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Countries urged to stop targeting LGBTQ people during coronavirus pandemic

UNAIDS, MPact cite Uganda shelter raid in press release

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coronavirus, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image public domain)

UNAIDS and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights on Monday said governments around the world must stop targeting LGBTQ people during the coronavirus pandemic.

“HIV has taught us that violence, bullying and discrimination only serve to further marginalize the people most in need,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima in a press release her organization released with MPact. “All people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, are entitled to the right to health, safety and security, without exception. Respect and dignity are needed now more than ever before.”

The press release notes governments and law enforcement officials have targeted LGBTQ people during the pandemic.

Ugandan police late last month raided an LGBTQ shelter in the country’s capital of Kampala and arrested 20 of its residents. The Associated Press reported Ugandan authorities have charged them with violating the country’s social distancing rules.

The UNAIDS and MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights press release notes Ulysease Roca Terry, a 25-year-old gay Belizean man with HIV, died earlier this month after his arrest for violating the curfew imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the Central American country. Media reports indicate police officers beat Terry after they arrested him.

Philippine police also publicly humiliated three LGBTQ people, among others, after they violated the country’s coronavirus curfew. UNAIDS and MPact note a police captain apologized after the incident — during which officers forced the three LGBTQ people to dance and kiss each other — went viral.

Deputy Hungarian Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén on March 31 introduced an omnibus bill with a proposal that would ban transgender people from legally changing their gender in the country. The Hungarian Parliament the day before overwhelmingly approved a controversial measure that gave Prime Minister Viktor Orbán more authority in order to combat the pandemic in his country.

“We are receiving reports that government and religious leaders in some countries are making false claims and releasing misinformation about COVID-19 that has incited violence and discrimination against LGBTI people,” said MPact Executive Director George Ayala. “Organizations and homes are being raided, LGBTI people are being beaten, and there has been an increase in arrests and threatened deportation of LGBTI asylum seekers.”

People with HIV more vulnerable to coronavirus

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world, with 985,443 of them in the U.S. The global pandemic has killed 210,611 people.

People with HIV are among those who are at higher risk for the coronavirus. Activists around the world with whom the Los Angeles Blade has spoken in recent weeks say the pandemic has also left LGBTQ people even more vulnerable because lockdowns and curfews prevent them from working.

Diálogo Diverso, an LGBTQ advocacy group in Ecuador, earlier this month created an “emergency fund” to help LGBTQ people and Venezuelan migrants during the pandemic. Danilo Manzano, the group’s director, told the Blade that poverty has made the coronavirus’ impact even worse on the aforementioned groups.

“They don’t have the financial resources to be able to support themselves day-to-day,” said Manzano. “It is therefore a very difficult situation.”

UNAIDS and the Global Network of Sex Work Projects in an April 8 statement noted the pandemic has also had a disproportionate impact on sex workers because of lockdown measures and their inability to access government assistance programs created in response to the pandemic. American advocacy and HIV/AIDS service organizations have also demanded coronavirus treatment and prevention programs include safeguards to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Now more than ever, we must stand together to protect and promote the health and human rights of LGBTI people worldwide,” said UNAIDS and MPact in their press release.

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News

HONOR PAC launches petition to oust NALEO’s new president over Pride flag vote

Claudia Frometa’s vote to ban Pride flag is incompatible with NALEO’s mission of inclusive representation, HONOR PAC says in demanding her removal as board president

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In a bold move, HONOR PAC, the leading LGBTQ+ Latinx political action committee, has launched a high-profile petition campaign calling for the removal of Claudia Frometa as the newly elected board president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).

The petition, which is spreading rapidly under the hashtags #removeClaudiaFrometa and #PrideFlagSavesLives, comes in response to Frometa’s controversial vote to ban the flying of the Pride flag in Downey, California. HONOR PAC is rallying NALEO supporters, members, sponsors, and allied organizations to sign on, arguing that Frometa’s actions are incompatible with NALEO’s mission of inclusive representation.

Mario Ceballos, President of HONOR PAC, stated, “We are asking all justice-minded individuals and organizations to stand up in support of LGBTQ+ visibility, pride, safety, and hope. NALEO should be a leader in advancing dignity and civic engagement for all in the United States – not in silencing or making anyone invisible.”

The petition emphasizes the disconnect between NALEO’s recent conference, which highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the election of Frometa, who voted against flying the Pride flag in her city. HONOR PAC argues that this decision goes beyond a simple policy change, viewing it as an attempt to erase LGBTQ+ presence in the community.

Eddie Martinez, gay news, Washington Blade
Eddie Martinez

Support for the petition is growing among LGBTQ+ Latino elected officials. Eddie Martinez, Councilmember for Huntington Park, expressed his disappointment and called for NALEO to address the issue with its LGBTQ membership. Martin Herrera, Councilmember for El Monte, went further, describing the “neutral flag policy” as “dog whistle politics of anti-LGBTQ hate.”

HONOR PAC is leveraging social media to amplify its message, encouraging supporters to share personal stories about the importance of LGBTQ+ visibility in Latino communities. The organization is also coordinating with other LGBTQ+ groups to broaden the campaign’s reach.

As part of their strategy, HONOR PAC is offering resources for supporters to contact NALEO directly, providing template letters and talking points. They’re also planning virtual town halls to discuss the impact of Frometa’s election on LGBTQ+ Latino representation in politics.

The petition campaign has sparked a broader conversation about the intersection of Latino and LGBTQ+ identities in American politics. HONOR PAC maintains that NALEO’s choice of leadership sends a powerful message about whose voices are valued within the Latino political community.

“I am surprised to learn that NALEO chose a president who has a track record of opposing the LGBTQ+ community. NALEO has been a proven partner and ally in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they were unaware of her anti-LGBTQ+ actions when they elected her. I urge my friends at NALEO to revisit this decision., said Jeff Prang, Assessor, Los Angeles County & President, Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials.

Critics of the petition argue that Frometa’s vote was about government neutrality rather than anti-LGBTQ sentiment. However, HONOR PAC contends that such “neutral” policies often serve to marginalize already vulnerable communities.

As the petition gains momentum, all eyes are on NALEO to see how the organization will respond. The controversy highlights the ongoing challenges of balancing diverse perspectives within identity-based political organizations.

Los Angeles Blade, which previously broke news of her appointment as president of NALEO’s board, has reached out several times for comment.

Those interested in signing the petition or learning more about the campaign can contact HONOR PAC at [email protected]. The organization is urging supporters to act quickly, emphasizing the critical nature of this moment for LGBTQ+ Latino representation in national politics.

Readers can view and sign the petition here.

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European Union

Gay US ambassador to Hungary marches in Budapest Pride parade

David Pressman has criticized government’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown

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U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman marches in the Budapest Pride parade on June 22, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pressman's X account)

U.S. Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman on Saturday marched in the annual Budapest Pride parade.

Pressman, who is gay, posted to his X account pictures of him holding an American flag while standing behind a banner that read “United States embassy.” Pressman on Sunday spoke at Budapest Pride’s Family Pride Event that took place at his official residence.

“We’ve gathered for a celebration of families, of freedom, and of love — all things that are increasingly under attack for LGBT people in Hungary,” he said.

Pressman in his speech referenced a joint statement from 35 countries that expressed “serious concern about the targeting of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary, and called for the government to eliminate its discriminatory laws, policies, and practices.”

The U.S., Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, North Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Ukraine signed the statement alongside the U.S. and the General Delegation of Flanders, the Austrian Cultural Forum Budapest, the British Council, the Czech Centre, FinnAgora, Institut Français, Goethe-Institut, Instituto Camões and Instituto Cervantes.

“On the occasion of the 29th Budapest Pride Festival, we the undersigned embassies and cultural institutes express our full support for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community in Hungary and their rights to equality and nondiscrimination, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and freedom from violence, among others,” reads the statement. “Respect for the rule of law and universal human rights are the foundations upon which democratic states are build. International human rights law is grounded on the broad premise that all individuals have the same rights and freedoms without discrimination.”

Pressman in his speech said the Family Pride Event took place “at a time when democracy itself — in this country and around the world — is confronting unprecedented and serious threats.”   

“I’d like to talk with you this afternoon about freedom and democracy; and about those who instrumentalize love to undermine both,” said Pressman.  

“The fact that LGBT people and democracy are both under increasing attack is no coincidence,” he added. “Those who seek to undermine democracy, traffic in fear; and, tragically, few currencies of fear continue to hold more value than the love in this community.”  

Pressman further noted “posters all over Budapest during this political season fixated on you,” referring to LGBTQ Hungarians.  

“It’s why your parliament adopted laws aimed at you, and your government is now implementing those laws to target you,” he said. 

(Video courtesy of the u.s. embassy in hungary’s youtube page)
The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Pressman has been a vocal critic of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and of his government’s crackdown against LGBTQ rights that has grown worse over the last decade.

The U.S. ambassador in 2023 reiterated these criticisms during a Budapest Pride reception.

Budapest Pride spokesperson Johanna Majercsik earlier this month told the Washington Blade that Pride “is a particularly important event in Hungary.” (The Blade in April traveled to Budapest, and interviewed Majercsik and other Hungarian activists.)

“Despite being a full member of the European Union since 2004, the Hungarian government has systematically reduced the rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Majercsik. “The government apparently doesn’t want to stop there, inciting people against our community, and making references about passing new anti-LGBTQ laws in the future (calling them child protection laws).”   

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National

Supreme Court to consider challenge to Tenn. law challenging gender-affirming case for minors

Volunteer State lawmakers approved ban in 2023

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a challenge to a Tennessee law that bans health care providers from offering gender-affirming care to transgender minors.

Tennessee lawmakers approved the law in 2023.

A federal judge in Nashville issued a temporary injunction against portions of the statute before it was to have taken effect on July 1, 2023. The 6th U.S. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last September rejected a request to block the law the Justice Department has also challenged.

“The future of countless transgender youth in this and future generations rests on this court adhering to the facts, the Constitution, and its own modern precedent,” said Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ and HIV Project, on Monday in a press release. “These bans represent a dangerous and discriminatory affront to the well-being of transgender youth across the country and their constitutional right to equal protection under the law. They are the result of an openly political effort to wage war on a marginalized group and our most fundamental freedoms.” 

“We want transgender people and their families across the country to know we will spare nothing in our defense of you, your loved ones, and your right to decide whether to get this medical care,” added Strangio.

The Associated Press reported Tennessee is among the more than two dozen states that have enacted laws that either restrict or ban gender-affirming care for trans minors.

The ACLU notes the Supreme Court “is not expected to hear arguments” in the case until the fall.

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India

Transgender Indian parliamentary candidate vows to continue fight for equality

Rajan Singh, 26, is from New Delhi

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Rajan Singh ran for India's parliament (Photo courtesy of Rajan Singh)

The storm that was India’s general elections has finally settled, leaving behind a landscape transformed by democratic choice. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, clinched a decisive victory with a majority in parliament with 293 seats. The daily hum of life is returning to normal as the country resumes its rhythm amid the sweltering heat of summer.

Beneath the surface of political triumph and routine, however, there lies an overlooked narrative: The story of the transgender community. In the vibrant tapestry of this election, trans people remained a subtle but significant thread. A few trans people for the first time boldly stepped into the political arena, running for office and asserting their right to representation.

Rajan Singh, 26, was the youngest trans candidate.

She hails from New Delhi, the bustling heart of the nation. Singh secured 300 votes and lost the election, but as the first and youngest independent candidate to run in the recent general elections, her story is one of ambition and audacity. In a political landscape dominated by well-established parties and seasoned politicians, Singh’s decision to enter the fray as an independent was both bold and inspiring.

With her soft and humble voice, Singh told the Washington Blade that even after 75 years of independence, India still lacks even 75 public restrooms dedicated to the trans community. She highlighted a stark reality: There is no platform available for trans people who want to raise their voice on important issues.

Singh expressed her frustration and disappointment, pointing out the irony in India’s highly regarded constitution. 

“Our constitution begins with ‘We, the people of India,'” she said, “Yet in these 75 years, that ‘we’ has never truly included us.” Her words shed light on the ongoing struggle for recognition and equality faced by the trans community in a country that prides itself on its democratic values and inclusive ethos.

“That was the main reason I decided to fight in the 2024 general election,” said Singh. “I am the first, youngest candidate from India’s capital, New Delhi. When I was born in 1997, my identity was male. In 2022, the government certificate indicated I was transgender, and in 2024, the Election Commission of India (ECI) issued a certificate stating me as third gender. When I apply for a government job, I become ‘others.’ so one person has four identities. Most strikingly all these identities are not mine. I identify as a trans woman and no one recognizes my feelings and identity.”

Singh told the Blade that when she filed her nomination for the election, her primary goal was to bring the real identity of the trans community to the center stage of the country. She explained her candidacy was a means to breathe life into the identity of her community, asserting that if people had acknowledged the trans community’s presence over the past 75 years, they would have been granted the same rights as other citizens.

With a voice tinged with pain, Singh told the Blade that if the trans community had been truly recognized as alive, there would have been moments when people saw the community speaking out. 

“There would have been a time when we had a leader to represent us, a chief minister, and even a prime minister,” she said. “But there is no one for the transgender community.”

During her interview with the Blade, Singh shared a slogan she coined for her election campaign: “Sauchalay se Sansad Tak” or “From the toilet to parliament.” This slogan encapsulated her mission to elevate the trans community from the margins of society to the heart of the nation’s decision-making process.

Singh told the Blade only a few trans people voted in the last election. However, this time, however, 228 trans individuals cast their votes in Delhi, a significant increase fueled by the community’s belief that someone was finally standing up for them.

“I was manhandled and threatened on the streets just for announcing my candidacy in the 2024 General Elections,” said Singh. “I was told ‘Chakka’ (a slang word for trans people), I was told how could we fight in election. When I went to the cops to file a First Information Report, they did not file my report. On April 29, Delhi High Court provided me heavy police protection and with that I went to file my nomination for election. If High Court would not have given me the police protection, I would not have been able to file my nomination.”

She told the Blade that society has been conditioned to view the trans community as only beggars and prostitutes, a misconception that is far from the truth. Singh emphasized these stereotypes have long overshadowed the diverse and significant contributions of trans people. Her campaign sought to challenge these harmful narratives and showcase the true potential and worth of the trans community. 

While talking to the Blade, Singh said India’s trans community has not seen much progress in the last 75 years. She acknowledged Modi has taken some steps for the community, notably with the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act in 2019, which has increased awareness among ordinary citizens.

Singh, however, emphasized these efforts are not enough and much more work needs to be done. With great hope and determination, she called on the prime minister to establish a National Transgender Commission. This, she argued, would provide the necessary platform and resources to address the ongoing challenges faced by the trans community, ensuring their rights and dignity are fully protected and promoted.

“The world has seen for the first time in the last 75 years, that during the prime minister’s swearing-in ceremony this year three transgender people were invited,” said Rajan. “I was one of them.”

With immense pride and positivity, Singh stated this is not a loss for her or the community. She views it as a significant victory. For the first time, the trans community voted for one of their own. It marked the historic moment when a trans individual’s name appeared on the Electronic Voting Machine, an integral part of India’s voting system. This election symbolized a newfound self-respect and empowerment, as members of the trans community proudly pressed the button on the EVM, voting for representation and a brighter future.

“We will prepare and fight for the establishment of National Transgender Commission in the country,” said Singh. “We will pressure those political parties who will support the creation of the National Transgender Commission and basic services for the community, we will support them. I will again fight the election.”

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India, and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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World

Out in the World: LGBTQ+ news from Europe & Asia

LGBTQ+ news stories from around the globe including Thailand, France, United Kingdom, Philipines & Namibia

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THAILAND
Thailand Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage, Becomes 39th Country to Do So

The Thai senate approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption Tuesday, making Thailand the 39th country worldwide and the first in Southeast Asia to do so.

The vote passed 130-4 with 18 abstentions. The bill now awaits royal assent from King Maha Vajiralongkorn and will take effect 120 days after publication.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin celebrated on social media, changing his profile picture to include a rainbow background. He wrote, “We celebrate another significant milestone in our Equal Marriage Bill journey. We’re proud to be a Pride Friendly Destination and look forward to hosting World Pride in 2030.”

The new law grants same-sex couples equal rights to heterosexual married couples. The government plans to amend other laws to be gender-neutral and expand surrogacy and IVF access for same-sex couples, though only for Thai nationals.

Thailand is the third Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage after Taiwan and Nepal, and the largest country to do so since Germany in 2017.

FRANCE

Macron’s Anti-Trans Comments Spark Controversy Ahead of French Elections

French President Emmanuel Macron faced backlash after describing pro-trans policies proposed by his political rivals as “ludicrous” during a World War II commemoration on June 18.

Macron criticized the left-wing New Popular Front’s proposal to simplify legal gender changes, saying, “There are completely ludicrous things, like going to change sex in town hall.”

Opposition leaders quickly condemned Macron’s remarks. Jean-Luc Melenchon, a left-wing party leader, called the comments “outrageous” on social media.

The controversy comes as France prepares for national elections on June 30, with Macron’s Renaissance party facing pressure from both far-right and left-wing coalitions.

UNITED KINGDOM

UK Labour Party’s LGBTQ+ Manifesto Disappoints Trans Advocates

The UK Labour Party, favored to win the July 4 election, released a manifesto with limited LGBTQ+ commitments, disappointing trans rights advocates.

Labour pledges to strengthen hate crime laws and ban conversion therapy, including for trans individuals. However, the party will maintain requirements for medical diagnosis in legal gender changes and support single-sex spaces that may exclude trans people.

The manifesto reflects ongoing debates in British politics over trans rights, fueled by activist groups and high-profile figures like author J.K. Rowling.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s attempts to balance competing views have drawn criticism from both trans rights supporters and opponents.

PHILIPINES

Filipino Student Challenges Pope on LGBTQ+ Language

During a virtual synod, Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivera, a Filipino student, urged Pope Francis to stop using offensive language against the LGBTQ+ community.

The request came after Pope Francis reportedly used a derogatory Italian term translated as “faggotry” in closed-door meetings, criticizing its prevalence in Catholic institutions.

The Pope’s reported language sparked protests, including at Rome’s Pride March on June 16. The Vatican issued an apology for the first instance but hasn’t addressed subsequent reports.

NAMIBIA

(Bigstock photo)

Namibia Decriminalizes Homosexuality in Landmark Ruling

Namibia’s High Court struck down laws criminalizing homosexuality on June 21, reducing the number of countries with such laws to 64.

The ruling declared the common-law crimes of “sodomy” and “unnatural sexual offences” unconstitutional, continuing a trend of decriminalization in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gay activist Friedel Dausab, who filed the case, testified about the laws’ personal and professional impact. The court also affirmed that the constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The government hasn’t responded to the ruling. A bill banning same-sex marriage and LGBT rights advocacy, passed last year, awaits the president’s decision.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno 

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Los Angeles County

Downey official who banned Pride flag elected to lead influential national Latino political group

Claudia Frometa elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials

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Defiantly raising the Rainbow Flag in Downey after Council Votes 3-2 to Ban It On City Property

Claudia Frometa, a Downey city councilmember who ardently defended her vote to end the city’s policy of flying the rainbow flag during Pride Month, was elected president of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials during the group’s national conference on June 21.

NALEO, which represents more than 6,800 Latino elected and appointed officials, is an influential political group that was previously led by gay California State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who was president of the group in 2020.

Frometa’s election has raised concerns among LGBTQ Latino politicians, including Downey’s gay mayor, Mario Trujillo, who opposed the flag ban.

HONOR PAC, the prominent LGBTQ group that supports Latino candidates, expressed “deep disappointment” in the election of Frometa and posted a statement to Instagram:

“The 2024 NALEO Conference concluded with a clarion call about the importance and power of diversity, equity and inclusion. Ironically, it also just elected @claudiafrometafordowney,
who recently voted to never again allow the city of Downey, (Calif.) to fly the Pride flag, as its newest president,” the statement Mario Ceballos, President of HONORPAC wrote.

“NALEO is an important national leader committed to creating visibility, protecting, and defending justice and equality for all.”

“Many of us at HONOR PAC are naturalized citizens because of NALEO. Our community is better because of NALEO: For these reasons, HONOR PAC is deeply disappointed with the appointment of @claudiafrometofordowney to this important national role.”

“The Pride flag,” the HONOR PAC statement reads, “is a symbol of pride, inclusion, safety, and hope. Ms. Frometa’s vote on a motion disguised as a ‘neutral flag’ policy was nothing more than an attempt to silence and ignore the voices and lives of all LGBTQ+ Downey residents and those who love them.”

HONOR PAC further declared, “Ms. Frometa’s vote on this motion a shameless and violent act against our LGBTQ+ brethren whether they are out of the closet or still struggling to come out of what many know to be a dark and lonely place.”

Downey in May voted in favor (a 3-2 vote) of restricting flag flying on city property to only U.S., California and prisoners-of-war flags. The decision reversed a 2021 policy that allowed the Pride flag to be displayed throughout June.

Trujillo maintains the vote was part of an organized political attack on the LGBTQ community, lobbied for by MassResistance, an anti-LGBTQ group classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

MassResistance has allegedly played a role in opposing and, in some cases reversing LGBTQ supportive programs policies in schools across the nation.

The vote shook the community and sparked a regional backlash, prompting Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn to organize an Pride flag raising ceremony outside the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey on June 3.

LA County Department of Education defiantly raises Pride in Downey. (Photo by Bryan Chan for the LA County Board of Supervisors)

Frometa denied anti-LGBTQ sentiment motivated her vote. 

At a June 11 council meeting, Frometa doubled down, “For any individual to say we are anti-LGBTQ community is incorrect,” citing continued funding for the city’s Pride festival.

Supporters of the new flag policy argued that restricting it to official state flags promotes neutrality.

Other Southern California areas have implemented similar flag restrictions, including Huntington Beach, Temecula, and Redlands.

The Los Angeles County LGBTQ+ Elected Officials Association at the time expressed disappointment, stating the Pride flag promotes inclusivity, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.

HONOR PAC’s statement denouncing Frometa’s elevation to the presidency of NALEO concluded with a forceful denouncement which it hopes resonates with the membership of NALEO: “Shame on you @claudiafrometafordowney for not upholding full and equal rights for all so each can pursue his/her/their happiness as our U.S,” the statement concludes.

NALEO plays a critical role in Latino participation in American politics. As its new president, Frometa will lead efforts in leadership development, policy research and advocacy for Latino issues.

Some LGBTQ advocates worry Frometa’s election could indicate gains by anti-LGBTQ groups within Latino political leadership.

“Attending my first NALE0 conference, it was disappointing to learn that the organization’s leadership selected an individual to lead the board after she publicly voted to ban a flag that symbolizes hope for our LGBTQ youth and families in a predominantly Latine/x community. NALEO needs to address this issue with its LGBTQ membership,” noted City of Huntington Park Councilmember Eddie Martinez.

“It is hurtful and disappointing that NALEO, an organization promoting Latino participation in the political process should elevate a member who has disenfranchised LGBTQ+ members of their community, many of whom are Latinx. 

“The “neutral flag policy” she helped to pass in her city is nothing more than the dog whistle politics of anti-LGBTQ hate. Such an act is inconsistent with NALEO’s values,” said Martin Herrera, Councilmember, City of El Monte & Secretary of the LA County Lgbtq+ Elected Officials (LACLEO)

“I’m disheartened to see NALEO elect a President that doesn’t stand with the LGBTQ+ community.  The actions of their new President do great harm to members of our community and NALEO should be a welcome and opening space for all and not just for some but the actions of their new leader make me doubt their commitment to inclusivity and equality for all,”  said West Hollywood Mayor John M Erickson, Ph.D. & LACLEO Boardmember

I am surprised to learn that NALEO chose a president who has a track record of opposing the LGBTQ+ community. NALEO has been a proven partner and ally in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt in assuming they were unaware of her anti-LGBTQ+ actions when they elected her. I urge my friends at NALEO to revisit this decision., said Jeff Prang, Assessor, Los Angeles County & President, LACLEO

An unnamed LGBTQ politician from Downey told the Los Angeles Blade, “I’m very concerned about the development with NALEO. It’s important that her gaslighting not be forgotten and that it ends. She rode tearing our flag down to national prominence, buoyed by our enemies, and she will continue to blame us for being upset about it. “

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Africa

Prominent South African activist elected to country’s parliament

Steve Letsike founded Access Chapter 2

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

A prominent South African LGBTQ activist has won a seat in the country’s parliament.

Steve Letsike, a lesbian woman who founded Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group, is a member of the African National Congress. She is also part of the ANC’s National Executive Committee that determines the party’s direction.

Letsike won a seat in the South African National Assembly in national and provincial elections that took place on May 29.

The ANC lost its parliamentary majority that it had had since Nelson Mandela in 1994 won the South African presidency in the country’s first post-apartheid elections. MPs earlier this month re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa after the ANC invited the Democratic Alliance and other parties to form a Government of National Unity.

Letsike in a statement to the Washington Blade described her election as “a milestone for the people of South Africa, and also affirmative of our party’s posture that is inclusive and intention to transformation agenda.”

“I am not in parliament for myself but the people that trusted the ANC to send individuals that will put people first,” said Letsike. “In that cohort that includes the LGBTI people like myself. Rooted in the teaching of a just society, that seeks equality and believes in the rule of law. That demand on developmental agenda from a queer lens and clear priorities of the people is important.” 

“I am delighted by this task, trust and hope for our people,” she added.

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The White House

Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26

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First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

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Africa

Namibian High Court strikes down Apartheid-era sodomy laws

Gay activist challenged statutes in 2020

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(Bigstock photo)

The Namibian High Court on Friday ruled laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country are unconstitutional.

Friedel Dausab, a gay activist, in 2020 challenged the Apartheid-era statute.

The Washington Blade previously reported Dausab said the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, which listed “sodomy” as a Schedule 1 offense, and a second law that criminalized “unnatural” sexual acts, promote stigma and exclusion of LGBTQ Namibians. Equal Namibia, a Namibian LGBTQ advocacy group, on its X account praised the ruling.

“Welcome to a new Namibia. A born-free Namibia,” it said.

Dausab, who challenged the laws with the assistance of Human Dignity Trust, a British NGO, told Reuters he is “just happy.”

“It’s a great day for Namibia,” he said. “It won’t be a crime to love anymore.”

Namibia is the latest country in which consensual same-sex sexual relations have been decriminalized in recent years.

The Namibian Supreme Court in May 2023 ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. The landmark decision sparked criticism among leading politicians and religious officials.

Activists say their rhetoric has contributed to increased harassment of LGBTQ Namibians and hate speech against them.

Amnesty International in a press release notes MPs last June passed two bills that “seek to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminate against trans people and criminalize any support, celebration or promotion of same-sex unions with up to six years in jail and hefty fines.” Khanyo Farise, the group’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said the organization in recent weeks has “observed alarming rhetoric threatening LGBTI persons in Namibia.”

“Whatever the outcome of the High Court decision on June 21, violence and discrimination against LGBTI people has no place in Namibian society,” said Farise. “Authorities should take decisive action to prevent human rights violations against LGBTI persons and hold perpetrators accountable.”

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Congress

EXCLUSIVE: Markey bill would offer additional support to LGBTQ elders

Measure would create Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within HHS

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U.S. Capitol Dome
U.S. Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will introduce a bill on Friday to support LGBTQ elders and older adults living with HIV by establishing an Office of LGBTQI Inclusion within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Among other responsibilities, the office would advocate, coordinate activities, issue policy recommendations, and oversee the collection of data from these communities.

A major piece of the work to improve health equity at HHS under the leadership of Secretary Xavier Becerra and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine has been data collection initiatives for LGBTQ and other populations that can encounter barriers accessing care.

The Elder Pride Act will also “establish a rural grants program to serve the unique needs of rural LGBTQI+ older adults, including through education and training, community outreach and creation of community spaces, and improved cultural competency,” according to a press release announcing the legislation, which the senator’s office previewed exclusively with the Washington Blade.

“After years of exclusion and discrimination from health care settings, workplaces, and their local communities, LGBTQ+ older Americans deserve the protections their neighbors are afforded,” Markey said.

“Queer and trans elders should be able to age with dignity, grace, and surrounded by community,” he added. “The Elder Pride Act will ensure that all older adults are able to have access to the care and services they need.”  

Cosponsoring senators include Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D- Calif.), and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The legislation’s provisions were included in a pair of bills introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus’s Aging Issues Task Force.

The press release from Markey’s office also highlights several of the challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults vis-a-vis their cisgender and heterosexual peers: Fewer sources of support. higher poverty rates, poorer healthcare, poorer health access, and poorer health outcomes.

At the city and county level, older adults are served by local area agencies on aging (AAAs), which receive services and activities from HHS. Fewer than half of these organizations report that they will be able to provide LGBTQ-specific activities by the time the population of LGBTQ elders reaches 7 million, which is expected by 2030.

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