Celebrate the birthday of the iconic black, gay author James Baldwin with producer-political activist-straight ally Alfre Woodard’s Global Queer READ-IN performance from The Fire Next Time!
Baja California twice misses marriage equality, Cayman Islands pass queer couple recognition ball to U.K. court, Alaskan town bans bias after a wedding flowers flap, Arizona county reverses adoption services bias, queer-trans Michigan teacher gets an A+, Atlanta’s “gayborhood” honors U.S. civil rights icon John Lewis, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of August 3, 2020
Baldwin’s Fire, Woodard’s Flame!
Program #1,688 distributed 08/03/20
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Lawmakers in the Mexican state of Baja
Feature: Black gay author and activist James Baldwin would have been 96 this week, and we’re celebrating with a selection from our Virtual Global Queer READ-In. Actor, producer, political activist and straight ally Alfre Woodard reads from Baldwin’s pivotal 1963 classic, The Fire Next Time (with music by SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK and SAM COOKE).
See the video of this presentation from our June 25 Global Queer READ-In on our This Way Out Radio YouTube channel, along with more Baldwin by performance artist Paul Outlaw.
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending August 1, 2020 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by John Dyer V and Michael Taylor-Gray,produced by Brian DeShazor
Marriage equality was rejected in the Mexican state of Baja California for the second time in two weeks. Seventeen lawmakers need to vote “yes” to overturn the state constitution’s “heterosexual only” civil marriage provision. The first attempt in mid-July failed by just two votes. The second try on July 30th came one vote closer: 16 in favor, six opposed, and three abstentions.
Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-gender couples should be allowed to marry, but left each state to accomplish that on its own – which has been complicated. Marriage equality has passed in ten of the 31 states and the federal capital district of Mexico City. In five states the Supreme Court has overturned equality bans through complex “actions of unconstitutionality.” Three states gave up enforcing their bans administratively.
Queer couples can still marry in the remaining 13 states, including Baja California — they just need a personalized injunction from a judge. The judge is required to grant it because of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, but the process is cumbersome and expensive.
Baja California’s major cities include Tijuana, Mexicali and Ensenada.
The Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly rejected a same-gender domestic partnership bill by another narrow margin. Their July 29th action violates a Caymans appeals court order for lawmakers to provide same-gender couples with a legal status equivalent to marriage – but not necessarily marriage equality.
The Caymans are a British overseas territory in the Caribbean. The Legislative Assembly’s vote violates the European Convention on Human Rights, so it’s likely that the U.K. will step in to force full marriage equality. That Caymans appeals court ruling that stopped short of marriage equality is headed to the court of final appeal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. A marriage equality case from the British overseas territory of Bermuda will be heard there in December, and the two cases could be combined. In Bermuda marriage equality remains in force during its Privy Council appeal.
Of the 25 British jurisdictions around the world, marriage equality remains elusive in five: Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Ketchikan, Alaska City Council has resolved the matter of a homophobic florist by unanimously enacting a wide-ranging anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people. It includes bans on bias in housing and in businesses open to the public.
It all started when Heavenly Creations owner Heather Dalin refused to fill an order for Tommy Varela and Stephen Kossak’s wedding flowers. Dalin cited her religious beliefs.
Varela’s mother was the one who tried to order the flowers, and she exposed the discrimination on social media. More than a hundred of the Southeast Alaskan town’s nine thousand residents protested outside the flower shop in mid-June. Tommy Varela told local media, “I’ve seen Ketchikan come together as a community like that for other people, but to see that happen for your family is just like, there aren’t really words to describe how amazing it feels.”
According to Dalin, she’s “made and delivered bouquets to members of the LGBTQ community on numerous occasions.” But she said, “When it comes to the holy sacrament of marriage, God’s word is clear.”
Ketchikan’s anti-bias ordinance takes effect in mid-August. It will join the Alaskan cities of Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage in protecting LGBTQ residents from discrimination.
It took a little morality and a lot of money to motivate a change of heart in Maricopa County, Arizona. Free legal services will once again be provided to all parents seeking uncontested adoptions.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling in 2015, a policy was pointedly put in place to limit those free services to heterosexual parents. The ACLU threatened to sue, so then-County Attorney Bill Montgomery decided to stop his staff from doing any adoptions work. It was all farmed out to local law firms.
The price tag on that outsourcing turned out to be a whopping $750,000 a year. Montgomery’s successor as successor Allister Adel told the Arizona Republic this week, “Once we realized how much money we were saving not only for taxpayers, but getting children out of the system and into loving homes, this was something we absolutely had to do. … If a gay couple wants to adopt, they can.”
And where is former Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery now? The state’s conservative Republican Governor Doug Ducey appointed him to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Michigan’s new Teacher of the Year is queer and transgender-identified Owen Bondono. Bondono is a ninth grade language arts instructor at Oak Park High School in Detroit. He also serves as faculty adviser for the school’s Queer-Straight Alliance.
Bondono told local TV station WJBK, “I know from a personal standpoint how vulnerable you feel when you’re not safe in school … everything else takes a back seat. … I want students to see that they are supported and loved and that their future is possible.”
Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer praised Bondono for rising to the challenges of COVID-19. She said, “Owen is a shining example of the teachers who have stepped up and found creative ways to reach and educate our students.”
Bondono is now a candidate for National Teacher of the Year.
Finally, U.S. civil rights icon John Lewis crossed one last bridge on July 17th, and his funeral was held this week. He was 80 years old.
Lewis’ storied activism includes being viciously beaten at a peaceful voting rights demonstration on a Selma, Alabama bridge that may soon bear his name. At the age of 23 he stood beside Martin Luther King and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March On Washington.
The long-serving Black Democratic Congressman from the Atlanta, Georgia area was a tireless champion of human rights. And that included LGBTQ rights – a principle confirmed on the way to his final resting place.
The hearse carrying Lewis’ body took a purposeful pause at the rainbow-painted crosswalks at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, the heart of Atlanta’s “gayborhood.” Mourners thronged the area to honor Lewis. Many wore rainbow-colored clothing and facemasks.
One memory of Lewis they might have shared was his speech during the Congressional debate on DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. Congress ended up passing DOMA’s ban on federal recognition of same-gender couples, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in the dead of night in 1996. In 2013 [twenty-thirteen] the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it on its way to enshrining full marriage equality two years later.
Ahead of his time, John Lewis had this to say about DOMA … in 1996:
Lewis: “You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love. Why don’t you want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans, to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their [inaudible], their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you. People want to get married, buy a house and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.”
U.S. Representative John Robert Lewis. Rest in power.
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