Showing posts with label Gay Acceptance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Acceptance. Show all posts

October 17, 2016

Rochester, NY Perfect Score for Non Discrimination



 By the looks on this picture it looks like a big city with the typical resident on a big city. Too smart and too cold. Not Rochester! The city is cold in the winter but the people are the warmest, polite, educated people.



Rochester received a perfect score Monday from a prominent national gay-rights group for the city's non-discrimination policies.

The 100 score for the city was the third year in a row it has received the top ranking from the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.

The group is pushing cities to install stronger anti-discrimination laws, scoring 506 cities across the nation, including 10 in New York.

The average score for cities in New York was 87 out of 100 points. The national average was 55.

[[ When my company gave me a choice of a few cities were they were moving in and my choice of which one would I have to pick to open a new outlet, I asked for Rochester because I wanted to stay in New York State, knowing that New Yorkers tend to be go getters and hard workers. Even outside of New York City. I ask other managers if that sense was true for upstate New York and others thought the same way. So Rochester it was and I found myself in a small city with a strong grass roots community in civil affairs and proud motivated gay residents. I never expected to find a gay bar yet there were several, nor did I expect gay couples yet I found many that did not seem to be too concern about what people thought. Couples that had been together for many years. As a matter of fact everybody seemed to be partnered just like I was at the time.  The single ones seemed to be closeted or transplants from other places.

The residents of this town are extra nice particularly if you come from a big city like NYC but finding gays born there and also transplanted there attracted by this beautiful city with its small but interesting work-thriving downtown area. There were guys from cities along the notheast and even from Puerto Rico which surprised me plenty. I am glad to see they still maintain that good sense of community and good gay neighborly ways. I am sure there are girls too but my experience was with guys. I still think how much fun I had in that little town. I even made it to the Jerry Lewis Telethon and was on TV to give a check from my company. I never forget coming back home after a night out on a snowy sunday evening. As I was cutting thru the center of town trying to avoid the thruway because of the snow I got a flat tired by hitting the side of the sidewalk making a turn which I did not see because of the snow collected there. A police car approached with blue lights on. I figured he saw me make the turn (there was a left turn sign which I did not see) and now was a ticket time. The police officer was about my age, which made him young and was very neighborly and polite. Trying to make conversation and trying to give an excuse I told him I was new in town and I did not know the roads too well. I gave him a business card so he would know I was no bs’ him. He ask me for the tools to change the tired and started changing the tire himself. I felt so bad I told him not to bother, he said I was well dressed and he did not want me to get dirty. I never had a better encounter with a cop nor with another motorist ever before nor after as far as that is concern. That was Rochester. I was only there less than a year before they send me to Buffalo. I always miss Rochester and proud to have lived there.  Adam Gonzalez, Publisher]]
 
"I’m not surprised that the city of Rochester was able to score a full 100. The city has a long history of really doing the right thing on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and in making sure the right systems are in place," said Scott Fearing, executive director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.

LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and either queer or questioning. Queer used to be considered a derogatory term, but the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that lobbies for LGBT rights told USA Today in 2015 that people now use the term because it is not specific to sexual orientation or gender identity and is more of an umbrella term that can encompass a lot of people.

There have been times that the Gay Alliance, one of the nation's oldest LGBTQ advocacy groups, had to help prod the city government forward. It took months of lobbying before the city agreed to extend benefits to domestic partners, as it did in 1994, and to improve police relations with the gay and lesbian communities. The group also had to sue in the early 1990s to force the city to accept its nonprofit status.

Fast-forward to recent times. "I have been very impressed with the city in all different aspects, in all different departments. We have good relations with the police," said  Fearing, who has worked with the Gay Alliance for seven years and been executive director for three.

Rochester was one of four cities in New York to get a perfect score and one of 60 nationally.

Albany, New York City and Yonkers were the others in the state. Buffalo got a 95, and Syracuse received a 94.

“This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not,” Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Campaign president, said in a statement.

In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature legalized same-sex marriage, the largest state at the time to do so.

After opposition in the Republican-led Senate, Cuomo took executive action last year to put in place regulations to protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination.

The report said that in many states, however, local governments and cities have more progressive laws on gay rights.

The group deducted points from cities that have laws prohibiting individuals from "using public facilities consistent with their gender identity" and added points "to recognize cities that are offering transgender-specific city services."

Rochester fared well because of its non-discrimination laws; "transgender-inclusive insurance coverage;" elected gay officials, as well as a LGBTQ liaison in the city.

One of the main differences between Rochester and its other upstate cities is that Rochester has a LGBTQ police liaison or task force, which Buffalo did not, the report said.

The other difference is that Syracuse didn't reported 2014 Hate Crimes statistics to the FBI, while Rochester did, according to the report.

Fearing noted the state Senate's refusal to pass the transgender non-discrimination law, and said it might be helpful for Monroe County to adopt such a measure. He said the county government generally has not been supportive of LGBTQ rights, and a decade ago engaged in a high-profile legal fight to deny benefits to same-sex spouses of county employees who had been married in other states before New York legalized such unions.

"Maybe we need to try to get the County Legislature to look at transgender protections," Fearing said. "We hear from them regularly, (transgender) people who are neither employed in nor citizens of the city of Rochester proper."

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also cited the city's traditions in response to the latest ratings.

“Rochester has a long history of being a diverse and welcoming city,” Warren said. “I think Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are proudly looking down at us, knowing that when it comes to modern day issues of equality and social justice, the city that they loved still leads the way. I would like to thank the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for recognizing Rochester as a city that values equality.”

JSpector@Gannett.com

Joseph Spector is chief of USA TODAY Network’s Albany Bureau. 

If you are reading this in Rochester, just say hi on the comments. Alright?

August 24, 2016

Gay Couple’s House Targeted Then Neighborhood Responds


When people have been educated of what kind of people the LGBT people are, then get to know them as neighbors, coworkers, friends and family, because they are out and proud not because they are gay necessarily but because they are human beings the same as everybody else. That allows them to live their everyday lives and everyday people will see them as part of them. When this is accomplished, any resistance to them as people and neighbors, as in this case will encounter a positive response of compassion towards them and anger towards the haters.
Adam
Lauri (left) and Cari Ryding returned from vacation and discovered their rainbow flag stolen and their house egged.
Lauri (left) and Cari Ryding returned from vacation and discovered their rainbow flag stolen and their house egged. PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF
 

Cari and Lauri Ryding always felt welcome on Strawberry Hill Road. Then they came home from vacation and discovered the rainbow flag they had hung after the Orlando massacre had been stolen and their front porch pelted with eggs.

“It really sent us reeling,” Cari said.

 But what happened next reminded the couple why they loved the neighborhood in the first place. On Sunday, a squadron of children on bicycles delivered rainbow flags to house after house.

And one by one, the flags went up, transforming a swath of suburbia – more than 40 houses in all — into a brilliantly colored declaration of pride and solidarity, displayed on picket fences, garages, doorways, and decks.

“It just happened so quickly — the whole neighborhood said, ‘Get me a flag. Get me a flag. Get me a flag,’ ” said Penni Rochwerger, who lives around the corner from the Rydings. “If we can stop whatever hate is out there, I think that’s really important.”

Lauri Ryding said that after cleaning the eggs off her porch, she walked through the streets around her home, overwhelmed by all the neighbors prominently flying the rainbow colors.

“One person’s act of fear and maliciousness created such a powerful statement of love,” she said. “We are very blessed, very fortunate.” 
Cari Ryding, 49, first moved to Strawberry Hill Road 23 years ago, and, she said, she immediately fell in love with the family-friendly feel of the place.

“I loved the diversity of the generations, and how there’s a commitment to that — of all ages, and all shapes, and sizes, and preferences,” she said. “I’ve been feeling this energy in the neighborhood for years.”

That feeling was reinforced, she said, after she separated from her husband 10 years ago, and her neighbors helped her adjust to life as a single parent, bringing her dinners if she was sick or watching two of her children if she had to take the third to the doctor.

And the bond deepened even further, she said, when neighbors who had met her husband welcomed her wife, Lauri, 52.

“When I moved in four and a half years ago, I was embraced,” Lauri said. “Our relationship was embraced.”

So both women were stunned when they came home Wednesday to discover the vandalism.

“It was our first experience in Natick of having any type of prejudice,” Cari said. “We hadn’t experienced it all, and it kind of broke open our little cocoon.”

They alerted Natick police, and asked neighbors on Facebook if anyone knew what happened. No one did and still there are no suspects. But many were outraged.
  
One neighbor suggested asking for a stack of flags from the Rainbow Peace Flag Project, a local organization that gives away the flags free to Natick-area residents.

The Rydings had ordered their flag from the group about a month ago, to honor the 49 victims killed in June at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Immediately, requests flooded in, along with donations to the group.

“We said, ‘Why don’t we all have the flags? They can’t take them from all of us,’” said Dennis Gaughan, whose wife, Maura, helped organize the rainbow response.
 
Lois McGillivray, 85, who has lived on Strawberry Hill Road for 50 years, had one of the rainbow flags proudly displayed on her home on Monday.

“I have never met anyone who would do what that person did to that house,” she said. “This is a place where nobody bothers anybody, no matter how you want to live, as long as you’re not digging up the garden and throwing the dirt in my yard.” 

Neil Podolski said he wanted to fly a rainbow flag, as well, after hearing that the Rydings’ home had been vandalized.

“It’s just not right,” said Podolski, who is Jewish. “Who’s to say tomorrow we don’t find a swastika on our house?”

Cari Ryding said that she had started thinking twice about her neighborhood after her home was targeted, “and what they did completely overshadowed that fear and we are just overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity.”

As jarring as the initial crime was, Lauri Ryding said, the response has helped restore their faith in their community.

“Somebody’s fear called them to action,” she said. “But our neighbors support and love called them to action, and love conquers hate. Love wins. We win.”

 GLOBE STAFF

July 29, 2016

Anti Gay Governor Quietly Changes Mind After Pulse Massacre

Image result for gov rick scott







In the days after 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott privately expressed some support for gay rights to the state's only openly gay state lawmaker, the Miami Beach House member told a gathering in Philadelphia this week.

"We didn't talk about specific laws, but what he said to me privately and in the presence of his staff is that he's a grandfather and if any of his grandchildren happened to be gay he would want them to be treated with dignity and respect and have their rights," state Rep. David Richardson told the News Service after a panel discussion on Wednesday. "And he also told me that for anyone that might be critical of him and having these meetings, that he got elected to represent all 20 million Floridians."

Richardson, a Democrat, said the Republican governor's office called him after the Pulse nightclub killings, seeking help reaching out to the gay community. Richardson said he responded, "I'm willing to help you but only if you can do this on my terms, and my terms are no press and no photo opportunities."

“I didn’t want to be used to facilitate him after he has not been responsive to our community," Richardson told audience members at the event held by the Equality Forum at the National Museum of Jewish American History in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention.

Flashback: Hillary Clinton through the years
Richardson, who had recently returned from attending a vigil in Orlando, hopped in his car and made the trek northward, holding meetings with faith leaders and representatives of the LGBT community.
"He respected all my wishes," Richardson said.

Richardson said the meetings with Scott offered some leverage that he would use depending on what bills reach the governor's desk.

"I will happily call him up and remind him what he told me in Orlando," said Richardson, who told the audience he was sharing the story as an example of "relationship-building."

Richardson said he had no compunction about publicly sharing the meetings because the secrecy was on his terms.

"I'm not violating any trust by telling a story," said Richardson, who said he doesn't talk about the meetings a lot because he's not a "cheerleader" for Scott.

Scott's office did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The meetings came after Richardson texted Scott's chief of staff, Kim McDougal, complaining about the lack of mention the gay community received in Scott's remarks right after the shooting, which occurred in the early hours of June 12.

"He didn't say anything about the gay community, the LGBT community. I texted her and I said, 'Would you tell him that he has to say the word gay?' " Richardson said. "He has to say the word 'gay' because the gay community is taking note that he's not acknowledging the community."

The panel was moderated by Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Victory Fund, which aims to help elect members of the LGBT community in "low-equality states," including Florida.

"Florida is absolutely one of those states," Moodie-Mills said.

Maloney said the Democrats' choice for president, Hillary Clinton, gets credit"for putting LGBT issues "front and center."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is the nation's first openly gay attorney general, also appeared on the panel, and noted how her sexuality was not an issue when she ran for office in 2014.

"During my race, my sexual orientation was never the subject of discussion in the media even though I would have been the nation's first openly LGBT attorney general," Healey told the panel.

She said, “The thing that was written about most was my former pro basketball career."

Andy MetzgerNews Service of Florida

May 14, 2016

Pew Research: Acceptance and Steady Support for Gay Marriage




Support for same-sex marriage holds steady after 2015 Supreme Court rulingNearly a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unprecedented ruling that determined same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry, a decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. While the public’s attitudes toward gay marriage remain unchanged from a year ago, they have changed dramatically over the past two decades.
Now, just over half of Americans (55%) say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 37% remain opposed, according to Pew Research Center’s Marchpoll. A decade ago, the balance of opinion was reversed: 55% were opposed, while 35% were in favor.
 
Conservative Republicans remain broadly opposed to same-sex marriageAnd as was the case a year ago, there remains a substantial divide between partisans on the issue. Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to favor gay marriage (70% vs. 33%).
Yet there are key differences within the two parties as well. Among Republicans, 71% of conservative Republicans oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, more than twice the share of GOP moderates and liberals (34%). A 55% majority of moderate and liberal Republicans favor allowing same-sex marriage.
Within the GOP, these ideological differences also are notable across voters’ primary preferences for the party’s 2016 presidential nominee. About half (52%) of GOP voters who back Donald Trump (now the party’s presumptive nominee) say they oppose same-sex marriage, compared with 70% who preferred Ted Cruz and just 37% who backed John Kasich.
Democrats across the board are supportive of gay marriage (70% favor, 24% oppose), with slight differences by ideology and candidate preference. Liberal Democrats overwhelmingly support gay marriage (84%), compared with a smaller majority of their conservative and moderate counterparts (59% favor). And a wide 83% majority of Bernie Sanders supporters are supportive of gays and lesbians marrying legally (just 15% are opposed), compared with a smaller majority of Hillary Clinton supporters (68%).
Younger, more educated, less religious more likely to support gay marriageViews on gay marriage also vary by age, education and religious affiliation.
The March survey finds a familiar pattern in views of same-sex marriage across age categories: People younger than 30 are most supportive (73%), followed by those who are ages 30 to 49 (61%), those 50 to 64 (47%) and, finally, those 65 and older (38%).
Among those with higher levels of education, there is widespread support. A large majority of the public with at least a college degree (68%) say same-sex marriage should be legal. By contrast, those with a high school degree or less education are split on the issue: While 45% favor same-sex marriage, 46% are opposed.
Views also differ across religious groups, as well as by frequency of religious service attendance. White evangelical Protestants are far more likely to oppose than to favor same-sex marriage (68% vs. 27%). By contrast, most white mainline Protestants (64%) and Catholics (58%) favor gay marriage. Among the religiously unaffiliated, 80% favor same-sex marriage, while just 12% are opposed.

Views of societal acceptance of homosexuality

Changing views among religious groups on whether homosexuality should be acceptedToday, a 63% majority say homosexuality should be accepted by society, a share that also has grown over the past few decades. Fewer (28%) say homosexuality should be discouraged. But there are differences on the issue among religious and partisan groups.
Some religious groups have become more accepting of homosexuality over time while others remain steady. Ten years ago, a 77% majority of those unaffiliated with a religion said homosexuality should be accepted by society, and still today fully 80% say this.
Protestants overall are more likely than they were 10 years ago to say homosexuality should be accepted by society (52% now vs. 38% then). However, Protestant groups continue to have different views of this issue. Among white evangelical Protestants, a third (34%) say homosexuality should be accepted by society, a share that has increased 12 percentage points from 2006. And half of black Protestants now think that homosexuality should be accepted by society, up just slightly from 44% a decade ago.
By contrast, a large majority of white mainline Protestants hold the view that homosexuality should be accepted by society, and this share also has increased over time: Fully three-quarters say this now (76%), compared with 53% in 2006.
Two-thirds of Catholics now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with 22% who say it should be discouraged. Views among Catholics have shifted modestly over the past decade: The share that says homosexuality should be accepted is up 8 points from 2006 (58% said accepted then, 31% discouraged).
Increasing shares in both parties say homosexuality should be acceptedWhen it comes to differences among partisans on whether homosexuality should be accepted by society, there has been a persistent 26-point gap between Republicans and Democrats over the course of a decade.
About three-quarters of Democrats (74%) hold the view that homosexuality should be accepted, up from 59% in 2006. Though slightly fewer independents say the same, they have closely mirrored Democrats on this question over the past decade. Today, two-thirds of independents say homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 25% say it should be discouraged.
Over the past year, declining share of conservative Republicans say homosexuality should be discouragedJust about half of Republicans (48%) now say homosexuality should be accepted, a number that has ticked up 15 points from its low 10 years ago. Republicans today are somewhat more likely than they were a year ago to say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Up until a year ago, a majority of Republicans thought homosexuality should be discouraged by society, but views have since become more mixed. While 41% of Republicans now say homosexuality should be discouraged, 48% think it should be accepted by society.
Conservative Republicans remain more likely to say homosexuality should be discouraged than say it should be accepted, but just about half say this today (49%) compared with 63% in May 2015.
By contrast, seven-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans now say homosexuality should be accepted (71%), which is little changed since May 2015.

February 24, 2016

White House Screens Black Gay Film Celebrating BH Month


                                                                         
                                                                    

Today, the White House will screen the BET.com documentary “Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church,” in what the film’s director calls “the embodiment of the success of the Obama administration.”

BET entertainment editor Clay Cane, who shot the film in the Atlanta area last spring, does not come from a religious background himself, but as gay black man, “You can’t avoid religion. It’s a constant part of the conversation,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday. Because of the black church’s role as a place of both refuge and a source of revolution during slavery, Jim Crow and civil rights movement, the African-American community enjoy a unique relationship with its houses of worship. But for black LGBT people, according to the film, the church has become “a space of oppression.”

The one-hour film looks at couples “shunned” by their families, as well as clergy members marginalized and youth abandoned all because of their sexual orientation. The rationale behind all of the intolerance is almost always religion, but in the black community paranoia about perceived threats to traditional masculinity plays a role as well. As one openly gay choir director says in the film, you can be “anything but gay” in the black community.


The White House’s decision to screen this film for Black History Month speaks to the president’s evolution on gay rights. Obama has shifted from a candidate who staunchly opposed same-sex marriage to a sitting president who openly embraced it prior to his re-election in 2012. His decision to back marriage equality has been credited with shifting the needle on public approval. The majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, and while numbers in the black community still lag behind the national average, they did begin to tick up after Obama’s endorsement.

“I will tell you … that African-Americans thought differently,” said Cane, who also cited first lady Michelle Obama’s DNC speech in 2012 — when she told the audience that her husband wants opportunity for all, no matter ”who we love” — as a crucial moment for LGBT black Americans. “I wouldn’t be there under any other administration,” added Cane about his upcoming White House visit. “This shows the inclusiveness of the Obama administration.”

Besides his support for anti-hate crime legislation and his role in ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Obama has taken his pro-gay rights message directly to communities of color here and internationally as well. In 2013, he clashed publicly with the president of Senegal over the homophobic policies of his government, and he has also condemned anti-gay Ugandan laws. The president has also made more subtle gestures, like honoring the late, great, openly gay civil rights icon Bayard Rustin that same year and paying homage to the first openly gay NFL athlete, Michael Sam, in 2014.
He had to undo the sins of the Clinton administration to make some great gains for the LGBT community,” said Cane.

Still, despite undeniable progress under Obama, “Holler If You Hear Me” powerfully portrays the uphill battle so many black LGBT people face when they are forced to choose between their faith and “living an authentic life.”
“If you want to meet a whole bunch of black gay folks just go to the black church,” jokes Cane, referring to his belief that many LGBT African-Americans not only stay closeted but sit idly by while their pastors and fellow parishioners denigrate them and refuse to affirm their relationships. Cane said that while making the film he learned to be a lot less judgmental of people who make that choice because for them “walking away from your church is like walking away from [your] family.” And while gay people have been serving in black congregations for years, they simply want the “right to exist” within their communities of faith.

According to Cane, BET, where he has worked for eight years, has been nothing but supportive in his endeavor. The network backed the project from the beginning both philosophically and financially, and Cane remains “very optimistic” about future projects and the cause of gay rights. Case in point: One of the most stirring moments of the film features an encounter between Cane, who is openly gay, and a devout woman who refuses to approve of her daughter’s marriage to another female. Cane says that although some audiences have recoiled at the woman’s position, the fact that she even spoke to him on camera is a small ray of hope.
“I’m more concerned about people living on the fringe of society like I was,” said Cane, who promises that his next film project will “shake up and disturb as many people as possible.”

MSNBC

Would we ever again have both a President and Vice President constantly working for LGBT rights?

Vice Pres. Biden Joins Gay’s HRC  together with world company leaders in Davos:

As world leaders congregated in Davos, Switzerland during the World Economic Forum's annual meeting last month, HRC hosted a global equality round table for business leaders and industry influencers with longtime HRC supporter and LGBT ally Vice President Joe Biden.
 "When you speak up, you change the conversation," Biden told the round table participants, which included CEOs from Coca-Cola, Dow, Deloitte and UPS. Hosts of the meeting included HRC President Chad Griffin, President of Microsoft Brad Smith and Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of SkyBridge Capital.
"LGBT people should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families no matter where they live, and leaders of the world's foremost companies can and should provide equal treatment and protections for their LGBT employees," Griffin said. "They are also powerful voices in making the case globally that equality and inclusion in the workplace are both common sense and good business sense."

January 13, 2016

How Some of South America Stopped Being Homophobic



                                                                        
 The modern Gaucho?
 
From the early 1970s through the late 1980s, no place in the world was more unfriendly, dangerous, and potentially lethal for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people than Latin America. Viewing homosexuality as the ultimate sign of bourgeois decadence, Communist Cuba imprisoned and tortured gays by the truckloads, a horror captured in novelist Reynaldo Arenas’ gripping memoir, Before Night Falls. Argentina’s right-wing military regime targeted gays through the so-called Proceso Nacional, a dirty war waged between 1976 and 1983 to rid the country of political dissidents and so-called social undesirables. By the late 1980s, the scale of deadly violence against homosexuals in Brazil was so vast that it prompted gay rights activists to declare a “homocaust” and instigated a 1995 Amnesty International report, Breaking the Silence, about worldwide violence against LGBT people. This marked the first time that a major human rights organization had shined a spotlight on gay issues.

In Latin American countries that were spared military dictatorship, from either the right or the left, the picture for gays was only marginally better. In Colombia, police brigades were rounding up gays, alongside prostitutes, drug addicts, and the homeless, as part of a “cleansing” policy to eradicate crime. Morality campaigns in Mexico kept gays in the closet, unable to live their lives openly or petition the government for protection against discrimination. As recently as the early 1990s, many Latin American nations still refused legal recognition of gay rights organizations, deeming them a threat to the family and the nation (this was the rationale given by the Argentine Supreme Court when it denied legality to a gay association in 1991), and revelers at gay pride parades covered their faces for fear of reprisals from employers, friends, and neighbors. 

Today, however, Latin America stands, alongside Western Europe and the United States, among the most progressive regions on LGBT rights. All Latin American nations have decriminalized homosexuality, with Panama being the last country to abolish an anti-sodomy law, in 2008; and all of them have laws in the books protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination. Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and in several Mexican states and the Federal District of Mexico City. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador allow same-sex civil unions that offer same-sex couples all the benefits of marriage save for the name. Some Latin American nations are now even forerunners in the global struggle for LGBT equality.

Since 2010, when Argentina became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, it has enacted some of the most progressive LGBT legislation found anywhere in the world. Argentine law currently allows anyone to change his or her biological gender without the customary permission from a doctor or a judge. The law also permits same-sex couples wishing to have children access to reproductive assistance, such as in-vitro fertilization, through the national health system and bans conversion therapy intended to “cure” same-sex attraction. Not surprisingly, today Argentina tops many lists of countries most responsive to LGBT issues and concerns.

So how did Latin America go from being one of the most repressive environments for homosexuals in the world to one of the least? And what are the takeaways for the international human rights community as it seeks to contain the backlash against gay rights sweeping large swaths of the world? Triggered, in no small measure, by the fear that gay rights advances in the developed North will find their way into the global South, in recent years, India, Nigeria, and Uganda (among others), have moved to criminalize or to re-criminalize homosexuality. Bahrain, Egypt, and Iran are reported to have begun executing gays. Other countries have instituted a ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality, fashioned after Russia’s infamous 2013 anti-gay propaganda law. That law is so broad as to make an admission of homosexuality, unless made in a negative light, a crime.

SHAME GAME

External influence has certainly played a big role in Latin America’s “gay rights revolution.” For starters, for several decades now, the region has been engulfed in a tidal wave of “global queering,” a term that refers to the worldwide spread of homosexual identities and cultural practices launched by the gay liberation movement born with the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Widely known as the launch pad for the contemporary gay rights movement, Stonewall inspired a generation of Latin American gay activists to import the gospel of gay liberation to the region. They were led by the Frente de Liberación Homosexual (FLH), Latin America’s first viable gay rights organization. Founded in Buenos Aires in 1971, the FLH promoted sexual nonconformity, pride in being gay, and repeal of the infamous edictos policiales, federal ordinances that made homosexuality a crime in practice although not in law. (Argentina, like most of Latin America, decriminalized homosexuality in the nineteenth century, influenced by France’s Napoleonic Civil Code). Although the FLH was viciously crushed by the military in 1976, after the return of democracy to Argentina in 1983, its legacy inspired a new generation of gay activists to pick up the cause.

Pressure and shaming from international human rights organizations has also facilitated gay rights by aiding in the “socialization” of Latin American governments into human rights norms and practices. During the 1980s, gay activists at the Inter-American Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission created a splash by pushing the United States and Canada into granting political asylum to a number of Latin Americans who claimed that their lives were endangered by the fact that they were homosexual. The most famous of these cases was that of Marcelo Tenorio, a gay male from Brazil, the first person to be granted asylum in the United States on the grounds of his sexual orientation. Tenorio told U.S. immigration officials that he fled Brazil in 1990 after he was stabbed outside of a gay bar in Rio de Janeiro in 1989 and that he feared for his life if forced to go home. In coming to his rescue, activists were aiming as much to save gay lives as to embarrass the Brazilian government for its horrid treatment of gays and lesbians.

International pressure has also encouraged Latin American nations to enact policies and legislation specifically intended to advance gay civil rights. In 1991, after denying legal recognition to the Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA), Argentine President Carlos Menem was treated to a shaming campaign while traveling in the United States. It was waged by ACT-UP Americas, an offshoot of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), the New York-based organization famous for its attention-grabbing activism. Menem was accosted virtually everywhere he went, including at the Argentine consulate in New York, where a demonstration featured pictures of AIDS patients chained to their hospital beds in Buenos Aires. Upon his return home, Menem promptly legalized the CHA. Backed with legality, in 1996 the CHA was able to secure a ban on anti-gay discrimination in the City of Buenos Aires, the first gay rights ordinance in all of Latin America.

The international outcry over the killing of Daniel Zamudio, a gay 24-year old Chilean who was brutally killed by neo-Nazis in 2012, tipped the balance in the debate over a national ban on discrimination in that country. Years before Zamudio’s killing, the Chilean Congress had discussed and ultimately shelved a national anti-discrimination law. At the heart of the dispute was whether the law should include sexual orientation as a category for anti-discrimination protection. After the many international headlines generated by Zamudio’s killing, including an article in Spain’s El País, in which the Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa called on the Latin American nations to end anti-gay discrimination and violence, the national anti-discrimination law, including sexual orientation, sailed through the Chilean Congress.

Last but not least has been the timely intervention by several individual foreign nations, most notably Spain. After 2005, when Spain became the first Roman Catholic nation to legalize same-sex marriage, the Socialist administration of José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero made LGBT rights a priority in its diplomatic relations with Latin America. This intervention, ably aided by a host of Spanish NGOs, such as Fundación Triángulo and the Federación Estatal LGBT, is credited with spurring gay rights policies throughout Latin America, especially same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage. No other Latin American country was more impacted by this “diffusion” effect than Argentina, a country that is predominantly populated by people of European descent, has high levels of social and economic development, and possesses Latin America’s richest history of organized activism around the issue of homosexuality. Not surprisingly, in both Spain and Argentina the campaign for marriage equality shared the same slogan: “The same name with the same rights.”

LOCAL HEROES

Ultimately, however, the rise of gay rights in Latin America should be seen a homegrown affair fueled by a host of cultural, legal, and political factors. After all, naming and shaming has done little for Western leaders to promote gay rights at the global level. In visits to Senegal and Kenya, for example, U.S. President Barack Obama urged his hosts to decriminalize homosexuality and afford civil rights protections to the LGBT population. If anything, these efforts have spectacularly backfired, as can be seen by the unprecedented gay rights backlash currently underway in much of Africa. Ironically, LGBT people are worse off today in most parts of Africa than before the West began to push its gay rights agenda.

Since the mid-1980s, when Latin America began to emerge from military rule and embrace democracy, the region has experienced a deep process of social modernization. Among its most significant aspects is the growing secularization of the public, as can be seen in the rise of so-called lapsed Catholics, also known as “cultural Catholics.” These are self-professed Catholics who do not see themselves as beholden to the Church’s teachings. In countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, about two-thirds of all Catholics fall into this category. These religious trends, which have undoubtedly have been accelerated by the Church’s loss of moral authority ensuing from its support of bloodthirsty dictatorships and sex abuse scandals, have made the public more accepting of homosexuality and more supportive of gay rights.

A decline in religiosity in Latin America has also lowered the risks for Latin American politicians of supporting gay rights. In 2009, when Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a left-wing politician famous for his social liberalism, signed into law Mexico City’s same-sex marriage ordinance, he tuned a deaf ear to the Catholic Church’s threat of excommunication. That would have been unthinkable only a few years prior. Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, today hailed as a gay rights heroine for her fierce advocacy of marriage equality, all but welcomed the opposition to same-sex marriage by then Cardinal of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio (today Pope Francis). When Bergoglio branded the same-sex marriage bill “the Devil’s Project,” Kirchner delivered a rhetorical smack down, characterizing his words as “reminiscent of the Dark Ages and the Inquisition.”

Since embracing democracy, the majority of Latin American nations have also revamped their constitutions, a process that has given Latin America some of the world’s newest and most progressive constitutional frameworks. Some of them, including Argentina’s, fully incorporate the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, making it easier for gays in Latin America to approach the courts and demand equal treatment. Although the declaration is mum on the issue of sexual orientation, many references to the “dignity of all people” are nowadays broadly understood to apply to homosexuals. Most Latin American countries have also strengthened the autonomy of the judiciary, which has historically been the weakest branch in the region’s governments. This, in turn, has empowered the courts to rule boldly in favor of gay rights. In fact, some of the most sweeping court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage have come from Latin American courts.

In 2011, the highest court in the land in Colombia and Brazilian ruled that treating homosexual unions differently from heterosexual unions was unconstitutional, and it ordered the government to grant all the benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. In June, 2015, just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Obergefell vs. Hodges that same-sex marriage was a constitutionally guaranteed right under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment of equal protection under the law, the Mexican Supreme Court, without any of the drama of its American counterpart, ruled that all state laws banning same-sex marriage were discriminatory and therefore in violation of the Mexican Constitution.

                                                                               


THE ARGENTINE WAY

Lastly, Latin America’s gay rights successes cannot be fully understood without accounting for the smart advocacy by gay rights activists. What Latin American gay activists have lacked in the way of organizational resources relative to their counterparts in the United States and Western Europe—such as large membership bases and political connections—they have more than compensated for by crafting some of savviest gay rights campaigns around. Most notably, whereas gay activists in the United States have waged a “civil rights struggle” to advance gay rights, including same-sex marriage, in much of Latin America gay activists have waged a “human rights crusade.” The former seeks to legitimize gay rights through national law while the latter finds the legitimacy of gay rights in the universality of human rights.

The framing of the struggle for gay rights as a human rights crusade was most expertly realized in Argentina. After the transition to democracy, in 1983, Argentine gay activists folded their aspiration for ending antigay discriminatory policies and for extending civil rights protections into the large and influential Argentine human rights community born from the political excesses of the Dirty War. To drive home the point that gay rights are human rights, activists adopted the slogan “the freedom of sexuality is a basic human right.” That slogan foreshadowed the popular idea that “gay rights are human rights” in European and American gay politics.

Gay organizations in Argentina also branded themselves as human rights organizations, rather than as gay rights associations. A central goal of this effort was to incorporate the gay community into the broader civil society, which was then mobilized around the issue of justice and accountability against the military regime. The movement succeeded in convicting regime members of crimes against humanity. Although Nunca Más (Never Again), the final report of the National Commission on the Disappeared that served as the basis for the prosecution of military officers, does not recognize a single disappeared individual because of his/her sexual orientation, this did not stop gay activists from making the claim that gays are “the disappeared among the disappeared.” According to gay activists, some 400 gays disappeared during the military dictatorship, although no evidence to support this claim has yet emerged.

To influence hearts and minds about homosexuality, as much as to influence gay rights legislation, gay activists adopted the Argentine human rights movement’s playbook. For instance, gay activists embraced the famous escraches, or the accosting and shaming of public officials who fail to support human rights causes, a strategy pioneered by the children of the victims of the Dirty War. Less apparent is that gay organizations have purposely avoided formal political affiliations, believing that support for gay rights, as with human rights, should rise above politics. And so, gay activists have been able to collaborate with politicians from both the left and the right and avoid making gay rights into a partisan issue. On the eve of Argentina’s final senate vote on same-sex marriage, all senators were allowed by the leadership of their parties to vote their conscience, thereby contributing mightily to the support that the bill enjoyed from across the political spectrum.

The end result in Argentina was a gay rights campaign that although inspired by foreign trends and events was firmly grounded in local politics and realities. It succeeded in changing the law regarding homosexuality, and, more important, in transforming society and the culture at large. To be sure, whether the strategies that have worked so brilliantly in Argentina can be replicated in other parts of the world remains an open question. Human rights, for example, do not tug at the hearts of policy-makers and the public in other parts of the global South as they do in Latin America, and in Argentina in particular. But the larger lesson from Latin America remains that strategies for securing gay civil rights can only succeed if they find resonance at the local level. International gay rights activists would do well to heed this advice


December 19, 2015

Pew Research: More Christian Americans are Accepting of LGBT Now More than Ever



                                                                         


More American Christians are accepting LGBT people, even if their churches strongly oppose gay and lesbian relationships, according to a Pew Research Center report of U.S. religious beliefs and practices released Friday. While more non-Christians accept gay relationships than Christians, the number of Christians who say LGBT relationships should be accepted and not discouraged has grown by 10 percentage points since 2007, the study found.

Overall, 54 percent of Christians say gay people should be accepted, compared with 76 percent of non-Christians and 83 percent of religiously unaffiliated people. Across the general U.S. population, 62 percent accept gay relationships, up from 50 percent in 2007. Most churches teach gay relationships are an act of sin or “intrinsically disordered," the Pew study said.

The shift among Christians can be attributed to young church members who generally embrace gay relationships compared with older churchgoers. Only a third of evangelical baby boomers and a fifth of evangelicals in the silent generation say gay people should be accepted by society while 51 percent of evangelical Protestants in the millennial generation were OK with LGBT relationships. The same was true among Catholics, mainline Protestants and members of the historically black Protestant tradition.

But even some older Christians are becoming more accepting of gay relationships. Roughly 32 percent of evangelical Protestant baby boomers, for example, back gay rights, up from 25 percent in 2007.

Not all Christians are shifting their attitudes on gay rights, however. Most Mormons and evangelical Protestants still say homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Jehovah’s Witnesses were perhaps the most fervently opposed to gay relationships, with just 16 percent saying LGBT people should be accepted.

Some gay Christians have argued church opposition to LGBT rights can hurt believers who want to pursue same-sex relationships. Matthew Vines, author of the book "God and the Gay Christian," has argued the Bible does not denounce gays.

"Some modern Bible translations say that 'homosexuals' will not inherit the kingdom of God, but neither the concept nor the word for people with exclusive same-sex attraction existed before the late 19th century. While the Bible rejects lustful same-sex behavior, that’s very different from a condemnation of all gay people and relationships,” he wrote last year.

 

September 28, 2015

The Pope Instructs The Bishops on Gay Marriage without mentioning it


“sounds a little bit like an Argentine tango” 
                                                                     



 In a powerful rebuke to the culture war mentality that has often marked the public witness of the Catholic hierarchy, Pope Francis told bishops gathered for a major church meeting on families not to blame others for the changes to marriage today, and said a church that constantly explains doctrines without providing real support to families “is dangerously unbalanced.”

“We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family,” Francis told bishops gathered at a seminary here on Sunday morning (Sept. 27), the final day of the pontiff’s grueling nine-day visit to Cuba and the U.S.

“A Christianity which ‘does’ little in practice, while incessantly ‘explaining’ its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced,” Francis told dozens of churchmen from around the world. “I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle.” 

At the start of his 30-minute talk, Francis made a brief reference to the legalization of same-sex marriage that the American bishops have made a centerpiece of their public ministry and policy battles, with many of them casting the acceptance of gay relationships as the beginning of an era of exclusion and even persecution for Christians.

Francis, as he has done in his speeches to church leaders throughout this visit, his first to the U.S., refused to take that bait.

Without mentioning gay marriage, he noted that civil marriage and Christian sacramental marriage no longer share a common meaning, as they once did. Yet while recognizing the profound changes taking place, he warned bishops against pointing fingers at their flock or wallowing in nostalgia.

“Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society? Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world?” Francis said. “Should they hear their pastors saying that ‘it was all better back then,’ ‘the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?’ No, I do not think that this is the way.”

He said the church’s shepherds must accompany and help people, and he said they must be converted first to this approach: “For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints.”

“A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock. This ‘watchfulness’ is not the result of talking but of shepherding. Only one capable of standing ‘in the midst of’ the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment,” Francis said, joking at one point that it “sounds a little bit like an Argentine tango.” 

Francis is a native of Argentina and the first Latin American pope in history, and he spoke to the bishops in Spanish, adding occasional observations and asides as he went along.

For example, in talking about the problems of young people not leaving home to marry, Francis looked up from his prepared text, smiled and said:

“In Buenos Aires, many women would tell, ‘Me my son is thirty, thirty-four, and isn’t married. What should I do?’ I tell them, “Don’t iron his shirts anymore!”

In explaining the changes in marriage and family life, Francis compared them to the shift from the local neighborhood shop to the rise of supermarkets.

Today’s mega-store culture thrives on offering a huge selection of every option, “cleverly displayed” and encouraging consumerism in every aspect of life, but without a personal bond of trust or permanence, he said. Everything is devoted to increasing sales, and “the most important thing nowadays seems to be to follow the latest trend or activity,” Francis said.

“This is even true of religion. Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming … Whatever the cost or consequences.”

“Running after the latest fad, accumulating ‘friends’ on one of the social networks, we get caught up in what contemporary society has to offer,” and that leads to “loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized.”

Yet again, the pontiff stressed that the church’s leaders should not blame young people:

“Are today’s young people hopelessly timid, weak, inconsistent? We must not fall into this trap. Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence. They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them. Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full.”

While Francis was speaking to bishops from around the world who were attending the World Meeting of Families, a triennial event held in different cities around the globe, his approach stood in especially stark contrast to the public profile of the American bishops in recent years.

Notable among those culture warrior bishops is Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who has been Francis’ host for this final leg of the trip. But Chaput is also a bishop closely associated with conservatives in the hierarchy who have voiced reservations or even strong opposition to the pope’s new course for the church.

In brief remarks at the start of his talk, Francis told the prelates that earlier that morning he had met privately with five adults who had been sexually abused as children by priests, teachers or relatives. The meeting had been anticipated but details were kept under wraps. Many victims’ advocates were strongly critical of the meeting, and said the steps Francis has taken to fight abuse and hold bishops accountable are insufficient.

But in his remarks to the bishops, Francis vowed to hold accountable bishops who allow priests to abuse children, and he hailed the “survivors,” as he pointedly called them, as the real heroes of the abuse crisis and “heralds of hope and ministers of mercy.”

August 4, 2015

Dongdan Park in China is Heaven for many Gays




                                                                                
 Dongdan Park in China
In 1984, Ning Guofeng, a.k.a. "Lady Paris," was arrested by police officers after visiting Dongdan Park in Beijing — the third time he was charged with "hooliganism" in seven years. Sent to a labor camp for three years, Ning, now 77 and known as "Granny Paris," still keeps returning to the scene of his alleged crimes.

"It's like home," said Ning, who earned his exotic nickname in the 1960s after having a dalliance with a chef from Paris who was working for the French Embassy in Beijing. "We can talk freely about what we've been hiding from our families and co-workers."

NEWSLETTER: Get the day's top headlines from Times Editor Davan Maharaj >>

It's like home. We can talk freely about what we've been hiding from our families and co-workers.
- Ning Guofeng
For more than three decades, Dongdan Park, one mile east of Tiananmen Square, has attracted gay men from across China. Some seek a long-term love interest, some a one-time sex partner, others friendship.

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from its official list of mental illnesses four years later. Though same-sex marriage has not been legalized, Chinese media regularly report on high-profile gay home weddings and gay couples getting marriage certificates in the United States.

But for many gay Chinese, it is still difficult to buck social pressure to find a spouse of the opposite sex and have children. Confucian ideology makes no allowances for homosexuality, and there are no legal protections against discrimination.

Dongdan, then, is a haven for many.                     

At first glance, it looks no different from other Beijing parks: In an open plaza, middle-age women dance to catchy pop songs while elderly men clamor over Chinese chess in front of a statue saluting workers, peasants and soldiers of the 1960s Cultural Revolution.


But in one section, up a hill covered in vegetation, men — old and young, well-dressed and casual, married and single — stroll on stone-paved lanes, making eye contact with others. A sustained glance can develop into a smile and much more.

Many regulars are migrant workers who came to Beijing during China's economic boom of recent decades. The crowds are aging: Thanks to online gay dating apps, fewer young men come to the park. Dongdan nevertheless provides something an app cannot: Immediate opportunities to interact face to face.

Some gossip about a news anchor they believe actually died of AIDS instead of the "official" cause. Others forgo small talk for blunt queries about their preferred style of sex.

Anonymity is paramount. "What if my boss finds out?" said a 32-year-old clothing wholesaler in a bright orange T-shirt and hair dyed to match. "Nobody outside knows I'm gay."

See the most-read stories this hour >>
Although the park is in some ways a refuge, thieves are known to lurk. Some "money boys," or prostitutes, don't just charge for their services, but blackmail customers who fear their "hobby" may be leaked.

Peng Huijie, 60, who has volunteered for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing since 2010, rarely misses a day at the park. He administers free HIV/AIDS tests, hands out condoms and delivers what he calls one-on-one "homosexual 101" sessions. Topics include cheating heartbreakers, gay identity and how AIDS is spread.

Peng and his five-person volunteer group have minimal contact with their government sponsors. The CDC dispatches supplies to the volunteers monthly, and in return Peng submits a list of HIV test-takers who typically register under fake names. Among 12,000 tests conducted last year, around 300 came back positive, he says.
Chinese media frequently portray HIV/AIDS as a "gay disease," even though national statistics show heterosexual sex was the route of transmission in 66% of new cases reported in the first 10 months of 2014.

"The CDC cares about meeting their quotas of HIV positives and getting their funding, but we see homosexuals with feelings," Peng said. "Their heart is not with the cause of anti-AIDS for the homosexuals. Sometimes they even discriminate against gay test-takers."

Anti-gay commentaries often appear in mainstream publications. Zeng Yi, a professor in Confucianism at Tongji University, called homosexuality "a crime against humanity" in an essay for the Shanghai-based news website the Paper after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and President Obama endorsed the decision.

Perhaps not surprisingly, few high-profile Chinese have publicly come out.

This fling with guys is for now. I shall live with a woman in the long run.
- 32-year-old clothing wholesaler
"Superstars don't want to lose their heterosexual fans, and those in politics need a 'normal' family to survive and get promoted," said sociologist Li Yinhe, a longtime advocate for gay rights in China.

Li estimates there are 39 million to 52 million gay men among China's 1.3 billion citizens. With same-sex marriage unrecognized, adoption by gay couples prohibited and surrogacy banned, a majority of this group, she says, would marry women (including some lesbians, who face a similar stigma). They want to quash rumors and have children to support them in their later years — and perhaps have grandchildren to dote on.

"This fling with guys is for now. I shall live with a woman in the long run," said the 32-year-old clothes wholesaler, whose wife and 6-year-old son live in his hometown, Chengde, in Hebei province.

Some park veterans, vexed by such cognitive dissonance, warn newcomers against "squandering" their time in the park. Some eventually become regulars, returning to seek a sense of belonging.


In the meantime, a few Chinese gay-rights activists persist in pushing for greater social recognition, and even marriage rights. "China needs to have representatives for the homosexual community in the National People's Congress to bring up proposals of gay marriage for the revision of the law," said Li.

Ning knows he's unlikely to bear witness to such a development. Yet, having weathered the twists and turns of a Chinese gay man's life for more than half a century, he remains optimistic.

"People used to be disgusted by our presence in the 1960s," he said. "But fewer people discriminate against gay men now. Things will be even better in the future."

Zhang is an intern in The Times’ Beijing bureau.

HARVARD ZHANG


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