Australia’s suicide prevention group Black Rainbow opens doors for queer indigenous youth, and activist/athlete/model Casey Conway works to build their self-esteem (with Barry McKay in Sydney)!
Greek Orthodox bishop convicted of homophobic hate speech, Russian activists demand answers on Chechnya’s queer purge, Trump administration undermines more LGBTQ rights, Yangon Pride defies Myanmar’s anti-gay sex laws, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of February 4, 2019
Program #1,610 distributed 02/04/19
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): A Greek Orthodox Church Bishop becomes
Feature: Empire actor/singer Jussie Smollett came back strong on stage at
Ellen Page, among dozens of stars and fans to support the unexpected target, took the blame right to the top (This Way Out’s LUCIA CHAPPELLE reports).
Feature: The Australian organization Black Rainbow and athlete/celebrity
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending February 2, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor,reported this week by Jessica Andrea and Wenzel Jones
In an unusual secular rebuke of a leading religious figure, a Greek Orthodox Church bishop was sentenced on January 28th to seven months in jail for inciting homophobic hatred and abusing his clerical position. Bishop Amvriosios of Kalavryta was among the most vocal clerics to speak out against a proposed civil unions bill being debated in December 2015 when he called LGBTQ people “the dregs of society” in a written address published on his blog. “Spit on them,” he told his followers. “Vote against them. They are not human! They are freaks of nature! Mentally and spiritually sick! They are mentally insane! Don’t hesitate, then! Wherever you see them, spit on them! Don’t leave them in peace! They are dangerous!”
Nevertheless, the civil unions bill passed in Parliament on December 22nd of that year.
The three-member misdemeanor court in the town of Aigio who found the 79-year-old cleric guilty this week suspended the sentence. One analyst thought that the court didn’t want to further antagonize officials of the politically powerful Greek Orthodox Church. In addition, the bishop would probably be foolhardy to repeat the offense, as judges are likely to see that as him “spitting” on them.
Bishop Amvriosios is the first Greek Orthodox Church official to ever be tried in a secular court, thanks to the complaint brought by nine queer activists, who cited Article 196 of the Greek Penal Code outlawing the abuse of ecclesiastical office.
Activists in the Russian city of St. Petersburg have filed a formal complaint demanding an official investigation into the widely reported detention and abuse of people perceived to be LGBTQ in the country’s semi-autonomous mostly-Muslim region of Chechnya. In a statement it submitted to the Investigative Committee of Russia, the country’s version of what in the U.S. would be called the FBI, the Russian LGBT Network submitted detailed accounts of the detention of 14 people, including torture, and at least one murder.
The formal complaint is said to be prompted by reports of a renewed purge of queer people in the region that began at the end of December. Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov has consistently denied the charges, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin has said that an investigation that he authorized found no evidence to support the claims.
The Russian LGBT Network said that more than 40 people have been detained in the latest roundup, including women as well as men perceived to be queer, and that at least two have died during torture. Spokesman Igor Kochetkov, who says he himself has received death threats, told reporters that the 14 cases cited in their complaint accounted for just the people held in one police station in the Chechen capital city, Grozny, and that many more are being held in what amounts to concentration camps elsewhere in the region.
The activist group blames Russia’s federal authorities for the latest crackdown, saying that their failure to intervene when the purge first began in 2017 has given Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov a sense of impunity.
A report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, issued in December before the current wave of detentions began, charged Russia with failing “to live up to its responsibilities.”
The Russian LGBT Network has helped at least 150 LGBTQ people leave Chechnya since the purge began in 2017. It says that about 130 of them managed to go abroad. Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian group, has said it’s helped more than 55 Chechens immigrate to their country.
Catching up on the latest machinations of Donald Trump and his minions to undermine LGBTQ rights in the United States, the Administration for Children and Families, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, waived anti-bias requirements for federally funded foster care agencies in the state of South Carolina on January 23rd. That allows the faith-based agency called Miracle Hill Ministries to reject prospective non-Christian or non-heterosexual applicants. An Obama-era policy prohibited federally funded organizations from discriminating on the basis of religion.
Any other faith-based agencies in the Palmetto State now have the green light to follow suit. Miracle Hill Ministries reportedly places about 15 percent of South Carolina children with foster parents. The formal request for the waiver was made last year by Republican South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster. The ACLU said on Twitter that, “Children who are waiting for loving and supportive homes deserve better than this.”
In another report, this one in Foreign Policy, the Trump administration lobbied against the selection of former Chiléan President Michelle Bachelet to be the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights – though it’s not clear if her leftist politics and strong support for marriage equality during her presidential tenure had anything to do with what became a failed U.S. effort to derail her appointment.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has reported on Donald Trump’s meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in late January with a group on the far-right fringes of the Republican Party. They were led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of über-conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Members of the group reportedly railed against marriage equality, the recognition of transgender identity, and even allowing women to serve in the U.S military during the hour-long meet and greet. Of Ginni Thomas’ participation, the Times noted that, “Her activism has raised concerns of conflicts of interest for her husband.”
And according to the results of a new Quinnipiac University poll, transgender troops are far more popular with the American public than President Donald Trump.
The questions were part of a broader national survey by the well-respected polling group on a variety of political issues, including immigration, the economy, and foreign policy.
The U.S. Supreme Court lifted most of the injunctions on implementation of the president’s proposed trans military ban on January 22nd. Seventy percent in the survey, published on January 29th, believe that qualified transgender people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. armed forces. The same survey found that only 38 percent of the respondents said that Donald Trump is “doing a good job.”
In other news, Chiba has become the latest city in Japan to issue certificates of recognition to same-gender couples. The municipal government announced its decision to issue the civil partnership certificates in August, and the first were issued on January 29th with Mayor Toshihito Kumagai presiding over the ceremonies of 6 same-gender couples.
Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards, and the cities of Sapporo, Fukuoaka, Osaka, Iga, Takarazuka, and Naha have also issued certificates to same-gender couples, but they’ve been mostly symbolic. In Chiba the certificates provide real rights along with the official recognition, including the right to apply as a couple for public housing, and mutual hospital visitation when one of them is seriously ill.
The couple must be over the age of 20, not currently married, and be residents of the city or planning to move there. Heterosexual couples in Chiba can also become certified civil partners.
Japan’s conservative federal government continues to resist even legislative debate on some form of legal recognition for same-gender couples.
Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin has filed legal papers demanding that former Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis pay the $225,000 in legal fees and court costs incurred by the victorious gay couples who sued her after she refused to issue marriage licenses to them. Davis was among a handful of public officials who defied the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.
In his 2017 ruling, Judge David Bunning ordered the state of Kentucky to reimburse the couples for the costs of their lawsuit against her.
Governor Bevin was a vocal supporter of Davis during her cause celebre jailing and trial, calling her “an inspiration … to … the children of America.” But he apparently doesn’t want the state to put its money where his mouth was. The governor’s legal brief passes the buck to Davis, saying that she “had an independent and sworn duty to uphold the law as an elected county officer.”
Davis lost her bid for re-election in November.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the coming week on who’s responsible for the couples’ costs.
And finally, about two thousand people celebrated at the fifth annual Yangon Pride festival in the biggest city in Myanmar – formerly known as Burma – on the last weekend of January.
Homosexuality remains a crime in the socially conservative and predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian nation under a penal code left by British colonists.
A crowd-pleasing Drag Olympics topped the festival on January 27th. Contestants ran a stiletto race, swirled hula-hoops, and competed in a handbag-flinging contest.
It was only the second year, however, that the Pride celebration was a public event. One of the organizers told Reuters that, “When we started this, people did not really dare to come to this kind of festival.” The first 3 gatherings were held in a private facility.
“Now you see a lot of young people,” he said. “Young people are more proud and out and encouraged and empowered.”
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