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Hearing in the works for federal ‘religious freedom’ bill

Critics say measure would enable anti-LGBT discrimination

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Jason Chaffetz, gay news, Washington Blade
Jason Chaffetz, gay news, Washington Blade

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is planning a hearing on “religious freedom” legislation for the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Congress has mostly stayed out of the “religious freedom” fight as states pass legislation allowing anti-LGBT discrimination for religious reasons, but that may soon change.

A U.S. House committee is planning a hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act, a “religious freedom” bill with the purported purpose of preventing federal government action against individuals and businesses that oppose same-sex marriage for religious reasons. Critics say it essentially carves out a legal exemption for anti-LGBT discrimination.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) in the U.S. House and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the U.S. Senate.

M.J. Henshaw, a spokesperson for the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said the panel is “working towards a hearing” on the legislation, although no date has been scheduled.

A follow-up email on whether the hearing was likely before the end of this month wasn’t returned. It remains to be seen if a committee vote or consideration on the House floor will follow the hearing.

Chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee is packed with conservative Republicans, including Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), who recently attached to a major defense spending bill an amendment that would undermine President Obama’s executive order prohibiting anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.

The anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage has been pushing for a hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act in a campaign it calls “Fax for FADA.” The effort encourages supporters to sign a petition in support of the legislation, which triggers a fax sent to House Republican leadership and the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. According to the National Organization for Marriage’s website, the petition as of Wednesday had 3,870 signatures.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, wrote in a blog post the “Fax for FADA” effort “is making a big impact.”

“Word is that the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) will be scheduled for a hearing very soon,” Brown writes. “Our faxes to the House Republican leadership and members of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee are having an impact!”

Upon its introduction last year in an attempt to counter the expected ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, the First Amendment Defense Act is seen as an attempt to make a carve out into that decision without entirely overturning it.

Among other things, LGBT advocates have said the legislation as introduced would 1) permit a federal employee to refuse to process tax returns, visa applications or Social Security checks for same-sex couples; 2) allow recipients of federal grants and contracts, including those for social services programs like homeless shelters and substance abuse treatment programs, to turn away LGBT people; and 3) permit anyone who believes they have been somehow required by the federal government to approve of married same-sex couples to file a lawsuit and potentially receive damages from taxpayer funds.

Roddy Flynn, executive director of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said the legislation is akin to controversial state anti-LGBT laws recently enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi, calling the planned hearing the latest “in a string of attacks on LGBT people.”

“First North Carolina and Mississippi, then the NDAA amendment, now a hearing on FADA, some lawmakers are determined to permit discrimination at all costs,” Flynn said. “These measures are not about religious liberty or the First Amendment, they are attempts to roll back hard fought protections that provide stability and security to LGBT people. With the incredible backlash against North Carolina’s law, it is shocking some lawmakers are doubling down on this much more radical bill. FADA goes far beyond North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, giving a license to discriminate for anyone who doesn’t like LGBT people.”

On the Senate side, Lee has presented a new version of the First Amendment Defense Act that limits that carve-out for opponents of same-sex marriage, although the update hasn’t officially been filed.

The new version, which is displayed on Lee’s website, spells out protections from government action won’t apply to publicly traded for-profit entities; federal employees acting within the scope of their employment; federal for-profit contractors acting within the scope of their contracts; and hospitals and nursing homes with respect to visitation, decision-making on health care and certain treatments.

Conn Carroll, a Lee spokesperson, said Tuesday the version of the First Amendment Defense Act on Lee’s website is the “up to date” version of the legislation.

“This finalized version of the First Amendment Defense Act, which we’ve been working with religious liberty experts on for months, makes crystal clear that we are only seeking to prevent federal government discrimination against people and institutions that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” Carroll said.

On the House side, Labrador’s office didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on the article or to confirm if the updated Senate version is the new House version as well.

Ian Thompson, legislative representative for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the legislation remains discriminatory against LGBT people regardless of the change.

“It is disappointing that some Republicans in the House have failed to learn the lessons that Governors Pence, McCrory and Bryant now know all too well,” Thompson said. “Embarking down this discriminatory road is going to meet with the swift backlash that it deserves.”

Thompson said one example of discrimination the bill would still allow is permitting certain federal contractors or grantees, including those that provide social services like homeless shelters or drug treatment programs, to turn away LGBT people, same-sex couples or anyone who has a sexual relationship outside of a marriage, such as a single mother.

“Whether in its original or 2.0 versions, FADA is about permitting taxpayer-funded discrimination,” Thompson said. “This legislation is beneath who we are as a nation. I hope that Speaker Ryan and Chairman Chaffetz will reconsider the wisdom of putting such a bright spotlight onto such an ugly, mean-spirited bill.”

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Donna McBride

    May 5, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Now Jason Chaffetz has small hands. Can’t get much smaller than that and I’ve seen really small hands.

    • Mark Cichewicz

      May 7, 2016 at 5:49 am

      His hands aren’t the only small part. He’s small all over.

  2. lnm3921

    May 5, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    It’s a never-ending struggle. Stop believe being GLBT doesn’t matter anymore. I knew the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality wouldn’t be the end of it. Roe V. Wade wasn’t the end of trying to stop abortion rights why would you think religious conservatives would give up despite a favorable SCOTUS ruling?
    They simply find another way to attack us. This is nothing new. For every victory we have we can expect a conservative backlash and onslaught!

    We certainly can’t trust Trump with our issues. He’s looking at his former GOP presidential rivals for a vice-presidential candidate. Ben Carson, a known enemy of our community is helping him select one. Trump sat with Pat Robertson and has credited both Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Liberty University for their support. Need you know more?

    • Mark Cichewicz

      May 7, 2016 at 5:53 am

      If you have a chrystal ball, I don’t like what your seeing. But I would never vote for a man who will say yes and never say why, how or when.

      • lnm3921

        May 7, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        I don’t need a crystal ball. I have life’s experience and seen it all before. Maybe you should look back to figure out what you can expect. Much of what I’ve already said would happen has!

        Everything old is often new again and social conservatives and their reactions to glbt issues are consistent and pretty predictable!

        Trump is in bed with social conservatives and yet it’s our community they plan to see get screwed!

  3. JackNasty

    May 6, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Will Hillary endorse this so-called religious freedom bill before or after the November election?

  4. jmmy

    May 7, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Notice that it’s all the Mormon congressmen. Cruel, bigoted religion.

  5. Daphne Maddox

    May 8, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Disgusting human beings. One of these days, “the land of the free” might be taken to mean California, not the United States.

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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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JOH llama ‘enemigos de la independencia’ a defensores de derechos de poblaciones LGBTQ, las mujeres y el territorio

Activistas criticaron al presidente de Honduras por su discurso

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(Gráfica por Reportar sin Miedo)

Reportar sin Miedo es el socio mediático del Washington Blade en Honduras. Esta nota salió en su sitio web el 15 de septiembre.

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — La oposición desfila al mismo tiempo que los representantes del gobierno hondureño, los discursos oficiales retumban en los megáfonos al lado de los gritos de reclamo de los grupos de denuncia.

Mientras el oficialismo celebra lo que considera sus “logros”, la oposición se lamenta por 200 años de desigualdad, discriminación, pobreza, robo, hambre, saqueo, genocidio, corrupción, impunidad, machismo, LGBTI+ odio y expulsión forzada. 

En medio del ambiente de contrastes en que se conmemora hoy el bicentenario de independencia en Honduras, sobresale el discurso del presidente hondureño Juan Orlando Hernández, quien llamó “enemigos de la independencia” a los defensores de los derechos de las poblaciones LGBTIQ+, las mujeres y el territorio.

“Hoy salen con más fuerza otros enemigos de la independencia: el ataque a los principios cristianos, el ataque al concepto de la familia, los que promueven los matrimonios entre personas de diferente sexo y la preservación de la vida de los niños no nacidos”, dijo JOH en el estadio Nacional de Tegucigalpa durante los actos conmemorativos del bicentenario.

El mandatario hondureño cometió un grave error al decir “los matrimonios entre personas de diferente sexo”. Sus críticos opinan que JOH iba a decir “matrimonios entre personas del mismo sexo”, pero en el último momento se echó para atrás y cambió la frase por alguna razón.

El gobernante se refirió con la frase “enemigos de la independencia” a las organizaciones que promueven el derecho a decidir sobre el cuerpo de las mujeres, así como los derechos de la diversidad sexual y lxs defensorxs de territorio que están exigiendo a diario que se deroguen las ZEDE.

Este es el primer pronunciamiento público de JOH tras que el 28 de junio de este año, la Corte IDH condenó a Honduras por el asesinato de la trans Vicky Hernández y otros en el marco del golpe de Estado liderado por Roberto Micheletti contra el expresidente Manuel Zelaya. 

En su sentencia, el órgano judicial pidió al Estado hondureño continuar las investigaciones del homicidio y llevar a cabo “un acto público de reconocimiento de responsabilidad internacional”.

También le solicitó crear la beca educativa “Vicky Hernández” para mujeres trans, capacitar a los cuerpos de seguridad y reconocer la identidad de género en los documentos de identidad y registros públicos.

Finalmente, la Corte IDH le exigió al gobierno instaurar protocolos para seguir e investigar casos de violencia contra personas LGBTI.

En el discurso que duró casi media hora, JOH pronunció en varias ocasiones las palabras “Dios” y “cristianismo”. Eso indica que su gobierno tiene una fuerte influencia de las Iglesias evangélicas y católica.

El discurso del mandatario contradice lo que dice la Constitución, la cual señala que el Estado hondureño es laico.

Piden derechos igualitarios 

“No hay independencia sin el derecho a decidir”, exclamaron las seguidoras del colectivo Somos Muchas en las calles de Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choluteca y otros municipios. Somos Muchas exige que las mujeres hondureñas tengan acceso a un aborto seguro y gratuito por las tres causales: cuando el embarazo es consecuencia de una violación sexual, cuando la vida de la mujer está en riesgo y cuando el feto tiene complicaciones graves que le causarán la muerte al nacer.

La directora de Acción Joven, Jinna Rosales, manifestó que el discurso de Hernández es “terrible” y de “doble moral” porque se vive en un estado de narcodictadura, asesinatos, crímenes, etcétera.

“A Hernández se le olvidó la vida de las personas ya nacidas porque todos los días se reportan feminicidios, crímenes contra las niñas, niños, niñes y adolescentes. También miles huyen a diario de Honduras porque no tienen las condiciones básicas para sobrevivir”, argumentó Rosales. 

Desde ese punto de vista, los grupos conservadores hondureños rechazan el aborto, que consideran un atentado contra la vida. Sin embargo, no toman en cuenta los ataques contra mujeres, pues desde enero hasta el 31 de julio del 2021 se han registrado 174 feminicidios. Además, según las cifras oficiales se han cometido 3,496 homicidios en Honduras en el año 2020. Mientras tanto, la Secretaría de Salud reportó más de 12,000 egresos por aborto en 2019 y 9,749 en el 2020. 

Tampoco el gobierno de JOH ha actuado con eficacia para reducir la inseguridad alimentaria, que se ha duplicado en Honduras. Los 1.8 millones de personas sin alimentos seguros antes de la pandemia han subido a 3.3 millones publica la ONU.

Por otro lado, en enero del 2021, el Congreso Nacional criminalizó el derecho a decidir de las mujeres y las uniones igualitarias. 

El activista LGBTIQ+ de Honduras, Osman Lara, expresó a Reportar sin Miedo que el mensaje de Hernández es un ataque directo al programa de gobierno que impulsa la candidata Xiomara Castro de Zelaya por el Partido Libre en las próximas elecciones a celebrarse el 28 de noviembre del 2021.

Hernández lo que está provocando es desinformación, según Lara. “Quiere confundir a la población, ya que las personas LGBTIQ+ no buscamos reconocimiento religioso, sino legal, que nos avale y garantice los derechos civiles, económicos, sociales y patrimoniales cuando te unes a otra persona de forma igualitaria”, agregó. “Su ataque es misógino, promueve el odio a las poblaciones de la diversidad sexual”.

En Honduras, desde el 2009 hasta el 2021 han sido asesinadas 389 personas LGBTIQ+, de las cuales en este año han sido asesinadas 10 gays, tres trans y tres lesbianas, según el monitoreo de muertes violentas que mantiene la Red Lésbica Cattrachas. 

JOH le teme al pensamiento distinto

“Nuestros pueblos deben avanzar aceleradamente a la integración económica porque unidos somos invencibles. Los pueblos centroamericanos deben de ser esa nación fuerte, próspera, visionaria por la que lucharon los padres de la independencia”, expresó el presidente Hernández en su discurso de bicentenario. 

Sobre las palabras del mandatario se pronunció el coordinador general de Arcah y defensor de territorio, Christopher Castillo. Para Castillo, el gobierno nacionalista ha abonado el camino para que la población rechace los avances progresistas. 

“Ahora están avalando el más grande proyecto colonialista como son las ZEDE”, dijo Castillo. “El Partido Nacional ha caído en popularidad y teme un despertar de las conciencias en temas torales que tratan de impedir que la sociedad avance”. 

El gobierno de JOH ha respondido a los críticos de las ZEDE asegurando en un comunicado que las ciudades modelos ofrecen “oportunidades de inversión, construcción y operación de empresas de servicios públicos”.

Las ZEDE tienen “un régimen fiscal especial, un régimen financiero independiente, están autorizadas a utilizar sus ingresos financieros exclusivamente para sus propios fines”, según fuentes gubernamentales.

Por medio de esta iniciativa, Juan Orlando Hernández asegura que va a atraer inversión extranjera supuestamente para lograr un crecimiento acelerado dando empleos masivos y mejorando la vida de la población.

Por otra parte, el defensor de territorio Christopher Castillo agregó que JOH busca, “por medio de su discurso, deslegitimar las propuestas progresistas de los partidos de la oposición que proponen nuevos modelos de familia y nuevas formas de coexistir entre los géneros. Necesitan legitimar la violencia para justificar el uso de más violencia”.

Castillo agregó que el discurso de Hernández reconoce que ha avanzado la construcción de un pensamiento distinto. 

“Eso les atemoriza porque pone en juego toda esa construcción derechista que han intentado imponer. Tratan de seguir legitimando las propuestas de las ZEDE como Próspera porque traen para ellos una cultura de éxito y de prosperidad del pensamiento capitalista y conservador”, dijo Castillo.

El discurso de JOH se da después de que el pasado martes 14 de septiembre unas 29 organizaciones hondureñas pidieron al Consejo Nacional Electoral que sancione las campañas con mensajes de desinformación y discriminación utilizadas por algunos partidos políticos.

“Exigimos al Ministerio Público actuar de oficio contra cualquier persona natural o jurídica, pública o privada que públicamente promueva, incite, difunda mensajes desde cualquier medio o canal de comunicación, a la discriminación, tal como se contempla en el código penal en su artículo 213”, señalan las 29 organizaciones en un comunicado.

La reacción de estos organismos se debe a los mensajes de grupos cristianos en las redes sociales contra el plan de gobierno de Libre que promueve el derecho a decidir y el matrimonio igualitario. 



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Thousands participate in Kyiv Pride march

Event took place without violence

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Kiev, gay news, Washington Blade
(Photo by Jorge Franganillo via Flickr)

Upwards of 7,000 people on Sunday took part in the Ukrainian capital’s annual Pride march.

The Associated Press reported Kyiv Pride participants, among other things, demanded the country’s lawmakers allow civil partnerships for same-sex couples and create a law against hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers has introduced a measure that would make the country’s hate crimes law LGBTQ inclusive.

“We’ve grown tired of waiting for change and enduring systematic intimidation, pressure, disruption of peaceful events, attacks on activists and the LGBT community,” said Kyiv Pride in a statement to the Associated Press. “We demand changes here and now, as we want to live freely in our own country.”

The march took place less than a month after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly said his government will continue to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“With U.S. support, Ukraine will continue to advance respect for human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards and obligations, as well as to fight racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community,” reads a joint statement the White House released on Sept. 1 after Zelenskyy met with President Biden. “Ukraine plans to strengthen accountability for violence against all persons regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political views, including through legislation.”

Far-right extremists in 2019 attacked several people who attended Kyiv Pride. Members of a Ukrainian nationalist group in 2015 injured nine police officers who had been deployed to an LGBTQ rights march that coincided with Kyiv Pride.  

Sunday’s march took place without violence.

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