On the tenth anniversary of the repeal of the US military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against lesbian, gay and bisexual people serving openly, we review our reporting from the day it happened, going back to the first gay discharge from the Continental Army and foreshadowing the hard decade it would take to extend rights to transgender service members, with comments by David McKean of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (now the Modern Military Association of America) and author Aaron Belkin (How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), music by Tom Goss and Matt Alber, and more.
Hundreds of Missouri high school students protest the bullying of gay senior Danny Lillis, who with two allies was suspended along with the tormentor they fought off (with comments by Danny, his mom, and ally Malani Hohlbaugh, and music by Rachel Platten).
And in NewsWrap: Turkish court finds no crime in Pride marching, Poland challenges E.U. legal supremacy over LGBTQ rights, Russian media censor calls feminists and queers extremist, gay federal judge dissects Texas abortion ban, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Sarah Montague and Michael LeBeau (produced by Brian DeShazor).
All this and more on the October 11, 2021 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of October 11, 2021
DADT Repeal Anniversary
Program #1,750 distributed 10/11/21
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Eighteen Turkish students and a faculty member are freed after an Ankara judge concludes that peaceful Pride marching is lawful … Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal rules that the country’s homophobic policies take precedence over the European Union’s commitment to LGBTQ rights … the chair of Russia’s child protection media watch-dog says that “LGBTQ ideology” and radical feminism should be outlawed for extremism … France’s National Assembly passes a law banning conversion therapy on to the Senate … gay Federal District Court Judge Robert Lee Pitman issues a damning ruling against the unconstitutional Texas abortion restrictions … Scotland becomes the first nation to require an LGBTQ-inclusive school curriculum (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by SARAH MONTAGUE and MICHAEL LEBEAU, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: The latest pro-LGBTQ student walkout in the U.S. brought hundreds into the streets of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. This time it was to protest disciplinary actions taken against a bullied gay high school student and his two allies. Danny Lillis and his defenders (including Malani Hohlbaugh) were suspended after they were forced to physically fight off one of their campus tormentors. The October 4th student demonstration on their behalf received widespread local coverage, including TV stations WDAF, KMBC, and KSHB (also includes comments by Danny’s mom Missy Lillis, with intro/outro music by RACHEL PLATTEN).
Feature: The U.S. military signaled its final retreat from Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell 10 years ago this month. The policy that allowed only closeted gays and lesbians to serve became law in 1993 as a so-called compromise after President Bill Clinton’s failed effort to eliminate homosexuality as disqualifying. This Way Out’s LUCIA CHAPPELLE reported on how the milestone was achieved, and on how far there still was to go. DORIAN MERINA interviewed David McKean of the Service Members Legal Defense Network for Free Speech Radio News on the day Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal became official; they also discussed the prospects for trans people being welcomed into the U.S. military. Then, with AMY GOODMAN on Democracy Now! on the same day, San Francisco State University political science professor and author Aaron Belkin (How We Won: Progressive Lessons From the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’) responded to comments by antiwar queer activist and writer Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, and offered a comprehensive review of the road to ending the military’s ban on lesbian and gay service members (intro/outro music from Who We Are by MATT ALBER and TOM GOSS).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending October 9, 2021 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, reported this week by Sarah Montague and Michael LeBeau, produced by Brian DeShazor
Eighteen Turkish students and a faculty member were acquitted on October 8th of “participating in an unlawful assembly” and “failing to disperse despite being warned.” The 19 defendants from Middle East Technical University in Ankara had been arrested at a campus LGBTQ Pride March in May 2019. They each faced up to three years in prison.
Police assaulted the marchers using pepper spray, plastic bullets, and tear gas. Defense lawyer Oyku Didem Aydin told reporters that police video taken during the melee “shows clearly that one policeman is shouting ‘We are against your existence.’”
LGBTQ Pride marches once drew hundreds of thousands of celebrants to Turkey’s major cities, but they’ve had a spotty history since a failed coup attempt against despotic President Recep Erdoğan in 2016. Local governments were given the power to ban Pride marches in the name of “public order and security.” Ankara authorities outlawed them in 2017, but lifted the ban in February 2019 — four months before the student march. So the judge at Ankara’s 39th Penal Court of First Instance concluded this week that peacefully participating in an LGBTQ Pride March is simply not a crime.
A June Pride march in Istanbul proceeded despite an official ban. Police broke it up with violent assaults on the peaceful participants.
The growing chasm between the European Union’s pro-queer policies and Poland’s stubborn official homophobia hit a critical point this week. Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that national laws have precedence if they conflict with E.U. laws. The ruling was requested by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in March. It’s the first time in history that a member state has questioned the E.U.’s legal supremacy.
The E.U. has been Polish LGBTQ people’s primary protector. Queer activists warn that if the rift leads to a Polexit, vulnerable minorities could be in even more peril.
To Polish queer activist Bart Staszewski the court victory gives members of the ruling far-right Law and Justice Party the opportunity to rev up their anti-queer rhetoric. It’s worked well for them in the past, and elections are coming in two years. Staszewski tweeted that by playing the Polexit card, the Party “… can only win. Someone else will clean up after them.”
Poland’s first openly gay politician gave Pink News an assessment that was even more disturbing. Robert Biedron believes that the court ruling would allow the government to reach out instead to Russia – with palms up. Or as Biedron cynically told Pink News, “It was fun, but it’s over. We took some euros, and now it’s time for rubles.”
The European Commission immediately responded to the Polish court’s ruling with a statement reaffirming that, “All rulings by the European Court of Justice are binding on all member states’ authorities, including national courts.”
An influential Russian government official is calling for LGBTQ advocacy groups to be designated as “extremists.” Andrei Tsyganov chairs a commission for the protection of children at Russia’s federal media watch-dog, the Roskomnadzor. The state-run TASS news agency and the Moscow Times quoted Tsyganov saying, “LGBT ideology, radical feminism and child-free movements should be recognized as … an extremist ideology.” He added a chilling implication that such a designation would “untie the hands of our law enforcement officers.”
The comments came on the same day that Russia’s Justice Ministry slapped a “foreign agent” label on the research and educational non-profit Ivanovo Center for Gender Studies. Vladimir Putin’s government has been using the “foreign agent” gambit to smear feminist and queer-supportive NGOs with allegations that their funding comes from malevolent, non-Russian sources.
Organizations from the Jehovah’s Witnesses to groups linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have been outlawed with the “extremist” designation.
Meanwhile, Putin’s buddy Ramzan Kadyrov was inaugurated on October 5th to lead Chechnya for another term. The despotic head of the semi-autonomous, mostly Muslim region of Russia won re-election with 99.97 percent of the vote – but who’s counting. Despite overwhelming evidence, Kadyrov continues to deny the genocidal purge that’s been going on in Chechnya since at least 2017 – “queer concentration camps” where anyone even perceived to be LGBTQ faces torture and death.
The Russian government also claims to have thoroughly investigated the charges and found no evidence that such horrors exist.
The lower house of the French parliament this week advanced a bill to ban “conversion therapy.” The vote in the National Assembly on October 5th was a staggering 115-to-zero with three abstentions.
The French queer magazine Têtu reports that the bill punishes “conversion therapy” practitioners with fines up to the equivalent of 35 thousand U.S. dollars and two years in prison. If the victim is a minor, the perpetrator could be fined up to 52 thousand U.S. dollars and spend an additional year behind bars.
The Macron government backs the bill, but it still needs to pass in the much more conservative Senate before the current legislative session ends at the end of February 2022.
Lawmakers in Canada, Finland, and New Zealand are also considering banning “conversion therapy,” and Malta already outlaws it. The bogus practice that purports to make queer people straight more often than not psychologically and spiritually damages its so-called “patients.”
In other queer-related news from France, Health Minister Olivier Véran signed off on a measure this week that opens fertility services to single women and lesbians. Lawmakers had passed it in June. Those services were previously only available to heterosexual couples.
Underneath the horrifically bad Texas law that virtually bans abortion in the state lays the tale of a good gay judge and an ugly homophobic legislator.
The law bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy – before most women are not even aware that they’re pregnant.
Federal District Court Judge Robert Lee Pitman granted the U.S. Justice Department’s request for the preliminary injunction that temporarily prevented the law from taking effect. His ruling that the law was blatantly unconstitutional provided what legal experts are calling a meticulous analysis of the case. The out gay jurist was appointed by President Barack Obama, and has a master’s degree in human rights from Oxford.
However Texas appealed Judge Pitman’s decision, and late on the evening of October 8th the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his injunction and restored the life-threatening law. That was not unexpected. The Fifth Circuit is notoriously conservative, and is currently loaded with Trump appointees.
Republican Texas state lawmaker Jonathan Mitchell has been tagged as the architect of the anti-choice bill. He argued that “Women can ‘control their reproductive lives’ without access to abortion … by refraining from sexual intercourse.” Mitchell has also written that Roe v. Wade and marriage equality are both “judicial concoctions, and there is no other source of law that can be invoked to salvage their existence.”
The decades-old U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose is at stake. The Justices have already put Mississippi’s 15-week abortion restriction on their docket for this year.
Finally, Scotland has become the first nation on earth to require an LGBTQ-inclusive school curriculum.
Implementation of the policy kicked off with the launch of an online teaching resource in late September.
The plan was approved by the Scottish government in 2018. All state schools are required to teach the history of LGBTQ rights movements, and to hold classroom discussions on equality issues. Notably, there are no parental opt-out provisions.
The new website features e-learning courses with content created by parents, teachers, students, and queer rights groups.
Jordan Daly is a co-founder of Time for Inclusive Education, a Scottish nonprofit dedicated to expanding queer classroom content across the country. He told the Daily Record, “This work will empower young people and provide them with an opportunity I didn’t have at school – to feel valued, confident, and proud of who they are.”
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