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UN LGBTQ rights watchdog talks visibility, global backlash

Victor Madrigal-Borloz currently in Colombia



Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the U.N.’s LGBTQ rights watchdog, speaks at the ILGALAC Regional Conference in Bogotá, Colombia, on Nov. 20, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Alice Ochsenbein)

The U.N.’s LGBTQ rights watchdog on Wednesday acknowledged the increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people around the world has prompted a global backlash.

“Visibility is the key to acceptance, but of course visibility also comes with the risk of backlash,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz during a telephone interview from the Colombian capital of Bogotá.

“This is what we’re witnessing globally, a backlash,” he added. “This is not playing out in (a) vacuum. This is playing out in the context of global geopolitics where other great conversations are taking place.”

Madrigal-Borloz did not specifically discuss the U.S. when he spoke with the Los Angeles Blade, but he referenced anti-LGBTQ narratives in Ukraine and Georgia that promote the idea of lesbians being “bad citizens” because they don’t have children” and gay men “are detrimental to society” because they are “disordered and … automatically associated with pedophilia.” Madrigal-Borloz also cited rhetoric against migrants and asylum seekers in developed countries.

“Hateful narratives all rely on the fear of the other,” Madrigal-Borloz told the Blade. “This is why we have the conversations so present at the global level.”

The U.N. Human Rights Council, of which the U.S. is no longer a member, in 2017 appointed Madrigal-Borloz, a Costa Rican lawyer, to succeed Vitit Muntarbhorn as the U.N.’s independent expert on the protection of LGBTQ people from violence and discrimination. The U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee earlier this month adopted without objection a resolution that extended this mandate.

Four LGBTQ people murdered a day in Latin America

Madrigal-Borloz on Wednesday spoke at the opening of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) Regional Conference in Bogotá. Madrigal-Borloz also met with representatives of Caribe Afirmativo, a Colombian LGBTQ advocacy group, and other organizations while in Colombia.

Madrigal-Borloz’s trip to Colombia coincided with the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide, a project that Transgender Europe launched, on Wednesday published a report that says 331 “trans and gender-diverse people” were reported killed between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30. The report notes Brazil; Mexico and the U.S. had the highest number of murders, but Madrigal-Borloz described this statistic as “only the tip of the iceberg.”

ILGALAC on Wednesday in a press release said four LGBTQ people are killed everyday in Latin America.

“The levels of violence and discrimination … are still gruesome and worrisome,” Madrigal-Borloz told the Blade.

Madrigal-Borloz said LGBTQ people of African descent are among the populations that are particularly vulnerable to violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity in Latin America. Activists throughout the region with whom the Blade has spoken over the years say economic and immigration status are additional factors that can place LGBTQ people at additional risk.

“The lived realities of a gay, urban male in Mexico City is very different from the realities of a rural lesbian woman in Paraguay,” said Madrigal-Borloz.

Countries recognize ‘criminalization doesn’t stand the test of constitutionality’

Madrigal-Borloz spoke with the Blade less than a month after Colombian Sen. Claudia López became the first lesbian and first woman elected mayor Bogotá.

The Botswana High Court in June issued a ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country. Lawmakers in Angola in January approved a new penal code that legalizes homosexuality and bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Madrigal-Borloz noted to the Blade that Mozambique and India are among the other countries in recent years that have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

“In all of those cases what you have is a recognition of some branches of the State — via the parliament, via the judiciary — of the fact that criminalization doesn’t stand the test of constitutionality and adhesion to human rights,” he said.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in upwards of 70 countries around the world, with Iran and Saudi Arabia among the handful of nations that impose the death penalty on anyone found guilty of homosexuality. The governments of Botswana and Trinidad and Tobago have appealed decriminalization rulings in their respective countries.

Madrigal-Borloz referenced to the Blade anti-LGBTQ crackdowns that continue to take place in Uganda, Tanzania and Chechnya and the South Korean authorities’ prosecution of LGBTQ servicemembers who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations. Madrigal-Borloz acknowledged there “are forces that are interested in stopping” global progress on LGBTQ issues, but added he doesn’t think pro-LGBTQ court rulings and laws are “triggering” it.

“We have a combination of a better, more concerted effort of these ultraconservative, ultranationalist, regressive campaigns,” Madrigal-Borloz told the Blade. “Civil society is also becoming better.”

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Proud Boys disrupting a California Pride drag show get pepper sprayed

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here & are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” said the deputy police chief



Woodland police officers after Proud Boys disrupt drag show (Screenshot KCRA 3 News)

WOODLAND, Ca. – An end of Pride month drag show in this suburban city Northwest of Sacramento was disrupted by Proud Boys at the The Mojo Lounge bar and restaurant in the downtown business district.

As the group attempted to gain access to the establishment a now viral video by local ABC10 television reporter Luke Cleary showed them and near-by police officers getting pepper-sprayed by an unseen person inside the bar.

Screams of pain erupted along with one Proud Boy who can be shouting “fuck you podophile motherfuckers,” after being sprayed. Woodland officers can also be seen retreating wiping their eyes from the effects of the irritant self-defensive spray weapon.

Another reporter, Lee Anne Denyer from NBC News Sacramento affiliate KCRA 3 noted that the event, which was initially advertised as an an all-ages Drag Show by the bar was at first postponed and then scaled back.

Denyer posted video that showed the heavy law enforcement presence after the Proud Boys attempted to storm the restaurant demanding to know how many children were in attendance at the show.

“There was kind of rumors that things were brewing on main street but there was obviously a presence by the Woodland Police Department so that made us feel more comfortable. Then it escalated, it escalated pretty quickly,” Julie Ramos, who attended the event, told KCRA. “This really was a positive event and everyone was having a great time. So I think most people were angry but I would say resilient.”

Woodland Police Department, Woodland, California

“There was an altercation, obviously people are here and are upset about the bar having their Pride event,” Anthony Cucchi, the deputy chief of the Woodland Police Department told KCRA. “We tried to intervene as quickly as we could, it was a pretty chaotic scene. Our main priority was to get a safe scene and then make sure anybody that needed help got the help that they needed. We will work on the investigation.”

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The White House

White House announces 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients

The nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom will be presented to those named at the White House on July 7, 2022



President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

WASHINGTON – The White House today released President Joe Biden’s selection of recipients for bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor,  the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The awards will be presented at the White House on July 7, 2022.

Included among the seventeen honorees are Megan Rapinoe, the Out Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Also selected by the president for a posthumous recognition was Richard Trumka, the powerful labor leader and longtime Democratic ally of the LGBTQ+ community who passed away last August. Trumka had led the AFL-CIO since 2009 and who throughout his career, was an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ Americans, social and economic justice.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.

Presidential Medal of Freedom (The White House)

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”

Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.

John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion. She also captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka (d. 2021) was president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade, president of the United Mine Workers, and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, he was an outspoken advocate for social and economic justice.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught is one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.

Raúl Yzaguirre
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.

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Gun industry advertising to kids & restricting ghost guns Calif. laws signed

Latest nation-leading action to protect Californians from gun violence adds to decades of California leadership on gun safety



California Governor Gavin Newsom on gun adverts targeting minors (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed legislation to take on the gun industry and get more guns off California streets. Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. 

“From our schools to our parks to our homes, our kids deserve to be safe – in California, we’re making that a reality. As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” said Newsom. “The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis.”

The legislation signed Thursday directly targets the gun lobby and manufacturers.

Governor Newsom signs gun safety legislation June 30, 2022 (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

Governor Newsom signed AB 2571, prohibiting marketing of firearms to minors following recent efforts by the gun industry to appeal to minors, like Wee 1 Tactical advertising the sale of a JR-15, an AR-15 meant for kids, complete with cartoon child skulls with pacifiers. 

“Guns are not toys – they are deadly weapons,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda). “California has some of the strongest gun laws in the country and it is unconscionable that we still allow advertising weapons of war to our children. Our kids have a right to live long, happy lives, free of gun violence.”

Also Thursday, the Governor signed AB 1621, which further restricts ghost guns – firearms that are intentionally made untraceable – as well as the parts used to build them. Ghost guns have been called an “epidemic” by the Los Angeles Police Department, contributing to more than 100 violent crimes in the City of Los Angeles last year alone.

“Alarmingly, we are finding that more and more, no region or demographic is exempt from gun violence – our hospitals, grocery stores, schools, and even places of worship, are no longer safe. The proliferation of ghost guns, which are intentionally untraceable weapons to evade law enforcement, has only worsened the issue,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-Carson). “Following the signing of AB 1621 into law, I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for his leadership and unwavering commitment to eradicate the rampant wildfire of gun violence currently ravaging our streets and safe-havens.”

Earlier this month, Newsom announced a record $156 million in gun violence prevention grants provided as part of the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program (CalVIP). The funding will support 79 cities and nonprofit organizations that are implementing anti-violence programs suited to the unique needs of their local communities.

California’s gun safety policies save lives and provide a national model for other states to follow. According to the Giffords Law Center, in 2021, California was ranked as the top state in the nation for gun safety. As California strengthened its gun laws, the state saw a gun death rate 37 percent lower than the national average. Meanwhile, other states such as Florida and Texas, with lax gun regulations, saw double-digit increases in the rate of gun deaths. As a result of the actions taken by California, the state has cut its gun death rate in half and Californians are 25 percent less likely to die in a mass shooting compared to people in other states.  

A recent study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis found that California’s red flag law was used to stop 58 threatened mass shootings.

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