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Top 10 international LGBT stories of 2018

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Top international stories, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photos of Mariela Castro and Mike Pompeo by Michael Key; Blade photo of Melani Sofía Rosales Quiñones by Yariel Valdés González; photo of Teresa May by Arno Mikko via Flickr)

No. 10: Kim Davis-backed Romania marriage referendum fails

A referendum on whether to define marriage as between a man and a woman in the Romanian constitution’s definition of family failed in October because of insufficient voter turnout.

Less than 21 percent of voters participated in the referendum.

Kim Davis, a soon-to-be-former Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in 2015 for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is among those who backed the campaign in support of the proposed amendment. Mihnea Florea, program coordinator of MozaiQ, a Romanian LGBTI advocacy group, is among those who welcomed the referendum results.

No. 9: Brazil’s incoming president sparks fear in LGBT community

The election of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president has sparked fear among the country’s LGBTI community.

Bolsonaro defeated former São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s Workers’ Party by a 55-45 percent margin in the second round of the country’s presidential election that took place on Oct. 28. Bolsonaro, who has represented Rio de Janeiro in the Brazilian congress for 27 years, will take office on Jan. 1.

Bolsonaro has sparked widespread outrage for his comments against the LGBTI community, women, indigenous people, Brazilians of African descent and other underrepresented groups. Bolsonaro has also said he would defend the “true sense of marriage” between a man and a woman once he takes office.

No. 8: U.S. remains publicly committed to global LGBTI rights

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Pride month in June. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. in 2018 continued to publicly support LGBTI rights abroad, even though its domestic record has continued to spark criticism.

The State Department this year criticized anti-LGBTI crackdowns in Tanzania. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in June acknowledged Pride month in a statement. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is among the U.S. officials who participated in a global LGBTI rights conference that took place in the Vancouver, British Columbia.

A new State Department policy that requires partners of foreign mission personnel and employees of international organizations to be married in order to qualify for a diplomatic visa took effect on Oct. 1. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is among those who took part in a religious freedom conference the State Department held in July.

No. 7: Bermuda becomes first non-U.S. jurisdiction to repeal marriage

Bermuda in June became the first jurisdiction in the world outside the U.S. to rescind marriage rights for same-sex couples.

John Rankin, the governor of the British island territory, on Feb. 7 signed the Domestic Partnership Act, which allows same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships as opposed to get married. The law, which prompted calls to boycott Bermuda’s tourism industry, took effect on June 1.

Rankin’s government appealed a Bermuda Supreme Court ruling that found the Domestic Partnership Act unconstitutional. The territory’s top court on Nov. 23 upheld the decision.

No. 6: British prime minister apologies for anti-LGBTI colonial laws

Theresa May, gay news, Washington Blade

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she “deeply” regrets colonial-era laws criminalizing same-sex relations. (Photo by Ted Eytan; courtesy Flickr)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on April 17 said she “deeply” regrets colonial-era laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations the U.K. introduced in Commonwealth countries.

“I am all too aware that these laws were often put in place by my own country,” she said during a speech at the Commonwealth summit that took place in London. “They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. As the U.K.’s prime minister, I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in a number of the Commonwealth’s 53 countries.

No. 5: Taiwan marriage referendum fails

A referendum on whether same-sex couples should receive marriage rights in Taiwan failed on Nov. 24.

Voters by a 67-33 percent margin rejected a question on whether same-sex couples should receive marriage rights through Taiwan’s civil code. Questions on whether marriage in Taiwan should be defined as between a man and a woman and whether same-sex couples should be able to enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships, as opposed to marriages, passed by margins of 72-28 percent and 61-39 percent respectively.

Voters by a 66-34 percent margin rejected a question on whether Taiwan’s Gender Equity Act should include LGBTI-inclusive school curricula. A question on whether the law should not include LGBTI-inclusive school curricula failed by a 67-33 percent.

Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, is among those who supported Taiwanese activists before the referendum. The National Organization for Marriage backed marriage opponents.

Lawmakers still face a May 2019 deadline to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples under a Taiwan Constitutional Court ruling from two years before.

No. 4: Inter-American court issues landmark LGBTI rights ruling

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Jan. 9 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage and transgender rights in the Western Hemisphere.

The ruling stems from the Costa Rican government’s request for an advisory opinion on whether it has an obligation to extend property rights to same-sex couples and allow trans people to change their name and gender marker on identity documents. The Costa Rican government has said it will comply with the ruling, which has bolstered advocacy efforts throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Margarette May Macaulay, president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on Dec. 5 reiterated her support of marriage rights for same-sex couples during a hearing on the subject over which she presided in D.C. The Chile Supreme Court on the same day issued a ruling that said marriage for same-sex couples is a human right, but the country’s president, Sebastián Piñera, continues to face criticism from advocates over his opposition.

No. 3: New proposed Cuban constitution includes marriage amendment

Mariela Castro, gay news, Washington Blade

Mariela Castro has spearheaded LGBTI-specific issues in Cuba. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Cuban lawmakers on July 22 approved the draft of a new constitution that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

A series of public meetings on the proposed constitution took place across the Communist island over the fall. The Cuban National Assembly in the coming weeks is expected to give its final approval to the document. A referendum is scheduled to take place in February.

The debate over the proposed constitutional changes is taking place nearly 60 years after gay men were among those sent to work camps after the Cuban revolution brought Fidel Castro to power. His niece, Mariela Castro, over the last decade has spearheaded LGBTI-specific issues in the country.

Independent activists with whom the Washington Blade speaks insist they continue to face criticism and even arrest for publicly criticizing Mariela Castro and/or the Cuban government.

No. 2: LGBTI migrants seek refuge in U.S.

Melani Sofía Rosales Quiñones, a transgender woman from Guatemala City, was beaten, threatened and discriminated against in her country because of her gender identity (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The waves of migrants who have left Central America in 2018 include people who are fleeing violence and discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in their homelands.

A gay man from Honduras with whom the Blade spoke in Mexico City on July 17 said he fled his homeland earlier this year after a group of gang members raped and killed his friend in front of him. Other LGBTI migrants from Guatemala with whom the Blade spoke in the Mexican city of Tijuana earlier this month said they hope to seek asylum in the U.S.

The migrants — many of whom have traveled to the U.S. border in caravans — still hope to enter the U.S., despite President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has sparked widespread criticism. The death of Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV, in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on May 25 sparked additional outrage among immigrant rights activists and their supporters.

No. 1: India Supreme Court decriminalizes homosexuality

The India Supreme Court on Sept. 6 issued a landmark ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country.

The unanimous ruling specifically struck down India’s colonial-era sodomy law known as Section 377. LGBTI rights advocates in India and around the world not only celebrated the decision, but stressed it will bolster efforts to decriminalize homosexuality in other Commonwealth countries.

“We rejoice with all sexual, gender and sex minorities communities in India,” said Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-secretaries general of ILGA, in a statement.  “As of today, a shameful part of an enduring colonial legacy is finally history. We hope that this ruling, which was made possible by the tireless work of many human rights advocates, will have an impact also on other countries around the world where our communities continue to live under the shadow of oppressive criminal laws, especially those that share a common legal heritage with India, as far afield as Africa, the Pacific and Caribbean.”

A judge on Trinidad and Tobago’s High Court in April struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy law. The Kenya High Court early next year is expected to issue a ruling in a case that challenges a portion of the country’s penal code that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May in April said she “deeply” regrets colonial-era sodomy laws the U.K. introduced in Commonwealth countries.

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South America

First leftist Colombian president takes office

Gustavo Petro has pledged to support LGBTQ+, intersex rights

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Gustavo Petro took office as Colombia's first leftist president on Aug. 7, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Colombian government)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Former Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro on Sunday took office as Colombia’s first leftist president.

The former Colombian senator who was once a member of the M-19 guerrilla movement that disbanded in the 1990s, in June defeated former Bucaramanga Mayor Rodolfo Hernández in the second round of the country’s presidential election. Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez, on Sunday took office as Colombia’s first female vice president of African descent.

Colombian Vice President Francia Márquez. (Photo courtesy of Márquez’s Twitter page)

Petro before his inauguration named Néstor Osuna, an openly gay man, as the country’s new justice minister.

“I am honored and thankful to President Gustavo Petro for the appointment as Colombia’s justice minister,” tweeted Osuna on Sunday. “I commit myself to working with your team to achieve the change for which so many of our compatriots yearn.”

Petro in his inaugural speech did not specifically reference LGBTQ+ and intersex Colombians, but OrgulloLGBT.co, the Washington Blade’s media partner in the country, published pictures that show LGBTQ+ and intersex people were among those who attended the inauguration.

Petro during the campaign pledged to fight violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to implement policies “for the reaffirmation of gender and sexual orientation identities without barriers for all nonbinary and Transgender people in Colombia.” Márquez noted LGBTQ+ and intersex Colombians after she and Petro won the election.

Wilson Castañeda, director of Caribe Afirmativo, an LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group in northern Colombia, told the Blade after Petro and Márquez won the election that the campaign held “various meetings” with advocacy groups. Castañeda also noted that Petro, among other things, named Tatiana Piñeros, a Transgender woman, to run Bogotá’s social welfare and tourism office when he was mayor.

Castañeda and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power are among those who attended Sunday’s inauguration that took place in Bogotá’s Bolívar Square.

“Full squares; happy faces; the flags of Colombia, Bogotá; rural, indigenous and LGBTI communities received the president and the vice president in an emotive and historic act that inaugurated the first popular and leftist Colombian government,” tweeted Bogotá Mayor Claudia López on Sunday.

López is married to Angélica Lózano, a bisexual woman who in 2018 became the first LGBTQ+ and intersex person elected to the Colombian Senate.

Lozano in March won re-election in the country’s national elections. Colombians also elected five openly LGBTQ+ and intersex people to the country’s House of Representatives.

Tamara Argote in March became the first non-binary person elected to the Colombian Congress.

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Africa

Landmark Kenya intersex rights law takes effect

Activists praise Children Act 2022

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The Kenyan flag (Photo courtesy of Rarrarorro via Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — A new law that took effect late last month in Kenya has granted equal rights and recognition to intersex people 

Intersex people are now recognized as Kenya’s third gender with an ‘I’ gender marker in response to the Children Act 2022. Kenya is the first African country that has granted the intersex community this universal right.

The new law requires intersex children to be treated with dignity and have equal access to basic services like medical treatment and education, in addition to social protection services as a special need. It also requires the accomodation of intersex children in child protection centers and other facilities.

Courts are also required to consider the needs of intersex children who are on trial — including the calling of an expert witness — before they issue any ruling. The law further stipulates that anyone can be a foster parent without restrictions of gender, age or marital status.

It also protects intersex children from so-called sex normalization surgeries, and such procedures will only be done with a doctor’s recommendation. Those who violate the law will face at least three years in jail and a fine of at least $5,000.

“This is a great and major milestone globally for Kenya. We are now way ahead and can teach our neighbors and the whole globe good practices,” said Jedidah Wakonyo, a human rights lawyer and former chair of the Intersex Persons Society of Kenya

The long journey for recognition started dramatically in 2006 when some human rights organizations petitioned courts about a detainee who had been accused of a violent robbery.

Authorities perceived the suspect was a man after police strip-searched him before he entered prison.

This followed numerous court battles by intersex people who demanded the right to recognition as another gender in their birth certificates.

Being denied birth certificates from the discriminatiory law that only recognized male and female genders further limited their access to national identity cards, passports and other crucial documents and government services.      

The Births and Deaths Registration Act under the new law’s Section 7 (3) “shall take measures to ensure correct documentation and registration of intersex children at birth.”    

Intersex people commonly have a combination of male and female gonads (ovaries or testicles) or ambiguous genitalia. 

Wakonyo, who also chaired the Intersex Persons Implementation Coordination Committee and was named the International Court of Justice’s 2020 jurist of the year, describes the law’s enactment as a historic moment because of its comprehensive definition of an intersex person.

It defines an intersex child as “a child with a congenital condition in which the biological sex characteristics cannot be exclusively categorized in the common binary of female or male due to inherent and mixed anatomical, hormonal, gonadal or chromosomal patterns which could be apparent before, at birth, in childhood, puberty or adulthood.”

Kenyan law considers anyone under 17 to be a child.

“Defining an intersex from a child’s perspective while taking care of many aspects and not just the physical notion of being intersex is the best practice because in future they don’t find themselves in the state of gender confusion between males and females like the current situation,” stated Wakonyo. 

This provision essentially protects intersex persons from being deprived of their constitutional rights of gender recognition under the country’s Bill of Rights.

Veronica Mwangi, the deputy director at Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights, that helped secure the law’s implementation, said it addresses issues for which the intersex community has been fighting for years.    

“It is very progressive and we are glad about the gains because it provides for the existence of the intersex which all state actors have to accept. Full implementation is what we now need to focus on,” she said.

The law took effect roughly five years after Kenya became the first African nation and the second country in the world after Australia to count intersex people in a Census. The 2019 survey showed 1,524 Kenyans were intersex.

Intersex rights groups had initially petitioned the courts for a total ban of surgeries on intersex children unless they were a medical emergency.

Wakonyo backs the provision for a doctor’s approval on grounds that the surgeries will only be done “in the best interest of the intersex child, informed consent of the parents and the participation of the child depending on the age.” Wakonyo and other activists say the relaxation of the requirements for adopting intersex children not only seeks to end the problem of neglect and abandonment but also the stigma that has left some to die by suicide.

The law safeguards adoptive parents’ rights and parental responsibility and intersex children from child labor, online expuse and other forms of exploitation.

“Intersex children who are just like other children will no longer be killed at birth because of their gender ambiguity,” said Wakonyo.   

Despite the law’s huge benefits for the intersex community, Wakonyo notes it is a “very significant foundation” for the group because gender-specific accommodations in social gatherings and facilities remain needed.

Another historic win for intersex Kenyans this year was the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights’ decision to hire an intersex commissioner.

“Dr. Dennis Wamalwa applied as an intersex (person), interviewed as an intersex (person), and the shortlist comprised male, female, and ‘I’ gender for intersex. He emerged (at the) top and his intersex friends and associates came to witness his swearing,” stated Wakonyo, who also served as a Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights commissioner.

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Canada

Organizers of the Montréal Pride festival have cancelled Sunday’s parade

Pride events taking place at the Esplanade du Parc olympique including the closing show with Pabllo Vittar, will go on as as planned

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Courtesy of 𝐅𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐭é 𝐌𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫é𝐚𝐥 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞/Facebook

MONTREAL – Citing a lack of adequate security personnel the organizers of the Fierte Montreal Pride Parade abruptly cancelled Sunday’s parade. The event organizers told CBC the decision was made in collaboration with Montreal police.

CBC reported that other Pride events taking place at the Esplanade du Parc olympique from 2 p.m., including the closing show with Pabllo Vittar, will go on as as planned. Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend today’s parade.

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