and some of their American counterparts in D.C. last week.

Aizhan Kadralieva of Labrys Kyrgyzstan and Ruslan Kim of Kyrgyz Indigo met with Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry at the State Department. The advocates also sat down with Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline, Arcus Foundation Executive Director Kevin Jennings and representatives of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Kadralieva and Kim met with U.N. officials in New York before they traveled to the nation’s capital on Feb. 24.

The advocates returned to Kyrgyzstan on Sunday.

U.S. ‘good example’ of equality and tolerance

The advocates’ trip coincides with mounting concern over a bill that would ban the promotion of so-called gay propaganda.

The measure has passed twice in the Kyrgyz Parliament. Lawmakers must approve it a third time before it goes to President Almazbek Atambayev for his signature.

“I’m hopeful that he will veto this,” Kim told the Washington Blade on Feb. 25 during an interview at Human Rights First’s offices in Northwest Washington.

Cicilline and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) are among the members of Congress who have urged Kyrgyz lawmakers to vote against the propaganda bill. The Kyrgyz Ministry of Justice, the European Parliament and the U.N. Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights have also indicated their opposition to the measure.

Secretary of State John Kerry last fall did not publicly discuss the bill during his trip to Kyrgyzstan.

“He was really careful,” Kim told the Blade.

Kadralieva made a similar point, noting the U.S. government supports LGBT-specific efforts and human rights in general in Kyrgyzstan.

“The U.S. is a really good example of nondiscrimination and equality and tolerance,” she told the Blade.

Advocates face discrimination, violence

Kyrgyzstan borders Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China. The Central Asian country declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Kadralieva and Kim told the Blade that nationalists and conservative religious and societal attitudes are among the challenges they and other LGBT advocates face.

Molotov cocktails were thrown into Labrys Kyrgyzstan’s office in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, last year.

Kadralieva told the Blade that a group of nationalists a few weeks later attacked an International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia event that was taking place at a local cafe. She said the police officers who responded placed the victims in the same room as those who attacked them.

Kadralieva said they were inside the police station for seven hours. Kim told the blade that the officers were “having tea and nice conversation with the homophobes.”

“They were drinking tea at the same time our activists were sitting scared somewhere without access to water,” he said.

Kim told the Blade that he was attacked when he tried to help another advocate. He said the police officers who responded described Kyrgyz Indigo as a “fag organization” and pressured him to report the activist as a “pedophile.”

“I said I would never do this,” said Kim.

Kim and Kadralieva throughout the interview highlighted other examples of anti-LGBT violence and discrimination.

One such case involves a gay man who hanged himself after his parents found out he had a boyfriend and pressured him to marry a woman. Kim said the parents blamed their son’s boyfriend for his death and attacked him with a knife.

“We helped that guy,” he told the Blade. “Right now he’s in a safe place and he’s still alive.”

Kim said the family of an activist blamed him for the fire that damaged their apartment. Kyrgyz Indigo was able to find housing for the advocate through the summer.

“After this he will be on the street because of his activities,” said Kim.

Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambaev, John Kerry, gay news, Washington Blade

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Oct. 31, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the State Department)

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National

Target stores across the country receive bomb threats over LGBTQ merchandise

Company removed Pride-themed items to back of stores in Southern states

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Screenshot from YouTube (Courtesy of 11 Alive Atlanta)

Police departments in Utah, Ohio and Pennsylvania aided by assistance from agents from Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Offices in Ohio and Utah are investigating threats made by email to local media referencing the retail chain Target’s LGBTQ merchandise collections celebrating Pride Month.

KUTV CBS 2 Salt Lake City reported that Sgt. John Ottesen with Layton Utah Police said bomb threats were made to Target stores in Layton, Salt Lake City, Taylorsville and Provo. Ottesen confirmed that multiple law enforcement agencies commenced the investigation after the local new stations received the emailed threats.

A Target store in Layton, Utah, was evacuated after police said they were informed of a bomb threat to multiple Utah locations.

The threats specifically mentioned Target’s Pride merchandise, were three sentences long, and came from a “bogus email address,” according to Ottesen.

WOIO Cleveland 19 News received a bomb threat Friday afternoon against four Target stores in Ohio and a store in Monaca, Pa., purportedly from a person or persons angry over Target Corporation’s decision to remove some of the LGBTQ merchandise after a series of threats and physical threats against its retail clerks and staff in several southern states earlier this week.

It was not immediately known if the threats were legitimate, though precautions were quickly taken to ensure staff and customer’s safety according to officials.

A Target spokesperson who spoke with multiple media outlets said: “The safety of our team members and guests is our top priority. Law enforcement investigated these claims and determined our stores are safe. Our stores are currently open and operating regular hours.”

Speaking for the Minneapolis-based retail giant two days ago, spokesperson Kayla Castañeda noted: “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Castañeda also released a statement from the company:

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

Removal of the merchandise from its online store in addition to the storefronts has prompted harsh criticism of the retailer. California Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted.

Numerous LGBTQ activists and groups have condemned Target for bowing to what is seen as political pressure by a minority of far right extremists:

“Extremist groups and individuals work to divide us and ultimately don’t just want rainbow products to disappear, they want us to disappear,” Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “For the past decade, the LGBTQ+ community has celebrated Pride with Target — it’s time that Target stands with us and doubles-down on their commitment to us.”

On Friday, Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic and an LGBTQ activist tweeted her disgust over the decision by Target to effectively abandon company support for the queer product lines and the creators.

Atlanta LGBTQ community reacts to Target pulling some Pride merchandise:

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Virginia

Baptist group forces minister to resign from committees because he is married to man

BWA is based in Falls Church, Va.

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Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger (Photo courtesy of Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger)

A Virginia-based Baptist group forced an openly gay minister to resign from two of its commissions because he is married to a man.

The Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger is an associate minister for youth and young adults and community outreach at Lake Street Church in Evanston, Ill., a congregation that is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. 

He has worked with the Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Jeremiah Wright, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who is the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, and has preached at the U.N., among other places. 

Williams-Hauger has studied with Warnock and Moss and earned his Master of Divinity at the New York Theological Seminary. Williams-Hauger is also studying to become ordained within American Baptist Churches USA with the support of Judson Memorial Church in New York.

The Rev. Elijah Brown, who is the secretary general of the Baptist World Alliance, which is headquartered in Falls Church, in an April 21 email to Williams-Hauger confirmed his invitation to join the group’s Interfaith Relations and Racial Justice Commissions had been rescinded.

Thank you for your prayerful attitude,” wrote Brown. “Following our phone conversation yesterday, this email confirms that the invitation from BWA for you to serve on Commissions is rescinded. Please know that I am praying for you.” 

Williams-Hauger told the Washington Blade that it “has always been known that I’m married to” his husband.

“Brad and I have been together since 2005 and he has to accompany me to many events with the Sharpton family to events at Trinity United Church of Christ (in Chicago),” said Williams-Hauger. “In fact, when we got married to our wedding, was celebrated by the clergy at Trinity United Church of Christ with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright.”

Williams-Hauger told the Blade said Brown nevertheless “decided to get rid of me” when he found out he was married to a man.

Brown, according to Williams-Hauger, “lied to us” when he said the BWA’s Executive Committee “made the decision” to rescind the invitations to join the committee.

“He initiated the situation,” said Williams-Hauger.

Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger, right, with his husband. (Photo courtesy of Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger)

BWA affirms ‘Christian marriage and family life’

The BWA’s belief statement states it affirms “Christian marriage and family life” and affirms “the dignity of all people, male and female, because they are created in God’s image and called to be holy.”

“For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development,” states the BWA on its website.

A BWA spokesperson in a May 21 statement to the Blade did not specifically comment on Williams-Hauger’s allegations. The comment also did not include a reference to the BWA’s position against marriage for same-sex couples.

“As a Christian world communion, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) represents Baptists in 128 countries and territories with a governing General Council comprised of global representatives,” reads the statement. “Drawing upon over 400 years of shared Baptist history and more than 100 years of organizational history, the BWA remains committed to our mission to network the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ. With more than 400 commission members from across the global BWA family, we acknowledge their commitment to serve as volunteers and are not able to comment further on the specifics of any current or previous commission member.” 

Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger with Rev. Jesse Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Rev. TJ Williams-Hauger)

Williams-Hauger on Friday in an emailed statement to the Blade noted the BWA “adopted a resolution stating that same-gendered marriage is incompatible with scripture” and “on April 20 I was asked by Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown to step down from my position on the BWA’s Interfaith Relations and Racial Justice Commission; a role I have faithfully served for three years. 

“When Elijah Brown rescinded my invitation to serve on the commission it was not just a personal attempt to silence, but rather it is an attempt to silence others like myself, particularly Black queer persons,” Williams-Hauger told the Blade. “Further it was an effort to silence our prophetic presence and witness, our God ordained call to serve and advocate for justice and equality all while calling the family of faith to be and do better.”

Williams-Hauger said he and other Black LGBTQ people “will not be silenced.”

“Standing on the shoulders of the ancestors of James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin and countless others who lived and died and whose spirits give volume to our voices. We call out the hateful theology being practiced by the BWA,” said Williams-Hauger. “This hateful theology does not represent the message of Jesus, nor does it even represent the entirety of the Baptist Community. This theology of hate is embodied in by the likes of Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, Mike Pence and Mike Huckabee to name a few. If Dr. Brown and the BWA wish to go down that path and be another representation of that, hate; we pray for their souls.”

Williams-Hauger told the Blade that he and other Black LGBTQ clergy “will continue to serve a God of justice.”

“We will build upon the legacy of and work alongside the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton and his children, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his children, Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the good people of Judson Memorial Church NYC, Riverside Church NYC, Lake Street Church, the body of faithful American Baptist Churches, the Alliance of Baptists, and our siblings in the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the body of the some friends among the Association of European Baptist Churches until justice rolls and we get a bit of heaven here on earth.”

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District of Columbia

Inaugural Uptown Pride to take place June 10

Festival to feature drag storytime, makers’ market, DJs

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Logo created by Anthony Dihle (Courtesy of Justin Noble)

A new Pride festival is coming to D.C. 

The inaugural Uptown Pride will be hosted in Sixteenth Street Heights on June 10 with Pride celebrations for Washingtonians of all ages.

The festival, hosted at the intersection of 14th Street, Colorado Avenue and Kennedy Street, NW, will feature a drag storytime, a makers’ market, DJs and more. There will also be a raffle for various prizes, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ teens.

The festival will be from 2-7 p.m. and is partnering with local businesses like Moreland’s Tavern, Captain Cookie and Lighthouse Yoga Center for activities and refreshments.

Justin Noble, one of the organizers of the festival, said that the inspiration for the event came out of wanting a Pride experience tailored to the residents of the Sixteenth Street Heights, Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods.

“It can be a hassle to get to downtown,” Noble said. “There needs to be something in our community that supports LGBTQ+ people and the culture and all of that because we’re everywhere, right? We are everywhere.”

Organizer Max Davis said that the inclusion of children’s events like a drag storytime was purposeful, and helps make the event more accessible to LGBTQ families and youth. 

“Kids I feel are the most important in as far as just showing them, just visibly showing them that you can live out and you can be queer,” Davis said. “There is no more dangerous time than now to be queer, questioning youth … So who better to welcome into the fold than kids who might be questioning their sexuality.”

Davis said that a big part of wanting to bring Pride celebrations uptown was to have a physical representation of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I felt like because there wasn’t anything going on in Sixteenth Street Heights — the clientele that we were serving up at Moreland’s absolutely is supportive, and I never felt that it wasn’t a supportive environment — but if you don’t have something to actively support that I feel that your support is just words,” Davis said. “If our community had someplace to attend even for one day to just be like, ‘Hey, I stand with you,’ … that is something that every community should have available to them to actively support the LGBTQ community.”

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