Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court alters sex laws to sidestep repeal, a Romanian referendum seeks to solidify hetero only marriage, Hong Kong acquiesces on spousal visas equality, Incheon’s first Pride march is marred by malevolent protestors, Serbia’s criticized lesbian P.M. joins Belgrade Pride, Bert and Ernie’s rumored romance is rekindled by a gay Sesame Street writer, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of September 24, 2018
Emmy’s Night Out!
Program #1,591 distributed 09/24/18
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court removes specifically anti-queer provisions from
Feature: The annual Primetime Emmy Awards of the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences featured many LGBTQ winners at their September 17th trophy-fest. A queer — and international — tone was
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 22nd, 2018 Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, and reported this week by John Dyer V and Sarah Sweeney
A much-anticipated “final ruling” has been issued by Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court Judge Devindra Rampersad on the constitutionality of provisions of the Sexual Offenses Act that criminalize private consensual adult gay sex. His September 20th decision confirmed an initial ruling in April that 2 sections of the Act were unconstitutional. But he amended each section rather than striking them down completely.
Section 13 had made “buggery” — any form of anal intercourse, whether homosexual or heterosexual – illegal. Rampersad ordered that the section be amended to add the crucial phrase “without consent.”
Section 16 outlawed “serious indecency” without defining it in detail, so it was also used to prosecute same-gender sex. The judge redefined it to say that Section 16 now only criminalizes acts by people at least 16 years of age “other than sexual intercourse (whether natural or unnatural), by a person involving the use of the genital organ for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire.”
While the judge rejected their request to stay his ruling for 45 days, government officials say they still intend to lodge a challenge in the country’s Court of Appeal.
U.K.-based but Trinidad-born gay plaintiff Jason Jones was hoping that the anti-gay provisions would be completely struck down. He called the ruling “odd and very cowardly” and a “bittersweet victory”, also knowing that the government had already signaled its intention to appeal such a verdict.
Whatever the decision, the case will very likely go from the twin Caribbean islands’ Court of Appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which is the final court of appeal in the U.K. and a number of British Commonwealth countries like Trinidad and Tobago. If private consensual adult same-gender sex is legalized in that court, it would almost certainly lead to decriminalization in several other British Commonwealth countries for which the Privy Council is also the court of final appeal: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Mauritius.
However, at least one media outlet noted that it could be three to four years before the Privy Council issues a decision.
A referendum in Romania will be held on October 6th and 7th to constitutionally define civil marriage as a union between “one man and one woman.” Current language in the Civil Code uses that definition, but proponents of the amendment say they want to enshrine heterosexual marriage exclusivity more permanently in the Constitution.
At least thirty percent of all registered voters must cast their ballots for the proposal to pass or fail. Equality activists believe that the government’s decision to extend voting over a two-day period instead of the previously announced single day of October 6th is an effort to maximize turnout. They’re urging all fair-minded Romanians to boycott the referendum to keep the turn out below 30 percent.
The government of Hong Kong has finally bowed to a court-ordered edict to issue dependent visas to all foreign partners in legal relationships with queer residents of the city. The policy announcement applies to legally married same-gender couples, as well as to all couples – homosexual or heterosexual – in a civil partnership or civil union.
The move comes two months after the city’s Court of Final Appeal ruled that a British lesbian was entitled to a spousal visa to live with her partner, and to get a permit to work in Hong Kong. The couple had entered into a civil partnership in Britain. As it happens, the appeals court ruling was scheduled to take effect on September 19th, the day after the change in policy was announced.
The court was careful to note that its decision did not open civil marriage to queer Hong Kong couples. Private consensual adult same-gender sex was only decriminalized in the city in 1991.
The first-ever LGBTQ Pride parade was held earlier this month in Incheon, South Korea’s second-largest port city. But about 300 marchers were met by more than a thousand anti-queer protestors, including several evangelical Christian groups, who repeatedly blocked the parade from moving forward with verbal and physical attacks on parade participants. The Pride march, which was expected to take about 20 minutes, was – according to one activist’s tweet – still going almost five hours later. Related vendor booths and plans for other Pride festival events had to be abandoned. Eight of the homophobic protestors were reportedly arrested.
Another Pride marcher tweeted that “Our existence and our love cannot be denied.”
Activists in Serbia have criticized Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, the country’s first woman and first out person to hold that position, for failing to advance LGBTQ rights during her tenure thus far. She said last year that she would first focus on inflation, pensions, and the cost of living, and that any human rights initiatives would have to wait.
Impatient queer activists said that Brnabić was not welcome at this year’s Belgrade LGBTQ Pride Parade. But she marched on September 16th anyway, along with several local and national Serbian politicians, and the ambassadors of France, Italy, the U.S., and the head of the European Union delegation to Serbia – which the Balkan country is anxious to join.
Marchers repeated last year’s calls for legal recognition of same-gender couples, comprehensive gender identity laws, and more balanced coverage of LGBTQ issues in the mainstream media. Several hundred Pride marchers, protected by a huge police presence, dwarfed a much smaller group of Orthodox Christians who wanted to counter-march for “traditional family values.” Police stopped them from leaving a gathering area at a Belgrade church.
The first Belgrade Pride parade in 2001 was marred by attacks against participants by militant anti-queer groups. Homophobic sentiment peaked in 2010, when thugs and police officers clashed, resulting in injuries to more than a hundred people and dozens of arrests. Pride parades were banned for the next three years, but they’ve been relatively peaceful since 2014 – with heavy police protection preventing any clashes between marchers and anti-queer demonstrators. No confrontations were reported at this year’s festivities – the first time that a Serbian Prime Minister has participated.
In other news, a federal court has ruled that the U.S. State Department must issue a passport to an intersex and non-binary citizen who declined to choose “male” or “female” as their gender on the passport application. Colorado resident Dana Zzyym filed suit in 2015 after the agency denied their request for an “X” passport gender designation. U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson called that action “arbitrary and capricious” this week in ruling for Zzyym, writing that, “adherence to a series of internal policies that do not contemplate the existence of intersex people is not a good reason.”
A number of U.S. states, including California, Maine, and Washington, allow residents to choose “X” as a gender for drivers’ licenses and ID cards. At least ten countries, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, and Pakistan allow passport applicants to select the “X” gender designation.
U.S. State Department officials are reportedly consulting with the Justice Department about an appeal of the district court ruling.
And finally …
[Bert & Ernie dialog clip ca :08:]
Ernie: Bert, I can’t stand it any longer, let’s open these presents tonight! Bert: Yeah, yeah, yeah … Ernie: Here you are, Bert – that one is for you. Bert: Ernie, thanks – this one right here is for you.
… speculation that first surfaced in 1994 about the sexual orientation of two of Sesame Street’s most enduring characters, Bert and Ernie, reignited this week.
The renewed brouhaha was sparked by comments by out former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman in an interview with the blog Queerty. He said that he saw the two men as being a loving gay couple, and that he based them in part on his own real life relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman, Saltzman’s longtime spouse until the latter’s death in 2003. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them,” the writer said.
A statement issued by Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street’s nonprofit organization, trumpeted the show’s “inclusion and acceptance.” But that came after they took heat for a first effort challenging Saltzman’s beliefs and claiming that, “they are puppets, and have no sexual orientation.”
Needless to say, the story provided some interesting fodder for late night TV talk show hosts. We’ve selected two of our favorites, as we alternate between The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert:
[Noah and Colbert, ca 1:01:]
NOAH: Wait! Muppets don't have a sexual orientation? That's weird because I know for a fact that Kermit and Miss Piggy smash hard – that’s what I – I know! COLBERT: They go against all gay stereotypes. Bert has a uni-brow. And neither of them owns a second shirt. NOAH: Now, I don't really know if Bert and Ernie are gay, because, I mean, on the one hand two guys living together for 40 years could mean they're gay – but it could also just be that they live in New York and apartments are expensive. And also, if they were gay let's be honest, that eyebrow would have been addressed by now. COLBERT: So are Bert and Ernie a gay couple, or are they simply two adult asexual men with no outside relationships living together to dull the pain of their loveless existence? In any case it's 2018 and this whole argument feels a little dated. The question we should be asking is: are the Ninja Turtles a pansexual polyamorous quartet?