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GLOBE Act introduced in US Senate

Bill would require country to promote LGBTQ rights abroad

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U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) speaks at the Senate Visitors Center on Dec. 10, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Three U.S. senators on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require the U.S. to continue to promote LGBTQ rights abroad through its foreign policy.

The Greater Leadership Overseas for the Benefit of Equality (GLOBE) Actintroduced by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) — would codify into law the position of special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

The GLOBE Act would also require the State Department to document discrimination and other human rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity around the world and prevent those who commit human rights abuses against LGBTQ people from entering the U.S. The bill also seeks to improve the way the American immigration system treats LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees.

The GLOBE Act would require the U.S. to work with the Organization of American States and other international institutions to promote LGBTQ rights around the world. The GLOBE Act would also direct the U.S. to protect LGBTQ Foreign Service personnel who are stationed overseas.

Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus has introduced a version of the GLOBE Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“For the United States to hold true to our commitment to defend the human rights of all people around the world, we must stand with the LGBTQI community in their struggle for recognition and equality everywhere,” said Markey during an event the Council for Global Equality held at the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill. “We cannot stand idle as LGBTQI persons worldwide continue to endure hatred, violence and discrimination.”

“U.S. values call us to be allies, to stand up and protect them, in spite of the Trump administration’s attempts to narrow the government’s human rights focus and exclude LGBTQI individuals,” added Markey.

The GLOBE Act’s introduction coincides with International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the U.N. General Assembly’s ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.

Tuesday’s event began less than two hours after House Democrats announced two articles of impeachment against President Trump over his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. The White House’s overall foreign policy and anti-LGBTQ policies in the U.S. have also sparked widespread criticism.

Markey on Tuesday said the State Department’s controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights “excludes LGBTQI persons.” Markey also criticized the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to withdraw the U.S. from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“The Trump administration seeks to undermine the very institutions we built and convened over the past seven decades,” said Markey.

“As President Trump cozies up to world dictators, defends human rights abusers, turns a blind eye to war crimes, the world is a far more dangerous place,” he added. “Trump has made life more dangerous for LGBTQI persons by attempting to erase them from reports, from laws and from public life. We will not allow this to happen.”

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras with HIV, died on May 25, 2018, at a New Mexico hospital while in ICE custody. Johana “Joa” Medina León, a trans woman from El Salvador with HIV, died at a Texas hospital on June 1, three days after her release from the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., where she had been in ICE custody.

Yariel Valdés González, a Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who won asylum in the U.S. in Cuba, is among the tens of thousands of people who remain in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

A transgender woman eats inside a unit for transgender detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6, 2019. (Photo public domain)

Immigrant rights activists say the deaths of Hernández and Medina highlight the mistreatment that LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers face while in ICE custody. The GLOBE Act also notes these concerns.

“Asylum and refugee protection are critical last-resort protections for LGBTI individuals, but those who seek such protections face ostracization and abuse in refugee camps and detention facilities,” reads the bill. “They are frequently targeted for violence, including sexual assault, in refugee camps and in immigration detention. LGBTI individuals may be segregated against their will for long periods in solitary confinement, in an effort to protect them from such violence, but prolonged solitary confinement itself represents an additional form of abuse that is profoundly damaging to the social and psychological well-being of any individual.”

Bill reaffirms US ‘promotes equality and justice’

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in March reiterated his opposition to “gender ideology” and his government’s “respect of traditional family values” when he spoke alongside Trump in the White House Rose Garden.

The State Department’s special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad remains unfilled; but Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby’s bio notes LGBTQ rights are among the issues that are part of his portfolio. The Trump administration earlier this year tapped openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to spearhead a campaign that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The State Department has publicly criticized Brunei’s decision to implement a provision of its new penal code that sought to impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of homosexuality. The State Department has also condemned the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya.

The Trump administration in 2017 sanctioned Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act, which freezes the assets of Russians who commit human rights abuses and bans them from entering the U.S. The White House in September banned Mariela Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro who publicly spearheads LGBTQ issues in Cuba, from traveling to the U.S.

The State Department’s annual human rights reports also contain information about LGBTQ rights.

“With the introduction of the GLOBE Act today, we make clear and reaffirm today that the United States promotes equality and justice in its foreign policy,” said Markey.

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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

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Megan Rapinoe, an Out Olympic gold medalist is among those named ((Screenshot/YouTube via U.S. Soccer )

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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Florida

Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law goes into effect, negative impact already felt

LGBTQ youth, already at higher risk of depression, anxiety, & suicide than their peers, report their mental health being negatively impacted

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Jack Petocz (with bullhorn) leads Flagler Palm Coast High School protest against Florida's DSG bill (Photo by Alysa Vidal)

TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s HB 1557, known as the Don’t Say LGBTQ law, took effect today. The law, which bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and restricts that instruction in grades 4-12, will immediately begin impacting efforts to make Florida classrooms more inclusive.

But its impacts have already been felt for months. Educators and school staff have shared the chilling effects they are experiencing across the state. Books with LGBTQ characters are being pulled from shelves. Rainbow “safe space” stickers are being peeled from classroom windows. LGBTQ educators are being asked to avoid speaking about their families. As the law officially goes into effect, these impacts will escalate. 

“Since the inception of this hateful policy, lawmakers have assured the public that it would not lead to censorship or erasure of LGBTQ people,” said Joe Saunders, Equality Florida Senior Political Director. “But our community has always known the truth. The Don’t Say LGBTQ law has always been fueled by anti-LGBTQ animus and designed to further stigmatize the LGBTQ community, ban books about us, erase us from classrooms, and force us back into the closet. It is a bigoted and dangerous law that is making Florida less safe for students and families, and we will work tirelessly to see it repealed.”

Throughout the legislative process, lawmakers scoffed at the suggestion that HB 1557 would have negative impacts on the LGBTQ community, even as they refused to clarify its dangerously vague language and prevent the eventual law from doing harm.

A bipartisan contingent of lawmakers offered up dozens of amendments to the bill, attempting to narrow its overly-broad scope and clarify the most vague components. These amendments came after assertions from their colleagues that the bill’s intent was narrow. However, those reasonable amendments were rejected by bill sponsors Representative Joe Harding, Senator Dennis Baxley, and their allies, leaving its language broad and discriminatory.

As a result, the chilling effects were swift and sweeping. Across the state, censorship of LGBTQ lives began in earnest and has continued until today. In Palm Beach County, School Superintendent Mike Burke began by circumventing the district’s material review process to remove multiple books featuring LGBTQ characters, citing concern about the implications of the Don’t Say LGBTQ law. He followed the move in recent weeks by issuing guidance to educators across the district for them to remove books currently being challenged and place them “in a classroom closet” and scour their shelves for other titles that may include LGBTQ characters or mention topics like racism or oppression.

Districts statewide have taken drastic steps in response to the Don’t Say Gay law. Graduation speeches have been scrubbed of references to LGBTQ advocacy. Yearbook pages have had images of Don’t Say LGBTQ walkouts blacked out. Conservative religious activists have successfully initiated challenges to dozens of books in multiple school districts. Rainbow-colored COEXIST banners and Pride flags have been stripped from school walls.

In total, LGBTQ+ equality rights advocacy group Equality Florida has received over 50 complaints of censorship aimed at the LGBTQ community since the bill was signed into law in March.

Most recently, Orange County Public Schools garnered national attention after reports emerged that during seminars designed to discuss the potential implementation of the Don’t Say LGBTQ law, school administrators were advised to begin removing rainbow “safe space” stickers from classroom windows, ask LGBTQ educators to remove family photos from their desks, and avoid talking about their loved ones at work for fear of running afoul of the new law. While exactly what advocates for equality had warned of, the revelation shocked educators across the district, who took to the next board meeting to express their deep concerns and demand written clarification.

All of these chilling effects come as LGBTQ youth, those already at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation than their peers, report their mental health being negatively impacted by anti-LGBTQ policies and the debates that surround them. And they come amidst a surge in online harassment against LGBTQ people nationwide and threats of violence against LGBTQ spaces and Pride celebrations fueled by the dehumanizing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric launched by the DeSantis Administration in defense of the Don’t Say LGBTQ bill.

In March, the governor’s spokeswoman Christina Pushaw took to Twitter to traffic in age-old, anti-LGBTQ tropes to rescue the mired legislation, tropes that have since been parroted by Fox News hosts, right-wing influencers, and have exploded into the digital harassment and threats of violence running rampant across the country.

Equality Florida hosted a virtual press conference with lawmakers and those directly impacted on Friday morning. Those who have been impacted by the Don’t Say LGBTQ law can share their stories at freetosaygay.org.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre released a statement as Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law took effect Friday:

Today, some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free. As the state’s shameful “Don’t Say Gay” law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves. Already, there have been reports that “Safe Space” stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.
 
This is not an issue of “parents’ rights.” This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points. It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.
 
President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom. The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.

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Indiana

South Bend Indiana Rainbow Story Hour disrupted by Proud Boys

Seven men — all Proud Boys — entered the library and began arguing with staff and patrons. Several displayed white supremacist symbols

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Proud Boys via Screenshot/Twitter

SOUTH BEND, In. – A Pride Month children’s Rainbow Story Hour event at the St. Joseph County Public Library’s Virginia M. Tutt Branch on Monday was disrupted after the far-right anti-LGBTQ+ group, the Proud Boys, walked in and began loudly arguing with staff and library patrons.

 At one point during the confrontation, one of the group unfurled a flag reading “Michiana Proud Boys,” appearing to identify the men as a local chapter of the white nationalist hate group.

This latest incident follows Proud Boys targeting LGBTQ+ Pride month events- especially Drag Queen Story Hour events- in Sparks Nevada, Wilmington North Carolina, Alameda California, Boise Idaho, many promulgated by highly influential far-right social media stars like Chaya Raichik, the Brooklyn real estate agent behind @LibsOfTikTok who has highlighted these events she calls out as inappropriate and sexualizing children to her more than 1.3 million followers on Twitter.

South Bend’s NPR outlet WVPE reported that the event was a partnership between the library and TREES, a Michiana organization that provides resources for the local transgender community and operates the Tree House Gender Resource center in downtown South Bend.

But before the event was set to start, seven men — all Proud Boys — entered the library and began arguing with staff and patrons. Several displayed white supremacist symbols, according to photos posted on social media.

Police were called — and the group left after about 40 minutes — but they caused so much disruption that the event had to be canceled.

“This definitely came as a shock,” library system communications manager Marissa Gebhard told WVPE. “We were not anticipating any problems.”

The library plans to reschedule the event in a few months, and Gebhard said the system wants everyone to feel safe and welcome at its branches.

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