Outcasting Overtime trans teens bravely battle bathroom bias!
Discover the culture of cruising on a guided tour to Alex Espinoza’s intimate history of a radical pastime!
Celebrate renowned gay poet Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday!
Brazil’s top court makes anti-queer bias a crime, same-gender sex remains outlawed in Kenya, a Tunisian appeals court rules that an LGBTQ rights group can exist, Taiwan witnesses the first same-gender marriages in Asia, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of May 27, 2019
Toilet Trouble & Cruising Culture!
Program #1,626 distributed 05/27/19
Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Brazil’s top court rules that anti-queer
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending May 25, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon,reported this week by John Dyer V and Brian DeShazor,produced with Brian DeShazor
Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal has voted to outlaw homophobic and transphobic discrimination in the same way that current laws ban racism. Six justices of the 11-member high court issued their decision on May 23rd. The remaining five justices are scheduled to vote on June 5th. But it’s now only a formality, since the other six have already unanimously ruled to make anti-queer bias in Brazil a criminal offense. The high court ruling will take effect after the June 5th vote. Justice Luiz Fux told reporters that, “Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew, or an Afro-descendant.”
Equality activists welcomed the ruling, especially since the country’s new President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office on January 1st, has made obnoxiously anti-queer comments, calling himself a “proud homophobe,” and saying that he’d rather have a dead son than a gay son. He’s also denigrated Blacks and other minorities.
Even though marriage equality has been the law of the land in heavily Roman Catholic Brazil since 2013, the country’s large evangelical movement has pushed back against further progress. And deep-seated societal prejudices can still make it dangerous to be openly queer in the country. According to one of Brazil’s oldest rights groups, Grupo Gay da Bahia, more than 420 LGBTQ people were killed across Brazil in 2018, and the group has already counted at least 141 murders so far this year.
Racism was criminalized in Brazil in 1989, punishing violators with up to five years in prison. The high court ruling puts homophobia and transphobia on par with racism until Congress approves specific legislation to protect LGBTQ people. Brazil’s Senate is currently considering a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression with the same five-year prison term.
President Bolsonaro had yet to respond to the ruling when we recorded this newscast.
But a three-judge panel of Kenya’s High Court voted unanimously on May 24th to maintain the east African country’s criminal laws against consensual adult same-gender sex.
The nation’s penal code, a “gift” from the British Empire in 1930, punishes “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and “gross indecency” with up to 21 years in prison. The three justices decided that those laws are not discriminatory. They rejected arguments that Kenya’s Constitution guarantees that the “state shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground.” The judges also decided that anti-queer laws don’t discourage people from seeking HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, as the petitioners had also argued. Attorneys who spoke in favor of maintaining the status quo focused primarily on religion, parroting the usual false claims that LGBTQ people threaten the nuclear family structure, and that same-gender attraction is “un-African.”
Eric Gitari, co-founder of Kenya’s National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and one of the petitioners in the case, called it “A sad day for the rule of law and human rights.” He said he and the other petitioners would challenge the decision in the Court of Appeal.
Tunisia’s Court of Appeal ruled on May 20th that the LGBTQ rights group Shams has the legal right to exist and continue its advocacy for LGBTQ rights, upholding a 2016 lower court ruling.
This was reportedly the government’s seventh attempt to shut down the group. Tunisian officials have pointed to the North African nation’s Penal Code Article 230, which punishes consensual adult same-gender sex with a three-year prison term. “The activities of this association are contrary to the principles of Muslim society,” the government claimed, “and Islam prohibits these practices.”
Shams President Mounir Baatour applauded the appeals court decision. He told The Guardian that, “The judicial harassment against our association … reflects the homophobia of the Tunisian state and its will to discriminate and stigmatize the LGBT community, which is already marginalized.” He said his group has tracked an escalating number of arrests under the penal code’s anti-queer sex provisions in the past few years. It’s already counted more than 25 convictions in the first quarter of 2019.
But hundreds of gay and lesbian couples began marrying in Taiwan on May 24th as the law giving them that right took effect. Couples were lined up outside government offices at 8:30 in the morning on the 24th in the capital city, Taipei. After a brief registration process, each couple walked out legally wed, as onlookers cheered and applauded. That scene was duplicated in cities and towns across the island.
The Ministry of the Interior said that, as of 2:00 p.m. on the first day, it had registered 247 lesbian and 116 gay male couples.
Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled on May 24th, 2017 that denying civil marriage to same-gender couples was unconstitutional. It ordered members of the Legislative Yuan to enact a marriage equality bill within two years. Voters in a national referendum in November 2018 rejected marriage equality by an almost 70 per cent margin. But lawmakers passed a government-backed measure on May 17th that’s almost equal to the rights given to heterosexual couples. Issues around adoption and trans-national marriages are still to be worked out.
Celebrated Taiwanese activist Chi Chia-wei was the first person to come out as a gay man in Taiwan in 1986. He’s been calling on the government to establish marriage equality for almost 30 years. He happily served as a witness for some of the couples during their wedding ceremonies. He urged activists throughout Asia to also take their battles for equality to court.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told operators of federally funded homeless shelters this week that it’s virtually okay to discriminate against transgender people. It’s the latest move by the Trump administration to roll back advances in equality made during the Obama era.
The new guidelines, published on May 22nd, allow shelter operators to cite religious belief or other factors in choosing the specific accommodations they offer, based on a person’s gender or gender identity. It allows shelters to force trans people into housing based on their birth gender rather than gender identity. That can literally be life threatening for trans-women if their only alternative is to be housed with cisgender men.
Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality called the proposed policy changes “a heartless attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.” The new rules are subject to a public comment period before taking effect.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 30% of people using housing programs in the U.S. identify as LGBTQ.
A coalition of almost two dozen U.S. states and cities has already filed suit against the Trump administration over its new rules allowing healthcare providers to refuse to provide or pay for medical services to LGBTQ people, if doing so violates their religious or moral beliefs.
And this week, Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services published a memo that proposes eliminating gender identity as one of the factors that the government considers in crafting healthcare policy. It would specifically overturn provisions of Barack Obama’s 2016 Affordable Care Act that incorporate “gender identity” into bans on bias “on the basis of sex.”
A Department statement said that the new policy would allow words to be narrowly used in “their plain meaning when they were written, instead of attempting to redefine sex discrimination to include gender identity …”
Kris Hayashi of the Transgender Law Center warned that the new policy puts “the lives of transgender people in jeopardy – particularly … trans people living with HIV, Black transgender people and people of color, trans people with disabilities, and rural and Southern trans folks.”
This new policy is also going through a 60-day public comment period. If the moves by the Housing and Health Departments go into effect, they’re sure to be met by legal challenges.
And in a demonstration of more than gall, the Trump administration kicked off the upcoming traditional June Pride month online by offering rainbow-themed “LGBTQ for Trump” T-shirts. Unlike his predecessor, who held celebratory Pride events in the White House during each year of his administration, Trump has yet to issue so much as a Pride proclamation.
And finally, the person named “India’s Fastest Woman,” sprinter Dutee Chand, has become the country’s first openly-queer athlete. She told an English-language daily earlier in the week that she was dating a woman from her village in eastern Odisha state. She said in a follow-up interview that she intends to fight for marriage equality.
Chand said that the September 2018 ruling by India’s Supreme Court that finally overturned the country’s colonial-era anti-queer sex laws gave her the courage to come out. “I have found someone who is my soulmate,” she told the Sunday Express. “I believe everyone should have the freedom to be with [whomever] they decide they want to be with.”
Chand won two silver medals at the Asian Games last year. She said her current focus is on upcoming international competitions, including the Olympics. Chand says she wants to keep the name of her “soulmate” out of the limelight so that the relationship does not become the center attention.
“But in the future,” she said, “I would like to settle down with her.”
UPDATE from TAIWAN
The full stats are in for the first day of marriage equality in Taiwan. More than 500 same-gender couples tied the knot on May 24th. 341 female couples and 185 male couples took their vows in the first legal marriages of same-gender couples in Asia. Who’s next? [reported by GREG GORDON]
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