The Respect for Marriage Act passes the U.S. Senate with a bipartisan majority after adopting a “religious freedom” amendment debated by Senators Tammy Baldwin, Mike Lee, Cynthia Lummis and Chuck Schumer (our report also features commentary by James Obergefell and GayUSA’s Andy Humm and Ann Northrop).
The queer youth commentators of OutCasting Overtime reflect on living under the shadow of anti-LGBTQ hate violence (produced by Marc Sophos).
And in NewsWrap: Singapore's sodomy repeal comes with a marriage poison pill, a Tokyo court rejects a marriage equality case while opening the door to change, India's top court hears two marriage equality cases, Russia's plan to ban all queer-positive information passes parliament, Belgium and Western Australia each move to outlaw conversion therapy, Australia's Northern Territory adds LGBTQ people to its anti-discrimination protections, Queensland plans to scrap its gender-affirming surgery prerequisite for birth certificate change, the U.S. relaxes blood donor rules for gay and bisexual men, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Allen Tijamo (produced by Brian DeShazor).
This special program on the December 5, 2022 edition of This Way Out!
Join our family of listener-donors today at thiswayout.org/donate/
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript
for the week of December 5th, 2022
U.S. Senate Says "I Do" & Club Q Rocks Queer Youth
Program #1,810 distributed 12/05/22
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Singapore lawmakers repeal colonial-era laws criminalizing men who have sex with men, but add obstacles to marriage equality in the city-state’s constitution … a Tokyo court upholds Japan’s ban on civil marriage for same-gender couples, but warns that LGBTQ families unconstitutionally lack fundamental legal protections … India’s Supreme Court, with its new pro-queer Chief Justice at the helm, hears two marriage equality cases, and awaits the government’s response within the month … Russian lawmakers send an “applies to everyone” version of their muzzling 2013 “no promo homo” to minors bill to Vladimir Putin for his signature, essentially forbidding any positive public discourse of LGBTQ people in any form of media or in person … Belgium’s government vows to outlaw “conversion therapy” in 2023 … Western Australia’s state government announces a similar initiative … lawmakers in the Australian state of Northern Territory add LGBTQ people to existing anti-bias laws banning workplace discrimination, applied even to religiously-affiliated institutions … Queensland’s state government announces plans to remove the requirement of reassignment surgery for a trans or gender diverse person to change the gender marker on their birth certificate … the U.S. Food and Drug Administration again relaxes restrictions on blood donations by men who have sex with men, finally acknowledging that risk-assessment should be based on sexual behavior, and not orientation, when screening potential donors (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by TANYA KANE-PARRY and ALLEN TIJAMO, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: The U.S. Senate passed the Respect For Marriage Act on November 29th with a bipartisan vote of 61-36. As Pacifica’s MARK MERICLE reports, it was judicial pressure that put the bill on the legislative front burner [with comments by Senators Tammy Baldwin, Mike Lee, and Cynthia Lummis; from marriage equality namesake James Obergefell [on CNN]; and GayUSA’s Ann Northrop and Andy Humm, and with intro music by THE RASCALS and outro music by PETER TOSH).
Feature: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns that the LGBTQI+ community is a target in the country’s ongoing “heightened threat environment.” That’s the kind of “environment” the queer youth of OutCasting Overtime have been learning to live with from the 2016 Pulse Massacre to the Club Q mass shooting “OutCaster” JAMIE introduces and outro’s BRIANNA, with TWO-added intro/outro music by MELISSA ETHERIDGE).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the two weeks ending December 5,2022
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Allan Tijamo,
produced by Brian DeShazor
Activists in Singapore are celebrating the repeal of Penal Code Section 377A – finally. However the victory of their 15-year campaign to end the British colonial-era criminal statute against sex between men comes with a caveat. At the same time, Parliament amended the city-state’s constitution to nullify any court ruling that opens civil marriage to same-gender couples.
During the November 29th parliamentary debate, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam explained that the government sought what he called “a balance ... to uphold a stable society with traditional, heterosexual family values, but with space for homosexuals to live their lives and contribute to society."
Bryan Choong of the LGBTQ advocacy group Oogachaga told Reuters it was a historic moment, while adding that LGBTQ couples and families also "have the right to be recognized and protected."
Lawmakers can still change Singapore’s marriage laws at some time in the future. Today that future seems to be distant.
There’s a silver lining to a Tokyo District Court’s decision to uphold Japan’s constitutional definition of civil marriage as exclusively heterosexual. The November 30th ruling went on to acknowledge that the basic human rights of LGBTQ families suffer without legal protections.
Attorney for the plaintiffs Nobuhito Sawasaki told reporters, “This is actually a fairly positive ruling.” He’s bolstered by the judge’s specific suggestion that “something must be done about” the lack of legal cover for queer families. Although their marriage equality lawsuit failed, one plaintiff identified as Katsu told The Guardian, “parts of the ruling gave me hope.”
Regional courts in Japan have issued opposing rulings in marriage equality cases. The conservative federal government has firmly resisted any change to national civil marriage laws.
With its newly installed and reportedly pro-LGBTQ Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud at the helm, India’s Supreme Court heard two marriage equality cases on November 25th.
Lawyers for one of the plaintiff couples cited a previous Supreme Court decision protecting the rights of inter-faith couples. They argued that the same rights should be extended to same-gender couples. In the second case, plaintiffs argued that denying civil marriage rights to gays and lesbians violates two Articles of India’s constitution.
The high court ordered the federal government to file its response to those arguments within a month. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has repeatedly resisted challenges to the marriage laws in lower courts. Government lawyers warned the Delhi High Court last year that opening civil marriage to same-gender couples would “cause complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country.”
Russia’s silencing of anything publically queer is nearly complete. Parliament’s upper house voted unanimously on November 30th to expand the 2013 law that banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The lower house approved expanding that law to include all ages a week earlier. Now anything that promotes or “praises” same-gender relationships is prohibited, and saying out loud or in print that those couples are “normal” is forbidden. The “no promo homo” bill also criminalizes the dissemination of “propaganda” that promotes pedophilia, and lumps it together with gender identity and transitioning. It covers books, films, television, theatre and advertising. Violators face hefty fines. Non-Russians can be jailed for up to 15 days or deported.
Political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann told Reuters, "People - authors, publishers, just people - will think twice before even mentioning anything related to LGBT[Q]."
President Vladimir Putin is expected to sign the bill into law despite being preoccupied with his criminal war on Ukraine and the protests against it.
The government of Belgium plans to introduce a ban on conversion therapy early in the coming year.
State Secretary for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunity and Diversity Sarah Schlitz made the announcement in mid-November. In spite of its LGBTQ welcoming reputation, Schlitz noted in a press release that a ban on conversion therapy “was sadly missing from our legislative arsenal.”
A growing number of countries have outlawed practicing on minors the widely discredited “therapy” that claims to turn queer people straight through counseling and/or prayer. Belgium’s government plans an across-the-board ban. Offenders would be jailed for up to two years, along with a significant monetary penalty. Licensed therapists could lose the ability to practice for up to five years.
Secretary Schlitz said, “The ability to be oneself and the freedom to live as one wishes is a fundamental principle of our society that must not be compromised under any circumstances.”
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan is in agreement, saying that conversion therapy “undermine[s] the fundamental value of personal dignity and [has] long-term negative impacts on the health and mental health of LGBTIQA+ people in our community.” He announced on December 1st that his government would sponsor legislation to criminalize the bogus practice – and, like Belgium, it will apply to adults as well as minors. The Labor government pledged to do so ahead of state elections last year.
McGowan’s announcement comes on the heels of a scandalous Parliamentary inquiry into accusations of abuse and mistreatment of patients at the Esther Foundation. The investigation into the residential, Pentecostal-linked rehab center for women near Perth detailed allegations of multiple sexual assaults, forced faith-based “conversion therapy” and even “exorcisms” to banish supposedly queer “demons.”
The group Ending Conversion Practices W.A. responded that it looks forward to “[working] with the McGowan Government to ensure legislative reforms are informed by the lived experience of conversion practices survivors.”
Two other Australian states are advancing LGBTIQ equality. Northern Territory lawmakers approved amendments to existing anti-discrimination laws on November 23rd. The changes prevent employment discrimination based on sexuality, personal attributes, or individual religious beliefs, and apply even to religious institutions.
Ahmad Syahir Mohd Soffi of the advocacy group Rainbow Territory told reporters, “Everyone deserves to live free of discrimination. This legislation means that no workplace, including religious schools and organizations, can discriminate against LGBTQI+ Territorians.”
The new legislation comes into force in 2023.
Queensland will consider a bill to remove the reassignment surgery prerequisite for changing the gender marker on a trans or gender-diverse person’s birth certificate. Attorney General Shannon Fentiman introduced the measure on December 2nd, calling it “An emotional and historic moment [that I was] proud to share … with the many trans and gender diverse advocates [in the Gallery] who have tirelessly fought for this change.”
Finally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has relaxed its guidelines for blood donations from men who have sex with men.
Antiquated rules rooted in the height of the AIDS pandemic banned all blood donations from gay or bisexual men, but science has once again forced the FDA to revise its guidelines. Previous “advances” allowed blood donations from sexually active men who’d been celibate for one year, and gradually whittled down to three months. Blood donation screenings have by now become highly sophisticated guardians against infection if the donor is HIV-positive.
The issue has been whether to determine donor eligibility based on sexual orientation rather than on behavior. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal this week, the agency is now finalizing an individual risk assessment questionnaire for all prospective donors. An FDA spokesperson told the newspaper that as of early in 2023 men who have had anal intercourse with a new partner in the previous three months will probably be asked to wait an addition three months before donating blood.
Sarah Kate Ellis of the queer advocacy group GLAAD called the latest relaxation of restrictions “overdue.” She said that activists will “not stop advocating for the FDA to lift all restrictions against qualified LGBTQ blood donor candidates.”