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Labour Party trounced Conservatives in UK elections

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

UNITED KINGDOM

The UK Labour Party won an overwhelming majority in national elections July 4, ending 14 years of Conservative Party rule that have been characterized by a deteriorating human rights situation for LGBTQ Britons, particularly transgender people. 

But the election of Kier Starmer as new prime minister seems to have queer people only cautiously optimistic at best. 

While Starmer’s Labour Party manifesto pledged to improve the queer people’s rights and safety by banning conversion therapy, expanding hate crime laws, and simplifying the gender recognition process for trans people, Starmer has also spent a lot of time playing to the widespread anti-trans hysteria in Britain.

He has said that trans people should not be allowed in single-sex spaces and courted noted transphobic author J.K. Rowling. 

That prompted a rebuke from Darren Styles, editor of Attitude Magazine, the UK’s leading LGBTQ lifestyle magazine. 

Styles had offered Starmer the opportunity to write an open letter to his magazine’s readers ahead of the election, but in an editorial, he writes that he couldn’t publish it without adding his own commentary.

“But between his copy arriving, on 23rd June, and today’s publication the earth moved beneath our feet. Since then, the Labour leader has said that he’d be willing to meet with JK Rowling to discuss sex and gender, and ‘respects’ her views,” Styles wrote.

“Much of … Sir Keir’s missive is positive and indeed impressive, does offer hope of genuine change and will likely reverse, in part, the trend of decline in LGBTQ+ rights in the U.K. But, in our opinion and in light of events, it is equivocal in parts in that it makes no mention of the trans issues that have subsequently come to light,” he wrote.

PinkNews reports that 56 out LGBTQ people were elected to parliament on July 4, including 46 Labour MPs, about 11 percent of Labour’s total caucus. It’s possible they may be able to push Starmer to make progress on LGBT issues.

But the total number of out LGBTQ MPs fell from a pre-election record of 67, after dozens of out Conservative and Scottish National Party MPs lost their seats.

FRANCE

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on July 8, 2024, offered to resign after the second round of the country’s parliamentary elections. (Screen capture via Le Huffington Post YouTube)

French voters rejected the far-right in a dramatic reversal of expectations in the second round of parliamentary elections Sunday, choosing a deeply divided legislature where the left-wing bloc of parties will control the most seats and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party holding the second-largest number of seats and the balance of power.

In the wake of the results, openly gay Prime Minister Gabriel Attal from Macron’s Renaissance party announced he would tender his resignation Monday morning, however, Macron rejected his resignation, asking him to stay on for stability while a new government is formed. Attal has been prime minister since January 2024.

Macron called the snap election last month after the far-right National Rally party won the most seats in European Parliament elections, seeking a fresh mandate for his government. 

Polls had widely predicted the National Rally would come out on top in the parliamentary election, but a flurry of cooperative deals between the left alliance and the Renaissance party after the first-round vote last weekend led to a consolidation of the anti-NR vote. 

While LGBTQ issues had not played a great part in the election campaign, the National Rally had in the past campaigned on restricting access to IVF and surrogacy for same-sex couples, and even banning same-sex marriage. 

Macron also turned to campaigning against trans rights, accusing the left-wing bloc of wanting to allow trans people to change their legal gender by simple declaration at a townhall, something he called “ludicrous.” Nevertheless, that is already legal in the France of which he is president.

NORWAY

The man who fired a machine gun at an Pride festival in Norway in 2022, killing two people and wounding 21 others in an Islamic State-inspired attack, was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 30 years in prison on July 4.

Zaniar Matapour, a 44-year-old Iranian-born Norwegian citizen, fired 10 rounds with a machine gun and eight with a handgun into a crowd in three locations, including outside the London Pub, a popular Oslo gay bar, on June 25, 2022. Civilians assisted police in detaining Matapour at the scene. 

Norway’s Police Security Service told media at the time that Matapour had been known to them since at least 2015 and had grown concerned that he had become radicalized into an unspecified Islamist terrorist network. According to the service’s then-acting Chief Roger Berg, he had a “long history of violence and threats” and known mental health issues. 

The Oslo District Court found that Matapour had sworn allegiance to ISIS, the terrorist organization that governed a large part of Iraq and Syria between 2014-2019 and which has claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks across the globe.

Matapour has never denied carrying out the attack, but he pled innocent, claiming that he had been provoked to carry out the attack by an agent of Norway’s intelligence service posing as a high-ranking officer of ISIS.  

Matapour will be eligible for parole in 20 years, but he can only be released if he is deemed not to be a danger. Four other people are suspected of having been involved in the attack, but they have not been charged.

SLOVAKIA

The Human Rights Institute has filed a criminal complaint against the country’s minister of culture for inciting hatred against immigrants and Jewish people, as well as LGBTQ people.

The nongovernmental organization filed the complaint on July 4, a day after Culture Minister Martina Šimkovičová gave an interview to the Topky network, in which she claimed that the low birthrate among white people in Europe was due to LGBTQ people.

“We heterosexuals are creating the future, because we make babies. Europe is dying out, babies are not being born because of the excessive number of LGBTQ+ [people]. And the strange thing is [that it’s happening] with the white race,” Šimkovičová said.

Homophobic hate speech is not a crime in Slovakia, but racist and anti-Semitic hate speech is.

Human Rights Institute Director Peter Weisenbacher drew a connection between Šimkovičová’s statements and the shocking murder of two gay men outside a Bratislava gay bar in 2022.

“It is shocking that it has not even been two years since the terrorist attack on Zámocká, in which two people died, and a member of the government is saying such things. Even the statements of public figures, which cannot be called anything other than spreading hatred, incite homophobia, racism and anti-Semitism,” Weisenbacher said in a statement. 

Slovakia’s government has long been hostile to LGBTQ rights, including under current left-leaning populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was elected last year. 

Before joining his government, Šimkovičová had worked as a journalist, until she was fired for promoting anti-migrant content on social media. She then became a darling of far-right media, promoting anti-vax, homophobic, and pro-Russian content on social media and hosting the YouTube show TV Slovan. 

Her ministry also announced this week that it would cease all funding of LGBTQ-related content. Šimkovičová had called the policy a “return to normalcy” when the idea was announced in January.

INDIA

The Indian Supreme Court (Photo by TK Kurikawa via Bigstock)

A year after the India’s Supreme Court dashed the hopes of the country’s queer community by ruling that there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the court is set to reconsider its ruling at a hearing on Wednesday. 

In October 2023, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Supriyo v. Union of India that same-sex marriage is for parliament to decide, not the courts. The court also ruled 3-2 against ordering the government to introduce civil unions. 

However, the court accepted the government’s offer to set up a committee that would investigate other ways to give same-sex couples more rights around inheritance, medical decisions, and other issues, and the court reiterated that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is not allowed under the constitution.

Since the ruling, two of the five justices retired — one who had voted for same-sex civil unions, and one who wrote the majority opinion against it.

One of the petitioners in the same-sex marriage case filed a petition for a review of the decision, noting that the ruling acknowledges that LGBTQ people face unjust discrimination but fails to order any remedy for the injustice.

“The majority ruling is self-contradictory, facially erroneous and deeply unjust. The majority found that queer Indians endure severe discrimination at the hands of the State, declared that discrimination must be prohibited, and then did not take the logical next step of enjoining the discrimination,” Udit Sood said in his petition.

LGBTQ people have made major progress in legal rights in India in recent years, largely through the courts. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the colonial-era sodomy law that criminalized LGBTQ people, and the following year, the government passed a law banning discrimination against trans people. 

Courts have also asserted that LGBTQ people have the right to autonomy and cohabitation, and that they cannot be subjected to conversion therapy.

If the Supreme Court does rule in favor of same-sex marriage, India would be by far the largest country in the world to legalize it. 

Also this week, the Court of Cassation in The Hague, Netherlands, is expected to deliver a long-awaited ruling on same-sex marriage in the Caribbean countries of Aruba and Curaçao on Friday.

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Africa

Cameroon president’s daughter comes out

Brenda Biya acknowledges relationship with Brazilian model

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Brenda Biya (Photo via Instagram)

The daughter of Cameroonian President Paul Biya has come out as a lesbian.

Brenda Biya, 26, on June 30 posted to her Instagram page a picture of her kissing Brazilian model Layyons Valença.

“I’m crazy about you and I want the world to know,” said Brenda Biya.

Her father has been Cameroon’s president since 1982.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in the Central African country that borders Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Chad. The State Department’s 2023 human rights report notes harassment, discrimination, violence, and arbitrary arrests of LGBTQ people are commonplace in the country.

Brenda Biya is a musician who does not live in Cameroon.

The BBC reported she told Le Parisien, a French newspaper, in an exclusive interview published on Tuesday that she and Valença have been together for eight months. The women have also traveled to Cameroon together three times, but Brenda Biya did not tell her family they were in a relationship.

Brenda Biya said she did not tell her family that she planned to come out, and they were upset when she did. Brenda Biya told Le Parisien that her mother, Cameroonian first lady Chantale Biya, asked her to delete her Instagram post.

The Washington Blade on Thursday did not see the picture of Brenda Biya and Valença on her Instagram account.

“Coming out is an opportunity to send a strong message,” Brenda Biya told Le Parisien.

Brenda Biya described Cameroon’s criminalization law as “unfair, and I hope that my story will change it.”

Activists applauded Brenda Biya for coming out. The BBC reported the DDHP Movement, which supports Cameroon’s anti-LGBTQ laws, filed a complaint against her with the country’s public prosecutor.

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Caribbean

Dutch Supreme Court rules Aruba, Curaçao must allow same-sex couples to marry

Ruling likely also applicable to St. Maarten

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Curaçao is one of the constituent countries in the Caribbean that are part of the Netherlands. The Dutch Supreme Court on July 12, 2024, ruled Curaçao and Aruba must extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. The ruling will also apply to Sint Maarten. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Dutch Supreme Court on Friday ruled Aruba and Curaçao must extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba in 2022 ruled in favor of marriage equality in two cases that Fundacion Orguyo Aruba and Human Rights Caribbean in Curaçao filed.

The governments of the two islands appealed the ruling.

The Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba has jurisdiction over Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten —three constituent countries within the Netherlands — and Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba — which are special municipalities within the kingdom. 

Same-sex couples have been able to legally marry and adopt children in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba since 2012.

Aruba, Curaçao, and St. Maarten must recognize same-sex marriages from the Netherlands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba. Aruba’s registered partnership law took effect in 2021.

“Today, we celebrate a historic victory for the dignity and rights of LGBT individuals in Curaçao and Aruba,” said Human Rights Caribbean President Janice Tjon Sien Kie on Friday in a statement.

Aruban Sen. Miguel Mansur, who is gay, on Friday described the ruling to the Washington Blade as “an amazing victory which applies to Aruba, Curaçao, and by implication St. Maarten.”

“Aruba progresses into a society with less discrimination, more tolerance, and acceptance,” he said.

Melissa Gumbs, a lesbian St. Maarten MP, told the Blade the ruling “could very well have some bearing on our situation here.” 

“I’m definitely looking into it,” she said. “We’re researching it to see what is the possibility, and also in touch with our friends in Aruba who are, of course, overjoyed with this ruling.”

Cuba, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barts, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, are the other jurisdictions in the Caribbean in which same-sex couples can legally marry. 

Mansur said the first same-sex marriages in Aruba will happen “very soon.”

“There are two couples ready to wed,” he told the Blade.

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Caribbean

Black transgender woman from Chicago disappears in the Bahamas

Taylor Casey last seen on June 19 on Paradise Island

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Taylor Casey (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A Black transgender woman from Chicago disappeared last month while attending a yoga retreat in the Bahamas.

flyer the Royal Bahamas Police Force has distributed says Taylor Casey, 42, was last seen on June 19 on Paradise Island, which is adjacent to Nassau, the country’s capital.

Casey’s family in a press release said employees at the Sivanandra Ashram Yoga Retreat she was attending reported her missing on June 20 “when she failed to attend that day’s classes.” 

Casey’s mother, Colette Seymore, traveled to Paradise Island after her daughter disappeared.

The press release, which advocates in Chicago released ahead of a press conference on Thursday, notes “a search of the area and conversations with the Bahamian authorities left Ms. Colette Seymore with more questions than answers.”

Thursday is Casey’s 42nd birthday.

Seymore is among those who spoke at Thursday’s press conference.

“My child has been missing for almost three weeks,” said Seymore in the press release. “My family, friends, and I are distraught! I am pleading with everyone to call your elected officials and demand the FBI lead this investigation and bring her home safe and sound.”

The Windy City Times described Casey as “a fixture of Chicago’s transgender community and a beloved youth advocate.” Casey has also practiced yoga for 15 years, and went to the retreat “as part of a long-term goal to deepen her yoga practice.”

“She was excited to be participating in the yoga teacher training program and looking forward to sharing her experience with others when she returned,” noted a second press advisory her family released this week.

The Nassau Guardian, a Bahamian newspaper, on June 27 reported authorities found Casey’s cell phone in the ocean, but her other belongings were still in her room at the retreat. 

A spokesperson for Taylor’s family told the Washington Blade they have reached out to the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas for assistance. Eyewitness News Bahamas, a Bahamian newscast, on June 28 reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with Bahamian authorities to investigate Taylor’s disappearance.

The Bahamas Organization of LGBTI Affairs has also offered its support to Taylor’s family and assistance to authorities.

“There is still hope,” Alexus D’Marco, the group’s executive director, told Eyewitness News Bahamas. “They’re just looking for that piece of hope and to have some closure to finding their loved one.” 

D’Marco also called for Bahamian authorities to do more to investigate missing persons’ cases in the country.

“A human being is missing, and that is the whole thing about this,” she told Eyewitness News Bahamas. “Regardless of her gender identity, being identified as a trans person, she’s still a human being and she’s still a visitor to our shores.” 

Anyone with information about Casey’s disappearance can call the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department at (242) 502-9991, (242) 502-9975, or (202) 502-9976.

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