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Lawmakers form group to fight anti-LGBTI discrimination around the world

Mark Takano among Global Equality Caucus founding members

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U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) speaks at a Human Rights Campaign event on Jan. 4, 2019. The California Democrat is among the lawmakers who have created the Global Equality Caucus, which seeks to fight anti-LGBTI discrimination around the world. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lawmakers from more than two dozen countries have formed a new group that seeks to combat anti-LGBTI discrimination.

U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Dominican Congresswoman Jacqueline Montero, Canadian MP Randy Boissonnault, Venezuelan Assemblywoman Tamara Adrián, Philippine Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Kenyan MP Esther Passaris, British MP Nick Herbert and Sen. Aziza Lake of Antigua and Barbuda are among the upwards of 100 legislators who have joined the Global Equality Caucus.

A press release indicates the Global Equality Caucus will “support” efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and “the end of violence against LGBT+ people.”

The Global Equality Caucus will “promote equal rights and nondiscrimination and ensure that LGBT+ people have equal access to healthcare, including HIV treatment and support for trans people.” The press release also says the Global Equality Caucus “wants to ensure that data is collected so that governments can be held accountable for how LGBT+ people are treated, and support funding for NGOs which are working for LGBT+ people.”

A formal announcement is scheduled to take place on Friday at the U.N.

The press release says the Global Equality Caucus “is open to legislators across the world regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“In too many places around the world LGBT+ people face discrimination and live in fear,” said Herbert in the press release. “We need to stand up for them, and politicians are in a unique position to drive change. We pass laws, vote funds and influence leaders. We have a platform to speak for those whose voice cannot be heard. The Global Equality Caucus will make the case for change, united by a belief in equality for all.”

Takano said the Global Equality Caucus “will give us a chance to learn from each other’s successes and better understand the challenges that exist in different nations.” New Zealand MP Louisa Wall agreed.

“As a passionate human rights practitioner, and a proud indigenous takatapui lesbian cis woman, I am committed to developing and supporting initiatives that uphold principles of equality and non-discrimination and protect the rights of our most vulnerable,” she said in the press release. “LGBTIQ+ human beings and citizens globally have a right to exist as we are. That is why the Global Equality Caucus is so very important.”

Friday’s announcement coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The Trump administration earlier this year announced openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell will lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The State Department last month did not publicly acknowledge the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It has also not issued a Pride month statement.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus on Monday defended a policy that prohibits U.S. embassies from displaying Pride flags on official flag poles.

“The Global Equality Caucus will be a network that will advance the rights of people throughout the world,” said Takano. “At a time when the cause of LGBT equality seems to be gaining ground in many places, but falling behind in as many others, the need for this caucus could not be greater.”

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Europe

Swiss voters overwhelmingly approve ‘Marriage for All’ law

Statute received 64 percent support in referendum

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Screenshot of pro-same-sex marriage 'Yes, love wins' banner on a Swiss Fence via BBC Europe

BERN, Switzerland — Voters in Switzerland on Sunday voted overwhelmingly in favor of a law that extends marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Swiss voters supported the “Marriage for All” law by a 64-36 percent margin in the referendum.

Lawmakers approved the statue late last year. Marriage equality opponents were able to force a referendum on it.

Switzerland joins neighboring France, Germany, Austria and other European countries that have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Maria von Känel, co-president of the “Marriage for All” campaign, described the referendum results as “a historic day, a milestone for LGBTQ equality.”

“It’s a great achievement,” she told the Los Angeles Blade. “All cantons and 64.1 percent of Swiss voters have voted yes for marriage for all. Our partnerships and families are now recognized equally and legally.”

“We have great support of the family, children and human rights organizations and many thousands of people who took to the streets for this cause and did public work,” added von Känel. “We are infinitely grateful.”

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Texas

Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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Utah

2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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