Mitja Blažić is an independent journalist from Slovenia with a long track-record in LGBTQ politics. He attended the World Pride Human Rights Conference in March of this year. This Way Out Sydney, Australia correspondent Barry McKay found him along the Mardi Gras Parade route, where they talked about the queer accomplishments in his country. Barry also covers the subsequent disruptions at Slovenia’s Pride events.
And in NewsWrap: an Iraqi lawmaker submits a proposal for an official ban on same-gender sex, the Czech Republic’s Chamber of Deputies passes the first reading of a bill to open marriage to same-gender couples, a Navajo Nation Council delegate introduces a tribal marriage equality bill, two U.S. Supreme Court rulings come down on two sides of LGBTQ rights, Democratic governors veto anti-queer Republican measures in three U.S. states, a Florida mom has no “love” for a children’s biography of lesbian tennis star Billie Jean King, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Sarah Montague and John Dyer V (produced by Brian DeShazor).
All this on the July 10, 2023 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary
for the week of July 3, 2023
Slovenian Activist Mitja Blažić
Program #1,841 distributed 07/10/23
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Iraq lawmakers are likely to consider a ban on private consensual adult same-gender sex when their next legislative session begins in September … a marriage equality bill advances in the lower house of parliament in the Czech Republic, but President Miloš Zeman has already announced that he will veto it if it reaches his desk … a Navajo Nation lawmaker uses the tribal Pride celebration to introduce a marriage equality bill … in two additional decisions on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court backed a Colorado Christian wedding website designer’s free speech rights over state anti-bias protections for LGBTQ people, the Justices refused to review a lawsuit against Fairfax County, Virginia by a transgender female inmate who was housed in the men’s jail because she had not had gender affirmation surgery; but in light of their wedding website decision, Justices also sent a 10-year-old ruling against an Oregon baker’s refusal to make a cake for a queer couple back to the state appeals court … Michigan’s Democrat-dominated legislature sends a ban on conversion therapy for minors to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her expected signature … Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards vetos three anti-queer bills passed by Republican majorities in the state legislature, although it’s unclear if they have enough votes for overrides … North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoes three anti-queer bills there, even though the Republican-dominated legislature may have enough votes to override them … a single complaint by the parent of a Tallahassee, Florida second grader citing the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law forces the local school board to consider removing a children’s biography of lesbian tennis legend Billie Jean King from elementary school library shelves because it briefly references her sexual orientation on one page [with music tag by SEAN CHAPIN] (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by SARAH MONTAGUE and JOHN DYER V, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: It’s been more than a year since Slovenia’s far-right parliamentary majority fell to the environmentalist Freedom Movement party. That should be a positive sign for the central European country’s LGBTQ community, which has been out and active since the mid-1980s. This Way Out Sydney, Australia correspondent BARRY McKAY got a view of Slovenian queer life from veteran journalist/activist Mitja Blažić when their paths crossed earlier this year at World Pride, and then updated that interview with subsequent news from Pride season (with instrumental intro/outro music from the Slovenia National Anthem).
Feature: Promo for next week’s James Gavin/George Michael bio feature (voiced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR; music by GEORGE MICHAEL).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending July 8th, 2023
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Sarah Montague and John Dyer V,
produced by Brian DeShazor
Lawmakers in Iraq could see a ban on same-gender sex on the agenda when their next session begins in September. The proposed bill was officially submitted to parliament on July 3rd, sponsored by deputy head of the Committee on Legal Affairs Mortada Al-Saadi.
Private, consensual, adult same-gender sex is not specifically outlawed in Iraq. However the criminalization of LGBTQ people is allowed under the 1969 Penal Code and under Islamic law, or sharia.
Iraq is a notoriously inhospitable place for sexual and gender minorities. Government officials in Baghdad and regional Kurdish authorities condemned several foreign missions for flying the rainbow flag to acknowledge the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia last year. Members of Iraq’s parliament then began collecting signatures on a proposal to make same-gender sex illegal, but that effort fizzled.
For years before that, influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has pushed for a same-gender sex ban. He blames LGBTQ people for COVID-19 and referred to M-pox as “gay-pox.” He’s promising to mobilize millions of Iraqi citizens and educational institutions to support the proposed bill.
Members of Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government are considering their own “no promo homo” bill. It would punish anyone who advocates for LGBTQ rights with a fine equivalent to almost four thousand U.S. dollars and up to a year in prison. The measure also threatens media companies and civil society organizations that “promote homosexuality” with shut downs of up to a month.
A bill in the Czech Republic to open civil marriage to same-gender couples passed its first reading in the lower house of parliament. Conservative members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies campaigned to reject the amendment to the Civil Code, but it survived by a vote of 58-to-68. All the rights and obligations of civil marriage are included, such as joint property ownership, entitlement to widow’s and widower’s pensions, parental rights and access to family healthcare. It now goes to parliamentary committees for debate and potential amendments before returning for a final vote.
President Miloš Zeman halted any premature cork popping, though. To him, “a family is a union of a man and a woman. Period,” and he says he’ll veto any marriage equality bill that reaches his desk. A bill pushed by members of the Christian Democratic Party for a constitutional amendment defining marriage Zeman’s way also passed its first reading.
Lesbian and gay couples in the Czech Republic can already enter into less-than-equal registered partnerships, which, under the current proposal, would be abolished in favor of full marriage equality. Reuters cited an opinion poll conducted in May that found 58 percent of Czech citizens supporting marriage equality. Even more respondents favored the right of same-gender couples to adopt.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Seth Damon has introduced a marriage equality bill. It would overturn a 2005 amendment to the tribal code that says, “Marriage between persons of the same sex is void and prohibited.” Members of the Navajo Nation have been able to marry in the U.S. states they live in, but those marriages are not recognized by the sovereign Navajo nation.
Damon used the Tribe’s recently established annual Pride celebration at the end of June to present the measure. He wrote, “The purpose of the legislation I’m sponsoring is to ensure that all Diné are welcome within the four sacred mountains and to recognize all marriages within the Navajo Nation.” “Diné” means “the people” in the Navajo language.
Damon’s bill exempts the traditional Navajo wedding ceremony, which would still be reserved only for monogamous heterosexuals.
As the proposed legislation explains, “European religious influence viewed homosexuality as an intolerable sin. As a result, acceptance of … (LGBTQ) and 2-spirit people declined within tribal nations.”
A five-day public comment period on Damon’s proposal ended on June 29th.
Previous efforts to open Navajo marriage to gay and lesbian couples have failed. Two such bills that were rejected by the Council last year.
The U.S. Supreme Court leaned toward the side of LGBTQ rights in a ruling announced the same day as its highly publicized decision to undermine those rights. The court majority refused to review a federal appeals court decision mandating access to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act for people with gender dysphoria.
The ruling involved inmate Kesha Williams, a transgender woman who sued authorities in Fairfax County, Virginia for improperly housing her in the men’s jail after they discovered that she had not had gender-affirmation surgery. With farthest-right Justices Alito and Thomas in scathing dissent, by declining to review her case the Justices have allowed her lawsuit to go forward.
The Supreme Court action is only binding in the states over which the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals has jurisdiction: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Fourth Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in the majority opinion, “A transgender person’s medical needs are just as deserving of treatment and protection as anyone else’s.”
Back on the side of its controversial anti-LGBTQ wedding website ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a review of a 10-year-old decision in the case of Oregonian Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein. Sweet Cakes by Melissa was fined thousands of dollars for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. A 2013 lower court ruling sided with state laws banning such discrimination.
The Supreme Court had vacated the ruling against Sweet Cakes by Melissa in 2019 and ordered a review of the original ruling by Oregon’s appeals court, citing the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision the previous year. The high court overturned a Colorado court’s ruling against owner Jack Phillips for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, charging state courts with anti-religious bias. The Oregon court upheld its ruling against the Kleins.
The high court has now sent the Kleins’ case back to the Oregon Court of Appeals in light of last week’s 303 Creative decision for another review of their rulings against Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Trump-appointee Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion.
Kelly Shackelford of the “Christian nationalist” organization First Liberty Institute told the Christian Post that the high court’s June 30th weddings website ruling has renewed the Kleins’ efforts to overturn the court rulings against them. He said, “we will stand with them no matter how long it takes to get the victory they deserve.”
Democrats in Michigan, Louisiana and North Carolina are successfully fighting anti-queer Republicans in their respective U.S. states.
The Democratic majority in Michigan has sent a bill to Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer that bans so-called conversion therapy for minors. Whitmer has a strong pro-LGBTQ record and is expected to sign it.
In Louisiana, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards has vetoed three anti-queer bills. One outlaws gender-affirming healthcare for minors and punishes medical professionals who provide it. Bel Edwards also vetoed a Louisiana version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. A third measure would allow teachers to ignore gender-non-conforming students’ preferred names or pronouns, and to out those students to their parents. While both houses of the state legislature enjoy Republican majorities, it requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a governor’s veto.
And North Carolina’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has also vetoed three anti-queer bills. One bans gender-affirming healthcare for patients under the age of 18. A second excludes trans girls’ and women’s participation in middle school, high school and college sports. A third limits classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation. Republicans have super-majorities in the North Carolina legislature, so overrides are likely.
Queer advocates have already said that they’ll file legal challenges to any of the laws that survive Cooper’s veto.
Finally, a single Florida parent has demonstrated how far opponents will go to prevent students from learning about diversity, inclusion and equality.
The Leon County School Board may actually remove I Am Billie Jean King from elementary school library shelves. Katie Lyons cited Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in her objection to the book. She has a daughter in second grade at an elementary school in Tallahassee.
The children’s biography of the tennis legend has a single page referring to King’s recognition of her sexual orientation. It reads, “Being gay means that if you’re a girl, you love and have romantic feelings for other girls – and if you’re a boy, you love and have romantic feelings for other boys.”
Author Brad Meltzer spoke out against the proposed ban, writing in a recent tweet, “The world needs more tolerance, not less … If you really want to protect children, teach them critical thinking.”
[SOUND: Sean Chapin’s Just Don’t Say Gay final chorus]