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Migrants in Ciudad Juárez face violence, months-long wait to enter US

El Paso activists struggle to support Mexican counterparts

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Zuleika, a transgender woman from El Salvador’s San Vicente department, was living at Casa Respetttrans, a shelter for LGBTI migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Zuleika, 25, is a transgender woman from El Salvador’s San Vicente department.

She had been living at Casa Respetttrans, a shelter for LGBTI migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, run by Respetttrans Chihuahua, a local trans advocacy group, for more than a month when the Washington Blade spoke with her on July 16. Zuleika said her ultimate goal was to receive asylum in the U.S.

“The U.S. is a free society,” she told the Blade.

Zuleika is among the tens of thousands of migrants who have traveled to Ciudad Juárez in recent months with the hope they will enter the U.S. and receive asylum. El Paso, Texas, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, remains a flashpoint over President Trump’s hardline immigration policy.

Downtown El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, from the Scenic Drive Overlook in El Paso, Texas, on July 15, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Casa Respetttrans opened in its current location in Ciudad Juárez earlier this year. Zuleika was among the 36 migrants — including Leche Merchant, a trans woman from Mexico’s Guerrero state who had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., for two years until July 15 — were living at the shelter when the Blade visited it.

Casa Respetttrans Director Grecia Herrera noted Respetttrans Chihuahua is a group that advocates on behalf of trans women.

Herrera said the group had to “diversify” because Ciudad Juárez did not have any shelters that specifically served LGBTI migrants. Herrera told the Blade that Respetttrans Chihuahua now provides services to Mexicans of indigenous descent who have been displaced from other parts of the country, people who use drugs and other vulnerable groups.

“This space does not only think about the migrant population,” she said.

Programa Compañeros is another organization in Ciudad Juárez that provides assistance to LGBTI migrants.

The group, which formed in the 1980s in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, distributes feminine hygiene products and other items to migrants in the city. Programa Compañeros also works to promote safer sex practices and fights violence against women in Ciudad Juárez.

People who use drugs who participate in twice-weekly meetings at Programa Compañeros’ offices are able to eat a hot meal, take a shower and receive medical care. Some of men in the program have either had sex with other men in order to support their drug habit or have been deported from the U.S.

https://youtu.be/fqF8Th6BqZw

Programa Compañeros Director María Elena Ramos on July 16 told the Blade that women and girls who hope to enter the U.S. are frequently forced into prostitution. Ramos said they are also vulnerable to human trafficking.

“Their body is their passport to cross all of these invisible borders that exist,” she said. “They are in a very difficult situation and they exchange sex to buy things they need. It is the only option that they have.”

A pedestrian-only street in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that ends at the city’s main cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The New York Times on Sunday reported 5,600 asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez are on waiting lists to enter the U.S. The New York Times also said more than 13,000 migrants have been returned to Ciudad Juárez under the Trump administration’s controversial “remain in Mexico” program that forces them to remain in Mexico as they await the outcome of their asylum cases.

Advocates on both sides of the border with whom the Blade spoke said Ciudad Juárez remains a dangerous city.

A travel advisory the State Department issued on April 9 urges Americans to “reconsider travel” to Mexico’s Chihuahua state in which Ciudad Juárez is located because of crime.

“Violent crime and gang activity are widespread,” reads the advisory. “While most homicides appear to be targeted assassinations carried out by criminal organizations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Bystanders have been injured or killed in shooting incidents.”

Herrera and Paola Fernández of Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee, an El Paso-based group that works closely with Casa Respetttrans, both said several trans women have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez since the beginning of the year.

Imelda Maynard, a lawyer for Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico, on July 15 told the Blade during an interview at a coffee shop in downtown El Paso that many of her clients in Ciudad Juárez “don’t know who to trust over there” because they are afraid of the Mexican police and kidnappers. Maynard also said some of them have to wait until January for their first hearing before an immigration judge.

“There’s no rhyme nor reason to it,” she said.

The Paso del Norte Port of Entry between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Johana “Joa” Medina León, a transgender woman from El Salvador, died on June 1 at Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso.

Medina stayed at Casa Respetttrans before she entered the U.S. at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez on April 11. Medina was detained at the privately-run Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., until ICE released her from its custody on May 28, three days before her death.

Medina’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security.

“I really want to know exactly what happened,” Medina’s mother, Patricia Medina de Barrientos, told the Blade on July 22 during an exclusive interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador.

Héctor Ruiz of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, a New Mexico-based group that advocates on behalf of immigrants, told the Blade at his El Paso office that he did not know about Medina until after she died. Nathan Craig of Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert, an organization in Las Cruces, N.M., that visits migrants who are in detention centers, said one of Medina’s podmates with whom he and other AVID volunteers visited had expressed concern about Medina’s “declining health” in the weeks before her death.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Ruiz told the Blade, referring to Medina’s death. “That’s why we’re trying to make more of an effort to have a regular presence in Juárez, or regular contact with folks on the ground in Juárez to ensure there’s a smooth handoff from the groups that are working there.”

Fernández described the circumstances surrounding Medina’s death as “super shady.” Fernández also told the Blade the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee supports the abolition of ICE, DHS, Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“We don’t want to just better conditions,” said Fernández, referring to the conditions in which migrants are detained. “We don’t want these detention centers to even exist.”

The Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., on July 15, 2019. Johana “Joa” Medina León, a transgender woman from El Salvador, had been in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the facility until ICE released her on May 28. Medina died three days later at a hospital in nearby El Paso, Texas. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘Immigration has been a big tinderbox issue for awhile’

A gunman on Aug. 3 killed 22 people and injured more than two dozen others when he opened fire at a Walmart near El Paso’s Cielo Vista Mall, which is less than two miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

The gunman, who was from a Dallas suburb, made anti-immigrant and anti-Latino statements before the massacre. The gunman also reportedly praised Trump and his calls for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump in 2015 described Mexicans as “rapists” when he announced he was running for president.

The president in February defended the wall during a rally he held at the El Paso County Coliseum, which is a few blocks from the Bridge of the Americas that connects El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. Trump in the wake of the Walmart massacre condemned white supremacy, but continues to face widespread criticism over his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Fernández is among those in El Paso who said Trump’s immigration policy is a way for him to appeal to his base ahead of next year’s presidential election.

“Immigration has been a big tinderbox issue for awhile,” said Maynard. “Our system is messed up and it has been for awhile.”

“It didn’t start with the Trump administration,” she added. “But he just found a way to play off of the xenophobia, the otherness of other people and use that and run with it.”

Ramos agreed.

“You have elected a president who has a very aggressive attitude,” she told the Blade. “His campaign slogan … his campaign focus was migrants and at that time the migrants were Mexicans.”

“It’s very bad,” added Ramos. “It is very diabolical.”

Zuleika conceded she was afraid of Trump’s immigration policy, even though she was hopeful the U.S. would grant her asylum. Michelle, a 24-year-old lesbian woman from Soyapango, El Salvador, who was living at Casa Respetttrans with Zuleika, said she hoped to live in California with her partner.

“[El Salvador] is a very dangerous country,” Michelle told the Blade as she sat on a couch next to Willy, a 24-year-old gay man who fled La Ceiba, Honduras, last fall.

“It is very difficult to be a woman in this place,” added Michelle. “There is a lot of vulnerability.”

Herrera on Monday said Willy, Michelle and Zuleika are now in the U.S. Herrera told the Blade that Merchant still lives at Casa Respetttrans.

“It is a safe place,” said Herrera.

A mural in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on July 16, 2019 reads, “nobody is illegal.” Tens of thousands of migrants who hope to enter the U.S. are currently in the Mexican border city. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
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Southern California

Bonta files for permanent ban of Chino school’s forced outing policy

Bonta noted that the policy was detrimental to the physical, emotional safety, well-being, & privacy of trans students

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta along with California's Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber at a April, 2024 Sacramento press conference. (Photo Credit: Office of the Attorney General/Facebook)

OAKLAND, Calif. — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a motion for final judgment in Bonta v. Chino Valley Unified School District seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to ensure that the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education (Board) does not reenact or implement their recently-rescinded forced outing policy.

In a press release, the Attorney General noted that the policy – Policy 5020.1 – was detrimental to the physical and emotional safety, well-being, and privacy of transgender and gender-nonconforming students.

In August 2023, Attorney General Bonta sued to challenge the policy on the basis that it violated students’ civil and constitutional rights under California law, and in October 2023, obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining the facially discriminatory provisions of the forced outing policy. While the District voted to rescind the forced outing policy on March 7, 2024, in response to the San Bernardino County Superior Court’s preliminary injunction order, the District’s Board continues to stand “proudly” by Policy 5020.1, the District’s counsel continues to maintain that it was “common sense and constitutional,” and the District continues to make comments echoing the anti-trans comments they made publicly before enacting the policy.

As a result, Attorney General Bonta is seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory relief to protect students’ civil rights and ensure that the Board does not reenact or implement its original, discriminatory policy.   

“Chino Valley Unified has an obligation to protect the safety and well-being of the students it is charged to serve, especially our most vulnerable student communities who are susceptible to violence and harassment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “It took a lawsuit and court order to get Chino Valley to rescind their discriminatory forced outing policy, but even now, the Board has continued to assert that it was lawful, and board members continue to echo the anti-trans rhetoric they relied upon when passing it. Today’s motion seeks to ensure no child becomes a target again by blocking Chino Valley Unified from ever adopting another forced outing policy. As we continue to defend the rights of transgender and gender-nonconforming students, I urge all school districts to take note and ensure every student can enjoy their right to learn and thrive in a school environment that promotes safety, privacy, and inclusivity.”

Even though Attorney General Bonta issued a letter to the Board on July 20, 2023 stressing the potential harms and infringements on students’ civil rights from the adoption of Board Policy 5020.1, the Board enacted the policy nonetheless. The forced outing policy required schools to inform parents, with minimal exceptions, whenever a student requested to use a name or pronoun different from that on their birth certificate or official records, even without the student’s permission and even when disclosure would cause physical or mental harm to the student.

The policy also required notification if a student requested to use facilities or participate in programs that did not align with their sex on official records. In August 2023, Attorney General Bonta announced a lawsuit challenging the enforcement of Policy 5020.1, asserting it violated several state protections safeguarding students’ civil and constitutional rights.

Shortly after securing a temporary restraining order, the San Bernardino Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction against the Board’s forced outing policy in October 2023. The Court held that several provisions violated California’s equal protection clause and discriminated against transgender and gender-nonconforming students, causing them irreparable harm.

In today’s motion seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory relief against the forced outing policy, Attorney General Bonta underscores the importance of the Court’s issuance of final adjudication to guarantee the safety and well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming students from future identical or similar forced outing policies, and declare that the forced outing policy violates students’ constitutional and statutory rights to be free from unequal and discriminatory treatment on the basis of sex, gender, and gender identity.  

As part of today’s motion, Attorney General Bonta urges the Court to issue a final judgment because a live controversy exists, as the District’s conduct signals that it could re-adopt the discriminatory policy absent a final ruling by the Court, the discriminatory message communicated by the enactment of a discriminatory policy must still be redressed, and the case presents clear issues of public interest broadly affecting students, parents, school officials, and teachers that are likely to recur.

The Attorney General underscores the importance of securing final injunctive and declaratory relief against Policy 5020.1 to:

  • Prevent the Board from re-enacting the discriminatory forced outing policy in the absence of a final injunction.
  • Provide relief against the stigmatic harms inflicted by the Board’s adoption of the forced outing policy.
  • Declare that the Board’s forced outing policy violates California’s equal protection and antidiscrimination laws.

Today’s motion also asserts the Board’s plain motivations in adopting Policy 5020.1 were to create and harbor animosity, discrimination, and prejudice towards transgender and gender-nonconforming students, without any compelling reason to do so, as evidenced by statements made during the Board’s hearing.

In discussing the policy before its passage, board members made a number of statements describing students who are transgender or gender-nonconforming as suffering from a “mental illness” or “perversion”, or as being a threat to the integrity of the nation and the family. The Board President went so far as to state that transgender and gender nonconforming individuals needed “non-affirming” parental actions so that they could “get better.”

The Attorney General has a substantial interest in protecting the legal rights, physical safety, and mental health of children in California schools, and in protecting them from trauma, harassment, bullying, and exposure to violence and threats of violence. Research shows that protecting a transgender student’s ability to make choices about how and when to inform others is critical to their well-being, as transgender students are exposed to high levels of harassment and mistreatment at school and in their communities when those environments are not supportive of their gender identity. 

  • One-in-10 respondents in a 2015 national survey said that an immediate family member had been violent toward them because they were transgender, and 15% ran away from home or were kicked out of their home because they were transgender. Fewer than one-in-three transgender and gender nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.
  • Nearly 46% of transgender students reported missing at least one day of school in the preceding month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable there and 17% of transgender students reported that they left a K-12 school due to the severity of the harassment they experienced at school.
  • Seventy-seven percent of students known or perceived as transgender reported negative experiences such as harassment and assault, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth reported seriously considering suicide in the past year. 

A copy of the motion seeking declaratory and injunctive relief is available here.

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Pennsylvania

Kenyatta may become first LGBTQ statewide elected official in Pa.

Penn. state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is running for auditor general is an active surrogate in the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign

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President Joe Biden, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Vice President Kamala Harris (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

PHILADELPHIA County, Penn. — Following his win in the Democratic primary contest on Wednesday, Pennsylvania state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who is running for auditor general, is positioned to potentially become the first openly LGBTQ elected official serving the commonwealth.

In a statement celebrating his victory, LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President Annise Parker said, “Pennsylvanians trust Malcolm Kenyatta to be their watchdog as auditor general because that’s exactly what he’s been as a legislator.”

“LGBTQ+ Victory Fund is all in for Malcolm, because we know he has the experience to win this race and carry on his fight for students, seniors and workers as Pennsylvania’s auditor general,” she said.

Parker added, “LGBTQ+ Americans are severely underrepresented in public office and the numbers are even worse for Black LGBTQ+ representation. I look forward to doing everything I can to mobilize LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians and our allies to get out and vote for Malcolm this November so we can make history.” 

In April 2023, Kenyatta was appointed by the White House to serve as director of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans.

He has been an active surrogate in the Biden-Harris 2024 reelection campaign.

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The White House

Biden announces action plan targeting pollutants in drinking water

The administration has led more than 500 programs geared toward communities most impacted by health and safety hazards like pollution

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President Joe Biden speaks with reporters following an Earth Day event on April 22, 2024 (Screen capture: Forbes/YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Headlining an Earth Day event in Northern Virginia’s Prince William Forest on Monday, President Joe Biden announced the disbursement of $7 billion in new grants for solar projects and warned of his Republican opponent’s plans to roll back the progress his administration has made toward addressing the harms of climate change.

The administration has led more than 500 programs geared toward communities most impacted by health and safety hazards like pollution and extreme weather events.

In a statement to the Washington Blade on Wednesday, Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said, “President Biden is leading the most ambitious climate, conservation, and environmental justice agenda in history – and that means working toward a future where all people can breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy community.”

“This Earth Week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $7 billion in solar energy projects for over 900,000 households in disadvantaged communities while creating hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs, which are being made more accessible by the American Climate Corps,” she said. “President Biden is delivering on his promise to help protect all communities from the impacts of climate change – including the LGBTQI+ community – and that we leave no community behind as we build an equitable and inclusive clean energy economy for all.”

Recent milestones in the administration’s climate policies include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s issuance on April 10 of legally enforceable standard for detecting and treating drinking water contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances.

“This rule sets health safeguards and will require public water systems to monitor and reduce the levels of PFAS in our nation’s drinking water, and notify the public of any exceedances of those levels,” according to a White House fact sheet. “The rule sets drinking water limits for five individual PFAS, including the most frequently found PFOA and PFOS.”

The move is expected to protect 100 million Americans from exposure to the “forever chemicals,” which have been linked to severe health problems including cancers, liver and heart damage, and developmental impacts in children.

An interactive dashboard from the United States Geological Survey shows the concentrations of polyfluoroalkyl substances in tapwater are highest in urban areas with dense populations, including cities like New York and Los Angeles.

During Biden’s tenure, the federal government has launched more than 500 programs that are geared toward investing in the communities most impacted by climate change, whether the harms may arise from chemical pollutants, extreme weather events, or other causes.

New research by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that because LGBTQ Americans are likelier to live in coastal areas and densely populated cities, households with same-sex couples are likelier to experience the adverse effects of climate change.

The report notes that previous research, including a study that used “national Census data on same-sex households by census tract combined with data on hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) from the National Air Toxics Assessment” to model “the relationship between same-sex households and risk of cancer and respiratory illness” found “that higher prevalence of same-sex households is associated with higher risks for these diseases.”

“Climate change action plans at federal, state, and local levels, including disaster preparedness, response, and recovery plans, must be inclusive and address the specific needs and vulnerabilities facing LGBT people,” the Williams Institute wrote.

With respect to polyfluoroalkyl substances, the EPA’s adoption of new standards follows other federal actions undertaken during the Biden-Harris administration to protect firefighters and healthcare workers, test for and clean up pollution, and phase out or reduce use of the chemicals in fire suppressants, food packaging, and federal procurement.

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Africa

For queer Nigerians, being on gay dating apps is still risky

Homophobes target users for violence

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(Bigstock photo)

By Elvis Kachi | LAGOS, Nigeria — Gay hookup apps like Grindr, and dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have managed to proliferate queer communities in countries like Nigeria. 

Those who seek one night stands find what they want while those looking for love equally find what they seek. These platforms have managed to position themselves as safe spaces for queer people in anti-gay Nigeria. In recent times, however, it is proving to be unsafe, as homophobic people are quickly learning about the apps, and opening accounts that either seek to outrightly threaten queer people, or pretend to be queer, have long chats with gay people, invite them over, and inflict violence on them.

Take the case of Biodun, a queer Nigerian man who joined Grindr to meet up with guys like him. 

After Biodun had built a connection and agreed to meet with someone whose display name was “Mamba,” they decided to meet up only for him to be met with violence. Apparently, Mamba ran a catfish account. 

“I’ll never forget that day,” Biodun, who asked the Washington Blade not to use his last name because of safety concerns, said. “I still think about it, and sometimes blame myself for being very careless, even though Grindr was supposed to be our safe space.” 

Biodun’s experience isn’t peculiar to him. 

In Nigeria, draconian laws that criminalize same-sex relationships exist, making queer people turn to the digital realm to explore their identities and seek connections beyond the confines of societal oppression that comes with the physical environment. Gay dating apps such as Grindr, therefore, have emerged as virtual sanctuaries, offering spaces for queer Nigerians to forge friendships, find solidarity, and pursue romantic or sexual relationships. Spaces like this, however, have morphed into a landscape fraught with danger, as homophobic people have weaponized these platforms to perpetuate hate and violence. 

“Sometimes, I often wonder how they learned about these platforms,” Daniel, which is not his real name, told the Blade. “You would think that it is just us in the platforms, until you find out that the accounts are rooted in homophobia.” 

One time, someone’s bio read, “I’m only here to deal with the gay people. I know all of you, and I will find and kill you. We no want una for here (translates to “We do not want you here,” in English.)” It was a stark reminder that these spaces are no longer LGBTQ+-friendly for Nigerians. In 2014, there was the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act by former President Goodluck Jonathan, which not only criminalized same-sex unions, but also imposed severe penalties on anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy or support. 

This law catalyzed a surge in discrimination and violence against queer Nigerians; emboldening regular civilians, religious extremists, and even law enforcement agencies to target individuals perceived as deviating from traditional gender and sexual norms. Again, amid this hostile environment, gay dating apps emerged as lifelines for many queer Nigerians, offering avenues for discreet communication, community building, and the pursuit of intimate relationships.

The very anonymity and freedom these apps provided, however, became double-edged swords. 

The advent of screenshot and screen-recording capabilities on these apps, for example, reduced the risks of exposure, strengthening the safety and privacy of users. However, this also comes with its own lapses, as queer people using Grindr have often relied on screenshots and screen recordings to confirm the identities of potentials with their friends, before accepting to meet. 

“Before the removal of the screenshot option, I usually shared photos of others with my trusted friends,” Biodun shared. “But since that was taken off, there was no way for me to do that.” 

Although, according to Grindr’s terms and conditions, the removal came with privacy concerns, as it was to facilitate a safe dating experience.

This erosion of digital safe spaces is depriving queer Nigerians of vital avenues for self-expression and affirmation, and is exacerbating the psychological toll of living in a society that continues to systematically demonize their identities. Moreover, the normalization of homophobic rhetoric and violence in both physical and digital realms has perpetuated a cycle of fear and oppression, and is reinforcing this notion that LGBTQ+ individuals are inherently unworthy of dignity and respect. Despite these challenges, though, the resilience of queer Nigerians continue to persist, as they defy societal norms and assert their right to love and be loved.

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Elvis Kachi is a Nigerian fashion and culture journalist. He’s had in pieces featured across platforms like BBC, Thomson Reuters, Essence Magazine, Condé Nast’s Them, etc. www.elviskachi.com

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Research/Study

90 percent of trans youth live in states restricting their rights

Slightly more than 75% of trans youth live in 40 states passed laws or had pending bills that restrict access to gender-affirming care

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March for Queer & Trans Youth Autonomy. (Michael Key/Washington Blade)

LOS ANGELES – According to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, 93% of transgender youth aged 13 to 17 in the U.S.—approximately 280,300 youth—live in states that have proposed or passed laws restricting their access to health care, sports, school bathrooms and facilities, or the use of gender-affirming pronouns.  

In some regions, a large percentage of transgender youth live in a state that has already enacted one of these laws. About 85% of transgender youth in the South and 40% of transgender youth in the Midwest live in one of these states.

An estimated 300,100 youth ages 13 to 17 in the U.S. identify as transgender. Nearly half of transgender youth live in 14 states and Washington D.C. that have laws that protect access to gender-affirming care and prohibit conversion therapy.

All transgender youth living in the Northeast reside in a state with either a gender-affirming care “shield” law or a conversion therapy ban, while almost all transgender youth in the West (97%) live in a state with one or both protective laws.

“For the second straight year, hundreds of bills impacting transgender youth were introduced in state legislatures,” said lead author Elana Redfield, Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “The diverging legal landscape has created a deep divide in the rights and protections for transgender youth and their families across the country.”

KEY FINDINGS:

Restrictive Legislation

Bans on gender-affirming care

237,500 transgender youth—slightly more than three-quarters of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 40 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict access to gender-affirming care.113,900 transgender youth live in 24 states that have enacted gender-affirming care bans.123,600 youth live in 16 additional states that had a gender-affirming care ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Bans on sports participation

222,500 transgender youth—nearly three-quarters of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 41 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict participation in school sports.120,200 transgender youth live in 27 states where access to sports participation is restricted or state policy encourages restriction.102,300 transgender youth live in 14 additional states that had a sports ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

School bathroom bans

117,000 transgender youth live in 30 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that ban transgender students from using school bathrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity.38,600 transgender youth live in 13 states that explicitly or implicitly ban bathroom access.78,400 transgender youth live in 17 additional states that had a bathroom ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Bans on pronoun use

121,100 transgender youth live in 31 states that have passed laws or had pending bills that restrict or prohibit the use of gender-affirming pronouns.49,100 transgender youth live in 14 states that have restricted or banned pronoun use, particularly in schools or state-run facilities.72,000 transgender youth live in 17 additional states that had a restriction or prohibition pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Gender-affirming care “shield” laws

163,800 transgender youth—over half of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 18 states and D.C. that have passed gender-affirming care “shield” laws or had pending bills that protect access to care.146,700 transgender youth live in 14 states and D.C. that have passed these protections.17,100 transgender youth live in four additional states that had a “shield” law pending in the 2024 legislative session.

Conversion therapy bans

204,800 transgender youth live in 31 states and D.C. that ban conversion therapy or had pending bills that prohibit the practice for minors.198,000 transgender youth—about two-thirds of transgender youth in the U.S.—live in 27 states and D.C. that ban conversion therapy for minors.6,800 transgender youth live in four additional states that had a ban pending in the 2024 legislative session.
“A growing body of research shows that efforts to support transgender youth are associated with better mental health,” said co-author Kerith Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Restrictions on medically appropriate care and full participation at school exacerbate the stress experienced by these youth and their families.”

Read the report: (Here)

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Ventura County

“Queers in the Valley” Ojai launches & is ready to celebrate Pride

Queers in the Valley are fundraising for Ojai’s first ever Pride Picnic & Celebration following the 33rd annual Pride Walk on June 30th, 2024

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Queers in the Valley-Ojai (Photo Credit: JoEllen Depakakibo)

OJAI, Calif. – JoEllen Depakakibo, founder of Pinhole Coffee in San Francisco’s charming Bernal Heights has resettled in northeastern Ventura County with a new mission, a Pride Picnic & Celebration in Ojai.

Depakakibo along with her wife and child now call Ojai home and when not running a Pinhole Coffee EV-van have gathered with other LGBTQ+ community members launching the effort to raise funds for Ojai’s first Pride Picnic & Celebration.

The Pride Picnic & Celebration following the 33rd annual Pride Walk on Sunday, June 30th, 2024. According to a Facebook Post by Depakakibo, organizers enlisted the help of Rachel Lang the first out LGBTQ+ Ojai City Councilmember and support from Ojai Mayor Betsy Stix.

In a GoFundMe page and on the group’s ‘Queers in the Valley’ website the group is soliciting assistance to fund their efforts:

We are Queers in the Valley, and are fundraising for Ojai’s first ever Pride Picnic & Celebration following the 33rd annual Pride Walk on Sunday, June 30th, 2024!

Our mission is to find, build, strengthen, support and inspire the Queer Community in Ojai Valley. Our intention is to make it as Ojai as possible, and lay a foundation of safety and inclusion for our Trans, BIPOC, Disabled, and Low-Income Queer Family.

Help us raise $3000 to:

– pay our Queer Entertainers

– pay our Queer Graphic Designer and build out our website

– print signs and flyers

– rent Libbey Park

– make the event as accessible as possible for BIPOC, Disabled, and Low Income folx through things like ASL interpretation, non-police security, free covid testing, discounts for food options, etc.

– purchase 1-day event insurance

– pay for materials for such things as a kids crafting corner

Send us a message if you want to get involved!

gofundme.com/ojaipride

instagram/@queersinthevalley

The group noted:

If you are a local Queer artist, vendor or organization that wants to be featured on our website/want to volunteer/have any suggestions or questions…reach out to us (contact info on website).

This group was started with the yearning of mentioned intentions above from many people. Representation matters

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Maine

Maine’s Governor Mills signs trans & abortion sanctuary bill into law

Despite a series of bomb threats against legislators in the state, Gov. Janet Mills has signed a trans & abortion sanctuary bill

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Maine Governor Janet T. Mills congratulates members of Maine Women's Basketball. In March the team won the America East championship. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

By Erin Reed | AUGUSTA, Maine – On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills of Maine signed LD 227, a sanctuary bill that protects transgender and abortion providers and patients from out-of-state prosecution, into law.

With this action, Maine becomes the 16th state to explicitly protect transgender and abortion care in state law from prosecution. This follows several bomb threats targeting state legislators after social media attacks from far-right anti-trans influencers such as Riley Gaines and Chaya Raichik of Libs of TikTok.

An earlier version of the bill failed in committee after similar attacks in January. Undeterred, Democrats reconvened and added additional protections to the bill before it was passed into law.

The law is extensive. It asserts that gender-affirming care and reproductive health care are “legal rights” in Maine. It states that criminal and civil actions against providers and patients are not enforceable if the provision or access to that care occurred within Maine’s borders, asserting jurisdiction over those matters.

It bars cooperation with out-of-state subpoenas and arrest warrants for gender-affirming care and abortion that happen within the state. It even protects doctors who provide gender-affirming care and abortion from certain adverse actions by medical boards, malpractice insurance, and other regulating entities, shielding those providers from attempts to economically harm them through out-of-state legislation designed to dissuade them from providing care.

You can see the findings section of the bill here:

The bill also explicitly enshrines the World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s Standards of Care, which have been the target of right-wing disinformation campaigns, into state law for the coverage of transgender healthcare:

The bill is said to be necessary due to attempts to prosecute doctors and seek information from patients across state lines. In recent months, attorneys general in other states have attempted to obtain health care data on transgender patients who traveled to obtain care. According to the United States Senate Finance Committee, attorneys general in Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, and Texas attempted to obtain detailed medical records “to terrorize transgender teens in their states… opening the door to criminalizing women’s private reproductive health care choices.”

The most blatant of these attempts was from the Attorney General of Texas, who, according to the Senate Finance Committee, “sent demands to at least two non-Texas entities.” One of these entities was Seattle Children’s Hospital, which received a letter threatening administrators with arrest unless they sent data on Texas patients traveling to Seattle to obtain gender-affirming care.

Seattle Children’s Hospital settled that case out of court this week, agreeing to withdraw its Texas business registration in return for Texas dropping its investigation. This likely will have no impact on Seattle Children’s Hospital, which has stated it did not treat any youth via telemedicine or in person in Texas; the hospital will be able to continue treating Texas youth who travel outside of Texas to obtain their care. That settlement was likely compelling due to a nearly identical law in Washington that barred out-of-state investigations on transgender care obtained solely in the state of Washington.

The bill has faced a rocky road to passage. A similar bill was debated in January, but after coming under intense attack from anti-trans activists who misleadingly called it a “transgender trafficking bill,” the bill was voluntarily withdrawn by its sponsor.

When LD 227 was introduced, it faced even more attacks from Riley Gaines and Libs of TikTok. These attacks were followed by bomb threats that forced the evacuation of the legislature, promising “death to pedophiles” and stating that a bomb would detonate within a few hours in the capitol building.

Despite these threats, legislators strengthened both the abortion and gender-affirming care provisions and pressed forward, passing the bill into law. Provisions found in the new bill include protecting people who “aid and assist” gender-affirming care and abortion, protections against court orders from other states for care obtained in Maine, and even protections against adverse actions by health insurance and malpractice insurance providers, which have been recent targets of out-of-state legislation aimed at financially discouraging doctors from providing gender-affirming care and abortion care even in states where it is legal.

See a few of the extensive health insurance and malpractice provisions here:

Speaking about the bill, Gia Drew, executive director of EqualityMaine, said in a statement, “We are thrilled to see LD 227, the shield bill, be signed into law by Governor Mills. Thanks to our pro equality and pro reproductive choice elected officials who refused to back down in the face of disinformation. This bill couldn’t come into effect at a better time, as more than 40% of states across the country have either banned or attempted to block access to reproductive care, which includes abortions, as well as transgender healthcare for minors. Thanks to our coalition partners who worked tirelessly to phone bank, lobby, and get this bill over the finish line to protect community health.” 

Related

Destie Hohman Sprague of Maine Women’s Lobby celebrated the passage of the bill despite threats of violence, saying in a statement, “A gender-just Maine ensures that all Mainers have access to quality health care that supports their mental and physical wellbeing and bodily autonomy, including comprehensive reproductive and gender-affirming care. We celebrate the passage of LD 227, which helps us meet that goal. Still, the patterns of violence and disinformation ahead of the vote reflected the growing connections between misogyny, extremism, and anti-democratic threats and actions. We must continue to advocate for policies that protect bodily autonomy, and push back against extremist rhetoric that threatens our states’ rights and our citizens’ freedoms.”

The decision to pass the legislation comes as the Biden administration released updated HIPAA protections that protect “reproductive health care” from out-of-state prosecutions and investigations.

Although the definition of “reproductive health care” is broad in the new HIPAA regulations, it is uncertain whether they will include gender-affirming care. For at least 16 states, though, gender-affirming care is now explicitly protected by state law and shielded from out-of-state legislation, providing transgender people and those seeking abortions with protections as the fight increasingly crosses state lines.

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

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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California Politics

Recognizing & celebrating lesbians: Mayor Pro-Tem of El Cerrito

Lesbian Visibility Week stands as a vibrant affirmation of solidarity with lesbian/queer women within the LGBTQ+ community

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Mayor Pro-Tem of El Cerrito, California, Carolyn Wysinger. (Photo Credit: Carolyn Wysinger)

EL CERRITO, Calif. – Carolyn Wysinger is a distinguished figure in both local politics and the LGBTQ+ community having risen as a prominent voice advocating for inclusivity and diversity. Her first term as Mayor Pro-Tem of El Cerrito, California is marked by a robust commitment to visibility and engagement in political arenas.

First elected to the El Cerrito City Council in 2020, Wysinger’s trajectory in politics has been underpinned by her resolve to bring LGBTQ+ voices to the forefront of decision-making. Her work emphasizes the crucial role of allies in combating anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, advocating for a political landscape that welcomes all voices, particularly those from marginalized communities.

Carolyn Wysinger shown here as the latest newly elected member of the El Cerrito City Council in 2020.
(Photo courtesy of Carolyn Wysinger)

Before venturing into politics, Wysinger made significant contributions to the cultural and educational sectors. A lifelong resident of Contra Costa and a proud graduate with a B.A. in English from California State University, Long Beach, with a M.F.A. from Antioch University, she has also been a vital part of the literary world. Her book, “Knockturnal Emissions: Thoughts on #race #sexuality #gender & #community,” provides insights into diverse identities and has been featured on essential reading lists at several universities.

Wysinger’s influence extends beyond her literary achievements. She has organized notable queer events such as LA’s NFL Sunday Funday and the Long Beach Blue Party, and she has held leadership roles with organizations such as the NIA Collective, San Francisco Pride, and the Human Rights & Relations Commission of Richmond. Her appointment to various committees, including the Economic Recovery Task Force of San Francisco and the Legislative Committee of the California Democratic Party, showcases her broad impact across social and political spheres.

Her community engagement is highlighted by her affiliations with the Sierra Club, NAACP, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and her involvement in the Philonise and Keeta Floyd Institute for Social Change. These roles reflect her deep commitment to addressing systemic inequalities and fostering community solidarity.

In addition to her political and social endeavors, Wysinger is known in her community as an educator who has profoundly impacted the lives of her students at Richmond High School, where she taught English Language Learning, African-American Literature, and led several student groups, including the Black Student Union and LGBTQ Student club.

Wysinger’s Take on Lesbian Visibility Week

In an exclusive interview with The Los Angeles Blade, Wysinger shared her robust insights on the significance of representation and the ongoing struggles and victories of the LGBTQ community during Lesbian Visibility Week.

Wysinger, a steadfast advocate for equal representation in politics, emphasized the necessity of proportional representation of women, including LGBTQ individuals and people of color. “Having a proportional amount of women represented in politics to the constituents is extremely important. We need this not only for women but for everyone in the community,” she explained, underlining the intersectionality of representation.

The current political climate has seen a surge in anti-LGBTQ laws, but Wysinger remains optimistic due to the strong network of allies within California. “It is great to know we have so many allies in California who are fighting in their respective offices to bring equity to our community,” she said.

This network includes notable figures such as London Nicole Breed, the Mayor of San Francisco and State Controller Malia Cohen, who have been pivotal allies, supporting Wysinger as a woman of color in her political journey.

Wysinger also addressed a common narrative that discourages women within the LGBTQ community from seeking elected office. She is committed to dismantling this mindset, attributing her success in leadership to the support from various political queer groups, including Equality California.

Reflecting on the evolution of LGBTQ visibility, Wysinger highlighted the stark contrast between the representation she observed growing up between the Bay Area and Louisiana and the visibility in today’s media.

“Lesbian Visibility Week is something that we did not have back in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s when we were being so heavily targeted. This week is a reminder of what we have done in the community and that we are here. It is so important to highlight the queer women who are on the front lines of what we are fighting right now,” Wysinger said.

Wysinger credits her nieces and nephews as a significant inspiration, underscoring the importance of nurturing the future generation of leaders and allies. Her message to the younger generation and to her younger self is resonant with empowerment: quoting a line from the television sitcom “A Different World,” delivered by famed Black comedian Whoopi Goldberg, Wysinger said, “You are a voice in this world, and you deserve to be heard.”

Through her leadership and advocacy, Wysinger continues to champion the visibility and representation of lesbian and queer women, paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.

Lesbian Visibility Week

Lesbian Visibility Week, extending the celebration from a single day that began in 2008 to a full week, stands as a vibrant affirmation of solidarity with LGBTQI women and non-binary individuals within the community. This special week  spanning April 22-28not only celebrates lesbian identity but also underscores the importance of inclusivity and support for all women, particularly those from marginalized communities.

Graphic design by Chiamaka Ejindu

The initiative for Lesbian Visibility Week was catalyzed by concerning findings from the Pride Matters survey conducted by Pride in London in 2018, which revealed that gay women are almost twice as likely to conceal their sexual orientation in the workplace compared to their gay male counterparts. This stark disparity highlights the urgent need for greater visibility and acceptance of lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer women both in professional environments and in daily life.

Organized with the support of the Diversity Umbrella Foundation, Lesbian Visibility Week aims to create a more inclusive society where LBTQ women can openly express their true selves without fear of discrimination. Whether it’s at work, at home, or in social settings, the week promotes a culture of understanding and acceptance.

The significance of Lesbian Visibility Week is also reflected in the efforts of DIVA Media Group, Europe’s leading LGBTQ media organization, which reaches an audience of 250,000 users monthly, in partnership with EL*C (Euro Central Asian Lesbian Committee), ILGA World, GLAAD, Curve and LGBT Foundation. Feedback from the community indicates a persistent feeling of being misunderstood and under-supported, further emphasizing the necessity of this observance.

Through a series of events, educational activities, and community engagements, Lesbian Visibility Week not only celebrates the contributions and diversity of lesbian women but also fosters a dialogue about the challenges they face. By doing so, it strives to be a powerful voice for unity, lifting up voices that are too often silenced and paving the way for a more equitable society.

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State Department

State Department releases 2023 human rights report

Antony Blinken reiterates criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

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WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday once again reiterated his criticism of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act upon release of the State Department’s annual human rights report.

“This year’s report also captures human rights abuses against members of vulnerable communities,” he told reporters. “In Afghanistan, the Taliban have limited work opportunities for women, shuttered institutions found educating girls, and increasing floggings for women and men accused of, quote, ‘immoral behavior,’ end quote. Uganda passed a draconian and discriminatory Anti-Homosexuality Act, threatening LGBTQI+ individuals with life imprisonment, even death, simply for being with the person they loved.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court earlier this month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” More than a dozen Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

Clare Byarugaba of Chapter Four Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ rights group, on Monday met with National Security Council Chief-of-Staff Curtis Ried. Jay Gilliam, the senior LGBTQI+ coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, in February traveled to Uganda and met with LGBTQ+ activists who discussed the Anti-Homosexuality Act’s impact. 

“LGBTQI+ activists reported police arrested numerous individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity and subjected many to forced anal exams, a medically discredited practice with no evidentiary value that was considered a form of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and could amount to torture,” reads the human rights report.

The report, among other things, also notes Ugandan human rights activists “reported numerous instances of state and non-state actor violence and harassment against LGBTQI+ persons and noted authorities did not adequately investigate the cases.”

Report highlights anti-LGBTQ+ crackdowns in Ghana, Hungary, Russia

Ghanaian lawmakers on Feb. 28 approved the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill. The country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has said he will not sign the measure until the Ghanaian Supreme Court rules on whether it is constitutional or not.

The human rights report notes “laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults” and “crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex persons” are among the “significant human rights issues” in Ghana. 

The report documents Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his right-wing Fidesz party’s continued rhetoric against “gender ideology.” It also notes Russia’s ongoing crackdown against LGBTQ+ people that includes reports of “state actors committed violence against LGBTQI+ individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, particularly in Chechnya.”

The report specifically notes Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 24 signed a law that bans “legal gender recognition, medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person, and gender-affirming care.” It also points out Papua New Guinea is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The Hungarian Parliament on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his right-wing Fidesz party in 2023 continued their anti-LGBTQ+ crackdown. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Cook Islands and Mauritius in decriminalized homosexuality in 2023.

The report notes the Namibia Supreme Court last May ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed outside the country. The report also highlights the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling against marriage equality that it issued last October. (It later announced it would consider an appeal of the decision.)

Congress requires the State Department to release a human rights report each year. 

The Biden-Harris administration in 2021 released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad.

The full report can be read here.

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Caribbean

Dominica High Court of Justice decriminalizes homosexuality

Gay man challenged statute in 2019

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Dominica flag (Public domain photo)

ROSEAU, Dominica — Dominica’s High Court of Justice on Monday struck down provisions of a law that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

A gay man who remains anonymous in 2019 challenged sections of the country’s Sexual Offenses Act that criminalized anal sex and “gross indecency” with up to 10 years and 12 years in prison respectively. The plaintiff argued the provisions violated his constitutional rights. 

The Dominica Equality and Sexual Expression Association and the Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, a group that advocates for LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in the region, in a press release noted the court in its ruling affirmed “the criminalization of consensual same-sex activity between adults is unconstitutional.” The groups added Justice Kimberly Cenac-Phulgence “declared that 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.”

“It is long past time that the dignity and dreams of all Dominicans were recognized,” said DESEA Executive Director Sylvester Jno Baptiste in the press release. “We are all God’s children, and he loves us all equally. Laws that treat some Dominicans as less than others, have no place in a just society.” 

Dominica is a former British colony that is located between Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Lesser Antilles.  

Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago in recent years have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2021 issued a decision that said Jamaica must repeal its colonial-era sodomy law. The country’s Supreme Court last year ruled against a gay man who challenged it. 

A judge on St. Vincent and the Grenadines’s top court in February dismissed two cases that challenged the country’s sodomy laws.

“Decriminalization helps create an environment where LGBTQ individuals can live openly without fear of persecution, enabling them to access health care, education, and employment without facing discrimination,” said Outright Executive Director Maria Sjödin on Monday in response to the Dominica ruling. “The repeal of these discriminatory laws is a testament to the tireless efforts of activists, advocates, and allies who have long fought for justice and equality. It is a victory for human rights and a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ rights in the Caribbean.”

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