BBC History Manager John Escolme looks back at the legendary broadcaster’s queer coverage (part 1 of 2).
U.S. lawsuits target Trump’s rights rollbacks, Ghana’s top imam uses the pandemic to condemn queer people, COVID-19 strikes down LGBTQ events worldwide, social distance “protects” kids from Drag Queen Story Hours, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of March 23, 2020
Queering the Beeb!
Program #1,669 distributed 03/23/20
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Human rights groups sue the Trump
Feature: The British Broadcasting Corporation holds a legendary — and sometimes infamous — place in media history. In its mission “to act in the public interest,” its record covering LGBTQ issues has been complicated.
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending March 21, 2020 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Michael Taylor-Gray, produced by Brian DeShazor
The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped efforts to suppress the rights of LGBTQ people or the struggle to protect them. The Trump administration is being sued on two fronts: one lawsuit challenges the recent creation of a State Department human rights commission. The other targets the Health and Human Services Department over discriminatory healthcare policies.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first announced last July the creation of a new Commission on Unalienable Rights, to be based on “natural law and natural rights.” Anti-marriage equality campaign star Brian Brown called it an “extraordinary opening” to overturn LGBTQ rights. In fact, seven of the 10 people named to the Commission by the evangelical Christian Pompeo have publicly expressed anti-queer views. They’re all described as religious conservatives. They reportedly first met in October.
Democracy Forward filed the lawsuit in federal court in New York on March 6th. The legal watchdog group formed shortly after Trump’s inauguration is representing several clients, including the Council for Global Equality, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Center for Health and Gender Equity and the Global Justice Center.
The lawsuit complains that, “Most of these members … hold well-documented views that privilege religious liberty above all other fundamental human rights.” It also warns that they “treat with skepticism, or outright derision, rights claims by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex individuals, proponents of gender parity, and women and girls seeking access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy told the McClatchy news service that “The Trump administration is looking to strip away the universality of human rights and hand over who gets rights and who doesn’t to religious sects and autocrats.”
Democracy Forward is also one of the groups leading the charge in a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In November the Trump administration filed a “notice of non-enforcement” of an Obama-era rule banning anti-queer discrimination by agencies the Department funded. The reversal would allow such federally funded organizations to deny service to LGBTQ people based on religious beliefs.
The fight on behalf of True Colors United, Family Equality and the queer seniors support group SAGE was joined by queer legal advocacy group Lambda Legal. Their lawsuit filed on March 19th claims that, “Defendants have engaged in systematic efforts to undermine the civil rights of, and non-discrimination protections for, LGBTQ people in the United States.”
Puneet Cheema is a Lambda Legal attorney who’s working on the lawsuit. She warns that the proposed policy reversal is particularly alarming in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. LGBTQ people would be disproportionally affected, as Cheema explained to NBC News, “youth who are experiencing homelessness [and] seniors who have difficulties accessing health care generally … may have heightened need for care and heightened vulnerability in this epidemic.”
The November notice of non-enforcement disingenuously claims that the Trump administration is “committed to fully enforcing the civil rights laws passed by Congress.” Of course, the Equality Act that would protect LGBTQ people from bias under federal law has languished in Congress for years in various forms. The latest version passed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic-controlled House will never see the light of day in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Republican-controlled Senate.
The groundbreaking election of a transgender judge and the defeat of an anti-queer Democrat in Illinois were nearly drowned out on U.S. primary night by Joe Biden’s apparent clinching of the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Trans attorney Jill Rose Quinn was among four victorious LGBTQ judicial candidates in the state on March 17. She won the Democratic primary to fill a vacant seat on the Chicago-based Cook County Circuit Court. Her many endorsers included Chicago’s out lesbian Mayor Lori Lightfoot. With no Republican opponent in the November general election, Quinn is on track to become the first transgender person to be elected to any office in Illinois. She’ll also be the fourth out transgender judge in the U.S.
The Windy City Times reported that out Democratic judicial candidates Michael Forti and Mary Catherine Marubio also won primaries to fill vacancies. Out candidate Levander Smith was appointed to the bench last year, and ran unopposed in his bid for election. None of those candidates have Republican opposition for the November general elections.
With 90 per cent of the vote in, Marie Newman was declared the winner of the Democratic primary in Illinois’ Third Congressional District. Wayward incumbent Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski opposes the Equality Act, and voted against the 2007 version of ENDA, the Employment Discrimination Act. The Roman Catholic lawmaker was the only Democrat to sponsor the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow anti-queer bias based on religious belief. He also opposes a woman’s right to choose.
Newman narrowly edged out Lipinski by a 4-point margin. In her victory speech Newman declared that, “We are going to work together to lower healthcare costs, to fight climate change, and to continue building a hospitable community for everyone.”
From the massive to the intimate, more LGBTQ events have become victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s queer fan favorite Eurovision Song Contest has been cancelled.
A number of local annual Pride festivals around Australia have been cancelled, hoping to return in 2021. So have the finals of the Mr. Gay Pride Australia competition. The Pride In Sport Awards and Australian LGBTQ Inclusion Awards have both been postponed until later this year. The Melbourne Queer Film Festival has cancelled all remaining events. In the quickly evolving situation that has already shuttered most LGBTQ eateries and nightspots, gatherings of more than 100 people are now banned in Australia.
The LGBTQ travel and hospitality industries are also taking a beating.
For the first time in its 12 year history, Singapore’s world-famous Pink Dot Pride celebration will move from its traditional “free speech” area in Hong Lim Park to a live-streamed event. Instead of wearing the unifying pink in the park, participants will be encouraged to “light up” their homes and workplaces in pink on June 27th.
In the U.S., Immigration Equality is postponing its 25th Anniversary Safe Haven Awards. Similar events planned by the Human Rights Campaign and by the media watchdog group GLAAD have also been postponed or cancelled.
In the U.S., the U.K. and across Europe, Pride festivals and parades have virtually ended for the time being. It’s curtains for the BFI Flare international LGBT+ film festival that’s been held In London since 1986.
And as The Advocate noted, the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down at least one gay adult film studio. No more needed distractions from Miami-based Charged Media for a while.
Republican lawmakers in the U.S. state of Tennessee were not too busy with COVID-19 this week to harass queers. The state has yet to close its public schools because of the pandemic, but they did pass a bill to ban transgender girls from competing in school athletics. No trans teen has ever tried to be an athlete in Tennessee. The bill awaits the signature of Republican Governor Brad Little.
While the state’s doctors were scrambling to keep up with the pandemic, the Republican majority in the Alabama state Senate was scrambling to make it a felony for doctors to treat transgender children under the age of 19 with the care they need. That would include prescribing puberty blockers and hormones, or providing other parent-approved care.
On the other hand, COVID-19 has forced at least one “conversion therapy” church to cancel “faith healing” visits to hospitals. On its website, Redding, California’s Bethel Church promotes the story of a lesbian who “became heterosexual” after studying Christian doctrine.
Meanwhile, Australia’s favorite “holier than thou” queer rights opponent and tennis champ Margaret Court announced that her church will continue to hold services because the “blood of Jesus” will protect the congregation.
The website notes that hand sanitizer will also be available.
Needless to say, more than one rightwing Christian, Jewish, or Muslim cleric has directly blamed the advance of queer rights for the COVID-19 pandemic. After President Akufo-Addo announced a ban on usual meetings, weddings, and other mosque gatherings, Ghana’s chief imam broadcast his own message. Dr Sheikh Osman Sharubutu inexplicably called on Akufo-Addo to specifically ban meetings of LGBTQ people because their actions are “demonic” and “shameful.” Last week it was homophobia, not the pandemic, which led the government to ban a planned regional conference of the global queer rights group ILGA, set for Accra in July.
Finally, professional homophobe Bryan Fischer wrote on the far-right American Family Association’s website that COVID-19 has a silver lining. Fischer writes that the “stay home” orders being issued in more and more places will “protect” children from what he calls, “being brainwashed into normalizing sexual deviancy, gender confusion … and Drag Queen Story Hours!”
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