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This Way Out Episode # 1850: Banned Lesbian Poets Lorde and Dickinson

The works of Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde were standard classroom fare twenty years ago, but these days the right wing is clearing them off the shelves. Janet Mason revisited Dickinson and Kathy Sanchez profiled Lorde in September 2003.

And in NewsWrap: a “historic” ruling by Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal calls on the government to legally recognize same-gender couples, a Bulgarian lesbian couple gets the European Court of Human Rights to order a framework for certifying same-gender relationships, the Texas Supreme Court allows the enforcement of the state’s pediatric trans healthcare ban, a Georgia federal judge gets out of the way of another ban on trans healthcare for children, California Attorney General Rob Bonta wins a temporary injunction against the Chino Valley Unified School District’s new trans-outing policy, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Melanie Keller (produced by Brian DeShazor).

All this on the September 11, 2023 edition of This Way Out!

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Complete Program Summary
for the week of September 11, 2023

Banned Lesbian Poets Lorde and Dickinson

distributed 09/11/23
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Hong Kong’s top court orders “civil marriage-equivalent” unions for same-gender couples [with comments by Hong Kong Marriage Equality spokesperson Esther Leung, the group’s barrister Azan Marwah, and gender studies professor Suen Yi-Tun] … the European Court of Human Rights orders similar recognition in Bulgaria in a case file by a U.K.-married Bulgarian lesbian couple … the Texas Supreme Court lifts a lower court’s temporary ban and orders the enforcement of state laws that deny transgender young people and their families access to gender-affirming healthcare … a federal judge in Georgia reluctantly stays her injunction barring enforcement of similar laws in that state pending an appeals court ruling in a case challenging similar legislation in Alabama … a San Bernardino, California Superior Court judge grants state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s request to temporarily enjoin enforcement of a new policy enacted by the Chino Valley Unified School District that requires school officials to “out” transgender students to their parents or guardians [with comments by Chino Valley School Board President Sonja Shaw and California Attorney General Rob Bonta] (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOE BOEHNLEIN and MELANIE KELLER produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).

Feature:These days of book banning have been hard on queer authors, even writers who have been among the classics in classrooms for decades. This Way Out celebrated two revered lesbian poets during the month of September 2003: Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde. But in 2023 their books are being pulled off the shelves in many U.S. states. Clearly it’s the right time to go back to school with this vintage essay about Dickinson from queer life and lit commentator emeritus JANET MASON (with the beginning harmonies of CROSBY STILLS NASH & YOUNG, and feature intro/outro music by HOLLY NEAR).

Feature:Alongside Emily Dickinson, another esteemed member of today’s banned authors club - Audre Lorde - was profiled by KATHY SANCHEZ in September 20 years ago (with intro/outro music by BILLIE HOLIDAY).


A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending September 9th, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Joe Boehnlein and Melanie Keller,
produced by Brian DeShazor

A “historic” ruling by Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal calls on the government to remedy a failure to fulfill its constitutional duty to legally recognize same-gender couples. The five-judge panel of the top court said that those couples must have a “sense of legitimacy which dispels any sense of them belonging to an inferior class of person whose committed and stable relationships are undeserving of recognition.”

At a press conference, Esther Leung of Hong Kong Marriage Equality emphasized the progress the ruling represents:

[SOUND: Leung]

Today the Court of Final Appeal made a landmark decision regarding the legal status of same-sex partnership in Hong Kong. It is a significant victory, which makes clear that Hong Kong law must afford due respect and protection to same-sex couples. This will help families while hurting no one’s. Also it makes another important step to equal law and more harmonious society for all.

Chinese University of Hong Kong gender studies Professor Suen Yi-Tung applauded the positives for the city-state:

[SOUND: Suen]

This judgment is also very important for Hong Kong society as a whole for both businesses that want to bring talent to Hong Kong, as well as how Hong Kong positions itself as an inclusive society.

Still, the Court order failed to open civil marriage to same-gender couples. It said that the government could establish an alternative system to legally recognize those couples without calling it civil marriage, such as civil partnerships or civil unions. Hong Kong Marriage Equality legal advisor barrister Azan Marwah acknowledged the discrepancies.

[SOUND: Marwah]

The Court achieved this by recognizing that all people have, in private sphere, they have the right to have family, and they have the right to have relationships with other people. This relationship, in heterosexual couples, is largely protected by marriage. The Court is saying there should be something similar to, but not the same as marriage that provides them with the status that will give them protection.

The Court gave the government two years to fulfill its constitutional duty.

Hong Kong’s relative autonomy since it rejoined mainland China in 1997 has been strained in recent years. Activist Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit filed the winning challenge to Hong Kong’s refusal to recognize his legal New York City same-gender marriage in 2018, but he could not be in court for the September 5th victory. As a leader in the pro-democracy movement, he’s been in jail since Beijing’s harsh 2020 crackdown.

Pressure from Beijing also keeps Hong Kong’s government lagging behind its more socially progressive citizens. A poll earlier this year found 60 percent of Hong Kongers supporting full civil marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples – that’s a sharp uptick from just 38 percent a decade ago.

A European Court of Human Rights ruling has also ordered a framework for legally recognizing same-gender relationships without specifying marriage equality. The September 5th decision came in the case of Bulgarian lesbian couple Darina Koilova and Lilia Babulkova. The city of Sofia refused to register their legal U.K. marriage in 2016 because the Southeastern European country’s constitution defines civil marriage as exclusively heterosexual. They failed to get relief from Bulgaria’s court system, so they filed a complaint in twenty-twenty with the European Court of Human Rights. They cited provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that require respect for privacy and family life.

The Strasbourg, France-based Court agreed with the couple that Bulgaria had violated their rights by not recognizing their legal union.

The seven Justices wrote in their unanimous opinion, “It is clear to the Court that to date the Bulgarian authorities have taken no steps to have adequate legal regulations adopted with regard to the recognition of unions between persons of the same sex.”

Again, the Court did not specifically require civil marriage equality. However the Bulgarian queer rights group Deystvie argues that the ruling, “obliges the Bulgarian state to create a legal framework that allows same-sex couples to receive adequate recognition and protection of their relationship.”

An inquiry from Agence France-Presse received no immediate comment from the Justice Ministry.

Transgender young people seeking access to gender-affirming healthcare suffered two setbacks in U.S. courts this week.

The Texas Supreme Court refused to support a lower court’s temporary injunction that had prevented a ban on such healthcare from taking effect. Under the guise of “protecting children,” the Republican-enacted law bars medical professionals from addressing gender dysphoria in patients under the age of 18 with puberty blockers, hormone therapies and other non-invasive treatments. It also forbids gender-confirming surgery for minors, which is rarely if ever a treatment option anyway.

The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association -- virtually every major healthcare organization in the U.S. describe medically guided gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors as an often life-saving process.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the law. Its media statement decrying the high court’s September 7th ruling warned, “By allowing discriminatory practices to persist within the healthcare system, the court threatens not only the physical health, but also the mental and emotional wellbeing of countless Texans.”

The state high court did not explain why it disagreed with the temporary injunction State District Court Judge Maria Cantú Hexsel issued last week. She had decided that the constitutional challenge to it is “likely to succeed.”

The challenge to the law will continue in her court although it now becomes enforceable.

In Georgia, Federal District Judge Sarah Geraghty has lifted her temporary injunction preventing a similar pediatric trans healthcare ban from taking effect. She had ruled that the state’s transgender young people faced “imminent risks” if the law is enforced. In her opinion it is “likely” to be declared unconstitutional.

Her September 5th reversal was prompted by the decision of a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Alabama to enforce its trans youth healthcare ban. The same Republican-dominated appeals court oversees Georgia law, so Geraghty said that her temporary injunction could not stand. Rather than lifting the injunction entirely, she issued a stay on its enforcement pending a possible appeal of the Alabama ruling to a larger panel of the 11th Circuit.

Finally, California’s Chino Valley Unified School District teachers and staff won’t be “outing” transgender students – for now. Judge Tom Garza of the San Bernardino Superior Court has granted state Attorney General Rob Bonta’s request to temporarily block enforcement of the district’s new policy. It requires school officials to inform their parents or guardians whenever a student asks to use a name or pronoun, or requests access to facilities or programs that don’t match the gender on their official documents.

Bonta’s lawsuit contends that the “outing” policy violates the privacy and equal protection provisions of both the state and U.S. constitutions.

Judge Garza scheduled another hearing for October 13th to determine if his injunction should be extended.

Chino Valley Unified School District Board President Sonja Shaw was defiant on Fox News Digital:

[SOUND: Shaw]

It’s definitely to try to blackmail and to scare us, and to scare other districts, because they know other districts are scheduled to adopt – hopefully – this policy all throughout California, and so to me it’s also bad on Bonta’s part when our staff should be focusing on the education of our children, he’s tying them up with these kinds of reviews when he knows that they’re are frivolous, and they have no standing.

Shaw is proud of her district’s role as the first in the state to adopt the trans student “outing” policy. True to her predictions, other conservative-run school districts in California are following suit.

Similar policies are being enacted in the Temecula, Murrieta Valley, Anderson Union, Orange and Rocklin, California Unified School Districts.

Attorney General Bonta has warned all of them that they’re risking lawsuits like the one he filed against Chino Valley. As he told Los Angeles TV station KTLA:

[SOUND: Bonta]

Here’s what they’re saying. They’re saying that a child can tell us that they’re going to be hurt, and … but we’re going to have this mandatory policy anyway in the name of parents’ rights, and we’re going to tell the parents and the family, and then after the child is hurt by a family member … um … it’s okay, because we will report that fact that they got hurt to the proper authorities after they’re hurt, when the child told us that they were going to get hurt, and we could’ve avoided that harm in the first place. It’s not okay for children to get hurt. This policy puts them in harm’s way.

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