Ukrainian activist Olena Shevchenko shares her observations about Russia’s homophobic oppression and class exclusivity in the LGBTQI movement, while maintaining her hopes for future liberation in her country and around the world (Part 3 of 3, interviewed by Barry McKay in Sydney, Australia).
Plus: India’s Supreme Court begins hearings on a combination of petitions from around the country seeking one goal: marriage equality.
And in NewsWrap: the Cook Islands repeals the law against “indecent acts” between men, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni sends back the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill for reinforcement, Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law is extended to grades through high school, Florida’s House passes a bill to restrict gender-affirming health care and trans bathroom use, Montana’s trans state Representative Zooey Zephyr gets muzzled for speaking out against a ban on pre-pubescent gender-affirming care, Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis signs bills to protect the rights to abortion and gender-affirming healthcare, U.S. federal ban on transgender girls and women competing in female school sports introduced in House, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Marcos Najera (produced by Brian DeShazor).
All this on the April 24, 2023 edition of This Way Out! Join our family of listener-donors today at thiswayout.org/donate/
Complete Program Summary
for the week of April 24, 2023
Ukrainian Lesbian Avenger Shevchenko Pt. 3
Program #1,830 distributed 04/24/23
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Lawmakers in the South Pacific Ocean nation of the Cook Islands repeal laws against consensual adult gay sex [with comments by Prime Minister Mark Brown] … Uganda President Yoweri Museveni refuses to sign the latest draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill because execution for “aggravated homosexuality” is not harsh enough … Florida’s DeSantis installed Board of Eduction bows to their overlord’s wish to extend the “Don’t Say Gay” law banning any classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through 12th grade … Montana’s House Speaker muzzles his state’s only transgender lawmaker, Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr, after she tells her Republican-majority colleagues that they will have “blood on their hands” for passing legislation to deny gender-affirming healthcare for trans people under the age of 18 … gay Colorado Governor Jared Polis signs measures to protect women’s choice and gender-affirming care in his state … Florida Congressman Greg Steube introduces a bill in the U.S. House to federally ban trans girls and women from competing in school sports that is “dead on arrival” in the Democratically controlled Senate (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by TANYA KANE-PARRY and MARCOS NAJERA, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: India’s Supreme Court began hearings this week on a combination of petitions from around the country seeking one goal: marriage equality. The plaintiffs claim that with homosexuality no longer criminal, the rights of marriage should follow. Laws governing several forms of marriage in the world’s second most populous country are complicated. Plaintiffs’ counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued that opening the institution to same-gender couples fits under a broader reading of one of those laws, the Special Marriage Act. Another advocate for the plaintiff couples, Menaka Guruswamy, laid the cards on the kitchen table.
The initial rebuttal from the government side was the contention that same-gender marriage is an “urban elitist idea.” That notion was shot down because there was no actual data to back it up. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta fell back on the tired argument that marriage equality should not be in the hands of the Court.
Feature: Ukrainian activist Olena Shevchenko is fighting two wars — against the Russian invasion and for LGBTQI rights. In the first two parts of our exclusive interview with TIME Woman of the Year Shevchenko, we learned about the queer movement in Ukraine before the war and the importance of queer humanitarian aid volunteers now. Her conversation with This Way Out correspondent BARRY McKAY concludes with her observations about the enemy outside and the enemy within, with a note of optimism for the future.
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending April 22nd, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Tanya Kane-Parry and Marcos Najera,
produced by Brian DeShazor
The Cook Islands is leaving the ranks of countries that criminalize private consensual male same-gender sex. Parliament repealed those provisions of the Crimes Act 1969 on April 14th. Under that law, so-called “indecent acts” between men carried a sentence of up to five years in jail. Anyone who allowed such acts on their premises could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
About 15,000 people call the Cook Islands home. It’s a self-governing nation in the South Pacific Ocean that enjoys a free association with New Zealand.
The Crimes (Sexual Offences) Amendment of 2023 was supported by all major parties. Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown celebrated the “historic day”:
[SOUND: Brown, with Maori translation]
Today we are doing our job as lawmakers. We will remove a discriminatory and unjust law that goes against our Constitution and our values as a nation. We are doing what is right, and what is just.
Adult men can legally engage in same-gender sex in the Cook Islands as of June 1st, when the repeal legislation takes effect. However under the Marriage Amendment Act 2000, gay men and lesbians cannot wed.
Sixty-six countries still make queer sex a crime – mostly in Africa and the Middle East. “Offenders” can be executed in eleven of them.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni sent the latest iteration of its Anti-Homosexuality Bill back to Parliament. It’s not enough for him that it makes even identifying as anything “contrary to the binary categories of male and female” punishable by up to 20 years in prison, gives 10 years for the “promotion, recruitment and funding” of LGBTQ-related activities, and proscribes execution of repeat offenders for “aggravated homosexuality.” That’s not harsh enough for Museveni – he’s reportedly concerned that it needs “the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices.” The President did, however, give the MP’s an “E for effort” “for having rejected international pressure and shielded Uganda’s moral fabric in March during the passing of the bill.”
Museveni’s government has tried to pass various versions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill for the past decade. The last iteration also included the death penalty for private consensual adult same-gender sex, but Uganda’s high court overturned it on a legal technicality in 2014.
Queer Ugandan activists are apparently taking their “wins” any way they can get them. Veteran Ugandan rights campaigner Frank Mugisha tweeted that Museveni’s reluctance to sign the bill was a sign of “progress.”
The U.S. state of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law will now cover kindergarten all the way through high school. The Board of Education voted on April 19th to expand the gag rule beyond third grade in homage to Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who packed the Board with his own cronies. DeSantis has made his culture war against the rights of LGBTQ people a cornerstone of his would-be presidential campaign. His far-right agenda also includes virtually banning abortion, and “protecting” children from whatever he calls “woke” – everything from students learning “uncomfortable” aspects of U.S. and state history to drag shows. Still he’s fizzling in the polls and failing in his efforts to punish outspoken opposition to the original “Don’t Say Gay” law from one of the state’s largest employers – the Walt Disney Company, owners of Disney World in Orlando.
The latest restrictions ban any classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through the twelfth grade. Excluded are any existing state-required standards and topics that are “part of a reproductive health course” that parents or students can opt out of. Educators who are found to have violated these rules could lose their jobs, or even their licenses to teach in the state.
Florida’s House passed three more egregious anti-queer bills this week. They prohibit gender-affirming care for trans young people under the age of 18, force trans people to use bathrooms that match their birth gender instead of their gender identity, and punish venues for letting minors watch family-friendly drag shows. DeSantis is expected to sign them.
Officials in the city of Port St. Lucie saw “the governor’s handwriting on the wall” this week and cancelled the area’s annual LGBTQ Pride Parade. All other Pride-related events will have a “21 years or older” restriction – family-friendly or not.
Montana’s only transgender state lawmaker spoke out against a bill to deny gender-affirming health care for transgender young people – now the Speaker of the House is trying to muzzle her. Here’s what Democratic Representative Zooey Zephyr had to say, despite the House Speaker allowing an interruption from Republican majority leader Sue Vincent:
[SOUND: Zephyr, Regier and Vincent]
Zephyr: If you disallow the use of the medical care that is accepted by every major medical association, and don't allow people to have access to that, if you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture. And this body should be ashamed. This bill uses … tries to define male and female as binary. You cannot legislate binary sex any more than you can legislate that the earth is flat. Intersex people exist. Trans people exist. And this bill doesn’t change that.
Regier: Majority leader Vincent.
Vincent: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I speak on behalf of our caucus. We will not be shamed by anyone in this chamber. We are better than that.
Regier: Representative Zephyr.
Zephyr: Then the only thing I will say is, if you vote “yes” on this bill, and “yes” on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.
Republican House Speaker Matt Regier has since refused to recognize Representative Zephyr’s requests to speak on other legislation until she formally apologizes for that “blood on your hands” remark. Zephyr refuses. She declares, “When there are bills targeting the LGBTQ community, I stand up to defend my community.” Her Democratic colleagues have come to Zephyr’s defense, but the standoff has yet to be resolved.
Representative Zooey Zephyr’s situation echoes the much-heralded incident in the Tennessee House, when that Republican super-majority aimed to silence progressives. African-American state Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson were both expelled for forcefully demanding common sense gun control laws. Their respective counties unanimously voted to appoint them to fill the resulting vacancies.
The “’out’-look” is better elsewhere in the U.S. Colorado’s Governor Jared Polis signed bills this week to protect the rights to abortion and gender-affirming healthcare in his state. The gay governor is standing with his Democratic allies in Minnesota, New Jersey and New Mexico against the assaults on choice and transgender health that are raging in more than a dozen Republican-controlled states. Polis told CNN, “[Here] in Colorado we value individual freedoms, and we stand up to protect them.”
For thousands of years in human history, we have recognized as a species that there are women and there are men, who are obviously biologically different – dare I say, even scientifically different. Yet over the last several years there has been a perversion in our culture by the enemy, and the left has completely embraced the lie to erase the lines of gender and to convince you there isn’t really gender, and gender is fluid, and can be whatever you want, whenever you want. Again, more lies.
Florida Republican Congressman Greg Steube delivered that obnoxious dump of denial of 21st Century science in his introduction of a federal ban on transgender girls and women competing in female school sports. The slim Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives passed the measure along party lines this week.
Not to worry, however. Like other punitive measures House Republicans have approved to deny rights since they won control of the chamber in November, this bill is going nowhere in the slim Democratic-majority U.S. Senate. In the unlikely event that it reaches his desk, President Joe Biden has already said he would veto it.
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