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U.S. agencies to celebrate Pride month, but without Cabinet secretaries

White House silent on whether Trump will issue Pride proclamation

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary James Mattis and HUD Secretary Ben Carson aren’t attending Pride celebrations hosted by their agencies. (Washington Blade photos of Pompeo and Carson by Michael Key; photo of Mattis public domain)

With Pride month approaching, many U.S. agencies in the second year of the Trump administration are continuing plans to hold celebrations for their LGBT workers, although Cabinet leaders will be absent and some annual events are in question.

The absence of Cabinet leaders at these events stands in contrast to the Obama years when they were featured speakers at the celebrations, wished LGBT federal workers a happy Pride and reflected on the significance of the annual event.

Meanwhile, President Trump has an opportunity to reverse his decision last year to ignore the occasion and issue a proclamation recognizing June as Pride month, which was the custom of former Presidents Obama and Clinton. Obama also each year in office hosted a reception at the White House with LGBT leaders to commemorate Pride.

Any Trump Pride proclamation would stand out and raise questions after a year of LGBT rollbacks in his administration since last June that include a transgender military ban, the Justice Department’s decision to exclude LGBT people from protections under federal civil rights law and “religious freedom” executive actions that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

The White House didn’t respond to repeated requests from the Blade in the past two weeks to comment on whether Trump would recognize Pride either with a proclamation or a reception, nor would White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders call on the Blade during her regular news conference in that time period, which has been her custom since taking on the role.

A handful of U.S. departments and agencies already have plans in place for events recognizing June as Pride month, despite rollbacks in those departments on LGBT rights.

Most prominent is an event DOD Pride is hosting June 11 at the Pentagon Center Courtyard. The event is consistent with Pride celebrations at the Pentagon that started in the Obama years and continued in the first year of the Trump administration, but it’s the first one that takes place after Trump instituted his transgender military ban, which he first announced on Twitter in July 2017.

Although federal courts have blocked the Defense Department from enforcing the ban as litigation against it moves forward, since those rulings Defense Secretary James Mattis has issued recommendations affirming transgender people should be excluded from the armed forces with few exceptions. Any appearance by him at a Pride celebration would contradict that sentiment.

Asked if Mattis will attend, a member of DOD Pride said the organization instead invited Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, but he’s unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. Invitations to the rest of Pentagon leadership were set to go out Monday, the DOD Pride member said.

At the State Department, the LGBT affinity group for foreign service officers, GLIFAA, has coordinated with the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights and will host an internal event for employees on June 5, where Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) are scheduled to speak.

But in the aftermath of Senate confirmation of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, GLIFAA has also opted to invite a different official. As a member of the U.S. House representing Kansas, Pompeo built an anti-LGBT record and once suggested homosexuality is a “perversion” — a topic on which Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) grilled the secretary of state during his confirmation hearing.

David Glietz, president of GLIFAA, said the organization opted to invite Sullivan as opposed to Pompeo because Pompeo’s confirmation was uncertain at the time the event was planned.

“The event was planned prior to Secretary Pompeo’s confirmation and at the time we were unsure when he would be confirmed and arrive in the department,” Glietz said. “Therefore, we opted to request the Deputy attend as the most senior department official at the time of planning.”

At the Department of Housing & Urban Development, HUD Pride is holding two events. One event on June 6 is on the legal landscape of LGBT access to housing and shelter, and a panel discussion on June 20 on the same topic.

Much like the other affinity groups, HUD Pride is coordinating to have the deputy secretary speak as opposed to the Cabinet member. A HUD Pride official said the main event would be the June 20 panel, but HUD Secretary Ben Carson won’t attend because he’s already scheduled for travel that week. Instead, HUD Pride has invited Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude and is hoping for confirmation soon.

Had Carson attended, it would have been months after he expressed concerns about allowing transgender people access to homeless shelters consistent with their gender identity — the very topic the panel is set to discuss. During a congressional hearing in March, Carson said the issue is “complex,” citing concerns by women whom he said don’t want to use bathroom facilities with “somebody who had a very different anatomy.”

At the Education Department, an email from LGBTQ & Allied Employees at ED was sent out highlighting two events recognizing Pride. One discussion set for June 19 is titled “Highlighting Difference with Children.” Another event in July is set to discuss Supreme Court cases related to LGBT issues and will feature speakers from the Education Department’s Office of the General Counsel.

An Education Department employee said Secretary Betsy DeVos was invited to attend, but there’s “not a chance” she’d make an appearance. DeVos’ participation in the event on children would stand in contrast to her decision not to take up complaints from transgender kids whose schools have blocked their bathroom access, while taking part in the panel discussion on the Supreme Court would be noteworthy after she said she wouldn’t reverse that policy until the Supreme Court or Congress acts on the issue.

Pride celebrations at other U.S. agencies are in question altogether. The Commerce Department in the first year of the Trump administration held an event recognizing Pride, although Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross didn’t attend. Months after Ross issued an equal employment statement that excluded LGBT workers — then corrected it — a Commerce Department official told the Blade the department has no plans to host a similar event this year.

At the Justice Department, the situation is similar. A DOJ Pride member said he’s “not at liberty to comment” on whether the Justice Department would hold a Pride celebration. The DOJ Pride member referred the Blade to the Justice Department’s public affairs office, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.

No Pride events at the Justice Department would be a change. DOJ Pride has coordinated Pride celebrations in the Great Hall of the Justice Department even during the George W. Bush administration. Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey spoke during the last year of the Bush administration, and U.S. Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch addressed DOJ Pride during the Obama years.

Last year, a Pride celebration took place in the Great Hall under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, although the event wasn’t confirmed until June, Sessions didn’t attend and the Blade was kicked out when attempting to cover the event. Over the course of the Trump administration, Sessions has spearheaded the legal framework for LGBT rollbacks, including “religious freedom” guidance that would enable anti-LGBT discrimination.

At the Department of Health & Human Services, a member of One HHS, the affinity group for the HHS LGBT employees, said independent of the organization the department’s equal employment opportunity office is planning a Pride event.

It’s unclear whether HHS Secretary Alex Azar, whose department established a Religious Freedom & Conscience Division enabling medical practitioners to refuse service to transgender people, would take part. The HHS public affairs office didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

One agency scheduled to host a Pride event is the U.S. Small Business Administration, which is coming off a controversy after deleting material for LGBT businesses from its website at the start of the Trump administration. The material wasn’t restored until last week after complaints from House Democrats and LGBT small business leaders.

Blade Editor Kevin Naff was the keynote speaker at the SBA Pride event last year. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon wasn’t there, but an SBA official read a statement from her expressing support for Pride month. This year, a notice was sent out the event will take place either June 14 or June 19 and would be titled, “Remember the Past, Create the Future.”

Carol Wilkerson, an SBA spokesperson, said SBA is hosting the event and that it would include participation from the local LGBT Chamber of Commerce, although the time isn’t yet set. Asked if Administrator McMahon will make an appearance, Wilkerson replied, “Once the date is confirmed we will know more.”

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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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