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Cuban lawmaker: Activists ‘paid’ to organize unsanctioned LGBTI march

Luis Ángel Adán Roble spoke at Colombia conference

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Cuban Assemblyman Luis Ángel Adán Roble, right, speaks at an LGBTQ Victory Institute conference in Bogotá, Colombia, on May 18, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Victory Institute)

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A Cuban lawmaker on Saturday suggested independent activists were “paid” to organize an unsanctioned LGBTI march that took place in Havana last week.

“It’s not only religious groups, but also these so-called activists are often times paid to hold this type of event,” said Luis Ángel Adán Roble in response to questions from the Washington Blade during a panel at an LGBTQ Victory Institute conference that is taking place in the Colombian capital of Bogotá. “I am not saying that everyone who went to it were paid or anything.”

The National Center for Sexual Education, a group directed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro, was to have held a march in Havana on May 11 in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

CENESEX on May 6 announced the cancellation of the Havana march and another in the city of Camagüey that was to have taken place on Friday. Independent LGBTI activists sharply criticized the decision and announced the unsanctioned march in Havana.

State security officials in the days leading up to the unsanctioned march told independent activists not to attend it. They also prevented some of them from leaving their homes in order to attend it and other unsanctioned IDAHOBiT marches that were scheduled to take place elsewhere in the country.

Juana Mora Cedeño Cuban Assemblyman Luis Ángel Adán Roble, right, speaks at an LGBTQ Victory Institute conference in Bogotá, Colombia, on May 18, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Victory Institute)and Isbel Díaz Torres were among the independent activists who were detained before the Havana march that Adán said “was not authorized.”

“Like for any march in any country in the world, you have to have authorization,” he told the Blade.

Maykel González Vivero, publisher of Tremenda Nota, the Blade’s media partner in Cuba, and other independent journalists on the island, along with reporters from international news agencies, reported several people who participated in the march were arrested. Pictures and videos that were posted to social media show men in civilian clothing manhandling some of the detained protesters before they were placed into cars.

Adán told the Blade that four people were detained after he said they attacked a police officer. He also criticized independent journalists for “only showing one picture, but not showing videos of these supposed detentions.”

Mariela Castro, with whom Adán is closely aligned, continues to insist without proof that opponents of the Cuban government in Miami and elsewhere organized the unsanctioned march. Adán told the Blade he did not know about the detentions of three independent LGBTI activists — Roberto Ramos Mori, Leodán Suárez Quiñones and Yasmany Sánchez — in the days after the event.

“I don’t know anything about it because I have been in Colombia since Thursday,” said Adán.

Independent LGBTI activists held an unsanctioned march in Havana on May 11, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Pedro Luis García)

Cleve Jones, a San Francisco-based activist, was to have been the grand marshal of the CENESEX-organized IDAHOBiT march in Havana.

CENESEX on May 10 honored Jones at a gala that took place at Havana’s Karl Marx Theater. Jones the following day attended a party with Mariela Castro that began at the same time as the unsanctioned march.

Adán told the Blade a “new way to” commemorate IDAHOBiT in Cuba “took place.” Jones and Rainbow World Fund Executive Director Jeff Cotter in a statement they released on May 14 said they are “dismayed” by the arrests that took place at the unsanctioned Havana march.

Blade reporter blocked from entering Cuba on May 8

CENESEX announced the cancellation of its IDAHOBiT marches against the backdrop of increased tensions between the U.S. and Cuba over its continued support of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and an economic crisis that has prompted food rationing, fuel shortages and blackouts on the Communist island. The unsanctioned march in Havana took place three days after the Cuban government prevented this reporter from entering the country.

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United Nations

UN officials reiterate calls for countries to decriminalize homosexuality

Volker Türk and Winnie Byanyima issued statement before global AIDS conference

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UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. (Screen capture via Kellogg Institute YouTube)

The U.N. human rights chief and UNAIDS’s executive director have reiterated their calls for countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“Laws criminalizing LGBTQ+ people must be consigned to history,” said Volker Türk and Winnie Byanyima in a statement they released on July 19.

The 25th International AIDS Conference began in Munich on Monday.

The statement notes Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Gabon, India, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Singapore, and Trinidad and Tobago over the last decade have repealed laws that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Namibian High Court on June 21 struck down the country’s Apartheid-era sodomy laws. 

Dominica’s High Court of Justice in April ruled provisions of the country’s Sexual Offenses Act that criminalized anal sex and “gross indecency” were unconstitutional. Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence in the decision said “the laws commonly known as buggery and gross indecency laws, contravenes the constitution of the Commonwealth of Dominica, namely the right to liberty, freedom of expression, and protection of personal privacy.”

Burkina Faso’s military government earlier this month said it plans to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country. Ugandan activists continue to challenge their country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.  

Activists maintain criminalization laws harm people with HIV/AIDS, among other groups. Türk and Byanyima in their statement say these statutes “harm public health.”

“Criminalization of LGBTQ+ people generates justified fear amongst people who need access to health services, and amongst the frontline workers who provide those services,” they said.

“In criminalizing countries, there is decreased provision and uptake of HIV prevention services, and decreased uptake of HIV care and treatment services,” added Türk and Byanyima.

They conclude the “decriminalization of LGBTQ+ people is vital for protecting everyone’s human rights and everyone’s health.”

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

South Korean Supreme Court upholds same-sex couples’ health benefits

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

SOUTH KOREA
The South Korean Supreme Court delivered a victory for same-sex couples last week, upholding a lower court ruling that found same-sex couples must be given equal access to benefits under the country’s National Health Insurance Service.

The ruling is a landmark as the first legal recognition of same-sex couples in the East Asian nation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the NHIS refusal to provide spousal benefits to same-sex couples was unconstitutional discrimination. The ruling is final.

The case was filed by a gay couple, So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, in 2021 after the NHIS revoked So’s registration as a dependent of Kim and imposed a new premium. So and Kim had been a couple since 2017 and had held a marriage ceremony in 2019.

The NHIS allows married or common-law heterosexual couples to register as dependents in employer-backed insurance but had no policy recognizing same-sex couples.

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled for the NHIS in 2022, but the following year that decision was overturned by the Seoul High Court, which ruled for the couple that the denial was discriminatory.

“When I listened to the verdict, I was so moved that I couldn’t hold back my tears,” So told reporters outside the court. “It took four years to earn this dependent status. We need to fight harder to legalize same-sex marriage going forward.”

The advocacy group Marriage for All Korea said in a statement that the decision was just a first step.

“This decision brings hope to other same-sex couples living in Korean society and is a huge milestone toward marriage equality and equal citizenship for LGBTQ people. However, same-sex couples who are not legally recognized in their marriage still experience various forms of discrimination,” the statement says.

“The lengthy and arduous lawsuits that same-sex couples must endure to gain single rights as a spouse, as seen in this case, should no longer be necessary. Fundamentally, we will continue to push for a broader marriage equality movement to eliminate all institutional discrimination that hinders same-sex couples from legally marrying and fully enjoying their rights as spouses, and for LGBTQ people in Korea to enjoy equal citizenship.”

Several bills to recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions and to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people have been introduced by opposition members in South Korea’s parliament over the years, but none has progressed.

So Sung-uk and his partner Kim Yong-min. (Photo courtesy of marriageforall.kr)

LITHUANIA
A final attempt to pass a long-stalled civil union bill before the end of the current session of Parliament came to an anticlimactic end on July 18, as the government withdrew the bill from the agenda before the final day session began.

The civil union bill had long been a bone of contention in the fractious governing coalition whose largest party is the conservative Homeland Union and includes the more progressive Freedom Party, which had made the bill a priority.

The bill passed through two readings in parliament in part with the support of leftist opposition parties, but when the opposition withdrew their support of the bill — in part to deny the government a win on the issue — the coalition no longer had enough votes to get it passed, as a segment of the Homeland Union opposed it.

Over the past month, the Freedom Party had attempted to strong-arm the Homeland Union holdouts into supporting the bill, by threatening to block Lithuania’s appointment of a European commissioner unless the party supported the bill.

In the last few days of parliament’s session before the legislature is dissolved for October elections, it seemed that the parties had come to an agreement, and the civil union bill was going to be put on the agenda for a final vote on the final day of the session.

But the opposition Social Democrats refused to play ball, once again preferring to deny the government a victory on the file, even though the Social Democrats had campaigned on supporting civil unions in the past. Without their votes, the bill would be doomed to fail.

The government withdrew the bill from the agenda rather than allow it to fail. This will allow the bill to be brought back by the new parliament in October, rather than starting the process over again.

Despite the bill’s withdrawal, anti-LGBTQ protesters met outside the parliament and burned rainbow flags. Vilnius police said they are investigating potential charges of incitement to hatred.

The two-round parliamentary election is scheduled for Oct. 13 and Oct. 27, and polling shows the Social Democrats currently hold a wide lead.

Lithuania is one of only five European Union countries that do not recognize same-sex unions. The others are Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Poland, the latter of which has proposed a civil union bill that its government hopes to pass in the fall.

UNITED KINGDOM
The newly elected Labour government under Prime Minister Keir Starmer included a ban on conversion therapy in the King’s Speech that opened parliament on July 17, indicating that the bill will be a priority item during the session.

The King’s Speech is a tradition in UK politics, where the monarch reads a speech prepared by the government outlining its priorities for the upcoming session of parliament, usually lasting about a year.

During the election campaign, Starmer had pledged to back a transgender-inclusive ban on the abusive practice of conversion therapy, an issue which has become a political lightning rod in the UK over the past decade as a wave of anti-trans hysteria has gripped the media and much of the political class.

The previous Conservative government had pledged to ban conversion therapy six years ago but failed to bring a bill forward after floating the idea that the bill would allow conversion therapy for trans youth.

The UK LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall praised the commitment to a conversion therapy ban in a statement.

“We welcome the new government’s commitment to banning conversion practices. Each day that these abusive practices remain legal, our communities are put at risk,” the statement says. “The government needs to urgently publish a comprehensive bill to ban these abhorrent practices once and for all.”

But the new government’s approach to trans issues is not entirely praiseworthy.

Two weeks ago, new Labour Secretary of State for Health Wes Streeting announced that his government was defending and extending a ban on puberty blockers for trans youth that was put in place by the Conservatives. That action has been denounced by trans activists and legal experts.

JAPAN
A trans woman is suing for the right to change her legal gender without first divorcing her wife, in a challenge to the nation’s laws surrounding both same-sex marriage and gender recognition.

The woman, who has not been identified, is in her 50s and has been in a long-term marriage to her wife, who is in her 40s, and neither partner wants to divorce. While she has legally changed her name to a woman’s name, her identification still lists her as “male,” which forces her to have uncomfortable conversations outing her trans status whenever she needs to show official documents.

Since 2003, it has been possible for trans people to update their legal gender in Japan, but only if they are unmarried. That essentially forces any married trans person to divorce their partner if they want to update their gender.

In 2010, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the requirement that trans people be unmarried to update their legal gender, calling the situation “reasonable” and saying it did not violate the constitution.

But the woman’s lawyers believe the legal situation has changed.

Since 2021, several district courts across Japan have found that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. While that has not yet legalized same-sex marriage, these cases will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court. If the court agrees with the lower courts that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, then it should also find the divorce requirement for trans people to be unconstitutional.

Yoko Mizutani, one of the woman’s lawyers, says this case may also contribute to legalizing same-sex marriage.

“Many of those concerned have resigned to the notion that if same-sex marriages are not recognized, the unmarried requirement of the act will not change. If we win this petition, it could also help resolve the issue of same-sex marriage.”

SPAIN
The Constitutional Court has provisionally blocked an anti-LGBTQ law passed by the government of the Madrid Community that stripped a number of legal protections from LGBTQ people; citing constitutional, discriminatory, and jurisdictional issues.

Last year, the local government, which is led by the right-wing People’s Party and supported by the far-right Vox party, passed a bill that stripped legal recognition of trans youth, stopped allowing legal gender change without a medical diagnosis, allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination and authorized conversion therapy.

Despite these legal protections being stripped at the local level, national laws still afforded LGBTQ people all of these rights and protections.

The national government, which is currently led by the left-wing People’s Socialist Party, filed for the injunction against the law, which it called unconstitutional, which the Constitutional Court has accepted.

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Philadelphia health providers bring trans-affirming surgery to Argentina

Temple University Hospital doctors recently traveled to Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires, Argentina (Bigstock photo)

Philadelphia Gay News published this article on July 18. The Los Angeles Blade is publishing it with permission.

BY LAUREN ROWELLO | Argentina is known for implementing some of the most comprehensive federal laws to protect and affirm transgender people. In 2012, the country became the first to pass legislation that gives its trans citizens the right to be recognized and treated in accordance with their gender identities — and the right to develop a sense of personhood associated with this experience.

This law gave Argentines the right to change their legal documents to display accurate gender markers and updated names — something many trans people in the U.S. are still unable to pursue because of differences in state laws regarding the matter. Among various other rights — including confidentiality — the legislation also grants trans people in Argentina the right to access comprehensive hormone therapies and gender-affirming surgeries.

But the right to pursue authenticity doesn’t mean trans-competent care is readily available. That’s why Dr. Alireza Hamidian Jahromi, MD, director of the gender affirmation surgery program at Temple University Hospital, is passionate about collaborating with providers across borders.

He recently traveled to Buenos Aires with Dr. Michael Metro, MD, director of reconstructive urology at Temple University Hospital, to jointly perform the first-ever penile inversion vaginoplasty in Argentina.

“A lot of teaching and training has to happen before you can perform a surgery,” Hamidian Jahromi underlined, noting that resources — including access to trans-specific training — can be limited in some areas, especially for genital reconstructions or “bottom” surgeries.

For instance, in 2012 — the year Argentina’s trans-affirming legislation was passed — the U.S. had only six surgeons performing genital reconstruction surgeries. A lack of surgeons greatly limits a surgery’s availability. Today, more doctors are starting to learn about and perform these procedures in the U.S. — but insurance does not always cover them and some state laws are attempting to further limit people’s ability to pursue them.

To overcome the unique hurdles and barriers that each country faces, Hamidian Jahromi — who is on the central committee for certification and mentorship at WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) — urged advocates to not only raise awareness of trans people and their needs but also to push for stronger and more accessible training and education for healthcare providers.

“[Surgeons] specifically have to go through a special training in order to know how to bring their skills together to be able to align them with the patient’s specific need,” Hamidian Jahromi said, adding that a specialization in gender-affirming surgery requires many years of training to develop expertise.

Exposure to and experience in a variety of related fields — such studying and collaborating closely with both urology and plastics — is necessary, and finding programs and professionals to study under can be an additional challenge.

The first trans-specific surgical fellowship in the U.S. didn’t open until 2017. It took more than nine years of education — along with additional surgical experience completed in Europe — for Hamidian Jahromi to become fellowship trained and specialized in trans-specific surgical interventions.

It takes a lot of time and intentional effort to build a comprehensive program that can competently and efficiently meet the needs of its patients. A lack of appropriate training can and has led to botched procedures, infections, and other disastrous outcomes.

Fortunately, there are more resources for learning and honing these skills across the United States than there were in the past. Hamidian Jahromi, who is the assistant professor of Plastic and Reconstructive and Gender Affirming Surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, often trains surgeons, fellows and residents here in Philadelphia today.

Continued learning is not only key to the development of trans-specific programs and new providers. Trans-competent experts rely on information-sharing between professionals to constantly challenge themselves in new ways with the hope of improving their skills, advancing their understanding of best practices, and implementing new techniques in how to better care for trans people.

Because of this desire and ability to share and exchange skills, Hamidian Jahromi was able to observe the surgeries and study with colleagues at NYU — who pioneered a robotics-assisted peritoneal flap vaginoplasty, which is more minimally invasive than traditional methods. Temple is now one of just a handful of programs to offer surgeries using this technique.

It’s just one of various modalities used to help Hamidian Jahromi’s patients achieve their goals.

“A lot of [needs] could be different in every patient,” Hamidian Jahromi explained about the differing challenges, unique experiences and individual perspectives of each patient — who all have a different idea about what a positive outcome will look like for them. “And that’s actually a welcome part of these kinds of surgeries for me — because you have to see the patient, you have to see the world through their eyes, you have to try to understand.”

“I also have to mention that a lot of these surgeries need more than one surgeon at the time of the surgery. It’s multi-speciality,” he added, explaining that teams of experts in those related fields often work together to achieve the best outcomes. “So when I’m standing here in front of you, I’m standing on a pillar of different members of my team that all work together very closely in order to create a success story for each individual patient. It’s a whole team’s work.”

Hamidian Jahromi, who is cisgender, was drawn to trans healthcare because he appreciated the opportunity to make such a positive difference in the lives of patients and to develop longer relationships with each person he supports.

“When you put together the happiness and the help you’re providing for the patients, I’m very well-rewarded every day,” he added.

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Politics

Joe Biden to ‘stand down’ from 2024 presidential race

Announcement comes amid growing pressure from Democrats to step aside

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a Pride celebration on June 10, 2023, at the White House. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

President Joe Biden on Sunday announced he will “stand down” from the 2024 presidential ticket.

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your president,” he said in a statement he posted to X. “And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as president for the remainder of my term.”

Biden said he will speak to the country “later this week in more detail about my decision.”

The president in his statement specifically thanked Vice President Kamala Harris, describing her as an “extraordinary partner in all this work.” Biden in a second statement endorsed her.

The move comes after weeks of pressure from Democratic leaders, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who met privately with the president to urge him to step aside because he had no clear path to beating the Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Doubts among Democrats were crystalized by Biden’s poor performance in his televised debate against Trump on June 27, which led prominent donors including actor George Clooney to urge the party to replace him. They were followed by a steady trickle of elected Democrats.

“We are deeply grateful to President Biden for his more than 50 years of public service and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects his legacy and what President Biden has done his entire career: put the needs of Americans and his country above his own. We owe the Biden-Harris team a debt of gratitude for leading the country out of a state of chaos and constant crisis under former President Trump.”

“The Biden-Harris administration has been the most pro-LGBTQ+ equality administration in history: assembling the most diverse administration, signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law to protect against attacks on marriage equality, and taking important steps to protect our transgender community and LGBTQ+ students,” added Robinson. “President Biden and Vice President Harris have worked closely with HRC and others to get things done and move us closer to equality. We look forward to hearing President Biden address the nation later this week.”

Los Angeles reacts, backs Harris

Reaction was swift and supportive in Los Angeles, where Harris has long been a popular figure.

During her 2020 run for president, Harris made the LGBTQ fundraising rounds and raised large sums of money, most notably during a private event at the home of David Cooley, the then- owner of the Abbey. Cooley agreed to host at his home after Harris popped in unexpectedly at the famous bar while campaigning.

Just this week she toured Los Angeles with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and then traveled with him to a swank fundraiser in Provincetown, Mass., that brought the financial elite of Los Angeles together.

The Biden-Harris Provincetown fundraiser was co-hosted by noted Angelenos, including Creative Artists Agency partner Joe Machota and his husband Michael Russell, along with Bryan Rafanelli and Abbey owner Tristan Schukraft, raising more $2 million for the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.

That, coupled with today’s announcement, indicates the vice president will have no trouble raising funds from the LGBTQ community and Hollywood as a presidential candidate.

LGBTQ elected officials and other LGBTQ community leaders were ecstatic about today’s events:

“I’m excited to support Vice President Harris and look forward to continuing the progressive legacy she championed alongside President Joe Biden,” West Hollywood Mayor John Erickson told the Los Angeles Blade. “VP Harris is a longtime champion of LGBTQ+ rights and access to abortion, and we need her leadership in the White House.”  

“Every election, we say: ‘This is the most important election,’ and this time, we really need people to understand that it is,” he continued. “We are at the moment in history where we either will defeat the evil being presented by the other side of the aisle or choose to embrace what this country is really all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.” 

Wilson Cruz, chair of the GLSEN board of directors, said he is “so grateful to President Biden for, once again and always, putting the nation and its needs before his own. A statement we can never make about the Republican nominee. “

“Kamala Harris, he said, is the future. She is the embodiment of the promise of America. As a California resident, I wholeheartedly supported and then voted for her at every opportunity. As we will see when she prosecuted the case against felon and his VP lackey, she is more than qualified, fit and ready for this fight.”

Cruz said he sees Harris as a “unrelentingly vocal and visible ally” and believes she will “build the most supportive administration the LGBTQ community has ever seen.”

“I will do anything and everything the campaign believes I will be useful in doing,” Cruz told Blade.

“I’m going to get LGBTQ and people of color out to vote in order to protect this democracy, protect a woman’s bodily autonomy and defend and secure the rights of LGBTQ people across this country,” he said, adding “let’s go!”

Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang, in a statement that focused on Biden, said his organization is “eternally grateful to President Joe Biden for his lifetime service to our country, and his longtime support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

“As he has throughout his more than half a century in elected office, President Biden has put what is best for America above all else,” said Hoang. “During his time in the White House, President Biden pushed forward a proactive agenda that opens doors and levels the playing field for all LGBTQ+ Americans, while defending against attacks from far-right extremists seeking to roll back our hard-fought rights. Our community owes President Biden a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

“As vice president under President Barack Obama, he was one of that administration’s earliest voices in support of marriage equality, and as president he has led the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration in history,” he added. “From overturning a discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military, to signing the Respect for Marriage Act, to strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ people, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the betterment of all LGBTQ+ Americans. Additionally, President Biden tapped members of the LGBTQ+ community to serve key roles in his cabinet, including Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation and Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine — the first out transgender Cabinet official in American history — as Assistant Secretary of Health, and nominated hundreds of pro-equality federal and district judges.

Moving forward, our primary objective must be defeating Donald Trump and JD Vance this November. Both candidates pose an existential threat to democracy, evidenced by their support of extremist agendas such as Project 2025 — which spells out in chilling detail processes to dismantle governmental checks and balances, reverse all progress made by LGBTQ+ people, and threaten reproductive choice and bodily autonomy.

At a time of unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and hate violence directed at our community, it is more important than ever before to have strong champions for LGBTQ+ equality in the White House. In the coming days, we will reevaluate the organization’s endorsement for president. Equality California remains committed to getting out the vote this November to ensure that pro-equality champions are elected up and down the ballot to continue building a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all people.”

West Hollywood Councilmember and former Mayor Sepi Shyne thanked Biden “for his many years of service to our country and his legacy on LGBTQ+ rights, especially his vital role in supporting gay marriage when he was VP.”

“He has been a champion for us,” she said, adding, “I am in full support of his decision to step down and endorse vice president Harris as the Democratic nominee for president.”

Shyne states that she “fully supports VP Harris and has faith she will win.”

“This is an incredibly important moment for us all to unite for justice, women, LGBTQ+ rights, diversity, common sense, democracy, and our human rights,” she said. “When we stand together we win. I am with VP Kamala Harris all the way.”

Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner said “the Biden-Harris Administration is the most pro-LGBTQ+ in United States history. I am grateful to President Biden for his commitment to our community and applaud his service to our country.”

He added “the nation is facing an unprecedented time and we continue to face dangerous inflection points targeting LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive justice, and so much more. This November, we need candidates who will not abandon our interests on the ballot and instead keep a steadfast commitment to the issues facing LGBTQ+ Americans.” 

Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang told the Blade that “President Biden‘s announcement that he won’t seek reelection is a moment in history won’t be forgotten for time immemorial.” He noted “it is an example of the highest standard of pure statesmanship.”

Prang also said “the president’s action marks an amazing half century political career that began as one of the youngest senators in the nation and is now ending as its oldest president.”

“Under his steady calm but strong guidance the Biden–Harris administration led our nation through the COVID pandemic while he rebuilt our manufacturing arm here at home,” he said. “Leading the way was his work to return the manufacturing of the computer chip here in our great nation.”

Prang also points out “he fought for investment both at home and globally that created hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will steer the country into a stronger industrial well that could charge our economic recovery.”

Prang thanked the president for his legacy of selfless public service

Troy Masters contributed to this story.

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Politics

Log Cabin Republicans host GOP candidates in tight congressional races

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (D-Calif.)

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U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Republican congressional candidates in some of the most anticipated races of the 2024 cycle delivered remarks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Milwaukee’s Discovery World Art and Science Museum on Wednesday.

Speakers included U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a 31-year incumbent with an anti-LGBTQ voting record who is narrowly trailing gay Democratic challenger Will Rollins, and Eric Hovde, an entrepreneur vying to unseat the first openly gay U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Nick Meade, president of LCR Coachella Valley, introduced the California congressman by acknowledging that Calvert “didn’t have the most loving relationship vote-wise for our community” when his district was redrawn to include Palm Springs in 2022.

“We met with Ken,” Meade said. “We met with him again. And he showed up again. And he showed up again. We asked him to come to events and he showed up to the events. We asked if he would support us financially. He did it and then he did it again. He continues to show up.”

Eventually, Calvert joined 46 other House Republicans in endorsing the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified federal protections for married same-sex and interracial couples and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in December 2022.

Meade explained that directly after the floor vote in July, the congressman passed Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran a slip of paper on which he had written the number “47,” telling the conservative LGBTQ leader “this is for you guys.”

Addressing his remarks to Calvert, Meade said, “I know, as humble as you are, you say you didn’t whip votes, but there are a lot of your friends close to our jurisdiction, your [congressional district] that voted for it as well. I will never forget that.”

“I’ve seen a lot of changes in our party, and one of those things is just that, as Nick was pointing out, that we were able to pass the gay marriage initiative on the floor,” Calvert said. “That was a good day.”

The congressman then discussed the importance of providing for the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. “Everyone who serves in the military should be treated equally,” he said.

“It was refreshing to see the Log Cabin Republicans admit that Ken Calvert had never met a gay Republican until he decided he needed their support to win his new congressional district,” Rollins said in an emailed statement to the Washington Blade.

“But Ken might’ve forgotten to tell them that he voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill, voted to defund LGBTQ senior centers, and just tried to make it harder for the spouses of LGBTQ military personnel killed in combat to collect survivor benefits.”

When introducing Hovde later in the program, Moran said, “Here in Wisconsin, we have a lesbian senator who’s a Democrat, who has been voting in lockstep consistently with President Biden, who has been making it worse for the lives of LGBT families, business owners, [and] service members, not only here, but also abroad.”

Senate candidate Eric Hovde speaks at the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Baldwin should not expect the community to line up behind her reelection effort, Moran said, because gay voters “are not just voting on gay issues.”

Hovde told the audience he was “proud” that they had not “gotten caught up in the identity politics that the left has been pushing, you know, based on your race, your sexuality, your income level, your religion.”

“They want to try to drive a narrative and say you have to vote one way when you’re talking about issues that affect everybody,” he said.

The businessman then pivoted to voice his support for Log Cabin Republicans’ positions on transgender issues that were outlined earlier by Moran — specifically, opposition to irreversible gender-affirming medical interventions for patients younger than 18 and bans prohibiting trans girls and women from competing against girls and women in sports.

In recent years, athletics have provided opportunities for girls that were not available in generations past, he said, so “I’m thankful that you are using, just, a common-sense approach to these issues because that’s where most Americans stand.”

“Men shouldn’t be playing and girls sports — period,” Hovde said, adding, “That doesn’t mean that we’re against transgender people.”

The Republican hopeful noted, “we don’t let people drive before the age of 16” and “we don’t let them drink alcohol till 21” so the idea that “we’re gonna push or allow them to change their gender at 13, 14, 12” is “insanity.”

Baldwin, Hovde said, is divisive for claiming that former President Donald Trump is “one of the most dangerous men with a dark soul,” and the Democratic senator is a “rubber stamp for the progressive socialist left” as evidenced by her refusal to confirm Ric Grenell’s nomination, during the Trump administration, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany (a post for which he was confirmed by vote of 56-42.)

Hovde called Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence and special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations, “a super competent man with great foreign policy chops” and “exactly who you want serving in government.”

“As the first openly gay Senator, Tammy Baldwin didn’t run to make history, she ran to make a difference,” said Baldwin campaign spokeswoman Jackie Rosa. “And she’s proud of the difference she’s made to create jobs, lower health care costs, defend our freedoms, and improve the lives of millions of Wisconsinites.”

“Eric Hovde has to rely on divisive and false rhetoric about Tammy because he knows he doesn’t hold a candle to her legislative record,” she said.

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Africa

Uganda tightens grip on LGBTQ rights groups

Yoweri Museveni on July 16 dissolved country’s National Bureau of NGOs

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LGBTQ activists protest in front of the Ugandan Embassy in D.C. on April 25, 2023. Yoweri Museveni, the country's president, has signed a bill that tightens the grip on LGBTQ groups and other NGOs in the country. (Washington Blade photos by Michael K. Lavers)

The licensing, operation, and funding of LGBTQ organizations and other human rights groups in Uganda will now be under the government’s strict supervision.

President Yoweri Museveni on July 16 signed the Non-Governmental Organizations (Amendment) Act, 2024, that dissolves Uganda’s National Bureau of NGOs, which regulated the groups. The new law places its work under the Internal Affairs Ministry’s authority.

Museveni assented to bill after parliament passed it in April. MPs accused the NGOs Bureau of impeding the monitoring of NGOs activities, such as the promotion of homosexuality, that violate Ugandan law.

“I want you people (MPs) to be very careful when you are talking about NGOs,” Speaker Anita Among said during the parliamentary debate. “This is where money is being laundered into the country; this is how homosexuality money is coming into the country.”

The MPs noted that allowing the taxpayer-funded NGOs Bureau to operate independently without the State’s close supervision was putting Uganda at risk of losing its national objective of protecting its citizens from what they described as unwanted foreign practices through “funny money” given to LGBTQ rights organizations.

“I am aware of some NGOs that have been operating and doing things that are contrary to our own values and cultures, but I believe police and other agencies have been dealing with those other NGOs,” MP Sarah Opendi, who is a vocal LGBTQ rights opponent, said.

The MPs also backed the move for the NGOs Bureau to be under the Security Ministry’s oversight as “critical” by accusing it of bureaucracy in getting licenses and information. The NGOs regulator, however, does not allow the licensing of LGBTQ lobby groups for promoting homosexuality.

The NGOs Bureau in August 2022 halted the operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a group that fights discrimination against LGBTQ people in the country, because it was not registered by it or the Uganda Registration Services Bureau as Ugandan law requires. This decision came despite SMUG’s attempt in 2012 to reserve the name with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau for incorporation but the name was rejected for being “undesirable.”

The NGOs Bureau in stopping SMUG’s operations also noted the group did not have a physical office or location, and its representatives were reluctant to disclose it, despite partnering with the Health Ministry, the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and the Uganda police.

The NGOs Bureau, however, established government institutions that partnered with SMUG were unaware that it operated illegally.   

The NGOs Bureau’s move to halt SMUG’s operations “with immediate effect” prompted the group to challenge the decision in a lower court and then the Court of Appeal. SMUG lost both cases.    

SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha on Thursday, two days after Museveni signed the NGOs law, petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling against SMUG.

“Today, we filed a case at the Supreme Court of Uganda to challenge the decision by the Court of Appeal rejecting the registration of Sexual Minorities Uganda,” Mugisha stated.    

Mugisha, together with two other LGBTQ activists, Dennis Wamala and Ssenfuka Joanita Wary, argue the Court of Appeal judges’ application of the principle of public morality in interpreting constitutional and human rights law in its March 12 ruling was erroneous.

“The learned justices of the Court of Appeal erred in law when they held that the proposed objectives of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) are criminal and prohibited under Section 145 of the Penal Code Act,” reads the Supreme Court petition.

The three appellants also argue the Court of Appeal judges incorrectly maintained SMUG’s name was “undesirable” and the NGOs Bureau was within its mandates to disallow the registration in the “public interest” under the Companies Act. They also argue the Court of Appeal judges erred when they dismissed their appeal and want the Supreme Court to grant them to fully consider their petition.

 “It is proposed to ask the Supreme Court for orders that the decision and orders of the Court of Appeal be set aside and substituted with orders of this honorable court,” reads the petition.  

Activists consider the NGOs Bureau and the Uganda Registration Services Bureau’s decision to reject SMUG’s registration a violation of the right to freedom of expression and association. 

The appeal of the Court of Appeal’s ruling to the Supreme Court comes on the heels of the appeal of the Constitutional Court’s ruling that upheld the Anti-Homosexuality Act that Museveni signed in May 2023. Mugisha is among the 22 activists who petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the Constitutional Court’s ruling on July 11.

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Politics

Log Cabin Republicans president, Ric Grenell outline conservative LGBTQ positions

Big Tent Event took place outside the Republican National Convention on Wednesday

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From left, former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran attend the Log Cabin Republicans Big Tent Event at Discovery World in Milwaukee on July 17, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Log Cabin Republicans President Charles Moran outlined his organization’s position on divisive LGBTQ issues during the organization’s Big Tent Event offsite from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

“As conservative members of the LGBT community, we’re extremely concerned” that a “radical gender theory” is “being advanced in the name of LGBT equality,” Moran said in a video address following his remarks at the event.

“The last three years have been a real watershed moment for these radical leftists working in conjunction with woke corporations, out of sync academics, and cultural elitists who want to hijack our hard-earned civil rights movement to advance an extremist agenda,” he said.

The problem, Moran said, is that “Americans are seriously reconsidering their support for LGBT equality as a result” as evidenced by a Gallup poll last year which found for the first time that general and broad support for LGBTQ inclusion was in decline.

“The left’s war on our traditional values is starting to take a toll on the overall amount of acceptance and tolerance for average gays and lesbians in this country,” Moran said.

The Log Cabin president then explained how his organization had worked with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Republican state legislature on the controversial Parental Rights in Education (“Don’t Say Gay”) law, which “prevented mandated curriculum from being instructed on sexual orientation and gender identity from age three to grade three.”

Moran characterized the legislation as policy driven by a “common sense” approach, noting, however, that “in 2023, when the presidential primary races started kicking into high gear, we saw a broad push across the nation with legislation that was an overreaction and poorly thought out.”

“That next year, the reintroduction of that same Florida bill took the prohibition on those conversations all the way up from age three to age 18 in Florida schools, which was not practical nor needed, and thus we opposed that new version of the bill,” Moran said. “It just wasn’t smart public policy.”

Broadly, “average Americans see themselves as tolerant and inclusive — and we when we present a message that smacks of homophobia, anger, vitriol, and exclusion, they will vote against us every time,” he said.

“Eighty percent of this country supports equality and inclusion for the Ls, the Gs, the Bs, and the Ts,” added Moran, “but this comes with some guardrails concerning specific policy debates.”

“This is indicative of a very serious messaging problem. This is where we at Log Cabin Republicans need to step in to help the Republican Party steer through these issues with precision,” he said.

In practical terms, Moran said this will mean, “One, fight back against leftist extremists and cultural Marxists who are trying to undo strong cultural mores in society that are hijacking our civil rights movement and two, fight back against hardline social conservatives who never accepted the real evolution and acceptance of LGBT equality in the first place from dragging the Republican Party back into the middle of a gay marriage fight that has long been settled.”

With respect to specific policy debates, he highlighted “one, the protection and integrity of women’s spaces, two, support the preservation of women’s sports and Title IX, three, strong parental consent at every level in our schools, and four, no permanent gender transition under the age of 18.”

Taking the stage before Moran was former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell, who also served as acting director of national intelligence during the Trump administration.

The diplomat and conservative political operative celebrated the Republican Party’s issuance of a new platform this year that, for the first time, does not express opposition to same-sex marriage.

The two-page document does, however, call for banning transgender girls and women from competing in girls and women’s sports, as well as a proposal to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

“I couldn’t be more proud to have this platform under Donald Trump,” Grenell said. “After the platform was passed, President Trump called me and he said, ‘did you see what we did?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, I did and it’s amazing. You know, I want you to know that we’re gonna stay quiet until it really gets into the fabric and we’ll give it a little time. And you know, I know it’s gonna be a little hard for some people. So, we’ll give it a little time before we talk about it.’ He goes, ‘No, we won! Start talking about it.’ He’s all in. He’s all in with us.”

“In 2016, when Donald Trump came to run this party, I never once worried that he would somehow use us politically,” Grenell said. “You’ll notice he doesn’t. He absolutely believes that we are part of the American society. And he thinks it’s really weird if you don’t.”

At the same time, however, he stressed that Trump expects “us to police our own community to make sure we call out the radical left” and told the audience they “should be very upfront about rejecting the crazy radical gay left” who “don’t speak for us.”

“Now, the gay left is going to constantly tell you that you need special protections because they like to keep us in a box and take us out six months before elections and parade us around,” Grenell said. “We don’t do that. We want to be included at the front.”

He added that “I got in the most trouble for when I said that the State Department should cut all of its DEI programs out. We don’t need a special office down the way that has glitter and rainbows. We want to be at the table of substance. When you do the African policy, we want to be in the room. When you develop European policy, we want to be in the room.”

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Politics

Trump supports anti-trans sports ban in RNC speech

Former president’s remarks did not otherwise address LGBTQ issues

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Former President Donald Trump voiced his support for banning transgender women and girls from competing on girls and women’s athletics teams during his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday.

The proposal was included in the Republican Party’s official platform, along with plans to cut federal funding for “any school pushing critical race theory, radical gender ideology, and other inappropriate racial, sexual, or political content on our children.”

Trump had a major hand in shaping the two-page document, though apart from the sports ban his remarks closing out the RNC did not otherwise address LGBTQ matters.

Nor did the Republican presidential nominee mention Project 2025, the 900-page governing blueprint for a second Trump term that would radically reshape American government including by advancing a Christian nationalist anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice policy agenda.

In a statement following Trump’s speech, Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Chair Jen O’Malley Dillon pointed out that the former president also neglected to discuss “how he had inflicted pain and cruelty on the women of America by overturning Roe v Wade” or “his plan to take over the civil service and to pardon the Jan. 6th insurrectionists.”

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Politics

Owner of Milwaukee gay bar says LGBTQ patrons were avoiding areas near the RNC

Woody’s Milwaukee experienced a surge in traffic as a result

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Alan Kettering (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

MILWAUKEE — Woody’s Milwaukee owner Alan Kettering is no fan of Donald Trump, but when the former president was in town for the Republican National Convention this week, he told the Washington Blade it was “a bit of a nothing burger” as far as he and his gay bar were concerned.

“There isn’t a lot I can say about the RNC,” he said, except to the extent that “there was just a little bump [in business] over the weekend from people that didn’t want to, you know, go anywhere near downtown.”

Kettering suspects many of his LGBTQ patrons were deliberately avoiding getting close to the perimeter around Fiserv Forum, which contained hundreds of elected Republicans, thousands of Republican delegates, and tens of thousands of conservatives all gathered to rally around their nominee.

Asked whether any RNC attendees made their way to Woody’s this week, Kettering said there was one man who made a bit of a scene. “He claimed he was a representative of some sort” from Massachusetts, possibly a Republican delegate.

When the patron left with two men, Kettering said he worried for them because the Republican “just seemed a little unstable” but thankfully they returned to Woody’s unharmed. “I talked to them afterwards and they basically said they took an Uber down to Cathedral Square and the guy got out and ran away.”

Running a gay bar in a swing state during an election year at a particularly polarized time in the U.S. has sometimes meant having to police discussions about politics, Kettering said. “I try to quell it as much as I can, because I am very politically motivated, and I have to bite my tongue 90 percent of the time,” he said.

“And the vast majority of gay people are Democratic, the vast majority, but we do have a few that are very, very vocal, you know, in support of the current challenger,” Kettering said. “But I try very hard to limit the amount of political discussion because there is no winning.”

“You’re not going to convince me and I’m sure I’m not going to convince you. So have a drink and be mellow.”

Asked to share his thoughts about the upcoming election, Kettering was quick to relay his concerns about Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s governing blueprint for a second Trump administration, which would impose radical governmental reforms while advancing an anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice Christian nationalist agenda.

“If any of that Project 2025 is true — I mean, if any of its true — these people are nuts,” he said.

“They’re trying to roll back all kinds of freedoms. They’re trying to establish an ordained religion, and it has to be Christianity. And, you know, if you’re going to be anybody who’s worthwhile, you have to be heterosexual, married, with kids, of course.”

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South America

Report finds more Argentina businesses adopting LGBTQ-inclusive policies

Activists condemn new government’s rolling back of rights

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More than 1 million people took part in the Buenos Aires Pride parade in Argentina on Nov. 4, 2023. A new report finds more businesses in the country have implemented policies for their LGBTQ employees. (Photo courtesy of Esteban Paulón)

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and LGBT+ Public Policy Institute of Argentina last week released their third annual report on the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the country’s workplaces.

The Global Workplace Equity Program: Equidad AR evaluates major Argentine and multinational companies and policies for their LGBTQ employees.

The total number of participating companies in this year’s survey increased from 76 to 82, which reflects a growing commitment to creating LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices in Argentine workplaces. The report also notes 224,649 queer employees, which is a 120 percent increase over last year.

The HRC Foundation’s AR Equity Program is based on the HRC Corporate Equity Index, the leading survey that assesses LGBTQ workplace in the U.S. Companies that lead the way in LGBTQ inclusion and equity earn the HRC Foundation’s “Best Places to Work LGBT+ 2024” designation.

Fifty-five of the 82 participating companies in Argentina earned this certification this year. They represent 26 different business sectors.

“As we’ve seen countless times, when organizations implement LGBT+ policies, everyone wins: Workers are better able to reach their full potential and employers reaffirm their commitment to treating all people with dignity and respect,” said RaShawn Hawkins, senior director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program. “We are very proud of our partners for the work they have done to advance LGBT+ equality in their workplaces and look forward to continuing to work with them as partners in this fight.”

The commitment to LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practicies is significant in a different way for the community in Argentina this year.

HRC indicated “recent public administrative changes focused on the LGBT+ community motivated the private sector to generate more opportunities to grow and develop its diverse workforce through business.”

President Javier Milei and his government have faced criticism over the closure of the National Institute against Discrimination and the Ministry of Women, Gender, and Diversity. 

“The complex context that Argentina is experiencing of difficulties, hostility, and refusal of the national government to sustain many of the public policies that were carried out in recent years, puts the private sector at the center, which clearly has all the conditions to make an important contribution and become a decisive factor to support from another place different from the one we have been used to because the State has run away,” gay Congressman Esteban Paulón told the Washington Blade.

The congressman added “the private sector, and from the cooperation between the public sector and the private sector, can work and sustain many of the achievements that have been achieved in these years.” Paulón said they include implementation of a labor quota for transgender people that Milei’s government is no longer implementing, but “could be sustained” with a “firm commitment” from the private sector.

Onax Cirlini, HRC’s AR Equity implementing partner, said that “beyond the institutional efforts highlighted in this report, we see the dynamics generated by activism organized by employee resource groups (ERGs)/business resource groups (BRGs) or affinity groups.” 

“This internal momentum, often led by people in the community itself, enhances institutional equality efforts by providing continuity and persistence,” said Cirlini.

Dolores Covacevich, another HRC AR Equity implementing partner, stressed the group recognizes “the importance of every role within companies and organizations as they work toward the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion policies, and the commitment to LGBT+ inclusion efforts.”

“We know that none of this work would be possible without inclusive leadership that promotes these processes,” said Covacevich.

HRC has worked with groups in Mexico, Chile, and Brazil to implement similar indexes in their respective countries.

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