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Six LGBTQ men killed in Medellín since beginning of year

Several victims found tied up

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Medellín, Colombia, in September 2021 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The murders of at least six LGBTQ men in Colombia’s second largest city since the beginning of the year have sparked concern among advocacy groups.

Hernán Macías López, 30, was found dead in the bathtub of a hotel room in downtown Medellín on March 30. El Espectador, a Colombian newspaper, reported authorities found Macías tied up with signs of strangulation.

Juan Danilo Bedoya Román’s mother on March 15 found him dead in his bedroom in their home in Las Estancias, a neighborhood in Medellín’s Comuna 8. Media reports indicate Bedoya, 30, was partially undressed and his feet and hands were tied up when his mother discovered his body.

Sahmir Javier González Sarmiento’s friend on Feb. 15 found him dead in an apartment in Las Acacias, a neighborhood in Medellín’s Comuna 11. Authorities said the 28-year-old’s legs and hands were tied with a belt and a sheet.

EgoCity, an LGBTQ magazine, reported relatives on Jan. 27 found Juan David López Álzate’s body inside an apartment in Antonio Nariño, a neighborhood in Medellín’s Comuna 13. Other media reports indicate the 31-year-old was strangled with a belt and was found tied up.

A 36-year-old man who was attacked in downtown Medellín on Feb. 15 survived.

“The victim was stabbed,” reported EgoCity. “He recovered from his injuries after he was brought to a clinic.”

A source in Medellín on Monday told the Washington Blade authorities have described the murders as “isolated events.”

“They have the same pattern,” said the source. “One has to think that they are serial killings and in different neighborhoods in the city.”

Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBTQ rights group, on April 1 in a series of tweets noted it has confirmed six gay men have been killed in Medellín since the beginning of the year, and each of them “have similar circumstances.”

“It is important that authorities during the investigation do not revictimize the affected LGBTQ community and stigmatize the use of social media to meet and have encounters with other people,” said Caribe Afirmativo.

Medellín Mayor Daniel Quintero Calle on Monday urged the office of Colombia’s attorney general and other officials to thoroughly investigate the murders that he described as “very concerning.”

The Blade will update this story with additional details when they become available.

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Europe

Switzerland marriage equality law takes effect

Voters last September overwhelmingly approved ‘Marriage for All’ law

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(Public domain photo)

A law that allows same-sex couples to legally marry in Switzerland took effect on Friday.

Swiss voters last September voted overwhelmingly in favor of the “Marriage for All” law.

Maria von Känel of Regenbogenfamilien (Rainbow Families) on Friday posted to her Facebook page a picture of her and her wife with a marriage license and a message that said “the celebrations can begin.”

Neighboring Austria, Germany and France are among the European countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Scott Miller, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein who is openly gay, is married to Tim Gill.

“Today we celebrate marriage for all,” tweeted the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Friday. “Congratulations to Switzerland on this historic day.”

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Russia

Brittney Griner trial begins in Moscow

WNBA star faces up to 10 years in prison

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(Screenshot courtesy of Russian television)

The trial of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner began on Friday in Moscow.

Russian media reports indicate authorities initially did not allow journalists into the court room, but two reporters were eventually able to enter. The Washington Post reported U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood and other American diplomats were present.

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department later determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 14 spoke with Cherelle Griner. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan this week said he has also spoken with her.

Officials with the State Department’s Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on June 13 met with Brittney Griner’s teammates to discuss her detention and efforts to secure her release.

Brittney Griner on June 18 was unable to speak with her wife on their fourth anniversary because the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that she called went unanswered. A State Department spokesperson later admitted a “logistical error” prevented Brittney Griner from speaking with Cherelle Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

The Council for Global Equality and the Human Rights Campaign are among the dozens of advocacy groups who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris last week that urged them to do more to secure Brittney Griner’s release. The U.S. House of Representatives on June 24 approved a resolution that called upon Russia to immediately release her.

“Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained, unjustly detained and we have made that clear as an official determination of the U.S. government,” Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. “Second, the Russian government should release her and allow her to be returned and reunited with her family and come home safe and sound.”

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Caribbean

Final vote on new Cuba family code expected in September

Same-sex couples poised to receive marriage, adoption rights

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba is reporting a final referendum on whether the final draft of a new family code that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples will take place in September.

Tremenda Nota on June 23 reported a specific date for the referendum has not been announced, but it quoted comments President Miguel Díaz-Canel made the day before during a meeting of the commission that has written the draft. 

“We are entering a decisive stage,” said Díaz-Canel, according to Tremenda Nota. “We are going to need all the support that we need to ensure the emancipatory principles of equality and inclusion that the family code defends are actually approved.”

The National Assembly late last year approved the draft family code. 

A “popular consultation” ended on April 30. Tremenda Nota reported the last of the family code’s 25 drafts was presented to Díaz-Canel and other officials on June 6.

Díaz Canel and Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education, are among those who publicly support marriage equality. Cuban voters in 2019 overwhelmingly approved the draft of their country’s new constitution, but the government’s decision to remove a marriage equality amendment before the referendum on it sparked outrage among independent LGBTQ and intersex activists.

Efforts to implement the new family code are taking place against the backdrop of continued persecution of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans and others who publicly criticize the country’s government.

Tremenda Nota Editor Maykel González Vivero is among the hundreds of people who were arrested during anti-government protests that took place across Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Yoan de la Cruz, a gay man who used Facebook Live to livestream the first protest that took place in San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province. De La Cruz subsequently received a 6-year prison sentence, but he was released on house arrest last month.

Reports indicate Brenda Díaz, a transgender woman who was arrested during a July 11 protest in Güira de Melena in Artemisa province, on Wednesday received a 14-year prison sentence. 

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota’s original story is here.

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