Connect with us

News

Gay ‘Dreamer’ stuck in Mexico after green card application denied

Published

on

Israel Serrato holds a picture of him and his husband, Marco Villada Garibay. The two men have filed a federal lawsuit after Villada was prevented from returning to the U.S. from Mexico after he traveled to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez to apply for a green card. (Photo courtesy of National Immigration Law Center)

Lawyers representing a gay married “Dreamer” who was denied a green card have filed a federal lawsuit that seeks his return to the U.S.

The lawsuit — which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Tuesday — notes Marco Villada Garibay came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 6 years old. The lawsuit states Villada graduated from Morningside High School in Inglewood, Calif., and later enrolled at El Camino Community College and Harbor College in Los Angeles.

“Mr. Villada Garibay has spent virtually his entire life in the United States,” reads the lawsuit.

Villada in 2013 became a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits. Villada in 2014 married Israel Serrato after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act and dismissed an appeal of a ruling against California’s Proposition 8.

The lawsuit states the couple subsequently filed “the necessary petition and obtained a provisional waiver” from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service that would allow Villada to obtain his green card “by virtue of his marriage to a U.S. citizen.” The couple on Jan. 14 traveled to Mexico in order “to take the next step in (Villada)’s process to obtain U.S. residency,” which was his appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez.

Villada had been able to legally work in the U.S. and was protected from deportation under DACA until 2019, but the lawsuit notes his “status was automatically terminated” once he left the country.

The lawsuit notes Villada traveled to Mexico “only because” the USCIS approved the provisional waiver that allowed him to apply for a green card through the State Department in his country of origin and promptly return to the U.S. with Serrato.

The consulate on Jan. 17 denied Villada’s application and banned him from returning to the U.S. “because it found that he was permanently inadmissible” on the grounds that he left the U.S. more than a year after he entered the country without documents and returned to the U.S. “without admission after more than one year of unlawful presence.”

The lawsuit notes Villada in 2000 returned to Mexico for “a few weeks” after his grandfather died. Villada, who was 17-years-old at the time, was allowed back into the U.S. after he showed his high school ID card to an immigration officer at the San Ysidro border crossing south of San Diego.

The lawsuit states Villada disclosed during his green card interview that he had traveled to Mexico in 2000. The consulate earlier this month affirmed its decision to deny Villada’s application.

“Mr. Villada Garibay and Mr. Serrato continue to be separated because Mr. Villada Garibay is unable to return to the United States,” reads the lawsuit. “As a result, they are suffering emotionally and financially, and are experiencing great anxiety because Mr. Villada Garibay is unable to return to the United States for at least 10 years. The threat of prolonged separation impairs Mr. Villada Garibay’s and Mr. Serrato’s ability to live together as a married couple, form a family and plan for the future.”

The National Immigration Law Center, an immigration advocacy group that is representing Villada and Serrato in their lawsuit, on Tuesday held a conference call with reporters.

Villada said he and Serrato “did everything by the books.”

“Right now all I can think about is going back home,” said Villada. “I miss my husband, my home, family.”

Villada told the Washington Blade he traveled to Mexico’s Jalisco state from Ciudad Juárez after his husband returned to California. Villada said in response to a question about whether he feels safe as an openly gay man that he is “in constant fear of even going down the street for a soda.”

“I’m still living in fear, even right now,” he told the Blade. “It is not a place that is safe, even in my eyes.”

Serrato told reporters he met Villada before he became a DACA recipient.

“I loved my husband before he had DACA,” said Serrato. “I love my husband as a documented person. I’m going to fight for my husband and I to be together.”

The lawsuit names Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan, the USCIS, USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna, USCIS National Benefits Center Director Robert Cowan and U.S. Consul General for Ciudad Juárez Daria L. Darnell as defendants in their official capacities.

The State Department on Tuesday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

‘Immigrant rights are an LGBTQ issue’

The lawsuit was filed against the backdrop of mounting concern over the Trump administration’s immigration policy.

DACA’s future remains uncertain after President Trump last September announced it would end the program. The Trump administration’s announcement in January that Salvadorans will no longer receive protected immigration status in the U.S. through the Temporary Protected Status program sparked further outrage.

“Our anti-LGBT immigration policy just doesn’t hurt immigrants,” National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié told reporters during the conference call. “It hurts all of us.”

Immigrants rights advocates gather in front of the White House on Jan. 8, 2018, to protest President Trump’s decision to end the Temporary Protected Status program for Salvadorans. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Stacy Tolchin — one of the attorneys who is representing Villada and Serrato — said there were cases of immigrants during the Obama administration who were denied green cards, even though they had received provisional waivers from USCIS that allowed them to leave the U.S. in order to apply for them in their countries of origin. Crissel Rodríguez of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance told reporters that Villada’s case “is an example of how the Trump administration’s policy continues to tear families apart.”

“Immigrant rights are an LGBTQ issue,” added Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.

Advertisement
FUND LGBTQ JOURNALISM
SIGN UP FOR E-BLAST

U.S. Federal Courts

Florida gay man found guilty of threatening a member of Congress

Lawyers for Stanzione noted that he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community”

Published

on

USCG Station Eatons Neck Officer-in-Charge BMCS Erich White, disgraced former U.S. Rep. George Santos, and Capt. Eva J. Van Camp, former Commanding Officer U.S. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound, April 2023. (Photo Credit: USCG Public Affairs)

MIAMI, Fla. – On Feb. 22, following a two-day trial, a federal jury in Ft. Lauderdale convicted a man for calling the office of a Congress member in Washington, D.C. and threatening to kill the member of Congress and another person. 

On Jan. 29, 2023, Frank Stanzione, 53, of Boynton Beach, Florida, made a telephone call from his residence in Boynton Beach to the office of a member of the United States House of Representatives. Stanzione left a voice message for the member that stated the following:

[Victim 1 former Rep. Santos] you fat fucking piece of shit fucker. You better watch your mother fucking back because I’m gonna bash your mother fucking fucker head in with a bat until your brains are splattered across the fucking wall. You lying, disgusting, disgraceful, mother fucking fucker. You mother fucking piece of shit. You’re gonna get fucking murdered you goddamn lying piece of garbage. Watch your back you fat, ugly, piece of shit. You and [Victim 2 Redacted] are dead.

The Congress member’s chief of staff reported the message to the United States Capitol Police (USCP) the next morning. The USCP began investigating the voice message as a threat and determined that it was made from a telephone number assigned to Stanzione. 

On Jan. 31, 2023, USCP special agents went to the address associated with the telephone number and interviewed Stanzione. USCP confirmed that Stanzione had left the voice message for the Congress member. Stanzione found the telephone number on an online search engine. 

In a motion to dismiss, lawyers for Stanzione noted in the interview he told federal agents that “he feels offended by Santos and does not want him in his (gay) community.” He said he left the message to make Santos “feel like a piece of shit.”

The court filing described Stanzione as “a long-standing, active advocate for gay rights.”

In the motion to dismiss, Stanzione claimed his prosecution was “retaliatory and vindictive” and “based upon his exercise of political speech related to gay rights.”

Related

“Others who have allegedly committed similar acts,” his attorneys stated in the motion, “have not been prosecuted.”

U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Chief J. Thomas Manger of USCP announced the guilty verdict. The USCP – Threat Assessment Section investigated the case.

Stanzione will be sentenced in May and faces penalties including up to five years in federal prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

Continue Reading

Oklahoma

LGBTQ+ groups call for removal of Okla. education official

Walters appointed anti-transgender activist Chaya Raichik to serve on the Oklahoma library board “despite her not living in Oklahoma

Published

on

Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters with anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Libs Of TikTok creator Chaya Raichik on Feb. 6. (Raichik/selfie on Waters Okla. State Facebook Page)

WASHINGTON – A coalition of more than 350 advocacy groups issued a letter on Wednesday calling for the removal of Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters along with a federal investigation into the “actions and policies” by the Oklahoma Department of Education that have facilitated a “culture where rampant harassment of 2SLGBTQI+ students has been allowed to go unchecked.”

The letter comes as the death of nonbinary teenager Nex Benedict earlier this month, a day after they were allegedly assaulted in a school restroom and after enduring months of bullying, has drawn national attention to, and scrutiny of, the state’s policies targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ Oklahomans, particularly youth.

An investigation into the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death is ongoing. LGBTQ+ advocates including Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson have called for independent probes by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education.

“Superintendent Ryan Walters is responsible for fostering a culture of violence and hate,” the letter argues. “Just a month ago, he passed an emergency rule to prevent an Oklahoma teen who was fearful of being bullied from changing his gender on school files,” and he also “called for the firing of a principal who performed in drag on weekends, which led to violent threats against the educator.”

Additionally, the letter notes, Walters appointed anti-transgender activist Chaya Raichik, creator of the anti-LGBTQ+ social media account Libs of TikTok, to serve on the Oklahoma library board “despite her not living in Oklahoma and having no credentials for the position.” 

Per a press release from GLAAD, “Signers span Oklahoma-specific civil rights groups, churches and faith denominations, legal groups and unions, and more, to national education and youth advocacy groups, civil rights organizations, women’s rights leaders and equality groups in neighboring states.”

Among the national nonprofit organizations are the American Association of School Librarians, the Center for American Progress, GLAAD, GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), GLSEN, HRC, the Interfaith Alliance, It Gets Better, Lambda Legal, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the Movement Advancement Project, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Education Association, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Women’s Law Center, PFLAG National, the Rainbow Youth Project USA, the Trevor Project and the Transgender Law Center.

The release notes they were joined by public figures who include Kristin Chenoweth, Demi Lovato, Cynthia Nixon, Jonathan Van Ness, Tommy Dorfman, Alok, Peppermint, Emma Roberts, Amy Schneider and K.D. Lang.

Continue Reading

Politics

New Biden campaign hire: First LGBTQ national organizing director

Prior to her role with the DNC, Rustum was national relational organizing director for the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign

Published

on

Photo of Roohi Rustum via LinkedIn

WILMINGTON, Del. — The Biden-Harris reelection campaign announced on Wednesday that Roohi Rustum has been tapped to serve as its national organizing director, becoming the first woman of color and the first LGBTQ person to serve in this role for a general election presidential campaign.

Rustum, who is Bangladeshi-American, was most recently the interim national organizing director for the Democratic National Committee, where she led early organizing efforts for the campaign in Arizona and Wisconsin and also directed “get out the vote” initiatives for key 2023 races like Kentucky’s gubernatorial and Virginia’s state legislative elections, which saw sweeping Democratic victories.

Prior to her role with the DNC, Rustum was national relational organizing director for the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign, and she also worked on the organizing infrastructure for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign.

“This campaign will prioritize face to face voter contact and run a strong, present, brick and mortar operation — while also employing the best lessons from 2020 and 2022 on effective campaigning in online spaces,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Battleground States Director Dan Kanninen. “I can’t think of anyone better to build a field army that can do both than Roohi.”

Along with Rustum’s new role, the campaign announced on Wednesday that Alana Mounce will serve as its political director, and Meredith Horton will be national director for voter protection and access.

“I’m thrilled to have these battle-tested operatives join our team. This is a team with unparalleled expertise, creativity, and grit that will be critical to winning this November,” Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Manager Julie Chavez-Rodriguez said.

Continue Reading

National

APA passes policy supporting gender-affirming care

The American Psychological Association, representing 157,000 members, has issued a resolution calling for an end to trans care bans

Published

on

The American Psychological Association headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Harrison Keely)

By Erin Reed | WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, Feb. 28, the American Psychological Association announced in a historic policy resolution that it opposes gender-affirming care bans for transgender youth.

The association, the largest psychological organization in the world with 157,000 members, declared, “Government bans on gender-affirming care disregard the comprehensive body of psychological and medical research supporting the positive impact of gender-affirming treatments,” and resolves the organization’s support for the necessity of that care for transgender youth and adults. 

The policy, which passed 153-9, is the strongest yet from the organization in support of gender-affirming care and represents a major consensus among leading psychologists on the importance of gender-affirming care for youth and adults.

President Cynthia de las Fuentes, speaking of the new policy resolution, states, “It sends a clear message that state bans on gender-affirming care disregard the comprehensive body of medical and psychological research supporting the positive impact of such treatments in alleviating psychological distress and improving overall well-being for transgender, gender diverse and nonbinary individuals throughout their lives.”

The policy includes several findings and resolutions, such as:

  • Gender affirming medical care is medically necessary – “the APA underscores the necessity for access to comprehensive, gender-affirming healthcare for transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary children, adolescents, and adults”
  • The organization opposes bans on gender affirming care – “the APA opposes state bans on gender-affirming care, which are contrary to the principles of evidence-based healthcare, human rights, and social justice, and which should be reconsidered in favor of policies that prioritize the well-being and autonomy of transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary individuals”
  • Being trans is not “caused” by autism or post-traumatic stress – “legislative efforts to restrict access to care have involved the dissemination of misleading and unfounded narratives (e.g., mischaracterizing gender dysphoria as a manifestation of traumatic stress or neurodivergence, and equating affirming care for transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary youth with child abuse), creating a distorted perception of the psychological and medical support necessary for these youth and creating a hostile environment that adversely affects their mental health and wellbeing.”
  • False information on trans care needs to be combatted – “APA supports efforts to address and rectify the dissemination of false information to ensure the well-being and dignity of transgender, gender-diverse, and nonbinary individuals”
  • Discrimination, non-affirmation, and rejection risks suicide – “gender-based bias and mistreatment (e.g., discrimination, violence, non-affirmation, or rejection in response to gender diversity) pose significant harm, including risk of suicide, to the well-being of children, adolescents, adults, and families.”

Previously, the organization has released several policies supporting the rights of transgender individuals, such as a policy against conversion therapy and a policy opposing discriminatory laws and practices.

However, this policy goes much further than any of those, directly supporting gender-affirming care as medically necessary and opposing misinformation that emerges in legislative hearings targeting care.

Although virtually all major medical organizations in the United States have issued policies affirming the importance of care for transgender individuals, few rebut anti-trans talking points as comprehensively as this recent policy.

The policy emerges amid an international debate on gender-affirming care and seems to directly counter many claims made in hearings targeting such care. For instance, Representative Gary Click in Ohio attributed the increase in transgender individuals coming out in recent years to autism, using those claims to justify passing a ban on care.

Pamela Paul, in her recent New York Times piece criticizing trans care, similarly suggested that neurodivergence and obsessive-compulsive disorder could cause gender dysphoria. The APA policy directly refutes such notions by a significant margin.

The resolution also directly counters the claim that there is no scientific consensus on gender-affirming care. Conversion therapy organizations such as the Gender Exploratory Therapy Association, now renamed Therapy First after its previous name became associated with conversion therapy, have asserted that “there is no genuine medical consensus” on transgender care. Groups opposed to transgender rights, like the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine, which has strong connections to SPLC-designated hate groups and pseudoscience networks, have argued that there is a “lack of clinical consensus” on the appropriateness of gender-affirming care.

However, the resolution’s passage by an overwhelmingly large margin suggests otherwise. The council of representatives, an elected body of leaders representing the consensus of the association’s 157,000 members, can be seen as accurately reflecting the views of psychologists from the world’s largest psychological organization.

Though the policy document may not convince Republican officials to back off on targeting trans care, it will be important in court fights moving forward. Findings of fact from places where gender affirming care bans have been overturned often point to the professional consensus on the importance of care.

Similarly, the document will be an important rebuttal to increasing misinformation around transgender care. Other professional organizations are similarly in the process of releasing updated policies themselves which will bear watching in the coming days.

***************************************************************************

Erin Reed is a transgender woman and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

The preceding post was previously published at Erin in the Morning and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

Published

on

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

The Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder-County Clerk is prepared for Tuesday’s presidential primary election with a brand-new facility to process ballots.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Early Voting Now Open!

119 Vote Centers are now open for you to vote early ahead of the March 5, 2024 Presidential Primary Election. Vote Centers will be open daily from 10 AM to 7 PM to vote in person.

A full list and map of Vote Center locations is available online at LOCATOR.LAVOTE.GOV.
Voters can visit any location to vote or drop off their ballot.

First-time voters who missed the registration deadline can visit any Vote Center, complete a Conditional Voter Registration, and cast a ballot in this election. Voters can also update their registration information, including their party affiliation, to receive their preferred party’s ballot or request a crossover ballot.

The ballot in this election is extensive and includes contests and candidates from the neighborhood and local levels through state offices, measures, and federal representatives. Voters are encouraged to review their ballot carefully and vote early.

Learn more at plan.lavote.gov.

At Your Service

Free Tax Prep LA

Tax season is here! Start preparing to file your taxes with the help of Free Tax Prep LA. The program aims to educate and provide money-saving tax services, supported by various organizations including the Community Investment for Families Department – City of Los Angeles, Consumer & Business Affairs – Los Angeles County, Koreatown Youth and Community Center, and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Eligible participants can access cashback tax credits and stimulus payments, potentially totaling up to $10,000, including Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, CalEITC, and federal stimulus payments.

Visit Free Tax Prep LA for more information.

Out and About

Find Arts and Culture Near You!

As the creative capital of the world, Los Angeles County is home to amazing art and cultural treasures! To help LA County community members get involved in local arts and culture experiences, the LA County Department of Arts and Culture created the Arts and Culture Near You Map. In it, you’ll find amazing arts and culture spots all over the County to explore, and you can also add your own favorites—a theater, museum, dance studio, music venue, or an organization where you engage in the arts.

Photo Finish

Photo: Los Angeles County / Mayra Beltran Vasquez

LA County Library’s Laptop & Hotspot Loan program.


Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

Continue Reading

Ohio

Ohio State University student charged in anti-LGBTQ+ crime

City prosecutors file multiple charges against an individual who vandalized a pride flag & directed homophobic remarks toward residents

Published

on

Screenshot/YouTube WBNS 10TV Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced that city prosecutors have filed multiple misdemeanor criminal charges against an Ohio State University student who was caught on camera urinating on a pride flag and directing homophobic remarks toward residents at a home in Columbus’s Weinland Park neighborhood in February.

Prosecutors filed four misdemeanor charges against 20-year-old Trey Samuel Fetzer in Franklin County Municipal Court Tuesday, including ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.

“Vandalizing property and making homophobic remarks in an attempt to intimidate members of the LGBTQ+ community will not be tolerated in our city,” said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein. “Columbus is diverse and tolerant, and we celebrate our LGBTQ+ community. Hate has no home here, and as long as I’m City Attorney, we will continue to aggressively prosecute hate and bias crimes.”

Related

According to court documents and released home surveillance video, on Feb. 8, the defendant walked up to the front porch of a home in the Weinland Park neighborhood near Ohio
State’s campus and urinated on a pride flag while another man recorded the incident on a cell
phone. The defendant then proceeded to make homophobic remarks and banged on the door of the house before fleeing on foot.

Penalties for the misdemeanor charges filed Tuesday could include hundreds of dollars in fines, possible jail time or probation, among other penalties.

Continue Reading

Politics

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s stepping down

Aides said that McConnell’s decision was unrelated to concerns about his health, which followed two instances last year in which he froze

Published

on

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Photo Credit: Office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell)

WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the longest serving Senate leader in history, announced on Wednesday that he will step down from his position in November but will continue serving the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2027.

Aides said that McConnell’s decision was unrelated to concerns about his health, which followed two instances last year in which he froze when delivering public remarks after suffering a concussion from a fall.

The Senate leader is facing pressure to endorse former President Donald Trump’s run for a second term in the White House, which a GOP colleague told the Guardian is likely to come despite the rift between the men that deepened in 2020 when McConnell refused to co-sign the lie that President Joe Biden’s election was illegitimate.

“I am unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world,” McConnell said in his announcement from the Senate floor, in what appeared to be an acknowledgment of his ideological differences with Republicans who support Trump’s brand of isolationist foreign policy.

Serving in the Senate since 1985, McConnell was first elected as the Republican leader in 2006 and has since won each of the consecutive nine elections, most recently staving off a challenge from U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) last November.

McConnell opposed LGBTQ rights throughout his career

Since the mid-2000s, McConnell has leveraged his power in the Senate to fight against marriage equality, as documented by the GLAAD Accountability Project. He also opposed the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established same-sex marriage as a constitutional right.

McConnell opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and more recently blocked a vote on an amendment that would have stopped Trump’s ban on military service by transgender service members.

Also during Trump’s presidency, McConnell appointed anti-LGBTQ activist Tony Perkins to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

He voted against employment protections for LGBTQ+ federal workers and LGBTQ+ inclusive policies on hate crimes and, in the 1990s, joined the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms’s (R-N.C.) efforts to protect U.S. Department of Agriculture employees who were critical of the agency’s pro-LGBTQ policies and to prohibit the use of federal funds by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for collecting information about teenage sexual behavior.

Continue Reading

European Union

Czech lower house rejects equal marriage bill

Lawmakers agree to “compromise” bill expands same-sex couples’ rights, allows stepchild adoption but senators have vowed to continue fighting

Published

on

A session of the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of the Czech Republic. (Photo Credit: Parliament of the Czech Republic)

By Rob Salerno | PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The lower house of the Czech parliament rejected a bid to allow same-sex marriage in the Central European country Wednesday afternoon, instead passing a compromise bill that expand the rights of same-sex couples in registered partnerships and allow them to adopt each other’s biological stepchildren.

The bill heads to the senate, where some senators have vowed to continue fighting for full equality.

Czechia has allowed same-sex couples to form registered partnerships since 2006, but these accorded limited rights compared to marriage. Notably, same-sex couples were barred from adoption, and were not allowed a widow’s pension or joint property rights.

Lawmakers were debating a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage, as well as a set of proposed amendments that would have instead expanded the rights of couples in registered partnerships. While a parliamentary committee had recommended that lawmakers vote on the proposals from the most expansive to the least expansive, parliament instead reversed that order. In the event, the proposal for full equal marriage didn’t even come for a vote as the compromise amendment was passed first. 

Under the compromise bill passed Wednesday, registered partnerships will be renamed “partnerships,” and same-sex couples will have all the same rights as married couples except with regard to adoption. Joint adoption will not be allowed, and partners will only be allowed to adopt each other’s biological children.

The compromise bill passed with 118 votes in favor, 33 against, and 23 abstentions. A proposal that would have allowed full joint adoption rights received 66 votes in favor to 54 against with 64 abstentions, but failed because it required a majority of lawmakers present, or 93 votes, to pass.  

Czech marriage equality advocacy group Jsme Fér says the result was disappointing.

“It is a sad day for thousands of families with children who have two moms or two dads and hundreds of thousands of LGBT people. It is a sad day for justice and equality in our country,” the group posted on X following the vote.

Same-sex marriage has been a live political issue in Czechia for the past several years. Polls have consistently shown wide support for same-sex marriage in the country, but support among lawmakers has long lagged public opinion.

Civil society had also mobilized to support same-sex marriage, with groups representing university students, artists, business groups, and large corporations joining campaigns urging legislators to support equal marriage. 

Ahead of the vote Wednesday, President Petr Pavel, who campaigned last year on a promise to support same-sex marriage, urged lawmakers to support equality.

“I recognize the principle of freedom and equality of every person from the point of view of law and see no reason to limit rights based on sexual orientation. I believe we are a tolerant society and we will rectify these rights as soon as possible. There is no change in this position of mine,” Pavel wrote in a post on X.

The compromise bill now heads to the senate, which will need to pass it before it can become law. At least one senator has said he will urge his colleagues to insist on full marriage equality.

“A watered-down version of same-sex marriage is heading to the Senate. I am sorry that the majority of MPs were against equal marriage for all. In the Senate, we still have a chance to fix it, I am ready to file a PN. I don’t want to continue the regime of two categories of people,” senator Lukáš Wagenknecht of the Pirate Party wrote on X.

But the bill may face an uphill battle in the Senate, which is slightly more conservative than the lower house. Last month, the senate rejected ratifying the Istanbul Convention on Domestic Violence, a European treaty meant to protect women, over concerns that the convention would expand LGBT rights. In fact, the treaty does not mention LGBT people, but anti-LGBT forces have been mobilizing against it in Eastern Europe. 

As in many countries in Eastern Europe, support for same-sex marriage has become a proxy for support of Western or pro-European Union values. Of the 27 EU countries, 16 allow same-sex marriage, the most recent being Greece and Estonia. A further 5 recognize some form of civil union, while a civil union bill has been proposed by Poland’s new government and another civil union bill is before the Lithuanian parliament.  

The next Czech parliamentary election is not expected until October 2025.

******************************************************************************************

Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

Continue Reading

Africa

Ghanaian MPs approve anti-LGBTQ+ bill

Measure would criminalize advocacy, allyship

Published

on

Ghanaian flag (Public domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

ACCRA, Ghana — Ghanaian lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill that would further criminalize LGBTQ+ people and make advocacy on their behalf illegal.

Advocacy groups and their supporters had urged MPs to oppose the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill that would, among other things, criminalize allyship.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Ghana. Discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is also commonplace in the country as the Washington Blade has previously reported.

“The Human Sexual rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, a private member’s bill passed by parliament, has not yet become a law in Ghana,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in a press release. “If the bill does become a law, it will affect everyone.” 

Human Rights Campaign Vice President of Government Affairs David Stacy also criticized the bill’s passage.

“We are outraged to hear about the Ghanaian Parliament’s passage of the so-called ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Act’ — a cruel bill that violates the fundamental rights of LGBTQI+ people and allies throughout Ghana,” he said. “Every single lawmaker who voted to pass this bill is wrongly using their power to strip away the basic humanity of the people they are supposed to represent.” 

Outright International Senior Director of Law, Policy and Research Neela Ghoshal said the bill “tramples human rights, undermines family values of acceptance and unity, and risks derailing economic development and eroding democratic gains.” 

“Banning the very existence of queer people and their allies is unprecedented,” she said. “The hostility this bill displays toward LGBTQ Ghanaians will put lives and livelihoods at risk.”

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller in a statement also criticized the bill’s passage, saying it would “undermine Ghana’s valuable public health, media and civic spaces and economy.”

The bill now goes to President Nana Akufo-Addo for his signature.

Continue Reading

Congress

Partisan fights imperil efforts to undo harm of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

The Pentagon has endeavored to address the problem, but advocates say the agency has been too slow to act to address the issue

Published

on

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Despite bipartisan agreement over the need to bring justice to U.S. service members who were harmed by discriminatory military policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” competing legislative efforts have divided members of Congress and sparked accusations that both Democrats and Republicans are “playing politics” with the issue.

Following the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, thousands of veterans who were discharged other than honorably over their sexual orientation continue to face barriers finding housing and employment, with many unable to access federal benefits that otherwise would be available to them.

The Pentagon has endeavored to address the problem, but advocates say the agency has been too slow to act while service members, rather than the Department, bear the considerable burden of requesting reviews of their papers – a process so complicated that many have had to seek legal counsel for help navigating the bureaucratic red tape.

Gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus, has long worked to address the challenges faced by veterans who are in this position with his Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which he first introduced in 2013 and re-introduced several times over the years, most recently in 2023.

Among the subsequent iterations were the bicameral version introduced in 2019 by Pocan and U.S. Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) along with U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and another that was introduced in the Senate last year by Schatz, which was backed by Republican U.S. Sens. Todd Young (Ind.) and Susan Collins (Maine).

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2024 was passed in the Senate with provisions taken from the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, including directions for the Pentagon to establish a “Tiger Team” to “build awareness among veterans of the process established [by the NDAA in FY 2020] for the review of discharge characterizations by appropriate discharge boards.”

Pocan, along with caucus co-chairs U.S. Reps. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) and Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), wrote to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last month to request information to facilitate implementation of the department’s decision to (1) review records for service members who were discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (2) forward cases to their respective secretaries to consider correction through the service boards, and (3) reach out to veterans to make sure they are kept up to speed throughout the process.

Last week, however, another bill targeting the same issue, the Recover Pride in Service Act, was announced by Republican U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (Ore.) in conjunction with Log Cabin Republicans, the conservative LGBT group.

A spokesperson for the congresswoman told the Washington Blade in a statement, “There’s a significant difference between the two bills. The Recover Pride in Service Act requires the Department of Defense to automatically upgrade all discharges that were solely based on sexual orientation within five years.”

The spokesperson continued, “This key provision would ensure veterans adversely impacted by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell won’t have to endure an arduous and costly application process and can get their status updated without having to lift a finger. I would also note that just 10 percent of LGBTQ+ veterans have had their discharges upgraded, and that’s because of the application process. Only requiring an outreach group isn’t enough.”

The Recover Pride in Service Act would also, per the press release announcement, establish an “Outreach Unit” to contact service members who were discharged for their sexual orientation along with other reasons specified in their papers. The bill promises to simplify administrative requirements and includes a provision stipulating that “a lack of documentation cannot be used as a basis for denying a review, and the responsibility of finding and producing relevant documentation lies with the DOD, not the service member.”

“If Republicans truly cared about helping veterans discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ they would have signed on to the Restore Honor to Service Members Act, which has been around for a decade and has support among the broader LGBTQI+ community,” Pocan told the Blade in a statement.

“Instead, they introduced a bill that plays partisan politics with the issue rather than advance it,” he said. “If we really want to do something to help veterans, there is a decade-long effort to get that done. Posing for pictures with a duplicative effort doesn’t get us closer to the goal.”

Log Cabin Republicans Senior Advisor Alex Walton told the Blade by phone last week that “discussions about the Restore Honor to Service Members Act all happened close to eight to nine months ago before we kind of shifted focus when we realized that they weren’t going to cooperate and work with us.”

Walton said that while there was significant interest in joining Pocan’s bill among House Republicans, “they were only going to do it assuming that Democrats were going to match the number of Republicans that co-sponsored the legislation, so you didn’t have 150 Democrats and, you know, 12 Republicans.” A source familiar with the discussions said Pocan was never asked to limit the number of Democratic cosponsors.

Additionally, Walton said, the House Republicans “also wanted a Republican lead,” but Pocan “was unwilling to let that happen.”

Months later, Walton said Pocan and House Democrats remained uncooperative in discussions over the Recover Pride in Service Act, the bill that was ultimately introduced by Chavez-DeRemer.

Meanwhile, he said, “We spoke to over 90 Republican offices, both in the House and the Senate, and we had a lot of conversations about this issue in general. And one of the things that we kept hearing from Republican offices is if a piece of legislation like this is going to pass, you’re gonna have to cut bureaucratic extras that are included in the Pocan version of the bill, and you’re just gonna have to get directly to the problem. And that’s what the legislation does by requiring the DOD to proactively upgrade these discharges.”

With Republicans holding the majority in the House, Walton said, Log Cabin and Republican members wanted a Republican lead sponsor on the bill in the lower chamber, while discussions were held with Senate Democrats with the expectation that a Democrat would be lead sponsor of the Senate version of the Recover Pride in Service Act.

Walton added that Pocan was offered the opportunity to be the lead Democratic member in the House — a claim that is disputed by the source familiar with the talks, who said the Wisconsin congressman was not consulted as the Recover Pride in Service Act was being drafted.

Pocan told the Blade, in a separate statement, that “I’ve had the Restore Honor to Service Members Act available for co-sponsorship for 12 years. Unfortunately, only a few Republicans have been interested in signing on. I welcome additional support. The best way to help our wrongly discharged veterans is to work in a bipartisan fashion with the members who’ve been working on this for a decade.”

He added, “I’ve been focused on getting justice for veterans discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for years, which is why part of the Restore Honor to Service Members Act became law several years ago” with the NDAA. “Losing the majority doesn’t mean I should surrender the rest of my bill —that’s not how Congress works. But I do welcome any support from Republicans who haven’t drunk the anti-equality Kool-Aid.”

Walton said that by refusing to work with Republicans in good faith, “Pocan put himself over all of these veterans,” adding, “I’m not disregarding everything Pocan has done for gays and lesbians in Congress. But the reality is that he put himself and his own pride in this legislation over actually getting stuff done.”

Walton stressed the broad ideological base of support for Chavez-DeRemer’s bill among House Republicans, 13 of whom have signed on as co-sponsors. Along with more moderate members, “we have extremely conservative Republicans on this legislation,” he said.

Those co-sponsoring members are GOP Reps. Kat Cammack (Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.), Anthony D’Esposito (N.Y.) Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), Derrick Van Orden (Wis.), Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.), Ken Calvert (Calif.), John Duarte (Calif.), Mark Amodei (Nev.), Mike Turner (Ohio), Max Miller (Ohio), and Mike Carey (Ohio).

Several of these House Republicans have voted for anti-LGBTQ military policies, such as prohibitions on Pride month celebrations at U.S. military bases and provisions allowing employees at the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to discriminate against LGBTQ service members if they oppose, for instance, same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

House must pass spending bills by Friday


Meanwhile, House Republicans have held up passage of critical spending bills by insisting on conservative policy mandates that stand no chance of passing in the Senate with Democrats in the majority, nor of being signed into law by President Joe Biden.

If they are not able to reach an agreement by Friday, funding will lapse for military construction, agriculture, transportation, and housing programs. A full government shutdown would be triggered if spending packages are not passed by March 8.

The Equality Caucus, in a post on X Monday, said, “Just a reminder as we barrel towards a gov’t shutdown this week: House Republicans’ partisan funding bills include more than 45 provisions attacking the LGBTQI+ community.”

They added, “The House GOP needs to stop playing games with queer people’s rights & agree to bipartisan funding bills.”

Historically, appropriations packages have been cleared by both chambers with wide bipartisan margins.

During a conference call on Friday, Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson (La.) told GOP members they were unlikely to see many of their policy priorities included in the spending bills. He met with Biden at the White House on Tuesday, alongside other congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), to continue negotiations ahead of Friday’s deadline.

Continue Reading

Popular