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White House ‘not aware’ if Trump briefed on Chechnya anti-gay abuses

President remains silent as other world leaders speak out

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White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she’s not aware if President Trump has been briefed on anti-gay violence in Chechnya. (Screenshot via CSPAN)

The White House said Wednesday it was unaware of whether President Trump brought up the issue of anti-gay abuses in Chechnya with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting Wednesday. In fact, it’s not clear that Trump has been briefed on the abuses at all.

Under questioning from the Washington Blade, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders couldn’t speak to whether anti-gay abuses in Chechnya came up in the meeting when asked about the omission of the issue from the White House readout.

“I mean a lot of times there are parts of the conversation that aren’t specifically included in a readout, but I’m not aware,” Sanders said. “I have not had that conversation. So I do not know, I was not part of that meeting. So I cannot speak to every detail and I would have to refer you to the readout on the specifics of what I know was discussed.”

Asked whether Trump has been briefed on the issue generally, Sanders replied, “That is something I would have to get back to you on. I am not 100 percent sure.”

UPDATE: Michael Anton, a White House National Security Council spokesperson, said via email to the Washington Blade the issue of anti-gay abuses in Chechnya “did not come up in the meetings” with Lavrov.

Concern persists over reports from Chechnya that local authorities have arrested more than 100 gay men and sent them to secret prisons for torture. At least four men have reportedly died as a result. On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign held a demonstration outside the D.C. residence of Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak over the reported abuses.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has spoken out against the atrocities, but President Trump himself and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have said nothing. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May has spoken out and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she raised the issue during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The readout of the meeting Trump held at the White House indicates Trump raised the issue of Syria, Ukraine, cooperation in resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere and a general “desire to build a better relationship between the United States and Russia.” But the readout says nothing about Trump bringing up the issue of anti-gay abuses in Chechnya.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, lambasted the White House in a statement for not being able to disclose if Trump was even aware of widespread reports of the anti-gay violence.

“It is shocking that the White House can’t even confirm if President Trump is ‘aware’ of the anti-LGBTQ violence in Chechnya. It seems President Trump is only aware of news that includes his own name,” Ellis said. “If President Trump doesn’t join Ambassador Haley and other world leaders in condemning this humanitarian crisis, it is only further evidence that his administration is working to force LGBTQ people around the globe back into the closet.”

Trump held the meeting with Lavrov the day after he terminated former FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion between Trump and Russia in the effort.

The Blade has placed a request with the Russian embassy in the United States seeking comment on whether the issue of reported anti-gay violence in Chechnya came up during the meeting.

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Canada

Montreal Pride organizers cancel parade

A lack of security personnel prompted last-minute decision

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(Courtesy of 𝐅𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐭é 𝐌𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫é𝐚𝐥 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞/Facebook)

Citing a lack of adequate security personnel, the organizers of the Fierté Montréal Pride Parade abruptly cancelled Sunday’s parade. The event organizers told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the decision was made in collaboration with Montréal police.

CBC reported that other Pride events taking place at the Esplanade du Parc olympique from 2 p.m. local time, including the closing show with Pabllo Vittar, will go on as as planned. Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the parade.

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Congreso Nacional de Chile deroga la última ley homofóbica vigente del país

Movilh celebró el voto histórico

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Asistentes a la última marcha del orgullo en Chile protestando por la derogación del artículo 365. (Foto de Gonzalo Velásquez)

Nota del editor: El Washington Blade ha publicado una versión de esta nota en inglés.

Durante la jornada del 2 de agosto, el Senado de Chile aprobó derogar el artículo 365 del Código Penal que diferenciaba la edad de consentimiento sexual entre parejas homosexuales y heterosexuales, igualandola sin discriminación.

Dicho artículo era la última ley homofóbica vigente en ese país, que en los últimos años ha aumentado en legislaciones y políticas públicas a favor de la población LGBTQ. En marzo de este año entró en vigencia el matrimonio igualitario con adopción incluida. 

Si bien el proyecto de ley iniciará un tercer trámite en la Cámara de Diputados, la derogación del artículo 365 ya es un hecho, según el Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), la principal organización LGBTQ en Chile, ya que  este avance había sido previamente aprobado en la Cámara de Diputados.  

El hecho calificado como “histórico” por el Movilh, que viene trabajando por su derogación desde 1999 porque “se trata de la eliminación de nuestro ordenamiento jurídico de la última ley explícitamente homofóbica vigente en Chile”, señaló la organización que asistió al Congreso Nacional para gestionar los respaldos a la iniciativa.

La organización por los derechos LGBTQ chilenos que gestionó los votos de senadores, sostuvo que con el proyecto “aprobado hoy en el Senado se terminará con el estigma que pesa sobre los jóvenes homosexuales, cuya orientación y prácticas sexuales son consideradas un delito pese a no existir abusos o atropellos de por medio contra terceras personas y pese a la ausencia de cualquier otro delito ya sancionado por nuestra legislación”.

El historico dirigente del Movilh, Rolando Jiménez, precisó que “al eliminarse esta anacrónica norma,  la lucha por la igualdad LGBTIQA+ cierra un ciclo, donde ya nadie nunca más será sancionado por amar o desear alguien de su mismo sexo”.

“Lo cual a su vez se enmarca en otros derechos ya conquistados y que mediante leyes o políticas públicas prohíben o previenen la discriminación por orientación sexual o identidad de género. Hoy dimos un paso contundente y decisivo hacia la plena igualdad legal, un derecho ya garantizado en la Constitución, pero que históricamente ha sido tan esquivo para las personas LGBTIQA+”, subrayó Jiménez, quién trabajó por más de 20 años para lograr la eliminación de la norma.

En 2016, y en el marco de un Acuerdo de Solución Amistosa que el Estado y el Movilh firmaron ante la Comisión Interamericana de DDHH, Chile se comprometió a derogar el artículo 365 del Código Penal.

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Africa

Uganda government forces advocacy group to shutdown

Sexual Minorities Uganda says NGO Bureau ‘halted’ operations

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(Bigstock photo)

An LGBTQ and intersex rights group in Uganda says the country’s government forced it to shutdown on Wednesday.

Sexual Minorities Uganda in a press release said Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations, which oversees NGOs in the country, on Wednesday “halted” its operations “for non-registration with the NGO Bureau.”

The press release notes current Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha is among those who submitted an application with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau in 2012 “for the reservation of the name of the proposed company,” which was Sexual Minorities Uganda. 

David Kato, who was Sexual Minorities Uganda’s advocacy officer, was murdered in his home outside of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, on Jan. 26, 2011. A Ugandan tabloid a few months earlier published Kato’s name and picture as part of an article that called for the execution of LGBTQ and intersex people. 

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau on Feb. 16, 2016, rejected Sexual Minorities Uganda’s application based on grounds that it was “undesirable and un-registrable” because it sought “to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer persons, which persons are engaged in activities labeled criminal acts under Sec. 145 of the Penal Code Act.” 

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. subsequently cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s decision to reject Sexual Minorities Uganda’s registration application was upheld. Ugandan lawmakers in 2019 passed the Sexual Offenses Bill 2019, which further criminalizes homosexuality in the country.

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operations that seek to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treat Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” said Sexual Minorities Uganda in their press release. “These further compromises efforts to demand for better health services and escalates the already volatile environment for the LGBTQ community.”

Mugisha described the decision as “a clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements that have infiltrated public offices aiming to influence legislation to erase the LGBTQ community.” 

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, which honored Mugisha in 2011, on Friday said it is “outraged by the utterly discriminatory and arbitrary decision of the NGO Bureau in Uganda to shutdown SMUG operations.”

“This endangers the lives and rights of LGBTQ+ (people) in Uganda and shows the extent homophobia has permeated Ugandan authorities,” said Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights in a tweet.

The Council for Global Equality, OutRight Action International and Pan Africa ILGA are among the other organizations that sharply criticized the Ugandan government.

“Very disturbing news out of Uganda,” tweeted Pan Africa ILGA. “SMUG, one of the most influential LGBTIQ+ focused networks based in Uganda, has been suspended.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda, for its part, remained defiant.

“We shall be back,” it tweeted.

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