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Ballroom, Books and Ballads

Gail Freedman’s Hot to Trot showcases queers competing for ballroom glory.

Gay singer Mike Rickard’s comeback champions at-risk LGBTQ youth with Six Queer Kids.

Evan Fallenberg’s The Parting Gift and Moshe Sakal’s The Diamond Setter reveal Middle Eastern life through gay voices.

An India-inspired celebrity challenges Singapore’s anti-gay sex law, Romanians to vote on same-gender civil marriage ban, Australia’s Senate condemns “conversion therapy,” and more international LGBTQ news!

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of September 17, 2018

Ballrooms, Books and Ballads

Program #1,590 distributed 09/17/18

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Singapore’s DJ Big Kid challenges the

Feature: Going behind the scenes to check out some fancy

Feature: Gay characters living in the Middle East figure large in two 

Feature: Atlanta-based gay musician Mike Rickard is back after a few years of relative silence – now that he has a good cause

Satisfying your weekly minimum requirement of queer news and culture for more than 30 years!

A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBT communities for the week ending September 15th, 2018

Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, and reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Christopher Gaal

Many LGBTQ activists have been hoping that last week’s demise of India’s anti-queer-sex Penal Code Section 377 at the hands of the nation’s highest court might create a “domino effect” that leads to the overturning of similar laws elsewhere. Versions of India’s 377 were duplicated in dozens of other colonies during the lengthy heyday of the far-flung British Empire.

Singapore’s colonial-era anti-gay-sex law is called Section 377A. Forty-three-year-old Johnson Ong Ming, far better known in Singapore as DJ Big Kid, filed his challenge to that law with the city-state’s High Court just four days after India’s landmark ruling was announced. He’s in a long-term relationship with another man. Under Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code, they could each be convicted of committing an act of “gross indecency” for making love in the privacy of their own home, and be jailed for up to two years – although those who want to keep the law on the books claim that prosecutions are rare. That doesn’t stop bullies, ranging from street thugs to police officials, from using the law to extort closeted gay or bisexual men. Lesbian sex is not a crime under the law.

Ming’s lawyers said in a press release that, “We intend to argue that Section 377A is absurd and arbitrary,” calling it a “violation of human dignity.” Previous legal challenges have failed, most recently in October 2014 – but India’s Supreme Court decision could be the tipping point this time.

Government officials argue that Singapore’s socially conservative society is simply not ready for decriminalization. Dueling online petitions might bear that out. At the end of this week, a petition to keep Section 377A on the books had more than twice the signatures of a petition calling for repeal. The influential National Council of Churches of Singapore issued a statement opposing repeal, claiming that, “the homosexual lifestyle is not only harmful for individuals, but also for families and society as a whole.”

Ming’s lawsuit names Singapore’s Attorney General as the defendant. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for September 25th.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam insisted that Parliament should decide the fate of Section 377A. He said that lawmakers could take public opinion into consideration, whereas the High Court may not.

Kenyan activists are anxiously waiting for the verdict in a similar challenge to the East African nation’s version of Section 377 in their high court. The law punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, our report last week that Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court of Justice had already overturned similar laws may have been premature. According to veteran gay journalist Rex Wockner, the Court on the twin Caribbean islands declared in April that sections of the Sexual Offences Act are unconstitutional. Justices will announce in a “final ruling” on September 20th if they will overturn the Act “in its entirety”, or only certain unspecified sections.

The government has indicated that it would appeal a Court of Justice ruling that overturns any anti-gay provisions, not because its leaders are necessarily homophobic, but because they feel the issue needs resolution by the nation’s highest court, which would be the Trinidad and Tobago Court of Appeal. Stay tuned!

If Romania’s Constitutional Court okays it, voters will decide in an October 7th referendum whether or not to change the definition of “family” in the Eastern European nation’s constitution. A petition circulated by several conservative groups under the banner of the Coalition for Family collected more than three million signatures to force the vote. It calls for the gender-neutral term “spouse” in marriage laws to be replaced by “a man and a woman.”

Romania’s Senators voted 107-to-13 this week to authorize the referendum, sending it to the Constitutional Court for a required final approval.

The country’s Civil Code already denies any form of legal recognition to same-gender couples. Supporters of the constitutional amendment referendum say they want to be sure that doesn’t change. They’ve received legal and political strategy advice from some high-profile U.S. conservative Christian groups, including the Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defending Freedom. The well-respected Southern Poverty Law Center has designated both as anti-queer hate groups. Even infamous marriage certificate-denying Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has made a pilgrimage to the country to bolster the anti-queer cause. And Romania’s Orthodox Church continues to be a strident opponent of any rights for LGBTQ people.

Australia’s Senate voted this week to address the burgeoning “conversion therapy” industry across the country by condemning any efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity. The successful motion was sponsored by the Green Party, a reliable LGBTQ rights ally.

Debate on widely discredited claims that queer people can be made straight through prayer and/or some type of counseling has also entered the public debate, fueled in part by a string of queer-unfriendly comments by the country’s new Pentecostal Christian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He railed on social media last week against what was in reality a false report claiming that teachers were being trained to identify transgender students. And he responded on a national TV program to a video message from a 13-year-old trans-girl who took him to task for spreading the bogus news story, and for writing that, “we do not need gender whisperers in schools.”

[Morrison: “Let kids be kids” comment :06]

Morrison told reporters that “conversion therapy” was “just not an issue for me and I’m not planning to get engaged in the issue.”

Out Greens Senator Janet Rice challenged the Prime Minister during debate on the proposal to condemn the practice:

[Rice – ca :46]

That was Australian Greens Senator Janet Rice. Leadership of the main opposition Labor Party has vowed to support the Greens in a crackdown on the practice if Labor regains power in the next elections.

Transgender people in Chilé can now change their legal name and gender without having to undergo reassignment surgery. The House of Deputies approved the Gender Identity Bill this week by a vote of 95-to-46. It allows anyone over the age of 14 to self-identify in their chosen gender. Fourteen-to-18-year olds will also need legal consent from their parents or legal guardians.

Politically conservative President Sebastián Piñera must sign the bill into law within 30 days of passage. He’s actually supported the legislation and is expected to do so.

Chiléan trans advocacy group Organizando Trans Diversidades tweeted in celebration that, “Chilé takes a historic step forward in the inclusion of transgender identities. Let’s now eradicate trans-phobia in schools, on the streets, and in workplaces,” it read. “Today it is everyone’s responsibility to protect trans youth.”

In conceding defeat, Nixon said her candidacy had nevertheless “fundamentally changed the political landscape in this state.” Indeed, most observers believe that she forced Cuomo further to the left from his entrenched centrist positions on such issues as the environment, women’s rights, housing affordability, and immigration.

Cuomo will face Republican Duchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, and independent candidate and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner in November. The Governor is expected to win his third four-year term.

This was the final week of primary elections in the United States. A record number of openly LGBTQ candidates won their initial contests during primary season, according to the Democratic National Committee. At least 19 openly LGBTQ candidates have been nominated for federal office across 14 different states; 13 queer candidates were nominated for state office in 12 states; and at least 101 openly-LGBTQ non-incumbents were nominated for state legislative seats in 32 different states and territories.

What are being almost universally described as “the most important U.S. midterm elections in decades” are scheduled for November 6th. The results will forecast the final two years of Donald Trump’s first – and what more and more people are hoping will be his last – term in office.

[Trump drop-in: “… gonna have a lot of happy people.”]

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