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Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

Lufthansa is commemorating Pride Month

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

FRANCE

Arturo López Gavito, former vice president of marketing at Disney Mexico, Mexican music producer, manager, and radio host with transgender Spanish actress Karla Sofía Gascón, an outspoken advocate for the global trans community in August 2022. (Photo courtesy of Karla Sofía Gascón’s Facebook page)

Transgender actress Karla Sofía Gascón has filed a legal complaint against French far-right politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, after the Reconquête Party leader posted a tweet decrying the fact that Gascón was awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. The complaint has been joined with complaints from six French LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gascón has been making waves since her international breakthrough performance in the musical gangster film “Emilia Pérez” at the Cannes Film Festival last month. In the film, she plays a cartel leader who hires a lawyer played by Zoe Saldaña to help her flee Mexico with her wife, played by Selena Gomez, so that she can get gender-affirming surgery so she can live as a woman. 

The Spanish actress became the first trans woman to win the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.

After her win, Maréchal-Le Pen posted a tweet that said Gascón’s victory came at a cost for women.

“Therefore, a man receives the prize for … best actress at Cannes. Progress for the left is the erasure of women and mothers,” Le Pen posted on May 26.

Gascón’s lawyer, Etienne Deshoulières, told Agence France-Presse she had filed a legal complaint for “sexist insult on the basis of gender identity.”

The organizations Mousse, Stop Homophobie, Familles LGBT, Adheos, Quazar, and Fédération LBGTQ+ have all filed similar complaints over Maréchal-Le Pen’s tweet.

Maréchal-Le Pen has responded to the complaint by asserting that she will not be silenced.

She is currently on the campaign trail leading the far-right Reconquête Party in elections to the European Parliament scheduled for June 9. She comes from a long pedigree of far-right French politicians who have all been opponents of LGBTQ rights. Her grandfather, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the far-right Front National party, which is now led by her aunt Marine Le Pen as the National Rally Party. She has frequently spoken of her desire to repeal same-sex marriage. 

Before this all blew up, Gascón told a press conference at Cannes about her own experiences with discrimination as a trans woman. 

“People who are trans are subjected to insults or death threats because they exist. In Mexico, there are harsh phrases when addressing trans people. It can be gross,” she said. “I think we should be taken for what we are. We have to continue fighting for our rights. We have our body and we’re allowed to change it.” 

“We’re just normal people … I think in the world, you should be treated with respect.”

In addition to Gascón’s acting award, “Emilia Pérez” scored tremendous reviews from critics at Cannes. A U.S. release date has not yet been announced.

SPAIN

(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

The coalition of LGBTQ groups that were working together to guide the 2026 Gay Games in Valencia, Spain, has pulled out of the event in protest over what they’ve called a hijacking of the project by the city’s newly elected government, which includes a far-right anti-LGBTQ party in the governing coalition. 

Spain’s third-largest city was chosen as the games’ host in November 2021, beating out Munich, Germany, and Guadalajara, Mexico. Originally Valencia’s Gay Games organization was led by a coalition of local LGBTQ groups in partnership with the city council.

But that changed last year, when the center-right People’s Party and the far-right Vox party took over the city government. The LGBTQ groups allege that the city reduced their role on the board in an attempt to take over the games, and that the new government has been hostile to LGBTQ people. They also say that the government has censored LGBTQ books, plays, and films.

On May 27, the LGBTQ+ groups — Lambda, Avegal and Dracs, and the umbrella organization València Diversitat Foundation — announced they were pulling out of the games and encouraging the Federation of Gay Games to withdraw from Valencia and award the 2026 games to another city. 

 “After the last local elections, the Popular Party and Vox have promoted an entire campaign of attacks and cuts in rights against members of the group,” FVD Secretary Jorge Garcia told Spain’s El Salto newspaper. “We have seen how children’s books were withdrawn or plays and films were canceled simply for addressing LGTBI themes or for showing people from the group.”

FVD is calling on the Federation of Gay Games to move the event to another city that is more LGBTQ-friendly, suggesting Munich as a possible alternate venue as it was one of the original bidders for the 2026 event. They’re also saying that unless FVD moves the event, they will “call for a boycott at the local, national, and international level.”

But so far, the federation has said it’s not budging.

In response to the pullout, the federation issued a statement saying that the games would go ahead in Valencia and that the federation has faith that the city government is hosting the games for the right reasons.

“After confidently receiving assurances from the València City Council about their commitment to the organization of the event, the FGG can confirm that the Gay Games will continue to be held in Valencia in 2026,” the statement reads. “The FGG has met various times with them to gain assurances from them about their commitment to the funding of the event, the availability of government-owned sports and culture venues, and the confirmation that participants will be able to attend and compete as their authentic selves.” 

This isn’t the first time the Gay Games has experienced turmoil. 

After being postponed a year due to the pandemic, last year’s Gay Games Hong Kong was divided and co-hosted with Guadalajara, Mexico, amid concerns about the worsening human rights and democracy situation in China, and deepening opposition from some local officials who were more closely aligned with Beijing.

The far-right Vox party has long been hostile to LGBTQ rights in Spain and has seen its fortunes rise along with other conservative or right-leaning parties across Europe. In Spanish cities and regions where they’ve come into power either alone or in coalition with the People’s Party, it has repealed local laws meant to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and conversion therapy. On the national level, it has campaigned to repeal same-sex marriage and legal recognition of trans people. 

GERMANY

Lufthansa aircraft maintenance workers at the airline’s main service hanger facilities in Frankfurt, Germany, apply Pride Month markings to a jet in the company’s fleet. (Photo courtesy of Lufthansa)

German airlines Lufthansa is celebrating Pride Month 2024 by spoofing the company’s name with “Lovehansa” on several aircraft in its fleet. On X Deutsche Lufthansa AG wrote: 

“It’s that time of the year where we highlight the importance of openness, tolerance, and equal love. We’ve been coloring the air with Lovehansa for the last two years and will continue to spread the love across borders and skies. Happy Pride Season!

UNITED KINGDOM

Progress Pride flags line Regent Street, the home of fashion, flagships, food, technology, and entertainment in the heart of London. (Photo courtesy of Regent Street/The Crown Estate)

A conservative Christian group has launched a petition calling for the city of Westminster in central London to remove Progress Pride flags from Regent Street, alleging that the flags are divisive, offensive, and “ugly.”

The group Christian Concern has collected more than 20,000 signatures of its 50,000 goal on its CitizenGo petition. The petition is addressed to Westminster City Council Leader Adam Hug and calls on him to “stop authorizing large scale displays of Pride Progress flags in Westminster, in particular Regent Street.”

Progress Pride flags have been strung across Regent Street — home to a world-famous luxury shopping district — for years, and they’re scheduled to return for June and July this year. Regent Street is controlled by the Crown Estates, a semi-public agency that manages the monarch’s property holdings. 

In their letter, Christian Concern says the Progress Pride flags sow division in society.

“They do not promote inclusion — in fact, they exacerbate tensions between people of different characteristics — religions, sexual orientations, and gender identity. Many people experience these flags as an attack on historic, traditional beliefs about sex and gender. They send the message that people holding these views — which are worthy of respect in a democratic society — are not welcome,” the letter says.

In the petition’s explanatory note, Christian Concern alleges the Progress Pride flag is particularly offensive, because it includes colors symbolic of trans people and people of color.

“Rainbow flags are bad enough — but ‘Progress Pride’ flags add transgender stripes — a movement that has done untold damage to gender-questioning children in recent years. They also add brown and black stripes, wrongly conflating racial identity with sexual and gender identities,” it says.

“These flags are particularly offensive, and ugly to boot,” it says. “These divisive, gaudy displays are completely inappropriate for this historic, iconic street at the center of London.”

London’s annual Pride Parade will occur this year on June 29, and as usual, the route will pass through Piccadilly Circus, at the foot of Regent Street.

Pride in London, which organizes the parade, says it expects up to 35,000 people marching this year, making it the largest London Pride ever. The festivities come amid a growing moral panic against trans people in the U.K., fueled by a government that has been increasingly hostile to trans and queer people, and celebrities like JK Rowling, who have made opposing trans rights a key part of their identity.

The march comes just days before national elections, scheduled for July 4, which the governing Conservative Party is widely expected to lose.

RUSSIA

Youth Policy Minister Sergey Burtsev, right, and another official working in youth policy, Andrey Zolotukhin with whom Alex Khinshtein accused of being in a same-sex relationship. (Photo courtesy of Alex Khinshtein/Telegram-VK)

The governor of Russia’s Samara oblast has resigned amid accusations that his government violated Russia’s “LGBT Propaganda” law by appointing staff who were in same-sex relationships, Novaya Gazeta Europe reports

Dmitry Azarov announced his resignation over the Russian social media network Vkontakte on May 28. His move came after several of his government’s officials were arrested on corruption charges, and following several allegations related to the “LGBT propaganda” law. 

Since 2013, Russian law has banned the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors, and in 2022, the law was expanded to ban promotion of LGBTQ rights to people of any age.. Last year, the Russian Supreme Court and the Russian government added the “LGBT movement” to a list of banned extremist movements, intensifying the crackdown on LGBTQ expression.

Alex Khinshtein, a member of the President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party who represents Samara in the Russian parliament, and who authored the original ‘LGBT propaganda law, kicked off a series of allegations against officials in Azarov’s government. 

He alleged that the Youth Policy Minister Sergey Burtsev and another official working in youth policy, Denis Leontovich, were in same-sex relationships. Both denied the allegations, but left their positions shortly after.

The resignations come amid a worsening crackdown on LGBTQ people in Russia. In March, several Moscow gay bars were raided by police, and a man was charged with using extremist symbols after he allegedly used a rainbow flag emoji in a private group chat.

JAPAN

A male couple in Omura City, Nagasaki prefecture, received a residency certificate on May 28, 2024, marking their relationship as “husband” in the section indicating the partner living with the head of the household. During a press conference, Keita Matsuura, 38, expressed his joy, saying, “I want to share this happy news with everyone across the country, especially with many people in similar situations.” (Kyodo News screenshot)

Three cities across Japan announced that they would begin registering same-sex couples the same way that they register heterosexual couples in common-law marriages, the latest advancement in an ongoing struggle for legal recognition of same-sex couples in the East Asian nation.

Omura in Nagasaki prefecture announced the change on May 2, after Keita Matsuura, 38, and Yutaro Fujiyama, 39, made the request to register their relationship.  

It was followed quickly by Kanuma in Tochigi prefecture. Kurayoshi in Tottori prefecture had initiated a similar procedure in October 2023. In all three cities, people in same-sex couples will be listed as “husband” or “wife” on their resident registration cards, with “not yet notified” added in brackets to indicate that the marriage is not officially registered, similar to opposite-sex common-law marriages.

In Japan, common-law heterosexual couples are treated equally to married couples, but it’s not clear yet if that treatment will carry over to same-sex couples who are registered this way. 

“The possibility of obtaining rights equivalent to those of de facto marriages will arise,” Matsuura told Asahi news

Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Japan, although several cases seeking to have it legalized are currently winding their way through district courts on their way to a likely Supreme Court case. Five district courts and one appellate court have found the current ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, while one has upheld the ban. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of municipalities and 26 of Japan’s 47 prefectures across Japan have created partnership oath registries for same-sex couples. While these registries are not legally binding, they have helped some couples access some services and benefits only available to married couples. 

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Africa

Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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Africa

What’s next for LGBTQ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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European Union

The 2024 European elections: A turning point for LGBTQ rights in the EU?

Right-wing parties made electoral gains

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European Union President von der Leyen addresses the European Parliament in October 2023. (Screenshot courtesy of the European Council Press Office)

As the dust settles after the 2024 European Parliament elections, right-wing parties are gaining substantial ground and concerns about the potential impact on LGBTQ rights are growing. The projected surge in support for far-right parties, however, was not as pronounced as some had expected.

Monday morning’s estimates indicate the far-right’s presence has, however, undeniably increased. 

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) gained four seats, bringing their total to 73. The Identity and Democracy group saw a significant rise, gaining nine seats to reach 58. Together, these nationalist, anti-immigrant parties now hold around 130 seats, reflecting their growing influence. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, which clinched over 32 percent of the vote, and the Alternative for Germany securing approximately 16 percent of the vote and becoming the country’s second-largest party, ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, in particular could affect the broader political dynamics in Europe.

Despite the gains for the far-right, the mainstream conservative European People’s Party (EPP) emerged as the largest group, securing 189 seats, an increase of 13 seats. The two other centrist parties, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and Renew Europe, however, experienced losses that eroded the political center. S&D finished with 135 seats, losing four, while Renew Europe saw a significant reduction, finishing with 83 seats.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen celebrated her party’s victory and called for cooperation among centrists to ensure a “strong and effective Europe.” She emphasized the responsibility that comes with the election results, noting the need for stability amid growing support for extremist parties.

The election’s biggest losers were the Greens, who saw their support decrease by 25 percent, ending with 53 seats. The Greens, despite this setback, could still play a crucial role in supporting centrist majorities as an alternative to further-right parties.

All eyes are now on the election winners, the EPP. 

Von der Leyen has indicated her readiness to work with certain parties sitting with the hard-right ECR. Initial signals from the EPP camp, however, suggest it will stay true to its traditional allies at the center. Von der Leyen has offered to work with socialists and liberals to build a “majority in the center for a strong Europe,” underscoring the importance of maintaining a united front against extremism.

The narrow margins in the new parliament could lead to issue-by-issue coalitions, especially for sensitive issues such as those related to the European Green Deal. This limited room for maneuver could see the EPP relying on partners to its right on an ad hoc basis, including for critical decisions that include ushering in a new commission president. Von der Leyen’s future hangs in the balance as she seeks re-election. National delegations within her EPP grouping and support from lawmakers of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which clinched 24 seats, will play a crucial role in her bid to secure an absolute majority of 361 MEPs.

The implications for LGBTQ rights in Europe are significant. 

Far-right parties, known for their conservative social values, might push for policies that restrict LGBTQ rights, opposing marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, and challenging the legal recognition of gender identity and access to healthcare for transgender people. Such potential policy reversals represent a significant setback for the LGBTQ community.

The rising popularity of far-right ideologies also poses a risk of heightened discrimination and hate speech against LGBTQ people. 

Hate-motivated violence and exclusion are likely to become more prevalent, along with more frequent and aggressive hate speech targeting the LGBTQ community. Additionally, far-right parties often promote traditional gender roles and family structures, potentially undermining the visibility and acceptance of LGBTQ identities. Nonbinary, transgender, and intersex people could face increased stigmatization.

The 16th annual Rainbow Map that ILGA-Europe publishes underscores the importance of legal protections for LGBTQ people. 

Authoritarian leaders across Europe continue to use the scapegoating of LGBTQ people to divide and mobilize their electorates. Several countries, however, have demonstrated robust political will to advance and protect LGBTQ rights. Some countries — Germany, Iceland, Estonia, and Greece — have made significant strides in protecting LGBTQ rights through improvements in legislation and anti-discrimination measures. Belgium, Cyprus, Norway, and Portugal have introduced bans on conversion therapy practices.

Countries such as Italy, on the other hand, show the consequences of stalling legislative protection for LGBTQ people. Moreover, EU accession countries, including Turkey and Georgia, are actively eroding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Rainbow Map illustrates the stark differences in how European countries handle LGBTQ rights. 

While some nations are making significant progress, others are regressing, influenced by the far-right’s growing power. Germany, Iceland, Estonia, and Greece, for example, have made noteworthy improvements in their legal frameworks to protect LGBTQ people. Germany prohibited hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics, while Estonia and Greece amended their laws to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

In contrast, Italy, which has dropped in the rankings due to stalling legislative protections, exemplifies the risk of complacency that many activists in Europe fear. The far-right’s influence can quickly lead to the erosion of rights if proactive measures are not taken. The situation is even more dire in EU accession countries such as Turkey and Georgia, where LGBTQ rights are actively being rolled back.

The stakes are high as Europe moves forward from these elections. 

The EU must address the rise in political hate speech and new tools of oppression that include Russia’s criminalization of the LGBTQ movement. Without strong laws and policies to protect LGBTQ people, the foundation of safety, rule of law, and democracy in Europe is at risk.

The balance of power remains delicate as the European Parliament prepares for its new term.

The first major test will be the approval of the new European Commission president, which is set for July. Von der Leyen, who narrowly won her position five years ago, will need to secure broad support among centrists while navigating the complex dynamics of the new parliament. The secret ballot process adds an additional layer of uncertainty, making her re-election far from guaranteed.

The 2024 European elections have set the stage for potentially significant changes in the legislative and social landscape of the EU. As right-wing parties gain power, the fight for LGBTQ rights becomes more crucial than ever. The next few years will be pivotal in determining whether Europe can uphold its commitment to human rights and equality or if it will see a regression influenced by nationalist, conservative ideologies.

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