Australia’s legendary DJ Sveta beats the odds before, during and after COVID-19!
Romanians revolt against ban on gender studies programs, Gabon’s legislature moves to dump year-old sodomy ban, three gay friends die in Reading’s terrorist knife attack, Australia’s Northern Territory gets nation’s first Indigenous gay Speaker of Parliament, queer litigators sue Trump for trans healthcare rollback, Milk’s “unsung” successor Britt dies, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of June 29, 2020
DJ Sveta Sounds Off!
Program #1,683 distributed 06/29/20
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Romanian students and academics protest
Feature: Where’s the club scene going after COVID-19? The future is blurry,
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending June 27, 2020 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by Christopher Gaal and Lucia Chappelle,produced by Brian DeShazor
A new law banning gender studies programs in Romania has academics, queer rights groups, and students in revolt. The legislation prohibits educational institutions from “spreading theories and opinion on gender-identity, according to which gender is a separate concept from biological sex.” There was no public debate before the amendment to the education law was approved by parliament last week. It mimics similar academic restrictions in neighboring Hungary and Poland.
A statement issued by the University of Bucharest charged that the new law “contradicts fundamental rights guaranteed by the Romanian constitution and international conventions such as: freedom of conscience, freedom of opinion, and university autonomy.” Some professors there and at other universities vow to ignore the ban.
Soon after the law passed, hundreds demonstrated outside the palace of President Klaus Iohannis. Iohannis is a politically centrist ethnic German, and he has already hinted that he does not approve of the legislation.
Student organizations warned that the law would send Romanian education “back to the Middle Ages.” They’ve launched an online petition urging Iohannis to veto the measure.
Lawmakers in the lower house of Gabon’s parliament voted this week to decriminalize same-gender sex. Approval was hardly overwhelming: 48 members voted yes, 24 voted no, and 25 abstained.
The legislation repeals a provision in the Penal Code passed just last year that made same-gender sex illegal. The old law punishes offenders with up to 6 months in prison and heavy fines.
The bill’s passage in the Senate is not assured. The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party is in the majority, but it’s divided on the issue. One Party M.P. in the lower house who voted against the bill complained that, “48 deputies shake an entire Nation and its habits and customs.”
President Ali Bongo Ondimba has not voiced an opinion. However his wife Sylvia tweeted that “Parliament is restoring a fundamental human right for its citizens: that of loving, freely, without being condemned. … Yes to dignity, no to hate.”
Gabon sits on the Atlantic coast of central Africa. It’s among 33 of 54 countries on the continent that outlaw same-gender sex. Seventy-three countries worldwide do so as well. Most so-called “crimes against nature” laws are remnants of European colonialism.
On the bright side, Human Rights Watch notes that six African countries have overturned their sodomy laws since 2012.
A terrorist knife attack at a park in the southern England city of Reading made headlines this week. In most reports the sensation of the word “terrorism” overshadowed the fact that the three men who lost their lives were gay acquaintances.
James Furlong, Joe Ritchie-Bernett, and David Wails were regulars at the Blagrave Arms, a queer-inclusive community pub. Wails was a scientist. Ritchie-Bernett moved from the U.S. to the U.K. 15 years ago and worked at a pharmaceutical company. Furlong was a well-loved history teacher.
It’s being called a terrorist attack, but officials describe the 25-year-old Libyan refugee in custody as having problems with alcoholism, homelessness, and mental illness. He was arrested almost immediately at the scene. Witnesses told the BBC he had a “massive knife” and “suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went round a large group trying to stab them.” The June 20th attack seems to have been random.
Queer community leaders praised each victim as proudly gay and an active supporter of equality.
More than a hundred people gathered outside the Blagrave Arms on June 22nd to place flowers and mourn the trio. A GoFundMe page has been launched to raise money for their funeral costs.
The election of M.P. Chansey Paech as Speaker of Parliament in Australia’s Northern Territory made history this week. He’s the first openly gay Indigenous lawmaker to lead any Australian parliament. Paech was chosen after the previous Speaker resigned in a corruption scandal.
Paech said that his election “sends a strong message for our young kids, growing up, you have to believe in yourself and know that these are options for you in the future.”
Indigenous M.P. Ngaree Ah Kit rose to fill Paech’s former position of Deputy Speaker. If their Labor Party maintains its majority in Territorial elections in August, the unprecedented dynamic First Nation leadership duo could be re-elected to full terms.
The new Speaker was first elected to parliament in 2016 despite a smear campaign telling Aboriginal voters not to support Paech because he’s gay. He said at the time, “I am eternally proud of who I am and where I come from. I own it and wear it with pride. … I am young, I am gay, I am Black. I’m a true-blue Territorian.”
Paech began as a queer rights activist and served on the town council where he was born and raised in Alice Springs – the town made famous in the celebrated drag queen movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. At 33, he’s the youngest currently serving Member of Parliament.
Paech delivered a speech this week in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. He decried systemic racism in government, saying, “This must change, and that is what continues to motivate me; we need to do better.”
U.S. LGBTQ advocacy groups are slamming the Trump administration with another lawsuit – this one involving the planned rollback of healthcare protections for transgender people.
The Health and Human Services Department announced the policy change two days before the June 15th Supreme Court queer employment rights ruling. The agency has confirmed that it still intends to eliminate the anti-trans discrimination protections instituted by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act.
Trump’s side wants a religious exemption that would permit any healthcare provider to claim that their faith forbids them from treating transgender patients. They would also remove bias bans based on sexual orientation and in reproductive care.
Lambda Legal filed suit on June 22nd on behalf of a number of queer advocacy organizations. It charges the Trump administration with revising the rules “with next-to-no legal, medical, or reasoned policy foundation, and contrary to the opinions of professional medical and public health organizations.” It also cites the latest Supreme Court ruling that federal civil rights laws banning bias based on sex extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.
A survey published this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found an amazing 9 in 10 respondents in the U.S. expressing support for the high court employment rights decision. A similarly large majority also said it should be illegal for healthcare providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department submitted a filing to the Supreme Court on June 25th asking for the total invalidation of the Affordable Care Act.
Finally, former San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt died in the city on June 24th. Britt was appointed by then-San Francisco Mayor Diane Feinstein after the November 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk. He was 82 and had been in declining health.
Britt grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, and followed the straight and narrow for a while. He got married in 1960 and became a Methodist minister, shepherding two congregations in Chicago.
His marriage and his ministry both fell victim to the turbulent 1960s. Britt moved to San Francisco in 1972, where he finally came out and wound up becoming a protégé of budding politician Harvey Milk. Milk named him as one of 4 acceptable candidates to replace him in an eerily prescient audiotape recorded before he was killed. Now-Senator Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were among those offering tributes to Britt. He was hailed as a progressive trailblazer in his own right, including 14 years of service on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Longtime friend and former California Assembly member Tom Ammiano, told the Bay Area Reporter that, “If you look up ‘unsung hero’ in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of Harry.”
In May 1979 former cop and Supervisor Dan White infamously received a light sentence for assassinating Milk. Protesting queers and their allies were brutally assaulted by police officers outside San Francisco City Hall. Cops then converged on the heavily-LGBT Castro district with Billyclubs swinging. Harry Britt spoke to thousands of people the night after the “White Night Riots,” at a previously planned birthday celebration for Harvey Milk. His words could almost have been have spoken yesterday.
[Britt:] “Tonight, 15,000 people have gathered to demonstrate with their love that the spirit of Harvey Milk will always be alive in our city. And I sure as hell don’t have to tell you that Harvey Milk’s people do not have a damn thing to apologize to anybody for, ever! Let no one believe that the step that we have taken is a step from nonviolence to violence. We have suffered too much at the hands of violent people ever to go down that road. But let us say with our new strength that we are tired of dealing with pigs, and that from now on, the people who would follow the spirit of Dan White are going to have to deal with us!”
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