Australian TV’s unique 70s soap opera “Number 96” broke down barriers that paved the way for a positive response when the AIDS crisis hit — and now a Toronto LGBTQ Film Festival “Best Feature Film” documentary that tells its story (Part 3 of 3).
And in NewsWrap: European Court orders Romania to recognize queer couples, Choctaw lesbian moms win marriage and adoption rights, Thailand’s newly elected progressive government will push marriage equality, Pakistan Sharia court challenges transgender rights law, June Pride season rocky for Target and other LGBTQ-friendly corporations, and more international LGBTQ news!
All this on the May 29, 2023 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary
for the week of May 29, 2023
Outrageous: The Queer History of Australian TV (Pt. 3)
Program #1,835 distributed 05/29/23
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): the European Court of Human Rights orders Romania to recognize queer couples with a ruling that sets a powerful precedent for lawsuits in other European countries that don’t recognize their relationships … Choctaw lesbian moms win validation for same-gender marriage under the nation’s constitution and the right to adopt their foster daughter … Thailand’s newly elected progressive coalition government agrees to put marriage equality near the top of its legislative agenda … Pakistan’s Federal Shariat Court determines that the country’s transgender rights law does not conform to Islamic doctrine, June Pride season is off to a rocky start as Target stores dump some of their queer merchandise and other LGBTQ-friendly corporations confront controversies (written by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by BRIAN DeSHAZOR and LUCIA CHAPPELLE, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: Our three-part series concludes as documentarian Andrew Mercado makes the case that the popularity of the groundbreaking soap opera Number 96 broke down social barriers that made Australia respond to the AIDS crisis better than other Western countries. This Way Out Sydney correspondent BARRY McKAY talks to Mercado, whose Outrageous – The Queer History of Australian TV just won the Best Feature Film Award at the LGBTQ Toronto Film Festival (with theme music from the show).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending May 27th, 2023
Written by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Brian DeShazor and Lucia Chappelle,
produced by Brian DeShazor
Romania’s reluctance to recognize same-gender couples has been flatly condemned in a landmark decision by the European Court of Human Rights. The May 23rd ruling answers the joint complaints of 21 lesbian and gay couples that began in twenty-nineteen and 2020. It goes far beyond a similar ruling against Russia earlier this year in that it specifically mentions civil unions and registered partnerships as remedies for the discriminatory laws now in place. That means that states can no longer argue that same-gender couples can make other kinds of contractual arrangements. The Court made it clear that to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, states must provide same-gender couples all of the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts.
Efforts to grant equal rights to queer couples have been languishing since Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 2001. Three draft proposals to include them under the civil unions laws have been stuck in parliamentary committees since 2016 and 19, and four more have already failed. There’s no more stalling now, because the ruling means that Romania must account for its progress to the European Court.
The issue was on the ballot in 2018 with a referendum to prohibit marriage equality in the Romanian constitution. Not enough voters showed up to make the election valid. The outcome would have made no difference to the European Court anyway. It already pointed out in a previous civil unions case that “democracy does not simply mean that the views of the majority must always prevail.”
The European Court’s ruling sets a powerful precedent for same-gender couples to sue other European countries that don’t recognize their relationships. That list includes Albania, Turkey, Georgia, Serbia and Ukraine. The Romanian government has three months to decide if it wants to ask for the Court’s top chamber to review the decision.
It was the Constitutional Court of the Choctaw Nation that made an Oklahoma lesbian couple’s dreams of a family come true this week. Kennedy and Chelcie Barker had shown up with their extended families to see a district tribal judge on March 9th. They were expecting to celebrate the adoption of their 10-year-old foster daughter. Instead the judge suddenly stepped out to take a phone call, and returned with the news that she could not finalize the adoption because the Barkers’ marriage was not recognized under Tribal code.
The confusing and heartbreaking situation was the result of a conflict between the Choctaw Nation Marriage and Divorce Act and the nation’s constitution. According to the Act, “A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another tribe, a state, or in any other forum shall not be recognized as valid and binding in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.” However the Choctaw Bill of Rights says, “Nothing in the Constitution shall be interpreted in a way which would diminish the rights and privileges that tribal members have as citizens of the Nation, the State of Oklahoma, the United States of America, or under any Act of the Congress of the United States.”
The Choctaw high court ruled on May 23rd that the Act’s definition of marriage became unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision. The judges vacated the dismissal of the Barkers’ adoption and prohibited the enforcement of the Act’s language that denies same-gender marriages.
Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton praised the Constitutional Court’s handling of the matter. He promised that the tribal codes in question would be reviewed for changes made necessary by the court’s decision.
The Barkers happy ending came on May 25th when the adoption was finally completed.
Thailand’s newly elected progressive government is putting same-gender marriage among the top items on its legislative agenda. The coalition forming around the surprise election winner Move Forward announced its Memo of Understanding on May 22nd. Move Forward officials say the members are 80 to 90 percent in agreement on the policy issues, which also include curbs on monopolistic practices and military conscription. The MOU was signed on the ninth anniversary of the military coup that brought down the country’s last democratically elected government.
Pakistan’s Federal Shariat Court is challenging the country’s 2018 law protecting the rights of transgender people. The religious court’s role is to determine whether legislation passed by Parliament conforms to Islamic doctrine. Its May 19th ruling struck down the parts of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act relating to those whose gender identity is different from that assigned at birth. Sections of the law relating to intersex people were retained. Trans activists plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the opinion of the Court, “the Islamic teachings do not allow individuals to change their gender at their own will” and “an individual’s gender shall remain the same as assigned at birth.” The justices acknowledged that Sharia recognizes the existence of intersex people, but said that the term “transgender” was too broad. They also cited the erroneous excuse that recognition of trans rights made it easier for predatory men to invade women’s spaces.
Rehab Mahamoor of Amnesty International said, “The denial of essential rights of transgender and gender diverse persons should not be guided by assumptions rooted in prejudice, fear and discrimination.” The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called the ruling “regressive,” and warns that it will lead to the already vulnerable trans community in the Muslim-majority country becoming even more marginalized.
Nayyab Ali is the executive director of Transgender Rights Consultants Pakistan. She says, "They have declared the basis of our existence illegal," and vows to fight the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.
Ali’s chances may be good there. Pakistan’s highest court handed down the 2012 decision that trans people are entitled to equal rights. That ruling led to the enactment of the 2018 transgender rights law that the Federal Shariat Court is now attacking.
Finally, in the fever of “don’t say gay”-inspired censorship engulfing the U.S., June Pride season is off to a rocky start for LGBTQ-friendly corporations. The stage had already been set by the right-wing backlash against Bud Light over the appearance of trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney in an April ad campaign. Calls for a boycott from conservative influencers featured social media posts of celebrities using Bud Light cans for target practice. Sales dropped 25 percent from last year, and the ads were pulled. Bud Light’s parent company will reportedly soon feature camouflage print on some of its packaging.
A similar uproar made the Los Angeles Dodgers attempt to disinvite the drag service organization Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from the baseball club’s June 16th Pride Night “Community Hero Awards.” The team apologized at a community meeting on May 22nd and re-invited the Sisters. They accepted, saying, “In the future, if similar pressures from outside our community arise, our two organizations will consult and assist each other in responding ….”
The biggest pre-Pride controversy has exploded around the Target retail chain’s high-profile Pride collection. CEO Brian Cornell has hailed the “cheap chic” discount store’s queer-positive attitude for how it builds customer and team engagement … and enhances sales.
Right-wing extremists painted a target on Target stores around the country. Angry anti-queer objectors fueled by conservative commentators have destroyed Pride displays and harassed staff members. Bomb threats have brought heavy police responses, and the FBI is investigating several incidents. Target lost $9 billion in market value the first week of the boycott.
The company tried to quietly eliminate some items and move the prominent displays to the back of the stores, especially in the South. That brought just as strong a reaction from the other side. Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson warned Target about, “responding so easily to criticism and threats from the likes of the Proud Boys.” A statement from the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD’s executive director Sarah Kate Ellis said, “Anti-LGBTQ violence and hate should not be winning in America, but it will continue to until corporate leaders step up as heroes for their LGBTQ employees and consumers.” One bomb threat came from a person or persons opposed to Target’s retreat.
Queer British designer Eric Carnell created the collection in collaboration with Target, but the company has left him to deal with the backlash and death threats alone. Carnell was originally excited about the opportunity to have his work where it could reach people who needed the support. Now he can see it both ways. He said, “I think that they should stand by their principles … However, if I were working as a retail employee at a Target store, in an open carry state, I wouldn’t feel safe.”
Carnell is getting support in a different way. His Abprallen store webpage has been so swamped that he’s temporarily not accepting new orders until he can catch up.