Melody and policy ignite a dynamic queer duo that gets the attention of This Way Out Music Focus!
The Caribbean Court of Justice quashes Guyana’s anti-trans law, Costa Rica’s top court puts lawmakers on a marriage equality clock, Tanzania risks aid dollars over its anti-queer crackdown, Trump’s Acting A.G. allegedly flimed-flam in Iowa, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of November 19, 2018
Blue Queers & Emma’s Revolution!
Program #1,599 distributed 11/19/18
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The Caribbean Court of Justice strikes
Feature: Election Day in the U.S. has turned into election month, as
Feature: A few U.S. midterm election results are still coming in at a
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 LGBTQ communities for the week ending November 17th, 2018 Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, and reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Monique Lukens
The Caribbean Court of Justice has overturned a law in Guyana that targeted transgender people. The ruling this week declared as unconstitutional the small South American nation’s law criminalizing men and women for “dressing in clothing of the opposite sex for an improper purpose.”
The Court has jurisdiction over several Caribbean and South American countries. Noting that Guyana’s Constitution “protects its people from discrimination, and states that no one is to be treated in a discriminatory manner by any public office or authority”, Justices struck down that part of the colonial-era British penal code that dates back to 1893. The ruling called the law “vague” that was “from a different time and no longer served any legitimate purpose.”
The plaintiffs in the case were four transgender women who were arrested in 2009 for “cross-dressing in public.” The appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice challenged their conviction by a magistrate who fined them the equivalent of about a hundred U.S. dollars and ordered them to “go to church and give their lives to Jesus Christ.”
Private, consensual adult same-gender sex is against the law and carries a sentence of up to life in prison in Guyana. It’s the only country in South America to maintain that part of its antiquated penal code.
The first-ever LGBTQ Pride parade was held in June in Georgetown, the country’s capital. The favorable ruling has now sparked equality activists to call on lawmakers in Guyana to repeal all the nation’s anti-queer laws.
The Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica’s Supreme Court of Justice struck down the Central American nation’s denial of civil marriage to same-gender couples in August, but delayed its ruling from coming into force until after it was officially published. The ruling was a direct result of the decision in January of this year by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordering all signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights to open civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Rulings by the Inter-American Court are binding on 20 nations in the region. A few have already enacted marriage equality, but most have not. Although President Carlos Alvarado submitted a marriage equality proposal to Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly, its leadership has refused to take up the issue.
The country’s high court decision was finally published on November 14th. It now gives lawmakers up to 18 months to open civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples. If there’s no action by May 2020, the Court ruled, same-gender couples will automatically be allowed to start planning their weddings.
In their 287-page ruling, Justices said that, “acts of open discrimination, whether they are expressed or implied, cannot be justified in any way in a democratic society that respects fundamental rights.”
Enrique Sanchez, the country’s first openly gay legislator, accuses the Legislative Assembly’s leadership of intentionally delaying debate. According to Pink News, evangelical, anti-LGBTQ members hold 14 of the chamber’s 57 seats.
Tanzania is paying a heavy price for its oppressive treatment of sexual minorities and pregnant schoolgirls.
The east African nation’s second biggest donor – Denmark – announced that it was withholding the equivalent of about 10 million U.S. dollars in aid soon after Dar es Salaam Governor Paul Makonda ordered the arrest of anyone in the region perceived to be homosexual. Tanzania’s Foreign Ministry tried to distance itself from the crackdown, but queer panic quickly spread across the country. The U.S. issued a warning to Americans in the country to be careful what they post on social media, and the European Union withdrew its ambassador.
While acknowledging that the loss of financial aid will affect LGBTQ Tanzanians, too, Judy Gitau, a lawyer with the advocacy group Equality Now, told Reuters that, “The government has not been receptive to any type of dialog … over the issue of sexual minorities.”
And now the World Bank has frozen a 300-million-dollar education loan to Tanzania over a long-standing policy that bans pregnant girls the government calls “immoral” from attending school, among other human rights concerns.
While a law punishing gay sex is rarely enforced in Tanzania, its mere existence fosters anti-queer bias and violence. Pro-equality groups have been shut down, and activists have been arrested. Government authorities have also stopped HIV/AIDS prevention programs for gay men.
Pioneering U.S. activist Harry Hay used to say that queer people are society’s trailblazers. A group of about 80 LGBTQ people fleeing persecution is the first from what Donald Trump and his allies have called “an invasion” to reach the Mexico/U.S. border. They include a baby, two toddlers, and a 12-year-old.
They broke away from the migrant caravan that’s been traveling through Central America and into Mexico the past few weeks after encountering anti-queer harassment from their fellow asylum-seekers. They arrived in the border town of Tijuana this week after gaining support from LGBTQ rights groups to supplement the money they were able to put together for buses to carry them along the last stretch of their journey. The Washington Post reported that they celebrated their arrival by waving rainbow flags and blasting music by Ariana Grande.
The queer refugees had enough money between them to rent modest local accommodations in Tijuana while contemplating their next moves. One government official said that the wait for the chance to apply for asylum at nearby San Diego’s San Ysidro Port of Entry is up to 18 months. Sadly, they’re already facing anti-queer animus from Tijuana’s mayor, and some of their neighbors.
César Mejía, a 23-year-old Honduran man, told the Spanish news agency EFE that he had to flee his homeland because he had been repeatedly beaten by gang members for being gay.
In addition to Honduras, most of the other LGBTQ asylum seekers have fled persecution, poverty, and violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
And finally, as we record this newscast amidst the whirlwind that is the Trump administration, a twice-failed Republican candidate in Iowa who’s targeted in an FBI fraud investigation is still the Acting Attorney General of the United States. The president replaced one dyed-in-the-wool homophobe, Jeff Sessions, with another, a former U.S. Attorney for Iowa named Matthew Whitaker, the day after the rainbow-hued “Blue Wave” midterm elections swept Democrats into the House majority. As U.S. attorney in 2007, Whitaker brought a politically motivated federal prosecution against Matt McCoy, a rising star in the Democratic Party and Iowa’s first openly gay state senator. The case eventually fell apart amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, and McCoy was acquitted of extorting a former business partner. But his life in elective politics was over.
Judicial appointments – and Cabinet-level appointments, like Attorney General – require Senate confirmation. Here’s Whitaker during a 2014 conservative forum as candidate for his state’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination describing what he’d look for in a federal judge:
[Whitaker sound #1 = :20]
Are you wondering why the president didn’t replace the forced-to-resign Jeff Sessions with the logical next-in-command – Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein, who’s overseeing the Mueller investigation? Matthew Whitaker, Jeff Sessions’ former Chief of Staff, has echoed Donald Trump’s description of the probe as an unlawful “witch-hunt”.
Whitaker served on the Board, and often did legal work, for a Miami-based company called World Patent Marketing. Time travel, hot tubs, and a toilet for well-endowed men were among its claims to fame. The company allegedly targeted veterans, among other vulnerable people, claiming to help them patent their inventions, which the company failed to do. Whitaker and his associates are under federal investigation for fraud. But he went home to Iowa this week for his first public appearance since Trump named him Acting Attorney General, and displayed amazing chutzpah when he told his audience of legal professionals that:
[Whitaker sound #2 = :11 “we must all go after fraudsters”(!)]
A number of lawsuits have already been filed challenging Trump’s ability to appoint the legal shill as Acting Attorney General, whom one legal scholar described as having the least-qualifying credentials to be a U.S. attorney, let alone Attorney General. The soon-to-be Democratic House majority – which officially doesn’t take power until early January – is already planning to haul Whitaker before a number of Congressional committees to respond to numerous charges that he’s unqualified, a stooge for Donald Trump, and – as the Constitution requires – he’s never been vetted in or confirmed by the Senate to hold the post of Attorney General. This is all assuming, of course, that Whitaker is still the Acting Attorney General of the United States next week, next month, or next year.