Transphobia roils in the halls of the U.S. Congress ahead of the Equality Act debate (face offs between Reps. Marie Newman and Marjorie Taylor-Greene over trans kids, and Sens. Rand Paul and Patty Murray over Dr. Rachel Levine), but the train successfully pulls out of the House and heads for the Senate with Reps. David Cicilline, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, and Mondaire Jones, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and more!
And in NewsWrap: state Islamic law beaten in Malaysian top court, India’s government nixess queer as “family,” Thailand’s Civil Partnership Bill stalled, popular Ghanan DJ Wanlove defies threats for his support of a queer center, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of March 1, 2021
U.S. House Boards Equality Train!
Program #1,718 distributed 03/01/21
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): An anonymous Malaysian man’s legal challenge to an Islamic ban on gay sex in the state of Selangor yields the mostly Muslim Asian nation’s first judgment that such laws are unconstitutional … the government of India’s legal filings in a marriage equality lawsuit side with continued discrimination … Thailand’s government is considering two different paths to the legal recognition of same-gender couples, to decidedly mixed equality advocate reviews … the Equality Act, which simply adds LGBT people to federal civil rights laws protecting specified categories of people from discrimination (e.g. race, gender, religious belief, etc.), passes with mostly Democratic support in the U.S. House with a much steeper climb in the Senate … and queer activists and their allies in Ghana refuse to allow forced government closure of their offices in Accra to stop organizing and advocacy efforts, while popular musician and DJ Wanlove the Kubolor, who was among the celebrity guests at LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana’s official opening in Accra in early February, dares authorities to arrest him (written this week by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported by MARCOS NAJERA and MICHAEL LEBEAU, produced by BRIAN DESHAZOR).
Feature: Some of the loudest and most unhinged opposition to the Equality Act in the U.S. House of Representatives this week targeted the rights of transgender people. Those rumblings literally roiled in the halls of Congress when Illinois Democratic Rep. Marie Newman faced off with Republican QAnon firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; meanwhile, in the Senate confirmation hearing for Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services nominee Dr. Rachel Levine, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul continued the transphobic tone (with additional comments by Democratic Committee Chair Patty Murray of Washington). The actual debate on whether to extend federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people in areas such as employment, housing and education took place on the floor of the House (includes a report by Pacifica Radio’s CHRISTINA AMISTAD and comments by lawmakers Sheila Jackson Lee, Mike Johnson, Vicky Hartzler, Andy Biggs, Chuck Schumer, Pramila Jayapal, Mark Takano, David Cicilline, Virginia Foxx, Nancy Pelosi, and Mondaire Jones, and intro/outro music from Equality Is Coming Around by SEAN CHAPIN).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending February 27, 2021
Written by Lucia Chappelle,reported this week by Marcos Najera and Michael LeBeau,produced by Brian DeShazor
A Malaysian man’s top court triumph in his country’s first challenge to an Islamic ban on gay sex is being hailed as “momentous progress” by LGBTQ activists. The anonymous plaintiff’s attorneys had argued that it is unconstitutional for the state of Selangor to enforce its Islamic law banning “intercourse against the order of nature.” The nine judges of the high court unanimously agreed.
He was arrested with ten others in a raid on a private home for “attempting gay sex” in 2018, but the plaintiff has always denied the charge. Five of the group pleaded guilty last year, and were punished with fines, jail-time and public caning. However, the court has now ruled that a state’s power to enact criminal laws is limited by the federal constitution.
Malaysia essentially has a dual legal system. In the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, secular civil laws against same-gender sex are not often enforced. But in the 13 states ruled by Islamic law, Muslim citizens are frequently prosecuted for the same violations. Under both systems the laws are also used to persecute people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This week’s ruling overturns the Islamic law in Selangor, and activists hope that other states will soon eliminate their gay sex bans. It does nothing to change the civil law against gay male sex, which dates back to the British colonial era. Breaking that law can still be punished with up to 20 years in prison. That’s a good reason for Human Rights Watch to cautiously call it “a small but significant step forward.” LGBTQ activists on the ground like Numan Afifi of the Pelangi Campaign are more enthusiastic. He told Reuters, “We want to live in dignity without fear of prosecution.” Recognizing that the federal law still hangs over them, Afifi said, “… it’s not the end but this is a beginning.”
The government of India has come down hard against marriage equality with an affidavit submitted to the Delhi High Court. With that, the Court adjourned to April 20th an entire batch of petitions demanding rights under the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act, and the Foreign Marriage Act. The government waited until the last minute on the February 25th deadline the Court had given it to respond to its notice that several cases were under consideration.
Despite the decriminalization of same-gender sexual relationships in 2018, the government’s affidavit claims “a legitimate state interest in limiting the legal recognition of marriage to persons of opposite sexes only.” It said that, “Living together as partners and having sexual relationship by same sex individuals … is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children, which necessarily presuppose a biological man as a ‘husband,’ a biological woman as a ‘wife’ and the children born out of the union between the two.”
One of the petitions involved a gay couple who legally wed in Washington, D.C. in 2017. Their effort to register the U.S. marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act was rebuffed by officials at India’s consulate in New York. Another petition was filed by the lesbian co-founders of a leading clinic in north India specializing in mental health and learning disabilities for children and young adults. The couple noted the simple life functions that were denied to them, like opening a joint bank account and purchasing family health insurance coverage. A Public Interest Litigation case challenging India’s heterosexual-only marriage statutes is also underway in the Delhi High Court.
The government’s affidavit says that the issue of marriage equality “is essentially a question to be decided by the legislature and can never be a subject matter of judicial adjudication.”
Thailand is considering two different avenues to get to recognition for same-gender couples, and neither one is going very well. A Same-Sex Marriage Bill is bogged down in Parliament under the weight of the many civil codes that would have to be revised. Now the Civil Partnership Bill that the Justice Ministry has had under study is being sent back to its sponsors for another round of review.
Government policy advisor Chompoonute Nakornthap said, “In fact, we have already studied every component of the bill thoroughly since the very beginning, including the areas raised …” and pointed out that the government had held five hearings and was actively involved throughout the drafting process. The cabinet indicated its approval of the draft in July 2020.
In any case, many LGBTQ activists find the Civil Partnership Bill to be extremely lacking, even as a stepping-stone to full marriage equality. For one thing, it would create the category of “civil partners,” which automatically implies a second-class status. While it confers rights to adoption, legal representation and inheritance, it excludes tax exemptions, state worker benefits and other rights. Some advocates would prefer to wait for the real thing, no matter how many years it may take. Others argue that civil partnerships would serve to protect vulnerable couples in more immediate need.
The expected passage of the Equality Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 25th was greeted with the expected jubilation from LGBTQ advocates, and the expected scramble to find enough votes to pass it in the Senate. The House voted 224-206 in favor of the measure. Only three Republicans crossed the aisle to join the entire Democratic caucus, and two Republicans did not vote at all.
The Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights laws, providing discrimination protections for a laundry list of everyday life activities. It tries to thread the needle between LGBTQ rights and so-called “religious liberty,” but apparently not to the satisfaction of many influential, moderately-inclined conservatives in Congress.
As predicted, Equality Act opponents tried to use transphobia to distort the bill’s implications. Those arguments played out against the backdrop of other congressional debates over trans inclusion, such as the confirmation hearing for assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services nominee Dr. Rachel Levine. We’ll look more closely at those disturbing interactions on This Way Out, following NewsWrap.
Pulling the 10 Republican votes required to break a filibuster in the Senate is a major longshot. That makes the idea of doing away with the filibuster attractive to some, including Equality Act Senate sponsor Jeff Merkley of Oregon. However that bombshell maneuver does not have adequate support among Democrats at this time.
Finally, LGBTQ activists in Ghana are determined to fight on, even though their Accra office has been shut down barely a month after its grand opening. News of the inaugural fundraiser for LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana stirred an outcry from religious leaders and conservative politicians that led to a raid on the office by National Security agents on February 24th. Leaders of the organization decided to close their facility for safety’s sake, and to keep working online.
The January 31st opening event was a hopeful affair attended by diplomats from Australia, Denmark and the European Union. Trouble followed soon thereafter. Threats of violence reported to the police went unheeded. Legislators and community leaders began to call for new laws that would ban groups like LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana. Anything other than missionary position heterosexual sex is legally prohibited, but advocacy is not.
Amnesty Ghana director Frank Doyi says that the police raid and subsequent closure of the office was the illegal action. He said in a press statement, “The question we like to ask again is whether or not the individuals who were found in that particular facility were seen engaging in any act, if they were not then clearly it’s an issue of the security agencies engaging in an act that is not supported by our laws.”
Popular musician and DJ Wanlov the Kubolor was among the celebrity guests at LGBTQ+ Rights Ghana’s opening, and shrugged off calls for his arrest by a local official. Wanlov responded by tweeting his location and cheerfully inviting whoever wanted to arrest him to come over.
‘Cause that’s how Wanlov do. Go ‘head Wanlov.
© 2021 Overnight Productions (Inc.)
© 2021 Overnight Productions (Inc.)
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