Flashback: After decades of queer activists toiling in the civil rights kitchen, the table was ready to be set for marriage equality in the US ten years ago this week, when the Obama Administration decided to change course in its handling of marriage equality litigation. Our coverage from then includes the politics and the people of that pivotal event, and continues with a tribute to “the Obama evolution” just 15 months later.
And in NewsWrap: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says Jamaica’s anti-gay sex laws violate constitutional rights, Russian lesbian mothers denied asylum in Finland vindicated by U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, ILGA-Europe’s 10th Annual Review gives dire warnings, U.S. Equality Act has new House vote but shaky Senate future, 2020 reports tally shocking rises in and skimpy reporting of anti-trans violence, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Melanie Keller and Michael Taylor Gray (produced by Brian DeShazor).
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of February 22, 2021
US Wedding Equality Rehearsal!
Program #1,717 distributed 02/22/21
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights finds Jamaica in violation of LGBTQ constitutional rights by maintaining its laws banning gay male sex, the claim of two Russian lesbian mothers against Finland for denying their family asylum is vindicated by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, ILGA-Europe’s 10th Annual Review warns that queer progress is increasingly fragile, the Equality Act that would cover LGBTQ people under U.S. civil rights laws gets a new vote in the House but faces difficulty in the Senate, and one 2020 report tallies 175 transgender murders in Brazil and another sees skimpy reporting in the U.S. on the worst year for anti-trans violence yet (written by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by MELANIE KELLER and MICHAEL TAYLOR GRAY, produced by BRIAN DESHAZOR).
Feature: TWO ID by marriage equality attorney Roberta Kaplan … After decades of queer activists toiling in the civil rights kitchen, the table was ready to be set for marriage equality in the US ten years ago this week, when the Obama Administration decided to change course in its handling of marriage equality litigation. Our flashback from February 2011 includes Jon Daviddson of Lambda Legal explaining the implications of the revised Justice Department standard, Mary Bonauto of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders recounting the stories of some of the plaintiffs involved, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney answering questions about the big announcement, Obama Campaign LGBT policy advisor Professor Tobias Wolff providing analysis of the move, and plaintiff Edie Windsor reacting to the decision. [TWO ID by author Clive Barker] Just 15 months later, then-Vice President Joe Biden gave President Obama a shove into endorsing marriage equality.
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending February 20, 2021
Written by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by Melanie Keller and Michael Taylor Gray,produced by Brian DeShazor
The government of Jamaica is violating the constitutional rights of its LGBTQ citizens by maintaining its laws banning gay male sex, according to a ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It’s the Commission’s first decision against anti-queer laws, and could set a precedent for the entire Caribbean region. The Commission said that Jamaica’s 1864 Offences Against the Person Act infringed on the rights to humane treatment, equal protection before the law, privacy and freedom of movement and residence as enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights. It recommended that the law be repealed, and that protections against homophobic discrimination be enacted. The decision was issued in September of 2019, but the Commission kept it confidential until February 17.
Two Jamaican claimants who have been forced into exile were represented in the case by the legal team of the UK-based Human Dignity Trust. Gareth Henry had been active with J-FLAG, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. He was violently attacked several times, culminating in 2008 with a harrowing scene when he was chased down by a mob of 200, and then beaten in front of his assailants by a policeman who had been called to help him.
That same year lesbian Simone Edwards was shot several times outside her home by a homophobic gang who were targeting her and her gay brother. Edwards lost a kidney and part of her liver. She sought asylum in the Netherlands. Henry received asylum in Canada, and works for the Rainbow Railroad helping other LGBTQ refugees. He told Reuters, “All my life people have told me that who I am and who I love is wrong. Now, for the first time ever, I finally feel I am right.”
The Human Dignity Trust’s Téa Braun called the ruling, “a highly significant step forward that must now accelerate the repeal of these stigmatizing and discriminatory laws.” However the Commission’s rulings are not binding, and Jamaica has not followed any of its recommendations up to this point. The government has made no comment on the Commission’s latest decision. J-FLAG has expressed its eagerness to dialogue with the country’s leaders about how to relieve the oppression of LGBTQ people.
A lesbian couple seeking asylum in Finland to protect their son from persecution in their native Russia has had their claim vindicated by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee found on February 17 that Finnish authorities had “failed to adequately take the best interests of the child as a primary consideration when assessing the author’s asylum request based on his mothers’ sexual orientation, and to protect him against a real risk of irreparable harm in case of return to the Russian Federation.”
The little boy had innocently outed his mothers when he was in kindergarten. This was around the time Russia’s regional “no promo homo” laws against just about anything pro-LGBTQ were emerging, ahead of the passage of the national law in 2013. School staff started mistreating the child – berating his family, hitting him, allowing other children to bully him, even going so far as to give him food he was allergic to. When the youngster became anxious about school to the point of being suicidal, his mothers decided it was time to flee.
Finland does offer asylum to those persecuted on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the discrimination and ostracism the child faced was not considered to rise to the level of persecution, and the request was denied. The family was forced to return to Russia.
Their case was taken up by an army of international rights groups, rallied by the International Lesbian and Gay Association, or ILGA. ILGA World and ILGA Europe were joined by the International Commission of Jurists, Child Rights International Network, and the Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations. The groundbreaking decision marks the first time a U.N. asylum-related case has involved a child at risk because of their mother’s sexual orientation. Finland was found to have violated several articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is obliged to “provide an effective reparation … including adequate compensation.”
ILGA-Europe’s head of litigation Arpi Avetisyan called this “an important decision, setting out necessary standards for the protection of children in LGBTI families who are at heightened risk of discrimination, especially in countries like Russia, where LGBTI people face stigmatization and hostilities in their everyday lives.” ILGA-World’s statement expresses the hope that the family will be able to resettle in Finland “to finally have a happy and safe life.”
In other news from ILGA-Europe, the organization’s 10th Annual Review released this week warns that queer progress is increasingly fragile, and should not be taken for granted. It stresses that the rise of the homophobic right is not limited to Poland and Hungary, and that verbal and physical violence against LGBTQ people is spreading across the region.
ILGA-Europe’s Review also finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has been just as threatening to the lives and rights of LGBTQ people as for other marginalized groups. Many have forced to move back in with hostile families, and many have been overlooked by government relief programs. Ever-popular political scapegoating is now becoming rampant, and not a few religious leaders have pointed the coronavirus finger at sexual minority communities.
ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis says in the conclusion of the report, “With this review, our message to governments and institutions is that we have to acknowledge how fragile the situation is for LGBTI people across Europe and Central Asia. It is essential to take bold and decisive action at multiple levels, so that the human rights of LGBTI people in all their diversity will continue to advance across the region, and the promise of equality will be experienced in their lived realities.”
Fresh from his star turn as a House Impeachment Manager in the trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump, gay Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline re-introduced the Equality Act on February 18th. If enacted, the measure would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing national civil rights laws, and prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and more. The bill is set for a vote in the House on February 23rd. It’s expected to pass there, as it did in 2019.
However even with a new Democratic Party-controlled Senate, there are no guarantees. Ending debate on the bill would still require 60 votes to break a filibuster. Equality Act proponents were hoping for the support of Utah Senator Mitt Romney to help draw other Republicans, but he has now announced his opposition. The famously Mormon ex-presidential candidate cited the bill’s lack of what he considers “strong religious liberty protections.” He has also raised the misleading specter of the participation of transgender students in school sports, since the Act would cover discrimination in education.
LGBTQ advocates have no intention of giving in on that issue to possibly curry favor with anyone. National Women’s Law Center transgender spokesperson Gillian Branstetter told the Washington Blade, “The broad-based coalition organizations that support the Equality Act will proudly and loudly tell you that trans women are women. And if you apply an asterisk to that, if you buy into the idea that a trans woman athlete, if she wins, is apparently cheating, then you are applying an asterisk to the idea that she is a woman and therefore on equal footing with all other women.”
Finally, two reports out this week demonstrate why that kind of proud and loud support for trans people’s lives is needed now more than ever. The first comes from Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro arrogantly flaunts his homophobia and transphobia. The advocacy group National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals finds that at least 175 transgender people were murdered in 2020 – that’s one every two days. The slain were among the most marginalized groups: 78 percent were Black, 56 percent were young and 72 percent were sex workers. Their deaths were among the most brazen killings: seven out of ten occurred in a public place. Their identities were more hidden, as many have been misgendered and deadnamed in police reports and the press.
2020 was the deadliest year for trans people in the U.S., and trans visibility suffered a similar demise. In their analysis of broadcast and cable TV news, the progressive research group Media Matters found less than an hour’s worth of coverage of anti-transgender violence. The issue got 31 minutes on MSNBC, and just another 10 minutes on CNN and Fox News combined. Broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC managed to squeeze in a total of 13 minutes. Only nine of the news stories about anti-trans violence mentioned a murdered trans person by name.
© 2021 Overnight Productions (Inc.)
© 2021 Overnight Productions (Inc.)
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