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Supporters mark global day against homophobia, transphobia

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Hong Kong, gay news, Washington Blade

A poster promoting the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia in Hong Kong (Photo courtesy of Bess Hepworth/Pink Season HK)

LGBT rights advocates in more than 120 countries will commemorate this year’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) with a series of vigils, conferences and other events.

Geena Rocero, a transgender Filipino fashion model who founded Gender Proud, a trans advocacy group, is among those who are scheduled to take part in an IDAHOT event outside of Manila, the country’s capital, that the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines has organized. Rocero on Thursday also participated in a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong that local LGBT rights advocates organized.

The Rainbow Pride Foundation, a Fijian LGBT advocacy group, on May 10 held its own candlelight vigil at a church in Suva, the Pacific island nation’s capital. Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education on the same day held a “conga against homophobia” in the Cuban capital as part of a series of events throughout the country that will commemorate IDAHOT.

The Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays on Friday will hold a symposium at a hotel in the Jamaican capital that will examine challenges that LGBT people in the Caribbean country continue to face. María Eugenia González, co-founder of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, is scheduled to attend an anti-bullying conference in the Peruvian city of Iquitos on May 21.

So-called rainbow flash mobs are scheduled to take place in at least 11 Russian cities on May 17. An estimated 100 people are expected to gather in Khabarovsk to release rainbow colored balloons in an IDAHOT demonstration that city officials have allowed to take place.

Svetlana Zakharova of the Russian LGBT Network told the Washington Blade earlier this week that her colleagues are “willing to defend their rights” in spite of the Kremlin’s ongoing crackdown on LGBT rights. These include a 2013 law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors.

“Whatever the difficulties, many LGBT (people) and their supporters in Russia are looking forward to participating in the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia,” said Zakharova.

Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays Executive Director Dane Lewis had a similar view, noting anti-LGBT violence and discrimination remain pervasive in the country.

“We need to begin to have discussions about the layers of stigma and discrimination experienced by LGBT Jamaicans and the challenges faced by those who identify as Christians,” he said.

Kate Montecarlo Cordova, chair of the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines, noted to the Blade that LGBT Filipinos lack legal protections and access to health care. She said hate crimes and speech, anti-trans harassment and bullying in the predominantly Muslim portion of the country that includes the island of Mindanao often go unreported.

“We, from the transgender community, feel that the IDAHOT celebration is important in our advocacy and in our lives,” said Cordova.

The Mexican government this year is officially organizing IDAHOT for the first time.

Enrique Torre Molina, an LGBT rights advocate and blogger in Mexico City, told the Blade earlier this week that he is hopeful that President Enrique Peña Nieto will speak at an IDAHOT event.

The British Council Mexico on Friday hosted an event that government officials, local LGBT activists and journalists attended.

“The conversation will go beyond the government’s official position and public policy on the subject of homophobia,” said Molina. “Fighting homophobia and promoting respect is, at the end, a task that concerns us all.”

The Finnish government on Thursday announced it will increase its contribution to the Global Equality Fund, a public-private partnership founded by C-SPAN co-founder John Evans that seeks to promote LGBT rights, by one million Euros. A State Department press release noted that Helsinki will continue to work with the governments of Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, the Arcus Foundation and other groups to “build on our shared commitment and partnership to advance freedom, equality and dignity for all.”

“Today of all days, we are reminded that the cause of justice can and must triumph over hatred and prejudice,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “This is a day of action for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities and their allies all over the world. It is time to reaffirm our commitment to the equality and dignity of all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Gays, trans people gain rights in 2013

IDAHOT first took place on May 17, 2005, to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of significant progress in the LGBT rights movement in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and other regions of the world.

Ten U.S. states, Brazil, Uruguay, France, England, Wales and New Zealand have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples over the last year. The U.S. Supreme Court last June struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Dutch Senate last December approved a bill that would allow trans people to legally change the gender on their birth certificates and other official documents without undergoing sterilization and sex reassignment surgery. A similar measure advanced in the Chilean Senate earlier this year.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday signed a bill that bans anti-discrimination in his state. A similar measure took effect in neighboring Delaware last year.

The Indian Supreme Court last month issued a landmark ruling that recognizes trans people as a “third gender.”

Jamaican and Belizean judges last year heard lawsuits challenging their country’s laws that criminalize homosexuality. A Lebanese judge in March struck down the Middle Eastern nation’s anti-sodomy statute in the case of a trans woman who faced charges for allegedly having a relationship with a man.

Gay Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was sworn into office last December. Angélica Lozano, a former Council woman in the Colombian capital, in March became the first openly LGBT person elected to the South American country’s Congress.

LGBT rights crackdowns continue in Africa, Russia

In spite of this progress, anti-LGBT violence and discrimination remain pervasive in many parts of the world.

The U.S. and several European countries cut aid to Uganda after the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, in February signed into a law a bill that imposes a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in January signed a draconian anti-gay bill that, among other things, bans membership in an LGBT advocacy group and punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison.

The 2014 Winter Olympics took place in Sochi, Russia, in February against the backdrop of criticism over the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record.

Police arrested 10 activists who held rainbow and Russian flags as they sung the country’s national anthem near Moscow’s Red Square just before the games’ opening ceremony began. Authorities earlier in the day arrested four Russian LGBT rights advocates in St. Petersburg as they marched with a banner in support of adding sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s anti-discrimination clause.

The Indian Supreme Court late last year recriminalized homosexuality — it announced in April it will consider a motion to reconsider the controversial decision. A new Brunei legal code that punishes those convicted of homosexuality by stoning them to death has sparked global outrage that includes calls to boycott hotels the Bruneian government owns.

A report the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission released earlier this week found discrimination and violence against lesbians, bisexual women and trans people in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Philippines and Japan remains pervasive. Grupo Gay da Bahia, a Brazilian LGBT advocacy group, noted more than a quarter of the 338 reported LGBT homicide victims in Brazil in 2012 were trans.

Carlos Vela of the Homosexual Community of Hope in the Loreto Region (of Perú) told the Blade that one LGBT person a week is murdered in the South American country. This violence continues to take place, even as Peruvian lawmakers debate a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

“It is the most extreme expression of systematic violence,” said Vela, referring to the murders of LGBT Peruvians.

Jasmine Kaur of Oceania Pride, which took part in the May 10 candlelight vigil in the Fijian capital, noted homophobia, anti-LGBT hate crimes and violence is “quite strong for the LGBTIQ community” in the South Pacific country. She said the Fijian constitution includes a non-discrimination clause, but it is “flawed.”

“The bill of rights has many limitations,” said Kaur. “It is not one that can guarantee its citizens protections.”

The Human Rights Campaign on Thursday released a report that documents advances and setbacks in the global LGBT rights movement over the last year.

“Despite entrenched homophobia and transphobia in many nations around the world, the global fight for LGBT equality made historic gains in 2013,” said HRC Director of Global Engagement Ty Cobb. “At the same time, last year included horrific new anti-LGBT laws as well as alarming trends in anti-LGBT harassment and violence. These serve as important reminders of the many challenges ahead and the tremendous amount of work left to be done.”

Henness Wong, a Hong Kong activist who helped plan IDAHOT events in the former British colony, said the climate for the city’s LGBT residents is slowly beginning to improve in spite of lingering institutional and cultural homophobia and transphobia.

“Hong Kong is definitely safer than Brunei who will stone gays,” said Wong.


Organization of American States adopts pro-LGBT resolution

Caludia Zea, Elizabeth Castillo, Gachetá, Colombia, gay news, Washington Blade

The Organization of American States on Thursday approved a pro-LGBT resolution during its annual meeting that took place in the Paraguayan capital. (Photo by Paola Zuluaga)

Nearly three dozen countries on Thursday backed a resolution in support of LGBT rights during the Organization of American States’ annual meeting that took place in the Paraguayan capital.

Brazil introduced the resolution — “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” — that specifically condemns “all forms of discrimination against people motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” It urges OAS countries to “eliminate, where they exist, barriers that prevent lesbians, gays and bisexuals, transgender and intersex people” from taking part in “public life” and the political process.

The resolution further calls upon member states to condemn homophobic and transphobic violence, and urges them to “strengthen national institutions with the goal of preventing them, investigating them, so that victims receive equal access to judicial protection and that those responsible face justice.” It also urges OAS countries to collect data to more accurately report rates of anti-LGBT violence.

The resolution specifically urges member states to adopt laws and other policies to ensure intersex people receive appropriate medical treatment.

Colombia is among the countries that co-sponsored the resolution that dozens of LGBT advocacy groups throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America endorsed.

“This position from the OAS is necessary because the levels of discrimination and violence in the region are alarming,” said Mauricio Albarracín Caballero, executive director of Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group.

Rosanna Marzan, a Dominican LGBT rights advocate, agreed.

“It is an extremely important victory for the entire LGBT movement in the Americas,” she told the Washington Blade.

Paraguay alongside 10 other countries signed the resolution “with reservations.”

“It was adopted by consensus, and reflects yet another step forward in the international human rights community to acknowledge that all persons are worthy of equal dignity and treatment by their governments,” said Hunter T. Carter, an American lawyer who currently represents three Chilean same-sex couples who have filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights seeking marriage rights in the South American country. “This will help in our cause for marriage equality in Latin America. It also helps move Latin America towards the end to all other forms of state action that leads to the marginalization of the LGBT community and to violence that derives from state-sponsored denigration.”

LGBT rights gain traction in the Americas

The OAS resolution comes against the backdrop of the expansion of LGBT rights throughout the region.

Same-sex couples are able to marry in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, Mexico City, 21 states and D.C., Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and the Dutch island of Saba.

The Mexican Supreme Court earlier this week ruled in favor of a same-sex couple who sought the right to marry in the state of Colima. The same tribunal last month ruled in favor of 39 people who challenged the constitutionality of a Oaxacan law that bans nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Mexican Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who separately sought legal recourse — known as an “amparo” in the country’s legal system — that would allow them to marry in the state. Same-sex couples have also sought marriage rights in Jalisco, Chihuahua, Quintana Roo and other Mexican states.

A handful of same-sex couples Colombia have exchanged vows since last June in spite of efforts to challenge them amid the ongoing debate over the Colombian Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling that said legislators within two years had to extend to gays and lesbians the same rights that heterosexuals receive through marriage. Lawmakers in Perú and Chile continue to debate bills that would allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Argentina and Uruguay allow transgender people to legally change their name and gender without sex reassignment surgery. Maryland is among the 18 states alongside D.C. and Puerto Rico that have added gender identity and expression to their anti-discrimination laws.

LGBTs gain political visibility

Peruvian Congressman Carlos Bruce, who introduced a civil unions bill, last month came out as gay. Former Bogotá City Councilwoman Angélica Lozano in March became the first out person elected to the Colombian Congress.

Two trans Chileans — Alejandra González and Zuliana Araya — in 2012 won municipal elections in the coastal city of Valparaíso and Lampa, which is outside Santiago, the country’s capital. Jaime Parada Hoyl, a prominent Chilean LGBT rights advocate, the same year won a seat on the municipal council in Providencia, a wealthy Santiago enclave.

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro García Padilla on June 4 nominated a prominent lesbian lawyer to the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster has been in his post since late last year.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos last month publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples — and the country’s vice president, Angelino Garzón, on May 29 discussed his country’s LGBT rights record during a meeting at the U.N. in New York. Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro, has also indicated she supports nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Michelle Bachelet, Chile, Socialist Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (Photo by Ricardo Stuckert of Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet last year backed same-sex marriage and a trans rights bill during her presidential campaign.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said shortly before her December 2011 election that her government would review the country’s anti-sodomy law and allow a so-called conscience vote that would allow parliamentarians to consult with their constituents on the issue.

Belizean first lady Kim Simplis-Barrow has publicly spoken out against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in her Central American country in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

Anti-LGBT discrimination, violence remain pervasive

Anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain pervasive throughout the Americas in spite of progress in efforts to extend marriage and other rights.

Statistics from the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights indicate trans Brazilians accounted for slightly more than half of the 300 reported LGBT murder victims in the country in 2012. A report from the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays says the organization knows of at least 30 gay men who have been murdered on the island between 1997 and 2004.

Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Dominica and Guyana are among the countries in which homosexuality remains criminalized.

Peruvian police on Friday used tear gas against LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a rally in support of their country’s civil unions bill outside the Peruvian Congress. Paraguayan authorities on June 2 clashed with activists who protested outside the hotel at which the OAS meeting took place.

Simón Cazal of Somosgay, a Paraguayan LGBT advocacy group, told the Blade he welcomes his government’s support of the OAS resolution in spite of its reservations.

“This signifies a very important victory against homophobia and discrimination that showed its ugly face during these days,” he said. “Paraguay is going to change and advance towards a horizon of clear equality, in that no person will be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The OAS last year adopted an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination resolution during its annual meeting that took place in Guatemala.


Anti-homophobia campaigns arrive amid World Cup hoopla

FIFA World Cup, Brazil, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by Marcello Casal Jr. of Agência Brasil; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and around the world have launched a series of campaigns and other initiatives during the World Cup that are designed to combat homophobia in soccer.

GLAAD last week released two videos in English and Spanish that show same-sex couples celebrating the end of a match with members of their families under the banner “The Game We Love Has No Room for Hate.” The campaign also contains the hashtag #StoptheSlurs.

“Yes to winning, no to homophobia,” says GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz in the video.

A YouTube campaign titled #ProudtoPlay features Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins, Michael Sam of the St. Louis Rams, Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy and other openly LGBT athletes and allies including late South African President Nelson Mandela and President Obama.

Gay Brazilian Congressman Jean de Wyllys appears in a Google campaign titled “Play with Pride” or “Jogue Com Orgulho” in Portuguese. The ad in which he appears was posted online on June 4.

“Sport should give us pride and never should come with discrimination or exclusion; regardless of ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation or any other type (of factor,)” says Wyllys.

The LGBT Federation of Argentina last week unveiled its own campaign designed to combat homophobia in soccer. Retired soccer player Sergio Goycochea and Argentine sports reporter Juan Manuel Varela are among those who appear in the “Fair Play” spots that feature clips of fans using homophobic and racist chants to taunt players from opposing teams during games.

“We are launching this campaign that is an attempt to reclaim the best values of sports in general, and in soccer in particular, of inclusion, solidarity and equality,” said LGBT Federation of Argentina President Esteban Paulón.

FIFA rules specifically ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, but homophobia remains pervasive in professional soccer.

A video posted to YouTube shows fans calling Spanish soccer player Diego da Silva Costa a “viado” or “faggot” in Portuguese during the match between Spain and the Netherlands that took place in Salvador on June 13.

GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis noted in a letter to FIFA President Joseph Blatter that T-shirts for sale in Brazil before the World Cup began in São Paulo on June 12 referred to retired Argentinian soccer star Diego Maradona as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish and Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo as “gay.”

“As you can imagine, hearing this type of anti-LGBT language makes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families and friends not only feel insulted, but unsafe,” wrote Ellis in her letter to Blatter. “As the world converges in Brazil, we want to ensure World Cup is a safe and celebratory event for everyone.”

Brazilian groups issue LGBT ‘manifesto’

Advocates also hope to use the World Cup to highlight the anti-LGBT discrimination, violence and persecution that continues to take in place in many of the countries that qualified for the quadrennial event.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran and portions of northern Nigeria. Consensual same-sex sexual acts remain illegal in Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last June signed a law that bans so-called propaganda to minors amid an ongoing crackdown of LGBT rights in his country. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in January signed a draconian bill into law that punishes those who enter into a same-sex marriage with up to 14 years in prison and bans anyone from officiating a gay union, “amorous” same-sex relationships and membership in an LGBT advocacy group.

Walter Tróchez is among the dozens of Honduran LGBT rights advocates who have been murdered since a 2009 coup toppled then-President Manuel Zelaya and forced him into temporary exile.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in Brazil, in spite of rampant anti-LGBT discrimination and violence that disproportionately affects transgender Brazilians of African descent. A report from Grupo Gay da Bahia, a Brazilian advocacy group, documented 313 anti-LGBT murders in the South American country last year.

Grupo Dignidade and nearly 20 other Brazilian advocacy groups in February signed what they described s a “manifesto in respect of LGBT people during the 2014 World Cup” that urges qualifying countries to guarantee the rights of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. It also cites Brazilian government statistics that include 9,982 “homophobic human rights violations” in 2012.

Members of the groups plan to protest outside the matches between Iran and Nigeria and Algeria and Russia that are scheduled to take place in Curitiba on Monday and June 26 respectively.

“We will march together, in a democratic and peaceful manner, through the streets of Curitiba to demonstrate and give voice to our cry for help,” say the groups in their February announcement. “It is essential to make clear that we do not condone acts of violence, rioting or vandalism, nor are we against the football teams or the people of Iran, Nigeria, Algeria or Russia. Our intention is to denounce homophobia in the world and demand measures to curb it.”

Paulón last week reiterated his group’s position that this year’s World Cup is “an extraordinary opportunity” to highlight the “discriminatory situations that habitually occur on the soccer field” in Argentina and other countries.

“You have to leave the (soccer) fields and also reach supporters in the stands to forcefully combat discrimination — not only towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people.”

Russia is slated to host the World Cup in 2018.

The quadrennial sporting event is scheduled to take place in Qatar, which criminalizes homosexuality with up to three years in prison, in 2022.


Gay Mexican couple seeks right to marry

Supreme Court, Mexico, gay news, Washington Blade

The Supreme Court of Mexico (Photo public domain)

A gay Mexican couple seeking the right to legally marry on Monday filed a formal complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in D.C.

The couple, who remain anonymous, say an official in the state where they live denied their request to tie the knot.

The two men have sought legal recourse — known as an “amparo” in the Mexican judicial system — that would allow them to marry. Hunter T. Carter, a New York-based lawyer representing the couple, notes one of the men who is living with HIV does not have access to his partner’s medical benefits — and medications used to treat the virus — because they lack legal recognition.

“Every day that they cannot be legally married, his health and their family are threatened more,” said Carter.

The Mexican Supreme Court last month ruled in favor of 39 people who challenged the constitutionality of a Oaxacan law that bans gay marriage. The same tribunal in 2012 ruled in favor of three same-sex couples who separately sought legal recourse that would allow them to marry in the state.

Gays and lesbians have been able to marry in Mexico City since 2010. Same-sex couples have also sought to exchange vows in Jalisco, Chihuahua, Quintana Roo and other Mexican states as the issue gains additional traction in the country.

The Mexican Supreme Court in January ruled the same-sex spouses of those who receive benefits under the country’s social security system must receive the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.

Former Chilean President Sebastián Piñera argued against the “new definition of marriage” in a brief filed last November with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, filed on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking the ability to tie the knot in the South American country. The New York City Bar Association — of which Carter is a member — last month filed a brief with the Colombian Constitutional Court on behalf of two gay couples who are challenging efforts to nullify their unions.

Same-sex couples are able to legally marry in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and 18 U.S. states and D.C.

“The Americas are in the vanguard of marriage equality: the majority of same-sex couples in the hemisphere live where they can get married, or if married elsewhere can have their marital rights recognized,” said Carter. “But many, as in Chile and Mexico, still cannot because their leaders still practice a pure discrimination that is unsustainable under international human rights law and constitutional principles of the equal protection of the laws.”

“We call upon the Inter-American Commission immediately to hold substantive hearings on these applications and on the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples generally,” he added.


Brazilian panel opens door to same-sex marriage

Brazil, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pride, LGBT, rainbow flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay pride in São Paulo, Brazil (Photo by Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons)

A Brazilian judicial panel on Tuesday ruled registrars in the South American country cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The newspaper O Globo reported members of the National Council of Justice that oversees Brazil’s judicial system ruled 14-1 in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Agence France-Presse said the body “affirmed that the expression of homosexuality and homosexual affection cannot serve as a basis for discriminatory treatment, which has no support in the Constitution.” The news agency said Joaquim Barbosa, the chief justice of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court who heads the National Council of Justice, referred to a 2011 ruling that said gays and lesbians can enter into civil unions.

“I am very happy,” gay Congressman Jean Wyllys wrote on his website. He and Congresswoman Erika Kokay in March introduced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the South American country. “Brazil just jointed the ever growing list of civilized and democratic countries that recognize that LGBT people have the same civil rights as any other citizen.”

Brasilia, the country’s capital, and 11 of Brazil’s 26 states that include Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have already extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Even though the National Council of Justice’s ruling appears to have extended nuptials to gays and lesbians across the country, Wyllys noted that Brazilian lawmakers have yet to approve a nationwide same-sex marriage law.

“The [National Council of Justice]’s decision does not mean that we have won in the National Congress,” he said on his Twitter page. “After this decision, it will be difficult for Congress to not approve [the bill.]”

Same-sex marriage continues to gain traction in Latin America

Gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in neighboring Argentina and 11 other countries, Mexico City and nine U.S. states and D.C.

Uruguay’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1. Lawmakers in New Zealand and France have also passed same-sex marriage bills in recent weeks.

The Colombian Senate last month rejected a bill that would have allowed nuptials for gays and lesbians in the South American country. Gays and lesbians in Colombia can legally register their relationships on June 20 if lawmakers fail to act upon the Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling that ordered them to pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in 2011 proposed a bill that would extend civil unions to same-sex couples in the country.

He has yet to formally introduce it.


Brazilian invasion

Alma Tropicalia, Strathmore, Gay News, Washington Blade

Alma Tropicalia plays the Strathmore next week. (Photo courtesy Strathmore)

Traditional Brazilian music group Alma Tropicalia will perform Wednesday night at 7 p.m. on the Strathmore Music Hall grounds (5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda, Md.).

Elin, the lead singer, has an energetic performance style and sultry sound that she brought to DC Pride last year. The group blends samba, bossa nova, forró and a little rock and roll in their numbers. Singer/keyboardist Bill Dempsey is gay.

The performance is part of Strathmore’s free summer concert series. Those attending are encouraged to bring blankets and low beach chairs, but no pets. For more details, visit


Pope says gays should not be marginalized

Pope Francis I, Catholic Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Roberto Stuckert Filho via Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis on Monday said gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized.

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?” he told reporters in response to a question about gay priests as he returned to Rome after his week-long trip to Brazil for World Youth Day as La Nación, an Argentine newspaper reported.

Francis’ comments come amid renewed calls to welcome gays and lesbians back into the church following Pope Benedict XVI’s abrupt resignation in February.

“You are made in God’s image and likeness,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos during an interview in March. “We want your happiness… and you’re entitled to friendship.”

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic late last month referred to James “Wally” Brewster, an openly gay man whom President Obama nominated to become the next American ambassador to the Caribbean country, as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a press conference.

Francis himself seemed to echo Dolan’s call during his comments to reporters.

“The Catechism of the Catholic church explains this in a very clear way,” the pontiff told reporters. “It says that these people should not be marginalized. They should be integrated into society.”

Majority of Catholics back same-sex marriage; hierarchy remains opposed

A Quinnipiac University poll in March found that 54 percent of Catholics support marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is among the Catholic state executives who have signed same-sex marriage measures into law.

Catholic hierarchy continues to oppose the issue in spite of this increased support.

“Marriage exists obviously we believe by the will of God because the sexual orientation between men and women tends to create babies,” Father Leonard Klein of the Diocese of Wilmington (Del.) said before Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a bill into law that extended marriage to same-sex couples in the state.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence (R.I.) in May also spoke out against the issue in a letter to Rhode Island Catholics before Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed his state’s same-sex marriage bill into law.

“Like many others, I am profoundly disappointed that Rhode Island has approved legislation that seeks to legitimize ‘same-sex marriage,’” Tobin wrote.

Francis, who was among the most prominent opponents of efforts to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in his native Argentina, also spoke out against what he described as the “gay lobby” within the Vatican. These comments came in response to questions over the reported homosexuality of Monsignor Battista Ricca, whom the pontiff last month appointed to oversee the Vatican bank, that began to emerge last week in the Italian press.

“When one encounters a person like this, one have to distinguish between the act of being gay and lobbying, because no lobby is good,” Francis said. “The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying.”

The Archdiocese of Washington did not have an immediate comment on Francis’ statements.

“He’s articulating well in a beautifully tender way the traditional teaching of the church,” Dolan said during an interview on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday. “While certain acts may be wrong, we will always love and respect the person and treat the person with dignity.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an LGBT Catholic organization, told the Washington Blade she welcomes what she described as a “change of tone from the very harsh and damaging rhetoric” of Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

“We hope it translates into similar expressions of openness among bishops and cardinals here in the U.S. and in other countries,” Duddy-Burke said. “The best news would be if the Pope indicates a willingness to begin a dialogue with LGBT Catholics and our families about our experience in the Church and in our societies. He’s shown humility in walking with other marginalized groups. We’d hope it would extend to us, as well.”

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin struck a similar tone.

“While Pope Francis’s words do not reflect a shift in Church policy, they represent a significant change in tone,” he said. “Like his namesake, Francis’s humility and respect for human dignity are showing through, and the widespread positive response his words have received around the world reveals that Catholics everywhere are thirsty for change.”

Esteban Paulón, president of the LGBT Federation of Argentina, highlighted the pontiff’s opposition to same-sex marriage in Argentina.

“A profound self-criticism on the part of the church hierarchy about the position it has historically taken with regard to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people is essential,” Paulón said in a statement. “Let’s not forget that this same pope that today said don’t judge us the same man who called for ‘a holy war against the devil’s plan’ to block the same-sex marriage law. These types of declarations, coming from the top of the Catholic church hierarchy, only promote hate and discrimination.”


Glenn Greenwald’s partner detained in London

Glenn Greenwald via wikimedia

Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for the Guardian, criticized British officials for detaining his partner in London.

The partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who wrote about classified U.S. surveillance information leaked by intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, was detained in London on Sunday by British authorities under a controversial anti-terrorism law.

The Guardian newspaper, for which Greenwald is a reporter and columnist, disclosed that British law enforcement officials invoked the British Terrorism Act of 2000 to detain David Miranda, 28, at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours.

Miranda and Greenwald live together in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Greenwald, an American citizen, has said he and Miranda, a Brazilian national, set up a household in Rio prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevented Miranda from obtaining U.S. residency as Greenwald’s spouse.

The British-based Guardian reported on Sunday afternoon that airport authorities refused to disclose why they detained Miranda when he arrived on a flight from Berlin, where he was helping an American filmmaker who has been collaborating with Greenwald on a project related to the documents leaked by Snowden.

The Guardian reported that the authorities released Miranda after holding him for nine hours, the maximum time allowed for detaining someone under the anti-terrorism law without placing the person being detained under arrest.

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard, the London police agency, told the Guardian that a “28-year-old man was detained at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000” and was later released but provided no further details. According to the Guardian, the authorities confiscated Miranda’s laptop computer, cell phone, camera, memory sticks, DVDs, and games consoles.

“This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process,” Greenwald said in a posting Sunday on the Guardian website. “To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ,” he said.

“But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists,” Greenwald said in is posting. “Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us to continue to report aggressively.”

The GCHQ is a British intelligence agency.

In June, U.S. federal prosecutors charged Snowden with violating the U.S. Espionage Act and theft of government property for the leaking of classified information in his role as an NSA contractor while employed by the contracting company Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden left the U.S. prior to the Guardian’s publication of the information he leaked. He surfaced first in Hong Kong, where he agreed to news media interviews, before fleeing to Russia, where he has been given temporary political asylum.

U.S. prosecutors working on the Snowden case couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether British authorities consulted them about their detaining and questioning of Miranda.


Report documents anti-trans violence, bias in Brazil

Jean Wyllys, Brazil, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay Brazilian Congressman Jean Wyllys (Photo courtesy of Jean de Wyllys)

A D.C.-based international human rights organization earlier this month released a report that documents violence and discrimination against transgender Brazilians of African descent.

The Global Rights report includes statistics from the Brazilian Secretariat of Human Rights that indicate trans Brazilians accounted for slightly more than half of the 300 reported LGBT murder victims in the country last year. The group noted an estimated 52 percent of them were people of color.

Grupo Gay da Bahia, a Brazilian advocacy group that has tracked anti-LGBT violence in Brazil for nearly two decades, said it saw a 21 percent increase in LGBT murders in the country between 2011 and 2012. The organization reported 128 of the 338 reported LGBT homicide victims in Brazil in 2012 were trans.

Grupo Gay da Bahia further noted 250 LGBT Brazilians have been killed so far this year. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reported 20 trans people were murdered in Brazil in August and September.

The Global Rights report also cites additional statistics that show the homicide rate among Brazilians of African descent rose 5.6 percent between 2002 and 2010, compared to the 24.8 percent decline in these crimes among white Brazilians during the same period.

The Global Rights report also documents pervasive discrimination against trans Brazilians of African descent in law enforcement and employment and in the country’s education and health care systems because of their gender identity and expression and race.

The organization says Brazilian police frequently force trans women of color to strip naked in public and use racial, transphobic and homophobic slurs against them. The Global Rights report also documents cases where authorities transport trans suspects and detainees in the trunks of police cars and other confined spaces.

It also cites a researcher who documents anti-trans discrimination in Brazil that concluded an estimated 90 percent of trans women in the country are functionally illiterate due to discrimination they experienced in the Brazilian education system. A 2012 study from the Latin American School of Social Sciences, which is an inter-governmental initiative that UNESCO founded in the late 1950s, found roughly 51 percent of Brazilians of African descent are functionally illiterate.

“With a reality marked by multiple forms of discrimination, the LGBT community in Brazil has struggled to ensure that the human rights to life and public policies reach these groups,” Naiara Leite of the Odara Black Woman’s Institute in the city of Salvador said during a hearing on violence against trans Brazilians of African descent that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights held in D.C. on Oct. 29. “Over the last few years, the Brazilian LGBT rights movement has been greatly concerned with the excessive increase of murders and violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and most importantly with the increase in violence against trans people.”

Brazil is among the 15 countries in which same-sex couples can legally marry.

Then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1997 created what became known as the Secretariat for Human Rights. Brazil in 2003 became the first country in the world to establish a government ministry specifically charged with promoting racial equality.

Brazilian Congressman Marco Feliciano in March became president of the Commission for Human Rights and Minorities in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress amid controversy over anti-gay and racist statements he posted to his Twitter account. Gay Congressman Jean Wyllys and other commission members resigned in protest of Feliciano’s election and formed a separate human rights caucus that lacks legislative authority.

The Commission for Human Rights and Minorities last week approved a measure that would suspend the National Council of Justice ruling in May that opened the door to same-sex marriage in South America’s largest country. Commissioners also backed a proposal that seeks to hold a national referendum on gay nuptials and rejected a bill that would have extended tax and legal benefits to same-sex couples and their dependents.

“If there is a country in the world that has made efforts in combating racial discrimination it is Brazil,” Carlos Quesada of Global First said during the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing. “In spite of these efforts to promote human rights, the reality in the country is different.”

João Guilherme Maranhão of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations defended his country’s LGBT rights record during the hearing.

He noted Brazil and Uruguay were the first countries to introduce an LGBT rights resolution to the United Nations in 2007.

The Organization of American States during its 2008 general assembly adopted an anti-LGBT violence resolution that Brazil introduced. Maranhão noted to the commission it has subsequently been renewed and expanded.

“The situation of violence faced by transsexuals and transvestites in Brazil is an issue that merits the state’s attention,” he said.

Wyllys, who represents the state of Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian Congress, told the Washington Blade earlier this month that discrimination against trans people of African descent has “a long history in Brazil.”

“The trans population is less educated and the most vulnerable to experience sexual and police violence,” he told the Blade during an interview from Brasilia, the country’s capital.

Wyllys added he feels President Dilma Rousseff has responded “shamefully” to the problem.

The Global Rights report specifically calls upon Rousseff to condemn “all incidents of discrimination, violence and human rights violations” against trans and other LGBT Brazilians of African descent. It also calls upon her government to develop a comprehensive plan to address the aforementioned issues.

The organization also urges Brazilian lawmakers to ban anti-LGBT discrimination and violence.

“We need more political and public discourse to increase understanding,” he said.


Gay advocates outside U.S. welcome Obama’s inaugural address

Barack Obama, Inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

President Obama made history by including gays and lesbians in his 2013 inaugural address in two instances. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBT advocates around the world continue to praise President Obama for including gays and lesbians in his second inaugural address.

Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals or ABGLT in Portuguese, described the specific references to the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and “our gay brothers and sisters” as a “bold stance.”

“May the position you have taken publicly serve as an example for many politicians who are our allies but who remain in the closet when it comes to defending our rights publicly, or those that yield to political pressure from leaders opposed to gay rights and veto affirmative public policies for the LGBT population in exchange for political support,” he said in a press release. “Your gesture has demonstrated the importance of taking a firm and unambiguous position.”

Simón Cazal, chief executive officer of Somosgay, an LGBT advocacy organization in Paraguay, also applauded the president’s speech.

“President Obama’s declarations were received with much happiness in Paraguay because of the positive global impact they have on the LGBT movement,” he told the Washington Blade on Wednesday. “It gives hope to activists in countries where we confront violence and even death for simply being who we are.”

LGBT rights around the world became a cornerstone of the White House’s foreign policy during the president’s first term.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Dec. 2011 declared “gay rights are human rights” during a landmark speech in Geneva that commemorated International Human Rights Day. The White House on the same day released a presidential memo that directed agencies responsible for American foreign policy to promote LGBT rights.

The State Department has also spoken out against anti-LGBT violence in Honduras, Jamaica, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other countries — Ugandan gay rights activist Frank Mugisha is among those Clinton honored at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, the East African country’s capital, in August.

The former First Lady also spoke at the International AIDS Conference that took place last summer in D.C.

“Both achievements and failures in LGBT rights issues of America and other developed countries are often watched closely by emerging, young LGBT communities such as [the] LGBT Centre of Mongolia,” Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel, the group’s executive director, told the Blade in reference to Clinton’s speech in Geneva. “This time we are proud of Mr. Barack Obama who is in sync with the voice for equal rights and justice for all human beings. Mongolia — a small but ambitious nomadic mentality between two big powers — has been attempting to adopt democratic principles, values and ways of thinking into its post-socialistic transitional society and the United States of America is our third ally and definitely a role model of democracy.”

The president’s second inaugural speech also coincided with same-sex marriage debates that are currently underway in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, México and other countries.

New Zealand Parliamentarian Louisa Wall told the Blade she feels media coverage of the speech in her country “is contributing positively to the marriage equality debate” there.

“His words spoke to the heart of national identity based on passed social developments — all of us are created equal — recounting Seneca Falls, the evolution of women’s rights, Selma, [the] evolution of racial equality and Stonewall, the beginning of the evolution of the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s to live open and honest lives,” she said. “Marriage equality will fulfill the values envisaged in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — that all people have the ability to be born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

She added Obama’s LGBT-inclusive inaugural address reaffirm Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s previous comments against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

“[For] President Obama to say ‘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’ enshrines his commitment to full equality and non-discrimination in this his second presidential term,” Wall said. “This leadership is clear and concise — a truth that Obama is completely committed to, that of one law for all and the belief in and realization of full equality, in status, rights and opportunities for all.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, who last October became Chile’s first openly gay candidate elected to office when he won a seat on the Providencia municipal council outside Santiago, the country’s capital, agreed.

“Today’s most important [world] leader is actually saying to the rest of us that governments have an obligation to protect their citizens from discrimination and abuses motivated by sexual orientation,” he told the Blade. “This cannot be overlooked. We expect a lot from Obama’s second term on this matter and hope that this will be able to translate to the rest of the world.”

Jaime Parada Hoyl, Chile, gay news, Washington Blade

Jaime Parada Hoyl on Oct. 28 became Chile’s first openly gay candidate elected to office. (Photo courtesy of Jaime Parada Hoyl)