Australian star rugby player Israel Folau focuses his “religious freedom” on obstructing LGBTQ rights, but does the law tackle his testimony? An extended report by Sydney correspondent Barry McKay includes comments by Michael Barnett, Israel Folau, Raelene Castle, Senator Eric Abetz, Cameron Clyne, Giuseppe Carabetta, Ian Roberts and Tuiloma Lina Samu.
Botswana’s High Court overturns laws criminalizing consensual adult same-gender sex, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court opens civil marriage to same-gender couples, Iran’s Foreign Minister defends executions of people for being LGBTQ, the Vatican’s guidance on education rejects modern gender identity theory, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of June 17, 2019
Folau Fouls on Faith!
Program #1,629 distributed 06/17/19
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Botswana’s High Court overturns laws
Feature: Just what is “religious freedom?” Is it the freedom to practice the
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending June 15, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by Sarah Sweeney and Wenzel Jones,produced by Brian DeShazor
“Any discrimination against a member of society is discrimination against all.” That was why Botswana’s High Court said it was overturning laws criminalizing same-gender sex. The unanimous ruling was released on June 11th. The southern African nation’s Penal Code punished “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” with up to seven years in prison. The Court found those sections unconstitutional.
The judgment was announced by Judge Michael Leburu. He said that, “A democratic nation is one that embraces tolerance, diversity, and open mindedness … What compelling public interest is there necessitating such a law? Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized.” Leburu also chided opponents, saying, “Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It’s an important attribute of one’s personality. All people are entitled to autonomy over their sexual expression.”
A young gay man known only as “I.M.” filed the legal challenge. Attorney Gosego Lekgowe argued that the penal code provisions limited I.M.’s ability to interact with other gay people for fear of imprisonment.
Botswanans from across the country filled social media with their celebrations. Anna Mmolai-Chalmers of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana called the ruling “incredibly life-changing” and “a step towards restoring our dignity as human beings.”
More than half of some 70 countries on the planet that still outlaw consensual adult queer sex were once British colonies, according to The Advocate. Botswana was one of them. Neighboring Angola decriminalized gay sex earlier this year. In Kenya however, the High Court upheld statutes outlawing consensual adult same-gender sex last month.
Ecuador’s Constitutional Court has declared that denying civil marriage to same-gender couples is unconstitutional. The judges’ 5-to-4 vote on June 12th also confirmed that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ November 2017 ruling applies to Ecuador. That decision required all countries in the region to open civil marriage to same-gender couples. The Court ordered the country’s National Assembly to make the necessary changes to applicable laws.
Efrain Soria is a member of one of the two plaintiff couples. Soria told Al Jazeera that the ruling is “a joy for our entire community and for Ecuador,” and implored other queer couples to “enjoy the happiness that comes from being equal, like anyone else.”
In 1998, the small South American country became one of the first on earth to include LGBTQ anti-discrimination provisions in its constitution.
Queer couples have been able to enter into less-than-marriage civil unions in Ecuador since 2015. It’s not clear at this point just when gay and lesbian couples will be able to actually walk down the aisle – but the flower-petaled pathway has been cleared.
Ecuador will join other South American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, that have opened civil marriage to same-gender couples.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Sarif is defending his country’s executions of gay people. Sarif’s explanation came during a joint press conference with Germany’s visiting Foreign Minister in Tehran on June 10th. Paul Ronzheimer is a gay journalist from the German tabloid Bild. He later told The Washington Post that his American boyfriend in Berlin had helped him formulate the question before the news conference. Ronzheimer asked Sarif, “Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?” Sarif first criticized human rights violations in the U.S. and Israel, before responding, “Our society has moral principles … concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed.”
Shadi Amain is an Iranian writer now living in Germany. She told Deutsche-Welle-Farsi that she was “outraged” by Sarif’s comments. Amain said, “Humiliation, repression and sexual harassment of a particular social group should be viewed critically and prohibited by law.” Under Islamic law in Iran, expressions of same-gender affection can be punished by floggings for minor violations such as kissing in public. Flagrant violations can bring up to the death penalty.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas came under local fire for not addressing the issue at the press conference.
A Ministry spokesman later told Bild that, “No religious, cultural or ethnic tradition justifies state persecution, especially the execution of homosexuals. In Iran and 7 other countries worldwide, homosexuals face the death penalty. That is inhuman and completely unacceptable.”
Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell also strongly criticized the Iranian Foreign Minister’s statements. Grenell told the country’s press agency D.P.A. that, “[Iran] should honor [the world body’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights] if they want to be [U.N.] members at all. The criminalization of homosexuality plainly violates this declaration.”
While it’s not possible to know the exact number, human rights groups believe that several thousand people have been executed for homosexuality in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Vatican issued a statement this week about how Roman Catholic school students should be educated. It rejected the concept of gender fluidity, and by extension, the existence of transgender people.
The document is called Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education. It condemns “calls for public recognition of the right to choose one’s gender,” and also rejects marriage equality as “in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman.”
The document establishes nothing especially new in Church doctrine regarding LGBTQ people. It does recommend that Roman Catholics should have a dialogue about gender identity with those who believe in non-binary possibilities, and should not discriminate against people who identify as transgender or gender fluid.
Inclusivity advocate Reverend James Martin was among several individuals and queer-supportive Catholic groups to express disappointment in the latest pronouncements. The Jesuit priest told the New York Times that, “Anyone who thinks that being transgender is a response to ideology has not spoken to many transgender people.” Martin went on to say, “People do not choose their gender, as the Vatican claims, they discover it through their lived experiences. The Church should respect and encourage this process of discovery, because it is a process by which individuals discover the wonderful way that God has created them.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a lower court judge to reconsider her ruling that Donald Trump’s ban on transgender military service is unconstitutional.
The appeals court set aside Seattle, Washington U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman’s ruling that the ban likely violates the constitutional rights of current and would-be transgender service members. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit did not rule on the case’s merits. They determined that Pechman had not given enough deference to the military’s revised assessment of the situation “because the 2018 policy appears to have been the product of independent military judgment.” The 2017 policy that military service should be opened to qualified transgender enlistees was the result of a thorough Pentagon study concluded under President Barack Obama.
However Mark Joseph Stern points out in a June 14th analysis piece on Slate.com that the 9th Circuit panel also concluded that banning trans people from military service is discriminatory, and constitutes sex-based bias. The decision said the proponents of the ban must have “’exceedingly persuasive justification’, one not ‘hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation.’ … Thus, Pechman is almost certain to conclude that the ban remains unconstitutional.”
Pechman was one of four federal judges to declare the ban on transgender people’s military service to be unconstitutional.
In January the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the last of the lower court injunctions preventing the policy from taking effect. Even though the ruling allowed challenges to the policy to continue in lower courts, transgender people have been denied enlistment since the ban took effect. And talented, honorably serving trans troops are, for the most part, being slowly squeezed out of the U.S. military.
And finally, we told you here last week about the Trump administration forbidding all U.S. embassies and other foreign outposts from flying the rainbow flag to observe the traditional LGBTQ Pride month in June. Flying the rainbow flag during Pride month had become routine during the eight years of the Obama administration, so this appears to be an especially petty Trump reversal of another Obama era policy.
Vice President Mike Pence struggled to defend the rainbow flag ban during an interview this week on NBC:
[Pence:] Look, as the president said on the night we were elected … um, uh … We're proud to be able to serve every American, uh, and, and, uh, uh … and we both feel that way very passionately. But, um, when it comes to the American flagpole at American embassies and capitals around the world, having the one American flag fly I think is the right decision.
Some U.S. diplomats are finding ways to get around the policy, or even directly defy it. The facades of the U.S. missions in Seoul, South Korea and Chennai, India are partially hidden behind large rainbow flags. Photos and videos released by the embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal appear to show the rainbow flag prominently displayed on the outside of the building.
The U.S. embassies in Santiago, Chile and New Delhi, India are being bathed in rainbow colored lights. Several ambassadors have tweeted photos of themselves in local Pride parades, or standing outside embassies surrounded by employees holding up large balloon letters spelling out P-R-I-D-E.
One unidentified diplomat slyly told the Washington Post that, “This is a category one insurrection.”
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