In the Texas state legislature, Christian Democratic Representative James Talarico gave a biblically-based rebuke against a Republican Christian nationalist bill to post the Ten Commandments in all public school classrooms — and it went viral.
The repeal of the U.K.’s notorious “no promo homo” Section 28 and the opening of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King made mid-December 2003 a joyous season for world-renowned actor Sir Ian McKellen. He greeted the news at an LGBTQ gathering at Premiere House in Wellington, New Zealand (recorded by Hugh Young of Access Radio’s GayBC).
And in NewsWrap: Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 faces a quadruple challenge in the nation’s Constitutional Court, Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill loses the first round of its fight for approval from the British government, Jordanian queer activists forced to flee from government persecution, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers vetoes a Republican bill to ban pediatric gender-affirming healthcare, Florida defends school board book bans as the government’s right to control libraries, Bucks County, Pennsylvania voters celebrate rescuing their school board from right-wing extremists, and more international LGBTQ news reported this week by Michael Taylor-Gray and Kalyn Hardman (produced by Brian DeShazor)
All this on the December 11, 2023 edition of This Way Out!
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Complete Program Summary
for the week of December 11, 2023
Progressive Texas Christian & McKellen’s Queer Wizardry
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Uganda’s Constitutional Court hears a challenge to the East African nation’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 … the Court of Session meeting in Edinburgh decides that Britain’s Tory government has the right to block Scotland’s trans rights Gender Recognition Reform Bill … Human Rights Watch sounds the alarm over a seemingly-sudden crackdown on LGBTQ advocacy groups and activists in Jordan … Democratic Governor Tony Evers vetoes a bill passed by the Republican-majority Wisconsin legislature that would ban all forms of gender-affirming healthcare for trans young people … the DeSantis administration is arguing in a challenge to local school board bans of books written by or about people of color or LGBTQ people in Florida that materials in school classrooms and libraries are forms of government-controlled “free speech” … and the newly-elected president of the Bucks County, Pennsylvania school board is sworn in on a stack of widely-banned books instead of the Bible as citizens celebrate the swearing in of a new board intent on overturning the anti-queer policies of their far-right predecessors (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by MICHAEL TAYLOR-GRAY and KALYN HARDMAN, produced by BRIAN DeSHAZOR).
Feature: Thou shalt not believe that all of the “faithful” are coming from the same place. There’s a Democrat in the Texas state legislature who’s a professed Christian in a sea of Republican Christian nationalists. Representative James Talarico took a stand against a bill that would require that the Ten Commandments be posted in all public school classrooms. His biblically based rebuke of Representative Candy Nobel went viral (with intro/outro music by ULLI BÖGERSHAUSEN).
Feature: The repeal of the U.K.’s notorious law Section 28 and the premier of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King made mid-December 2003 a joyous season indeed for world-renowned actor-activist Sir Ian McKellen. Section 28 prohibited what it called “the promotion of homosexuality” in schools — the original “don’t say gay.” Sir Ian greeted the news of its demise while he was in Wellington, New Zealand to celebrate the final installment of director Peter Jackson’s epic movie trilogy. HUGH YOUNG of Access Radio’s GayBC recorded his remarks to an LGBTQ gathering at Premiere House. With the time-traveling wisdom of the wizardly Gandalf, the always-entertaining storyteller discussed steps forward and back in the march toward liberation — and even reflected on a trip to Florida (with intro/outro music by HOWARD SHORE)!
A summary of some of the news in or affecting
global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending December 9th, 2023 on
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Michael Taylor-Gray and Kalyn Hardman,
produced by Brian DeShazor
Uganda’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023 is being challenged in the nation’s Constitutional Court. To insure the speediest resolution of the case, the challengers agreed this week to consolidate all four petitions against the Act filed by 19 groups and individuals. They contend that the law is “discriminatory, unconstitutional and a violation of fundamental human rights.”
Longtime President Yoweri Musevini signed the law in May. It punishes some forms of private consensual adult same-gender sex with death. It also requires citizens of the East African nation to report suspected LGBTQ people to the police.
The challengers specifically cite Article 92 of Uganda’s Constitution, which prohibits Parliament from passing a law that contradicts the country’s judiciary. A Constitutional Court ruling overturned a similar Anti-Homosexuality Act enacted in 2014.
Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an expansion of a visa restriction policy targeting Ugandan officials complicit in “actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations.” Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament Anitah Among may well fall into that category. She vowed to defend the anti-queer laws “with our blood, sweat and souls.” She told Ugandans who disagree to “leave our country and go to live in the United Kingdom or the United States.”
Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill lost round one of its fight for life against the government of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Expect a protracted legal fight that will eventually land in the U.K.’s Supreme Court.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled this week that Sunak’s Tory government does have the legal right to block the Scottish legislation from taking effect. No conclusion was offered about the merits of the bill itself.
Scottish lawmakers passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill a year ago by an overwhelming vote of 86-to-39. It provides for Scottish rather than U.K. registrars to oversee the application process. Trans Scots would no longer need a medical declaration of gender dysphoria. They would only have to live their transitioned genders for a matter of months rather than two years to change the gender marker on their legal documents. For the first time it allows 16- and 17-year-olds to apply.
Sunak’s administration used Section 35 of the Scotland Act for the first time ever. The U.K. can act if it believes that Scottish legislation would create jurisdictional confusion and have an “adverse effect on the operation of the laws.” In this case the concern was “the impacts upon the Equality Act 2010,” specifically “removing safeguards on the safety of women and girls,” and “the potential for an increased risk of fraudulent applications.”
To Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Sunak government seems to intentionally be fueling sentiment in her country to separate from the United Kingdom. She questioned its efforts “to override the democratic wishes of the Scottish parliament, and veto our laws at the stroke of a pen.”
Queer advocacy groups in Jordan are being shuttered, and several activists have been forced to flee the country. Human Rights Watch is sounding the alarm about reported threats of violence and unwarranted arrests and prosecution by the General Intelligence Department and Public Security Directorate. The global watchdog organization claims that the anti-queer persecution is intended to muzzle public conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity in the Middle Eastern nation. The Guardian first recounted the uptick in harassment in August.
Jordan is one of the few countries in the Arab world that does not officially criminalize same-gender sex. Colonial-era British “buggery” laws were repealed there in 1951. Social pressure alone has kept most queers deeply closeted. Close to 95 percent of Jordanians believe homosexuality to be immoral, and 94 percent would not want to have an LGBTQ person living near them, according to a recent World Values Survey.
The global queer rights website Equaldex ranks Jordan 142d out of 197 countries, making it one of the most dangerous places to be LGBTQ in the world.
In the U.S. state of Wisconsin, Democratic Governor Tony Evers has vetoed a bill to outlaw gender-affirming healthcare for young trans people. The legislation passed in October by the Republican-majority legislature prevents trans young people from accessing reversible puberty blockers and hormone treatments. It also bans gender-affirming surgeries for trans minors, which is rarely if ever even considered. Republican-run state governments love bills like that, but they contradict the recommendations of virtually every professional pediatric, medical, and psychiatric organization in the United States.
Evers has repeatedly said that he would reject any anti-queer proposals that reach his desk, so his December 4th veto was not a surprise. In his veto message he warned that a trans youth healthcare ban “harms LGBTQ people and kids’ mental health, emboldens anti-LGBTQ hate and violence, and threatens the safety and dignity of LGBTQ Wisconsinites.”
Wisconsin requires a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate to override. The Republican majorities are not nearly that large, so Evers’ veto is likely to stand.
All materials in public school libraries and classrooms are forms of “government speech” and “not a forum for free expression” according to the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. State Attorney General Ashley Moody’s brief in lawsuits challenging book bans in two school districts claims, “Public school systems, including their libraries, convey the government’s message.” Her chilling assertions about the government’s First Amendment rights are being echoed by lawyers for the school boards in Escambia and Lake counties, defendants in the lawsuits.
Authors, educators and student plaintiffs are joined by the free expression writers group PEN America and the nation’s largest publisher, Penguin Random House. They argue that school board bans violate students’ First Amendment rights to access information, and unconstitutionally target books by or about the lives of people of color and/or LGBTQ people.
The views of several other First Amendment authorities were expressed in USA Today by Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University. In his words, “There’s considerable irony in that those who seek to limit access to books in school libraries often say they’re fighting for parental rights. If government speech determines what books can be in the library, the government is essentially saying your children can only see the ideas that the government has approved. That’s not parental rights. That’s authoritarianism.”
Finally, they know how to throw a good tailgate party in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and just who to throw one for. The school district building’s parking lot was the setting prior to the swearing in of the area’s newly elected school board.
Banning LGBTQ-content books and restricting queer-positive policies in local schools had rocketed the outgoing far-right board into the national headlines. Sanity was restored when all of the wacko rightwing candidates supported by the book-banning hate group Moms for Liberty lost in the last elections.
Cheers and applause erupted in the packed meeting room as each new board member was sworn in. They promptly set about overturning every anti-queer policy and order issued by their predecessors.
As if to “stick it” to those “Moms,” newly elected School Board President Karen Smith was sworn in not on a Bible, but on a stack of banned books.