It is impossible to speak of queer identity and culture without acknowledging the important role religion has played in shaping it throughout history. Whether it’s Pope Francis praising the work an American priest has done to affirm LGBTQ identity, or a Republican legislator rebuking the existence of transgender people by invoking scripture from the Bible, religion and spirituality unquestionably influence conversations about sexual identity in the U.S. and how American society would like for people to manifest their sexuality.
A significant portion of LGBTQ people in the U.S. are religious.
A study the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute conducted in 2020 found that 5.3 million LGBTQ adults are religious with almost half of this metric identifying as “highly religious.” Forty percent of those between ages 18 and 35 are religious, and 65 percent percent of those over 65 identify as religious as well. In addition, 71 percent of Black LGBTQ adults in the U.S. are religious.
The Washington Blade recently spoke with Rev. Jide Macaulay, founder and CEO of the London-based House of Rainbow CIC, to talk about his work as a gay Black African Christian priest.
Macaulay was born in London and grew up in Ikeja, the boisterous capital of Nigeria’s Lagos State. He was born into a religious family to parents who he described to the Blade during a 2017 interview as “very dedicated Christians.” His father was one of Nigeria’s leading theologians, so Macaulay’s upbringing was naturally Christian-centric, with him being involved in the church from a young age.
As a budding adult, Macaulay pursued theology as a profession and became an ordained minister in 1998 after training with his father. After a two-year hiatus from the church, he joined the Metropolitan Community Church in London to study theology and later joined its congregation as a minister in 2003. Macaulay says it was there that he became confident in his understanding that “God loves gay people regardless of all these messages of it being a taboo or abomination.”
Sheathed with this conviction, Macaulay moved back to Nigeria to create an environment that mimics that which he had experienced at the Metropolitan Community Church.
“It became important to me to go to Nigeria to create the same space and tell LGBTQ people that ‘God loves you just the way you are,’” says Macaulay. “I embodied a lot of the spirit of the human rights church that came out of the origin of the Metropolitan Community Church.”
Macaulay started House of Rainbow under this ideology on Sept. 2, 2006. This weekly gathering of LGBTQ Christians initially began with 34 congregants, but the congregation grew rapidly to a point where Macaulay “didn’t know what to do with all the people.” He says the growth “perplexed” him as he didn’t realize that House of Rainbow was so popular.
House of Rainbow encountered problems that emanated from operating in a country with virulent homophobic laws, despite its popularity. Many congregants were physically attacked for identifying as queer, and Macaulay recalls individuals emerging to church with broken noses and arms. The media also caught wind of House of Rainbow’s weekly gatherings and chaos ensued.
The culmination of these events forced Macaulay to leave Nigeria after two years. House of Rainbow remained steadfast with its mission to create a community for LGBTQ Christians and soldiered on for a couple of more years before it eventually dissolved.
“It’s unfortunate, now, that as I speak to you we do not have a House of Rainbow community in Nigeria,” says Macaulay. “We still have people connected [to the community], but we don’t have a physical presence or anyone leading it.”
House of Rainbow’s reach has nevertheless now become global, with communities established in 22 countries. The majority of them are in Africa.
‘Homosexuality is not a sin; it is who we are’
The crux of Macaulay’s ideology centers on inclusion and acceptance. He creates a space at House of Rainbow where LGBTQ individuals can not only gather in community, but can also feel seen and recognized as meaningful members and contributors to Christianity
“The important thing [that people need to understand] is that as a minister of the gospel of Christ, I want every LGBTQ person to make [it to] heaven,” says Macaulay. “I want them to be on a path towards salvation and redemption.”
“This whole language that if you are gay, you are destined for hell and eternal damnation is so wrong. That is even abusive in itself,” adds Macaulay.
He further invokes a popular scripture that loosely states, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
This scripture is a part of what homophobic Christians use to denounce queerness. Macaulay, nevertheless emphasizes that there is a lack of complete understanding of what the scripture truly communicates.
“[The scripture] didn’t say that anyone is going to hell. It said that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” says Macaulay. “Having said that, it is important to understand that homosexuality is not a sin; it is who we are.”
Macaulay’s work is therefore enmeshed in the need to fight for social justice causes. He aims to use the church as a platform to bring awareness to and fight for all iterations of LGBTQ rights. Whether it be racism, sexism, or classism, Macaulay aims to “be like Jesus” and emulate his unwavering passion to uplift those at the bottom of society’s hierarchy.
“It’s inconceivable to think that any religious space wouldn’t be a platform for social justice. Jesus Christ was about social justice,” says Macaulay. “Even the Civil Rights Movement in America had the church fighting injustices relating to racism.”
Macaulay stresses that the church needs to “do what is right” and stand up for the rights of LGBTQ people.
“In the Bible in Micah 6:18, it says, ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice? To love kindness and work in humility with your God,” says Macaulay. “Therefore, Christian leaders need to have a strong understanding of justice.”
When reflecting on the current state of religion, its diversion from and/or weak approach towards social justice, and also its complicity in oppressing minority groups, Macaulay says, “Jesus Christ would definitely be mad.”
Can you be a gay African and Christian?
Prior to being colonized by European countries, many African cultures had relaxed attitudes towards sexuality and gender. The Shona in Zimbabwe, Pangwe in Cameroon, Igbo in Nigeria and other African tribes all permitted queer existence without any negative repercussions.
The expansion of European global influence brought with it homophobic laws, which were largely enacted under the pretense of “Christian values,” that forced African countries to institutionalize queerphobia, which has now become an undeniable legacy of colonialism on the continent.
That colonialism introduced African populations to Christianity is not an uncommon sentiment among queer Africans and Africans in general. Hence, it is not uncommon to find LGBTQ Africans who denounce Christianity not only because of its association with the racism that fueled European occupation of the continent, but also its functioning as a tool that erased what many of them nostalgically view as a queer-affirming past tainted by the arrival of the white man.
Macaulay both believes and shuns this. He acknowledges that colonialism did participate in the erasure of queer acceptance in African cultures, however, the concept of Christianity being “unAfrican” is fallacious.
He asserts that African and Black African Christians existed before colonialism, and thus, the notion that Christianity is the “white man’s religion” is a false notion.
“Christianity was present in pre-colonial Africa,” says Macaulay. “In the Bible there are numerous references to Africa, including Egypt and Ethiopia where important biblical events happened, [for example], the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt in search of the promised land.”
Macaulay, because of this, spotlights the need for religion to be decolonized.
By reframing how Christians conceive of religion, from unlearning the notion that Jesus is white to acknowledging the existence of Black people in the Bible, one can have a more wholesome and truthful interaction with Christianity.
Also, this will allow for queer African Christians to exist in their queer communities comfortably as Macaulay states that there’s a need for them to occupy space in the community as proudly religious people without bearing the shame that is cast on them by what seems to be an agnostic-leaning landscape.
Lil Nas X and ‘going to hell’
Lil Nas X on March 26 released a single titled “Call Me By Your Name” which garnered massive attention for both its musical mastery through a catchy hook and its depiction of Black queerness. The accompanying video further dramatized the story by drawing from Christian visual imagery of heaven and hell, and God and the Devil.
The song’s video features scenes of Lil Nas X in sensual form, including him giving a caricature of Satan a lap dance. This particularly angered many religious groups, including Christian allies of the LGBTQ community who USA Today reported criticized the video for “going too far to prove a point.’”
Macaulay is a fan of Lil Nas X, who he dubs as his “favorite artist of all time right now, after Michael Jackson,” and for him, Lil Nas X’s discography extends beyond simple displays of queer identity.
Macaulay has one thought at the forefront of his mind when he looks at “Call Me By Your Name”: The concept of hell is abusive and a form of scaremongering.
“The concept of hell is propaganda. It is almost fictional,” says Macaulay. “The idea that if you do something wrong you will go to hell, is wrong in and of itself. Homosexuality was never wrong. Homophobia is wrong.”
He further underlines that God made gay people, and supports this with a scripture from the book of Philippians which loosely points to God’s omnipotent knowledge before, during, and after one’s life on earth.
Macaulay says that people should listen to Lil Nas X’s pain, and not rebuke him, because he speaks for millions of gay people.
“The reality is that when you tell people that they are going to hell, you are excommunicating them from living their own lives appropriately,” says Macaulay.
Macaulay nonetheless has a deep admiration for today’s younger generations, especially because they refuse to align themselves with the bigotry that ravages societal discourse about identity.
“I’m really glad for the young people that have stepped out. They are fighting back. They are the warriors and heroes saying, ‘Enough is enough. I’m proud, queer and African,’” says Macaulay. “I think that the sad reality for the Christian community is that they’re missing out on the gift and talents of the queer community [by being exclusive].”
Macaulay and House of Rainbow have created “GAYMoment,” a weekly online service that centers queer worship. Each Sunday, queer people from around the world gather online for prayer, sermon, and testimonies, all provided by queer people.
Macaulay champions sex positivity
Discussing sex and sexual identity is a topic from which Macaulay does not shy away. In fact, it is one that although he is a religious leader, he also approaches as a person of faith.
Macaulay, who lives with HIV, is a proponent of sex positivity.
“I think it’s important for every adult human being to experience a sexual relationship that is appropriate, suitable, and consensual,” says Macaulay. “It is important that everyone in their lifetime engages positively with sex, particularly adults. I don’t recommend it for minors though.”
Macaulay is also a vocal advocate for having honest and open conversations about sex and sexuality. He gives credence to the fact that society needs to address the lack of comprehensive sex education.
“Countries that have [addressed sex education] are doing better. They have less cases of STIs and teenage pregnancies,” says Macaulay. “Also, students get more opportunities to know more about various sexulities.”
Sex education should be age-appropriate and geared towards protecting children, minors, and vulnerable adults, says Macaulay. He believes that children should know about their bodies and be armed with the confidence to talk to adults when their boundaries are violated.
Thus, by keeping advocacy as the focal point, Macaulay, who is affectionately known as “Mama Jide” functions in a quintessential role in the queer community, one similar to that of house mothers in ballroom culture who outstretch themselves to the limits to ensure that their children not only have their basic needs, but also reach a point of complete self-actualization and realization of their purpose in life.
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Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia
Russian Supreme Court declared global LGBTQ rights movement ‘extremist’
The marriage between Maya Ram Bahadur Gurung and Surendra Pandey this past week in the Nepalese capital city of Kathmandu is being hailed by the country’s LGBTQ rights activists. Gurung, a transgender woman and Pandey, who is gay, was registered by the local municipality ward office four months after the Himalayan nation’s highest court legalized same-sex marriages in an interim order.
Sunil Babu Pant, the former executive director/CEO and founder of the Blue Diamond Society, first LGBTQ rights organization in Nepal, who has also served in the country’s parliament was present for the civil ceremony telling the Associated Press: “After 23 years of struggle, we got this historic achievement, and finally, Maya and Surendra got their marriage registered at the local administration office.”
In a later interview with Naya Prakashan news Pant noted. “A wedding in Nepal today can become the signpost in South Asia for a more equal tomorrow.”
Human Rights Watch reported that Gurung, a trans woman who is legally recognized as male, and Pandey, a cisgender gay man, held a Hindu wedding ceremony in 2017. They first attempted to legally register their marriage in June this year at the Kathmandu District Court, following an interim order by Nepal’s Supreme Court instructing authorities to register same-sex marriages while considering a case that argues for marriage equality across the country.
When that court rejected their registration, saying it did not need to recognize a couple that was not one legal male and one legal female, they appealed to the Patan High Court in September.
But the high court judges rejected the appeal, saying that it was the responsibility of the federal government to change the law before the lower authorities could register such marriages, HRW reported.
Nepal’s civil code currently only recognizes marriages between one man and one woman. The Supreme Court attempted to rectify that by ordering the creation of an interim registry for nontraditional marriages until parliament changes the law. The two lower courts then reversed the logic by claiming that the national law must be changed first.
Malaysian LGBTQ rights activists are decrying efforts by the Johor state government to establish a “rehab” center for “people in same-sex relations,” which would use the globally debunked conversion therapy to change sexual orientation.
Malaysian society is predominately Muslim and conservative. Human Rights Watch has noted that the government authorities in the Malay Archipelago are willing to enforce the rigid gender roles by which they compel all Malaysians to abide with few exceptions.
Speaking at the Johor state assembly on Wednesday, the state’s Islamic Religious Affairs Committee Chair Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid said 400,000 ringgit ($86,000) has been allocated for the rehabilitation center, which was expected to open in July next year the South China Morning Post reported.
“This rehabilitation center is established … for them to get back on the right path,” Fared told the assembly.
Aside from same-sex individuals, Fared proclaimed that the centre would also house “those who are deemed deviant” from the state-prescribed religious Islamic orthodoxy, which includes the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and Baha’i among some 42 groups, the state’s religious affairs body has identified as “deviant.”
The Malaysian government relies on the force of law to prohibit expression and conduct that fall outside of a heterosexual, cisgender norm. It is one of only a handful of countries that explicitly makes gender nonconformity a criminal offense.
Reacting to the rehab news, Justice for Sisters, a trans rights group, told the South China Morning Post that detaining people was a violation of the Malaysian Constitution, which safeguards personal liberty, privacy, dignity, equality and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.
“Detaining people on the grounds of changing their SOGIE — sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression — amounts to torture without a doubt,” said the group’s spokesperson, Thilaga Sulathireh.
Malaysia also criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct at both the federal and state levels. Its officials frequently insist that the laws criminalizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are intended not primarily to punish, but rather to return them to “the right path,” statements echoed this past week by Johor’s Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman.
Human Rights Watch notes that officials under successive Malaysian governments have typically coded their approach to sexual and gender diversity in a logic of “prevention” and “rehabilitation,” backed by the threat of punishment. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was in office between March 2020 and August 2021, described LGBTQ people as a threat to Islam, backed by “foreign influences” and a “disorder” that requires counseling.
Pope Francis this past week further disciplined another American prelate, retired Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has publicly critiqued Francis over the pope’s ongoing efforts for reforming the Catholic Church, especially over issues centered on LGBTQ Catholics and the LGBTQ community.
The Associated Press reported that Francis revoked Burke’s subsidized Vatican apartment and retirement salary, according to sources because he was a source of “disunity” in the church.
The move is “unprecedented in the Francis era,” Christopher White, a Vatican observer who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, told the BBC.
“Typically, retired cardinals continue to reside in Rome after stepping down from their positions, often remaining active in papal liturgies and ceremonial duties,” he said. “Evicting someone from their Vatican apartment sets a new precedent.”
Burke, who spends much of his time in the U.S. at the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine he founded in his native Wisconsin, has not yet been notified of the pope’s actions according to the AP.
At the end of October, the pope convened a month long conference, known as a Synod of Bishops, followed an unprecedented two-year canvassing of rank-and-file Catholics. During the conference Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a popular spiritual author and editor of the LGBTQ Catholic publication Outreach, noted that on LGBTQ issues, “There were widely diverging views on the topic,” he said.
In early November, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Eastern Texas was “relieved” of his position as head of the Diocese of Tyler by Francis after Strickland’s refusal to resign in a dispute over the church’s LGBTQ inclusion in Catholic practices. Strickland often had echoed Burke’s positions.
Although retired in 2014, Burke had an incredibly anti-LGBTQ public record since, especially in vocalizing his opposition to plans to be inclusive of the LGBTQ community. Burke was once a high-ranking U.S. archbishop and head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican court, but was repeatedly demoted under Francis and then forced to retire.
In March 2020, Burke laid blame on the coronavirus pandemic on the LGBTQ community. As churches were forced to close during the lock-downs ordered by health officials, Burke wrote:
“Worship is particularly needed now because of ‘how distant our popular culture is from God,’ he wrote, noting abortion and euthanasia, then attacking the LGBTQ equality movement, particularly activism for recognition of trans identity.
“‘We need only to think of the pervasive attack upon the integrity of human sexuality, of our identity as man or woman, with the pretense of defining for ourselves, often employing violent means, a sexual identity other than that given to us by God,” he said. “With ever greater concern, we witness the devastating effect on individuals and families of the so-called ‘gender theory.'” Burke went on to say, “There is no question that great evils like pestilence are an effect of original sin and of our actual sins.’”
Burke once compared lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to murderers.
Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss is said to be backing a private bill to be introduced into the House of Commons that will ban minor children under the age of 18 from accessing hormone therapy and block the National Health Service and the UK government from recognizing their social transition.
After Truss was one of 20 backbencher MPs to be selected to bring forward a bill, a source reportedly said she chose the legislation because she believes under-18s need to be protected from “making irreversible decisions about their bodies.”
PinkNewsUK pointed out that argument fails to consider the fact that trans under-18s are typically prescribed physically reversible puberty blockers and are only permitted to do so after lengthy medical checks.
Physically reversible puberty blockers are also typically only given to teenagers over the age of 16. It is exceptionally rare for under-16s to be prescribed puberty blockers.
Despite this, Truss is expected to formally present the bill on Wednesday during a House of Commons hearing where its MP backers will also attend, PinkNewsUK also reported.
A spokesperson for the UK government said in a statement: “This government is clear on the fundamental importance of biological sex.”
A magistrate’s court found a 51-year-old man guilty of a hate crime in an assault on Drag Race UK star The Vivienne this past June at a local McDonald’s. Alan Whitfield told the court that he had struck James Lee Williams, aka The Vivienne, in the face claiming that his actions were not motivated by homophobia but by what he described as “banter.”
During his testimony, 31-year-old Williams said he was subjected to a “barrage of abuse” from Whitfield after entering the fast food restaurant PinkNewsUK reported.
“He [Whitfield] carried on, then after the fourth ‘look at the state of you’ I said ‘look at the state of you’, I said ‘look at the state of your face’, to which he said ‘I’ve got skin cancer’ and then punched me straight in the face.”
PinkNewsUK reported that the RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star, who took home the crown in the first series in 2018, argued that the attack was motivated by homophobia because there were “countless other people” in the McDonald’s at the time.
Whitfield maintained throughout the proceedings that the assault “was nothing to do with him [Williams] being gay,” reiterating that he has LGBTQ members of his family.
After court deliberation, Justice Anthony Canning said that Whitfield’s evidence was “not credible.”
“Having considered this incident from beginning to end, we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the hostility shown by yourself from that outset was motivated and down to the perceived sexuality of the complainant and this was homophobic in nature.”
Whitfield will be sentenced in January.
A 25-year-old second year law student at the University College Cork is set to make history the first openly trans person in history to run for local election in Ireland.
Saoirse Mackin, who co-founded Trans+ Pride Cork in 2022, was nominated by the Social Democrats to run in Cork City North West’s 2024 election. Mackin, who transitioned in 2017, told LGBTQ+ media outlet GCN – Ireland, that if elected, one of her top priorities will be eliminating the excessive healthcare barriers that are in place for trans women in Ireland.
Mackin also advocates for better cycling infrastructures, as well as affordable housing and improved public services GCN noted.
She said, “If elected, my priority areas will include the provision of more affordable housing, improved public services, universal access to healthcare and the development of quality cycle infrastructure in Cork. I will also campaign for better local amenities, such as upgraded parks, green spaces, playgrounds and sports facilities.”
In addition to being a trans activist, Mackin is also a law student and community organiser who has bravely spoken up against the growing far-right movement in Ireland. She was also named in the Irish Examiner’s 100 Women of 2022 list.
Russia’s Supreme Court this past week ruled that “the international LGBTQ movement” is “extremist” which, legal experts and human rights advocates say will lead to all LGBTQ groups and organizations in Russia being banned.
The Russian Justice Ministry had lodged an administrative legal claim with the High Court to recognize the International LGBTQ public movement as extremist and ban its activity in Russia. Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko did not specify whether it was seeking the closure of any specific groups or organizations, or if the designation would apply more broadly to the LGBTQ community, causes and individuals.
Speaking with Agence France-Presse, the head of the Sphere human rights group, which advocates for the Russian LGBTQ community, had criticized Chuychenko‘s actions.
“Russian authorities are once again forgetting that the LGBTQ+ community are human beings,” said Sphere head Dilya Gafurova, who has left Russia.
Authorities “don’t just want to erase us from the public field: They want to ban us as a social group,” Gafurova told AFP. “It’s a pretty typical move for repressive non-democratic regimes — the persecution of the most vulnerable. We will continue our fight,” he added.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk in a statement issued from Geneva after the ruling said:
“This decision exposes human rights defenders and anyone standing up for the human rights of LGBT people to being labeled as ‘extremist’ — a term that has serious social and criminal ramifications in Russia,” said Türk. “No one should be jailed for doing human rights work or denied their human rights based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
“I call on the Russian authorities to repeal, immediately, laws that place improper restrictions on the work of human rights defenders or that discriminate against LGBT people. The law must uphold and defend the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The law must never be used to perpetuate inequality and discrimination,” Türk added.
Laws that must be reformed include those prohibiting gender-affirming medical and administrative procedures, and banning so-called “LGBT propaganda,” which made it illegal to discuss LGBT issues in Russia on penalty of substantial fines, Türk said.
The Türk also pointed out the wide use of the “extremist” label is more generally used to prosecute all those perceived as opponents, including politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others.
“LGBTIQ people exist in every country, and a legal ban on the undefined ‘international LGBT movement’ will result in more violence, discrimination, and isolation of LGBTIQ people in Russia, who are already targeted for being who they are,” said Maria Sjödin, executive director of Outright International.
“Russia, which has already restricted access to information about LGBTIQ issues, is yet again violating the human rights of LGBTIQ people by restricting freedoms of association and expression. This is a great concern not just for human rights defenders focused on protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people but for everyone who believes in human rights for all,” Sjödin added.
Within 48 hours of the High Court’s ruling, multiple Russian Law enforcement agencies executed a series of raids multiple queer venues in the Russian capital. At one club located on Ulitsa Malaya Yakimanka Street in the center of Moscow, there were approximately 300 people gathered when Russian security forces burst in under the pretext of searching for drugs in the establishment. Several persons were detained.
“In the middle of the party, they stopped the music and began to enter the halls [the police]. There were also citizens of other countries at the party. At the exit, they photographed passports without permission to do so,” an LGBTQ rights activist who had previously spoken to other media outlets told the Washington Blade in a phone call Sunday.
The raids took place in at least four venues, and were reportedly expected by the clubs management and owners.
Security forces arrived at an establishment near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and a themed strip club for men near the Polyanka metro station in central Moscow. The administration of the clubs warned visitors about the events in advance, the Moscow Times reported.
According to an eyewitness to the police raid on Mono, a bar also located in the city’s central district on Pokrovsky Boulevard, “there was the usual party, then the owner came out and said that within an hour law enforcement would arrive in connection with the recent ruling by the Supreme Court. Within 20 minutes the dance floor started to empty,” Ostorozhno Novosti, an independent Russian news outlet reported.
The Moscow Times could not independently verify Ostorozhno Novosti’s reporting, and employees from at least two of the clubs believed to have been targeted on Friday denied the reports, which they called “fakes.”
“I wake up … and I’m reading the news, and, of course, it’s hilarious. Where was [this raid] when we had nothing going on?” the manager of the club Mono said in a video posted on social media Saturday.
The Blade has also been unable to verify Ostorozhno Novosti’s reporting on the Mono bar raid but in a series of phone calls and Telegram chats was able to determine that multiple raids had in fact taken place across central Moscow and that gay clubs and LGBTQ safe spaces were targeted.
In the Baltic city of St. Petersburg, the largest gay club, Central Station, according to independent news outlet Sota, reported the club’s management said that they were denied further rental of the site due to the “new law.”
Additional reporting from Pahichan Media, the South China Morning Post, Human Rights Watch, The BBC, PinkNewsUK, Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times, GCN Ireland, the Vatican News and the Associated Press.
Indian Supreme Court agrees to consider petition to appeal marriage equality ruling
Justices on Oct. 17 ruled against nuptials for same sex couples
The Indian Supreme Court on Nov. 23 agreed to consider an appeal of last month’s ruling against marriage equality.
While appearing before Chief Justice Dhananjay Yeshwant Chandrachud’s bench, Justices Jamshed Burjor Pardiwala and Manoj Misra and former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi referenced the petition. Other lawyers who participated in previous marriage equality cases were also present.
Rohatgi requested the Supreme Court allow the appeal to be heard in open court.
“Apart from this, majority and minority, both views have held that there is discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples,” said Rohatgi. “If there is discrimination, there also has to be a remedy. This is why we have pressed for an open court hearing.”
Chandrachud said he has yet to review the petition and request for an open court hearing.
Udit Sood and other lawyers who had appeared in the original marriage equality case filed the appeal petition. Review and curative petitions are generally not heard in an open court in India, but rather in a closed setting and the chamber of the judges. They can, however, allow open court hearings if they find merit in the appeal petition.
The petition argued the ruling suffered from “the errors apparent on the face of the record,” and the earlier verdict was “self-contradictory and manifestly unjust.”
“To find that the petitioners are enduring discrimination, but then turn them away with best wishes for the future, conforms neither with this honorable court’s constitutional obligation towards queer Indians nor with the separation of powers contemplated in our constitution,” reads the petition. “The majority judgment warrants review because it summarily disregards the foregoing authority to make the chilling declaration that the Constitution of India guarantees no fundamental right to marry, found a family, or form a civil union.”
According to the rule, the review petition should be filed before the same set of judges who considered the original case.
Justice Shripathi Ravindra Bhat, who was in the five-judge bench led by Chandrachud and heard the original marriage equality case, retired on Oct. 20. For the review petition to be heard, Chandrachud will have to add a new judge to the original bench. In the Supreme Court, the chief justice decides the roster inside the judge’s chambers.
Five judges led by Chandrachud in a 3-2 verdict on Oct. 17 ruled against the recognition of same-sex marriage in India.
The Washington Blade reported the Supreme Court recognized it cannot make laws, but can only interpret them. Chandrachud in the ruling noted that the court must be careful not to enter the legislative domain.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was a setback for the LGBTQ community in India and across the world. Many prominent LGBTQ activists and high-profile allies expressed their disappointment.
“I think one of the important things that while the judges said the marriage is not a fundamental right, we want to stress upon the freedom to form a union. humans are social beings,” said Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist in India and one of the original plaintiffs in the marriage equality case. “The truth is that companionship is a human need. And if companionship is a human need, legalizing it will become a necessity from that point of view.”
Harish also told the Blade in an interview that a more nuanced understanding of marriage — one that is not from the lens of being an institution, but rather from the more personal lens — is required. Harish has yet to join the appeal, but said he plans to become part of it.
He said he is not hopeful the appeal petition will succeed.
“I am hopeful of the fact that things will get better, and it will be reviewed,” said Harish. “If they admit it, it will have a fresh take on the judgment and possibly it would be 3-2 in favor of marriage equality.”
Rajesh Srinivas, executive director of Sangama, a Bengaluru-based organization that works for sexual minorities in India, told the Blade said the plaintiffs can argue in court, but nothing will come out of their appeal.
“If you look at the review petition historically, I think it is going to be a long fight,” said Srinivas. “I do not think the government will move an inch, and see where it goes.”
Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion.
Hamas releases gay Israeli man’s sister
Militants kidnapped Yarden Roman-Gat on Oct. 7
Hamas on Wednesday released a gay Israeli man’s sister who had been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.
Media reports indicate Yarden Roman-Gat is one of 12 Israelis and four Thai nationals who the militant group released.
Roman-Gat, a physical therapist who works with elderly people and those with physical and mental health issues, and her family had just returned to Israel after a vacation in South Africa when they decided to spend the Simchat Torah holiday with Gat’s parents in Be’eri, a kibbutz that is near the border between Israel and Gaza. They were in their home on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its surprise attack.
Media reports indicate four militants placed Roman-Gat, Gat, their 3-year-old daughter and two other Be’eri residents into a car. One of them had reportedly been placed into the trunk.
Roman-Gat and Gat jumped out of the car with their daughter as it approached Gaza. Roman-Gat’s brother, Gili Roman, a teacher and member of the Nemos LGBTQ+ Swimming Club who lives in Tel Aviv, on Oct. 30 told the Washington Blade that the militants began to run after them. He said they were shooting at them when his sister handed her daughter to her husband because he was able to run faster.
Gat hid with his daughter for 18 hours before they reached Israeli soldiers in Be’eri. He told Roman he last saw his wife hiding behind a tree to protect herself from the militants who were shooting at her.
“For us it’s like a Holocaust story,” Roman told the Blade. “It’s a horror story, the worst horror story that you can imagine.”
More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed since the war began. This figure includes at least 260 people who Hamas militants murdered at an all-night music festival in Re’im, a kibbutz that is a few miles away from Be’eri. Thousands of other Israelis have been injured and Roman-Gat is among the 240 people who militants from Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups kidnapped.
The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 13,000 people and injured thousands of others in the enclave.
A truce between Israel and Hamas that allowed for the release of hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons took effect on Friday.
The Associated Press notes roughly 160 hostages remain in Gaza. The truce that the U.S., Egypt and Qatar brokered was extended two days on Monday, but is slated to expire tonight.
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