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

January 4, 2016

GenX paved the Way for LGBT Rights


The biggest social issue of the Generation X lifespan sparked high emotions, protests, propositions, legal decisions and political backpedaling.

Rights for gay and lesbian Americans — to marry, to serve in the military, to live and raise families in the open — came faster than any of the civil rights successes of the prior generation, in large part because Gen Xers and the Millennials behind them had no zeal for laws against the LGBT community.

The rapid success, or just the success in general, “is generational,” said Art Levine, an attorney and professor of ethics and legal studies at Cal State Long Beach who worked in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in the mid-1960s during the height of the Civil Rights movement.

For people in Gen X and younger, “it’s a non-issue,” Levine said. “People are growing up now without the same biases their parents might have had. It’s no big deal to them for people of the same sex to get married.”

Carl Kemp, who has worked in politics for 20 years, cut to the chase: “Bigotry and prejudice end because gradually, it just becomes stupid. That’s when the fear dies.”


A survey of attitudes about same-sex marriage shows the wide gulf between generations. According to a 2015 survey from Pew Research Center:

• 70 percent of Millennials (born 1981 and later) favor same-sex marriage

• 59 percent of Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1980) are in favor

• 45 percent of Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) are in favor

• 39 percent of the Silent Generation (born 1928 to 1945) are in favor

As Gen X and Millennials gain prominence and power at the polls and in governance, support for gay marriage has jumped 23 percent since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2003.


Compared to the civil rights movements of African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s and the women’s rights movement of the 1970s, the fight for gay rights has moved with stunning speed. When Gen X’s Baby Boomer parents were young, in the late 1950s, more than 90 percent of the country was against marriage between blacks and whites. Same-sex marriage wasn’t even on the radar as an issue to poll about.

While some 40 years passed before a majority of Gallup survey respondents were OK with mixed-race marriages, the swing from a majority being opposed to same-sex marriage to the majority finding it acceptable was a mere decade.

While there was a severe backlash to same-sex marriage after Massachusetts made it legal 12 years ago — in 2004, a dozen states passed constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage, eventually totaling 30, including California with its hotly fought Proposition 8 — marriage between gay or lesbian couples became legal nationwide on June 26, 2015, just as the vanguard of Gen X was turning 50.

The LGBT community itself went from hiding in the closet to marching in gay pride parades and having leading characters in mainstream TV shows (“Dynasty,” “Days of Our Lives” and “Will and Grace”) and popular films (“The Birdcage,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Kids Are All Right”).

Ellen DeGeneres even appeared on the cover of Time when she came out as lesbian and went on to host a highly rated daytime talk show.

James Gilliam, 45, the deputy executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, who is openly gay, never dreamed these days would happen, he said.

“During the 1980s and 1990s, there wasn’t much to celebrate for gay people on the federal level,” he said. “That’s when ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ (the military’s attempt to let gays and lesbians serve in the military as long as they didn’t reveal their sexual orientation) and the Defense of Marriage Act (which outlawed same-sex marriage) were passed.

“I didn’t grow up imagining a gay wedding. This is all new to me. I didn’t have these dreams,” said Gilliam, who grew up in Tennessee. “I didn’t grow up imagining a world where I could freely express my sexual orientation or realize the dream of becoming a parent. These rights caught up to us.”

Jennifer Reed, 51, an associate professor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Cal State Long Beach, was shocked by the progress.

“Shame was such a part of the identity in the 1970s and 1980s. I came out in 1984 when I was 20. I thought I had a cancer diagnosis. It was horrible,” said Reed, who grew up in Westminster.

“Now we have role models and an openness about it,” Reed said. “Younger people come out with less trouble. It’s not true everywhere; we still have a lot of shame around sexuality, but some of the shame is lifted.”

Kemp, a Gen Xer who grew up in South Los Angeles, said as a young man he was “homophobic and ignorant” when he enrolled at Cal State Long Beach. But college was a game-changer, he said.

“Being in the Associated Students with all these other people of different races and beliefs, I had an awakening,” he said. “I actively wanted to be a better person and have a better understanding of people. I try to transfer that same desire, along with my wife, to my daughters.”

Kemp, who is black, says the struggle for gay rights mirrors the 1960s Civil Rights movement, “which most people associate with blacks, but it really was about all people. That movement was seeking change for all people, and the women’s movement and the gay movement is continuing that.”

Levine disagrees a bit: “It’s a long road between the Civil Rights movement and the gay rights movement. The Civil Rights movement was very much about blacks. The short answer, I think, if you’re asking what the Civil Rights, women’s and gay movements had in common, it’s that collectively they’ve all made the 14th Amendment, equal rights under the law, more fully realized.”


Jon Higgins, 30, the assistant director of multicultural affairs at CSULB, argues the mission isn’t fully accomplished and the movement needs some new faces.

“Who are the faces of the LGBTQ movement? The faces have been white men for a long time,” Higgins said. “Equality had been equated to getting married, but the issues people of color are facing are more than marriage. … What about my rights as a black, queer man? Where are people who look like me? How are we enriching the lives of queer people of color outside of marriage?

“We need to challenge what equality means and what equity means,” he said.

August 16, 2014

The Advent of AIDS a helper in Gay rights

This 1986 photo of Ken Meeks – taken three days before he died of AIDS – put a human face on the ‘gay plague.’
In the early 1980s, a new disease ravaged the gay community. It had many names: gay pneumonia, gay cancer, the gay plague and the more formal gay-related immune deficiency. The symptoms were visible and immediately recognizable: a disfiguring cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, extreme weight loss (wasting) and suffocating pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. The deadly disease, renamed acquired immune deficiency syndrome after the virus was identified, travelled quickly through the gay community, but fear travelled even faster in mainstream society.
Gay men, even men suspected of being gay, lost their jobs – they were evicted from apartments and they were ostracized. Newspapers carried earnest stories about the risks of catching AIDS from a toilet seat in a public restroom. Funeral homes refused to handle bodies, and hospitals turned patients away, or placed them in isolation. There was talk of quarantining the sick in modern-day leper colonies and tattooing the infected to warn prospective sex partners of the danger.
“No one is safe from AIDS,” blared Time magazine, which, in the pre-Internet era, was hugely influential. Pat Buchanan, communications director for president Ronald Reagan, called AIDS “nature’s revenge on gay men.” Some far-right fundamentalist preachers called for the death penalty for homosexuals and, across the Western world, there were moves to bar gays from the classroom, from health-care jobs and more.
It was a time of stigmatization and oppression, eerily similar to what is going on again now in large parts of the developing world, but on a grander scale and with more dire consequences. At least 76 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have enacted anti-homosexual laws, and homophobia – and more disturbingly state-sanctioned homophobia and vigilantism – is on the rise. Sudan has the death penalty for anyone found to have committed “homosexual acts,” Uganda has harsh prison sentences for anyone who even dares to speak out in defence of a “known homosexual,” and Russia has labelled gay-rights groups as “enemies of the state.”
At the same time, three decades after the “gay plague” began, there is an once-unthinkable acceptance of same-sex relationships in the Western world: Gay marriage is widely accepted, human-rights protections have been extended to gays and lesbians, and events like World Pride are not only mainstream family activities, but tourist draws.
How did this happen? How did fear of pestilent homosexuals give way to acceptance of men loving men? And are the horrors that are taking place now in the developing world the last gasp of homophobes, an inevitable clash on the road to gay liberation?
“What we’re seeing today is two parallel stories: the relentless rise of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual [LGBT] rights in the Western world and the rise of homophobia and the trampling of rights elsewhere, and something has to give,” says Craig McClure, a former activist with the radical AIDS group Act Up and now the chief of HIV-AIDS at Unicef.
He says a lot of activists who fought the early battles for gay rights in the West are now in positions of power and influence, and they have an obligation to speak out for and come to the aid of those who are now being jailed, beaten and threatened with death because of their sexual orientation.
“I think we need to do a lot more to support our brothers and sisters in the developing world,” Mr. McClure says. “We should be as furious today as we were in the early days of the epidemic.” And furious they were.
When AIDS came along in the early 1980s, the gay rights movement was well under way. It was born, symbolically at least, in June, 1969, when police conducted a routine raid on a New York bar called Stonewall. Angered by the harassment, members of the gay community took to the streets in what came to be known as the Stonewall riots. The scenario was repeated with raids on bathhouses and gay bars in Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere, and the community pushed back with demonstrations and lawsuits. Emboldened, the gay bathhouse subculture came out of the shadows and many embraced promiscuity as a form of revolution.
When AIDS struck, priorities changed, and quickly, from hedonism to survival. And, ironically, the advent of AIDS probably advanced gay rights more than anything else in history.
“HIV-AIDS changed public perceptions a lot: It showed a more humane side of the community,” says Ed Jackson, director of program development at Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, and a longtime activist. “It also galvanized gay men into being more active and more visible. It brought people out of the closet.”
Mr. Jackson said the large number of HIV-positive men, and the often-overlooked contributions of many lesbian women who cared for the sick, forced members of the gay community to interact with the system, instead of living on the margins. In fact, many of the early battles that mobilized the community were about seemingly mundane issues such as the right to visit partners in hospital (people were refused access because they were not considered immediate family, even if they were in long-term relationships), taking time off to be with loved ones who were sick and dying and claiming insurance benefits.
Gay rights came incrementally as these battles were waged before administrative tribunals and the courts and, in the process, gay and lesbian couples became more mainstream.
“We went from being marginalized as sick people to being normalized,” Mr. Jackson says. “Along the way, a lot of desires became mainstreamed; we wanted to be like everybody else, which is why you saw a push for things like gay marriage.
“We chose the straight path, if you will,” he adds with a smile.
Africa’s response was radically different
AIDS hit Africa about the same time as it did Western countries and affected the same demographic groups, principally men who have sex with men, recipients of blood and blood products and intravenous drug users. But the response was very different from places like Canada. Instead of rage and activism, there was denial and inaction.
AIDS was dismissed as a disease of Westerners with perverse sexual habits. The party line in virtually every country on the continent was that there are no homosexuals, and that Africans don’t engage in the unnatural acts that spread the disease. This dismissal delayed any serious response to the epidemic, and AIDS spread like wildfire, assisted greatly by truckers who travelled the transcontinental route that came to be known as the “AIDS highway” and the sex workers who populated road stops. By the late 1980s, when the rates of infection became so high that they could no longer be denied, AIDS was portrayed as a heterosexual disease, which was spreading so rapidly because men were promiscuous.
“It was never true that HIV-AIDS was uniquely a heterosexual disease in Africa,” says Christine Stegling, executive director of the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition, and a long-time AIDS activist in Botswana.
“The reality is that there are men who have sex with men in Africa, just as there are everywhere, but because of the stigma, they marry and otherwise remain hidden,” she says.
“Politicians and governments have always refused to acknowledge that these practices and these communities exist.
“What’s different now is that gay men and transgendered people are starting to come out – in large part because rates of HIV-AIDS are so high in these communities – and that is making it a lot more difficult to deny their existence. This, in turn, has fuelled a backlash and the introduction of repressive anti-homosexuality laws.”
“HIV has been devastating but it has also created an entrance for LGBT work to be done,” Ms. Stegling adds.
“There is a lot of activism for rights in these communities but the response has put a lot of people’s lives in danger.”
Paul Semugoma, a Ugandan physician, knows that all too well. He is on a “wanted” list in his home country (where homosexuality is a crime) because he has spoken out for gay rights, and lives in exile in South Africa.
Dr. Semugoma decided to come out himself two years ago, for a couple of reasons. Gay activist David Kato, a close friend, had been murdered and he felt like a hypocrite. Also, he was treating large numbers of patients with HIV-AIDS but realized that men who have sex with men were reluctant to seek help for fear of being found out. Rates of HIV-AIDS in men who have sex with men in Africa are about 10 times those of the heterosexual population.
“I was gay, I was having sex and nobody knew about it,” Dr. Semugoma says. “But I realized that, with HIV-AIDS, silence is literally death, so I couldn’t be silent any more.”
As in the West, he adds, the AIDS epidemic is pushing gay men out of the closet and thrusting them into the public eye. But, unlike in the West, the evangelical movement that is so rabidly homophobic, holds much more sway, and corrupt, dictatorial governments are far less likely to “do the right thing” by extending rights to a beleaguered, oppressed minority. On the contrary, gays are a handy scapegoat.
“In Uganda, the anti-homosexuality law was presented as pro-African, anti-West legislation. It’s us versus them,” he says. “But I reject that. I’m a gay man. I’m a Ugandan. I’m an African.”
But the situation is not altogether dire, he notes. South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to legalize gay marriage and one of the few countries where discrimination against gays and lesbians is barred in the constitution. Uganda, because of its anti-homosexuality laws, is also becoming a human-rights pariah, in much the same way that South Africa’s apartheid regime was isolated and pressured to change.
“All this discussion is forcing people to recognize that there are gays in Africa, just as there are everywhere in the world,” Dr. Semugoma says. “We will always be a minority, but one day we will be a minority with rights.”
“Even in Uganda?” he is asked.
“It’s my country,” he replies pensively. “Whether it’s two years, 20 years or 50 years, I will return some day as a full citizen.”
The Globe and Mail

July 15, 2014

“Are You Gay?" The President Asks “Only when I have sex” The Shopkeeper Answered

When President Barack H. Obama visited Austin yesterday, he set off yet another social media tailspin.
On a visit to Franklin Barbecue, the President of the United States of America encountered Daniel Rugg Webb – comedian, artist, musician (and friend of Gay Place), and part-time Franklin employee – and, of course, sparks flew.

“It was just a lucky day to be the register girl,” says Webb.
The entire restaurant, he says, was prepped in advance of Obama’s appearance, and Webb, who laments not being properly attired in his preferred sequin ensemble, knew he had to make some kind of stand. 
As the president approached, Webb threw his hand down and slapped the counter dramatically. "Equal rights for gay people!"
"Are you gay?" the president asked.
 "That's when he laughed and said, 'Bump me,'" Webb says.
"That's my favorite part because it was cool to get a joke in. In all the photos [all over the Internet], I look like a dead fish, but it was cool. I do stand-up, so it was nice to have some interaction based on, hopefully, something funny."
"If Rick Perry would've walked in, I would have lost my job. I would've taken that old queen to town," Webb adds.
"My mother got to shake hands with Kennedy in Fort Worth that morning he was assassinated, so just for consistency, it was kind of cool to meet with a sitting president. Her picture [is in a] crowd shot in this book called Four Days, so I kind of want to pull the photos next to each other and then wave it in my sister's face."
Though the president received a warm round of applause at Franklin, the photo op wasn't all fist bumps and sweet Texas barbecue. Amy Rattananinad, former Longhorn and Occupy UT organizer, handed the president a sign that read, "Stop Deportations."
“The girl, Amy, who handed him the note, and he, really kind of got into it," Webb recounts. "They had kind of a real conversation, direct. You don’t just get face time with world leaders. I was impressed that he had a serious conversation with somebody in the middle of what would be a photo op.”
The president also caught some flack for cutting the famously long line at Franklin. Webb side-eyes that sentiment, "Logistically, that's a really lazy complaint. I don't think you can safely have a world leader hanging around in a line." Obama reportedly dropped $300 for himself and other patrons.


June 26, 2014

VP Biden Encourages Gay Rights over Culture


Seeking to mobilize a global front against anti-gay violence and discrimination, Vice President Joe Biden declared Tuesday that protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions.
Biden told a gathering of U.S. and international gay rights advocates that President Barack Obama has directed that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women around the world
"I don't care what your culture is," Biden told about 100 guests at the Naval Observatory's vice presidential mansion. "Inhumanity is inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice."
With anti-gay laws taking root in nearly 80 countries, Biden and other top White House officials met with religious, human rights and HIV health care advocates in a forum dedicated to promoting gay rights internationally.
Biden, who has emerged as a leading gay rights advocate within the Obama administration ever since he got ahead of Obama in declaring his support for gay marriage, said that across U.S government agencies officials have been instructed to make the promotion of gay rights abroad a priority.
Where countries fail to move toward protections of LGBT people, he warned, "there is a price to pay for being inhumane." Among those at the evening reception were leading gay rights activists and the ambassadors from Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
Earlier Tuesday, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice cast the protection of gays from global discrimination, abuse and even death as one of the most challenging international human rights issue facing the United States. Biden called gay rights "the civil rights issue of our day."
"To achieve lasting global change, we need everyone's shoulder at the wheel," she said. "With more voices to enrich and amplify the message — the message that gay rights are straight-up human rights — we can open more minds."
Rice cautioned that the effort is difficult because laws limiting gay rights in some countries enjoy strong popular support. But she said cultural differences do not excuse human rights violations.
"Governments are responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and it is incumbent upon the state, and on each of us, to foster tolerance and to reverse the tide of discrimination," Rice said.
Last week, the U.S. imposed visa bans on Ugandan officials who are involved in corruption and are violating the rights of gay people and others. Uganda passed a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties for gay sex and made life sentences possible for those convicted of breaking the law.
During his trip to Africa last year, Obama, while in Senegal, urged African leaders to extend equal rights to gays and lesbians. Senegal's president, however, pushed back, saying his country "still isn't ready" to decriminalize homosexuality. Seven countries have laws imposing death sentences for gay sex and Brunei is on track to becoming the eighth one.
Tuesday's forum was the latest administrative attempt by Obama to promote gay and lesbian rights both in the United States and abroad. Obama successfully pushed to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military and his administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act years before the Supreme Court took it up.
Earlier this month, Obama announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, it also granted new benefits to same-sex couples, including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law.
By JIM KUHNHENN Associated Press

May 19, 2014

A long time coming but it’s worth it, gay rights in Gooding

                                         Duck Pond Farm A writers cottage between two ponds... Pennsylvania ...

I grew up in Gooding, Idaho, a farming town of a couple thousand people that was, in many ways, a friendly place. But it was not then a particularly friendly place to grow up gay, and it has been interesting to see – as we balding and softening children of the ’80s age – the way that the gays and lesbians among us have emerged and found their voices, even as the culture matures.
It’s safe to say that few of us – straight, gay, open-minded or bigoted – expected Idaho to be at the center of the constitutional issue over marriage for same-sex couples. It feels momentous. Monumental. For if there is any sign that this ludicrous wall is truly crumbling, it’s not the arrival of gay marriage in the blue states. It is how the constitutional questions fare where the opposition is great.
“I’ve joked from the beginning that it’s going to be a race for last place between Idaho and Missouri,” said Rick Schneider, a friend from Gooding who now lives in St. Louis. “I thought that Idaho would be the last state to be that forward-thinking.”
Schneider and I attended high school together in the early 1980s. He says he has always known he was gay – joking that his mom has photos of him at age 4 staging a tea party with his stuffed animals – but he lived in fear of that knowledge for much of his youth, and he was by no means out. He said he remembered that when he moved to Gooding in the eighth grade, on one of his first days in class a girl turned and taunted him for being gay.
From then on, “It never stopped. It was relentless. … I did my best to be as invisible as I possibly could.”
I was a year older than Rick, and though I remember him, and though we’ve reconnected on Facebook, I don’t have any specific memories about his experiences along these lines. But I very much remember the assumptions and insults that flowed toward any kid who “seemed” gay, the kinds of taunting that I, like most everyone, either tolerated or participated in. It’s hard for me to imagine what it must have been like to grow up with that extra self-consciousness – given how fraught with self-consciousness those years are for anyone.
He recalls being teased everywhere in town, even when he was with his mother. He felt horrible about that on his mother’s behalf – having to be the mother of “the town queer.” And he tried his hardest to be something other than he was. He remembers insisting to a friend that he wanted nothing so much as to marry a busty, lusty blonde.
“I was trying to fit that mold,” he said.
The wonderful thing about Rick and Gooding is that the story did not end there. It grew. It got better.
Rick did go on to marry a blond woman, and they had a daughter. Eventually, they divorced and he met his current fiancé – Bobby, who he’s been with for 18 years. They are raising Rick’s grandson. He and Bobby plan to marry this summer in Illinois, with both of their mothers present.
In 2005, they returned to Gooding for their 20th class reunion. Rick was full of trepidation.
He remembers the two of them checking in to a small hotel in town, and the clerk telling him there had been a mistake: there was only one queen bed. He told her that was OK.
“She was like, ‘Oh.’ ” Pause. “ ‘ Oooohhhhh.’ ”
He dressed for the first night party – at a dim, pool-tables-and-jukebox bar – the way he would have dressed to go out on the town in St. Louis, including painting his toenails, he said.
He almost didn’t go through with it. “I thought, this is not a place to be this gay,” he said.
But what happened when he saw his classmates surprised him. One of the first people he saw was the girl who had, back in eighth grade, taunted him when he was the new kid.
“ ‘Rick,’ ” she told him, “ ‘I am so sorry.’ … She said her best friend through life has been a gay guy.”
Rick said his classmates were friendly and supportive. Some of the football players and popular kids who he’d feared made a point to say hi and showed an understanding that they’d been cruel to him. Many people had simply lived long enough to come to know and love a gay person in their own lives or, in some cases, to come out themselves. What happened to him in high school, Rick says, was as much about people being young and ignorant as it was about them being hateful. The weekend that had filled him with nervousness turned out to be a warm, positive homecoming. And he and the girl from eighth grade have gone on to form a long-distance friendship.
“I had a great time,” he said. “I had a great time. It was ridiculous.”
Rick thinks that many opponents of gay marriage – as well as supporters – are locked into separate spheres and not communicating. He tries to emphasize that gay marriage is not about the religious covenant, but rather about the legal status of gay couples in terms of the benefits that are afforded straight marriages, from inheritance issues to benefits costs at work.
The flourishing of support for gay marriage has come with such recent speed that it’s easy to forget how long a wait it has been for someone like Rick.
“I never believed it would happen in my life,” he said. “I thought it’s going to be something maybe my daughter will see, but not me.”
Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13

April 18, 2014

India Has Gone Back in Time: US Watches with Concern

It should be clear to all, that the government of the United States is changed it’s human and civil rights policy for the LGBT Community. The president in a permanent way had said so and his cabinet, with the foreign service have been apprised of these changes that have been in place for three years now. The Supreme court of the land in all it’s ruling to date has supported the civil rights of all Americans including LGTB and the UN in it’s slow mechanism has for many years included those rights as human and civil rights. Having pointed to all those facts there is a country which many times has been referred as the largest Democracy in the world (true or not) which has reverse it self and it’s Supreme Court decision manned by old pre colonists from the times of the British empires have decided to go back in time make the laws as they were back then. 
"Despite progress in equal rights for LGBT persons around the world, our work is far from finished," Richard E Hoagland, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, said on Wednesday in his address to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Hoagland said with about 80 countries worldwide criminalising homosexuality, LGBT persons around the world remain vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, harassment, discrimination and violence.
Monitoring gay rights situation in India: US

Monitoring gay rights situation in India: US

Even today, five countries still define homosexuality as a crime punishable by death, he noted. The US closely follow the situation in Uganda, where the newly enacted "anti-homosexuality act" not only provides for life imprisonment for homosexuality, but places significant restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly for all Ugandans.
"We track the state of affairs in Russia, where the new, so-called anti-gay propaganda law criminalise free expression with respect to what it terms as 'non-traditional' sexual relations. We monitor the situation in India, where the Supreme Court overturned a landmark ruling that found the ban on consensual homosexual activity unconstitutional," he said.
And yet, there are countries that serve as beacons for the rest: countries like Argentina, which pave the way for other countries in South America to follow its lead with progressive LGBT legislation, he said. In South Asia, Nepal's High Court overturned a previous ban on homosexuality in 2007 and has extended legal recognition to third-gender citizens, he added.
“In Pakistan, the Supreme Court recognised a third gender for its hijira community in 2009 and extended third-gender voter IDs to the population; just a few days ago, the Supreme Court in India did the same thing," the State Department official said.
Adam Gonzalez, adamfoxie blog

April 12, 2014

Gay Rights are Causing Fireworks at UN


Many countries at this week's U.N. population conference are objecting to the idea of enshrining the right of women to make their own sexual decisions, fearing it would tacitly condone same-sex relationships, the U.N. population chief said.
Gay rights emerged as an incendiary issue at the meeting of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development, where country delegates are reviewing progress made since the adoption of a breakthrough action plan at the 1994 U.N. population conference in Cairo, Babatunde Osotimehin, head of the U.N. Population Fund, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
At the Cairo conference, 179 countries recognized for the first time that women have the right to control their reproductive and sexual health and to choose whether to become pregnant. While the conference broke a taboo on discussing sexuality, it stopped short of recognizing that women have the right to control decisions about when they have sex and when they get married.
Many states are trying to include such language in the final document of this week's population conference, which ends Friday. But Osotimehin said socially conservative countries are resisting the idea, arguing it would implicitly give people the right to enter in same-sex relationships.
Osotimehin is arguing such an interpretation is wrong. He said establishing the right of women to control their sexuality is crucial to fighting practices such as child marriage.
"It's about the conservatives saying that there is language there that is nuanced," he said. "We're saying there is no language nuanced. If we want to talk about it, we'll talk about it, but why do you think that every time we're talking about rights we're talking about LGBT rights?"
The resistance comes even though sexual rights for women — not just reproductive rights — was approved at another major world gathering back in 1995, the U.N. women's conference in Beijing. The platform adopted in Beijing will be reviewed on the 20th anniversary of that conference next year.
At both the Cairo and Beijing conferences, the Vatican and many predominantly Catholic and Muslim countries blocked any mention of lesbian and gay rights in the final documents.
Osotimehin said many of those same countries are now objecting to language protecting the sexual rights of women.
There is "a pushback" from delegates because "they conflate it with the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity," he said.
The debate comes at a turning point for gay rights in many countries.
In the United States, the push for gay marriage has swiftly gained momentum in recent years, with 17 states and the District of Columbia legalizing it and judges striking down voter-approved bans in conservative states. With opinion polls showing a majority of Americans approve allowing same-sex couples to marry, activists on both sides of the issue say pressure is building on the Supreme Court to take it up and decide whether to legalize gay marriage nationwide.
Other countries have intensified a crackdown on gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people. Uganda recently passed a new law that allows up to life imprisonment for those convicted of engaging in gay sex. Nigeria also strengthened its anti-gay laws this year, making it illegal for gay people even to hold meetings and criminalizing people working in HIV-AIDS programs for gays.
Two new laws in Russia — one seeking to prevent gays and lesbians from adopting children and other banning so-called gay "propaganda" accessible by minors — also sparked worldwide debate, especially during the Winter Olympic games in Sochi.
The United States, Russia and Uganda are among the 47 members of the U.N. Commission on Population and Development. However, many more countries participated in this week's conference.
Osotimehin said the issue of gay rights also came up in discussions of families.
A report prepared for the meeting discusses "new family formations," including the growing number of single parents, and calls for new thinking around parenting. That has stirred heated debates about addressing gay rights in the definition of families, he said.
"It's still creating the fireworks it created 20 years ago," he said. “In fact, all of the fight that is going on in that room is about LGBT, nothing more, nothing less."
By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press

April 8, 2014

US Supreme Refuses to Consider Cases on Free Speech Vs. Gay Rights


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider whether a New Mexico photography company had free speech grounds to refuse to shoot the commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.
The court's refusal to intervene means an August 2013 New Mexico Supreme Court decision against the company remains intact. Albuquerque-based Elane Photography had said its free speech rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should be a valid defense to the state's finding that it violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act. The law, similar to laws in 20 other U.S. states, bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The company's owners, Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin, are Christians who oppose gay marriage. Because taking photographs can be seen as a form of speech, the First Amendment protects them from being required to "express messages that conflict with their religious beliefs," their attorneys said in court papers. Elane Photography has previously declined requests to take nude maternity pictures and images depicting violence, its lawyers said.
The dispute arose in 2006 when Vanessa Willock asked the company if it would photograph the commitment ceremony between her and her partner, Misti Collinsworth. When Elane Photography declined, Willock filed a successful complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.
Willock and her partner had their commitment ceremony in 2007, using a different photographer.
Elane Photography appealed the commission's decision, raising objections under both the First Amendment and a state law protecting religious freedom. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled for the state in an August 2013 decision. The company's Supreme Court appeal was limited to the First Amendment question.
Attitudes toward gay relationships have changed rapidly in the United States in recent years. New Mexico is one of the 17 states where gay marriage is now legal.
Recent court and legislative decisions making gay marriage legal have gained momentum since the Supreme Court's rulings in two cases last summer, one striking down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and another allowing gay marriage in California to proceed.
In February, Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, vetoed a bill viewed by critics as a license to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the name of religion. The law, heavily criticized by the business community, would have allowed business owners to claim their religious beliefs as legal justification for refusing to serve same-sex couples or any other prospective customer.
The case before the Supreme Court is Elane Photography v. Willock, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-585.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)

April 4, 2014

Supreme Court in India to Consider Plea Against Criminalizing Homosexuality

India's Supreme Court will reconsider the ban on homosexuality they enforced last year.
Photo by Kabi.

The Supreme Court today agreed to consider the plea for an open court hearing on curative petitions filed by gay rights activists against its verdict criminalizing homosexuality.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, before whom the matter was mentioned by senior lawyers appearing for different parties, said that it will go through the documents and consider their plea.

Curative petition is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court and it is normally considered by judges in-chamber without granting opportunity to parties to argue the case.

The petitioners, including NGO Naz Foundation which has been spearheading the legal battle on behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, contended that there was an error in the judgement delivered on December 11 last year as it was based on old law.

"The judgement was reserved on March 27, 2012 but the verdict was delivered after around 21 months and during this period lots of changes took place including amendment in laws which were not considered by the bench which delivered the judgement," senior advocate Ashok Desai told the bench.

Other senior advocates Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi, Anand Grover and other lawyers also supported Desai and pleaded for an open court hearing.

They submitted that the case should have been heard by the Constitution bench instead of two-judge bench which heard and delivered the verdict on the controversial issue.

The apex court had earlier dismissed a batch of review petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists including noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal against its December 2013 verdict declaring gay sex an offence punishable upto life imprisonment. 

The court had said it did not see any reason to interfere with the December 11, 2013 verdict and had also rejected the plea for oral hearing on the review petitions which are normally decided by judges in chamber without giving an opportunity to parties to present their views.

The Supreme Court had on December 11, 2013 set aside the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex and thrown the ball in Parliament's court for amending the law.

The judgement revived the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with life imprisonment in a setback to people fighting a battle for recognition of their sexual preferences.

While setting aside the July 2, 2009 judgement of the Delhi High Court, the apex court had held that Section 377 (unnatural sexual offences) of the IPC does not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality and that the declaration made by the high court is legally unsustainable.

Amid huge outrage against the judgement, the Centre had also filed a review petition in the apex court seeking a relook to "avoid grave miscarriage of justice to thousands of LGBT" persons who have been aggrieved by the apex court judgement contending it is "unsustainable" as it "suffers from errors".

The gay rights activists and organisations had said thousands from the LGBT community became open about their sexual identity during the past four years after the high court decriminalised gay sex and they are now facing the threat of being prosecuted.

They had submitted that criminalizing gay sex amounts to violation of fundamental rights of the LGBT community.

March 29, 2014

Pres.Clinton First President to Publicly Ask for Gay Rights


Getting a line tucked into a presidential speech is no small feat. Speeches are vetted by policy and political aides, cabinet members, outside groups and, of course, the president himself, all of whom have strong ideas about how the text should read.
In 1996, then White House aide Richard Socarides wanted President Bill Clinton to include a line his Democratic convention address making clear that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was unacceptable. 
Mr. Socarides wrote an internal memo tallying the number of “openly gay and lesbian people who will have official roles at the convention” (180 by his count) and urging that the words “gays and lesbian” appear “somewhere in the speech.”
“Four years ago in New York City, the president included similar language in his remarks,” Mr. Socarides wrote. “Not to do so four years later would be widely noticed and would create real anger and disappointment among gays and lesbians attending the convention.”
The memo was released Friday by the Clinton Presidential Library, along with 2,500 pages of material that had been previously withheld for legal reasons that no longer apply.
In an interview Friday, Mr. Socarides said he had most likely seen an early draft of the speech and discovered that it did not include a reference to gays, prompting him to write the memo.
When Mr. Clinton gave his speech accepting the nomination, he indeed made reference to gays.
“So look around here, look around here: Old or young, healthy as a horse or a person with a disability that hasn’t kept you down, man or woman, Native American, native born, immigrant, straight or gay, whatever, the test ought to be I believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence,” Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. Socarides recalls being thrilled Mr. Clinton spoke the word.
“When President Clinton was president, just saying the word ‘gay’ was seen as a transformational moment,” Mr. Socarides said in an interview Friday.
Much has changed since that era. As president, Mr. Clinton signed the law defining marriage as the joining of man and woman. He would later repudiate the Defense of Marriage Act.
In 2012, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to publicly come out in favor of same sex marriage.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Mr. Obama said in his second inaugural address in 2013.
So, how did Mr. Socarides tally the numbers of openly gay folks attending the Democratic convention in 1996?
With a chuckle, he conceded he might have padded the numbers.
”I suspect that I probably stretched these numbers a little bit to make a point,” he said. “I stretched them just a tad.”

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