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South Korea activists form task force to fight coronavirus-fueled discrimination

Local media links outbreak to gay bars, clubs in Seoul

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Members of Queer Action Against COVID-19 speak at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo courtesy of Sung-Uk So)

A group of activists in South Korea have formed a task force to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sung-Uk So on Thursday told the Los Angeles Blade in an email that seven LGBTQ advocacy groups decided to form Queer Action Against COVID-19. So said 17 organizations are now part of the task force.

So said the eight activists who form “the core” of Queer Action Against COVID-19 work on a host of issues that include the promotion of health care and media outreach. So told the Blade the task force is also “directly cooperating with Seoul City and the government.”

“We are trying to communicate with the government whenever a human rights violation occurs, and in fact, communication with the city of Seoul is going smoothly,” So told the Blade. “We are currently working at meetings with Seoul city officials or talking on the phone with them. However, communication with other local governments should be sought.”

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center notes there are 11,018 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea and 260 deaths.

The South Korean government’s efforts to control the pandemic — that include widespread testing — have been applauded around the world. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on May 9 ordered the closure of all bars and nightclubs in the South Korean capital after a cluster of new coronavirus cases was linked to them.

The New York Times reported a 29-year-old man who tested positive had visited several bars and nightclubs in Itaewon, one of Seoul’s nightlife districts. Local media reports indicate many of the establishments he visited are popular among LGBTQ South Koreans.

“Many media in South Korea send out articles that discriminate against gay people,” So told the Blade. “They release the news as if the infection was due to just gay people. Other specific cases that we are dealing with individually are difficult to disclose to protect the victims.”

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Los Angeles County

Cases jeopardized by racist & homophobic comments by Torrance police

They joked about “gassing” Jewish people, assaulting members of the LGBTQ community, using violence against suspects and lying

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Photo Credit: City of Torrance, California, Police Department

TORRANCE, Ca. – Years of text messages that contained extremely offensive descriptions of Black and Jewish people or members of the LGBTQ+ community by more than a dozen Torrance police officers resulted in the dismissal of criminal cases The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

According to the Times, while no officers face criminal charges in direct relation to the text messages, the racist exchanges have led to the dismissal of at least 85 criminal cases involving the officers implicated in the scandal.

Los Angeles Times Crimes & Court reporter James Queally wrote in a tweet; “For years, more than a dozen Torrance cops exchanged racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic texts and images. Today, I can identify most of the officers and reveal some of their hateful conversations.”

According to Queally’s reporting, in the span of one week in November, the Los Angeles County public defender’s office received approximately 300 letters from prosecutors disclosing potential misconduct by officers implicated in the scandal, according to a spokeswoman for the public defender’s office.

The broad scope of the racist text conversations, which prosecutors said went on for years, has created a crisis for the Torrance Police Department and could jeopardize hundreds of criminal cases in which the officers either testified or made arrests, the Times reported.

The officers’ comments spared no color or creed: They joked about “gassing” Jewish people, assaulting members of the LGBTQ community, using violence against suspects and lying during an investigation into a police shooting, according to district attorney’s office records reviewed by The Times.

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Asia

Hong Kong activist dismisses calls for Gay Games boycott

WTA suspended China tournaments after tennis player disappeared

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Hong Kong Marriage Equality Co-founder Gigi Chao (Photo courtesy of OutRight Action International)

HONG KONG — An LGBTQ activist in Hong Kong on Tuesday dismissed calls to boycott the 2023 Gay Games over China’s human rights record.

“In Hong Kong, the team behind Gay Games has really worked tirelessly to bring it to Hong Kong and it will be a very good opportunity to showcase diversity and people working together and the human spirit at its best,” Gigi Chao told the Los Angeles Blade during a telephone interview from Hong Kong. “So, if it all gets rather political and if you twist the sentiments of what they want China to be, it will just really not work.”

Chao is the co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality, a group that seeks to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in the former British colony. Chao also founded the Faith in Love Foundation, a group that seeks to increase awareness of LGBTQ issues in Hong Kong.  

Chao is a member of the OutRight Action International board of directors. Chao is slated to speak in the group’s annual summit that will take place virtually this week.

“All eyes are peeled on the events of next year: The Beijing Olympics, the relationship between Beijing and the U.S. as relationships either improve or sour over the course of the next 12 months and also trade and the global economic situation … it’s not a rosy picture by all means,” Chao told the Blade. “Everybody is bracing for the worst in terms of how the world recovers from COVID, but LGBTIQ rights continue.”

Chao said Dennis Philipse, a Hong Kong resident who co-chairs Gay Games Hong Kong, and his colleagues “want the Gay Games to be a celebration of the human spirit in terms of sport.”

“In Hong Kong, there’s certainly no shortage of people engaged in sport and enjoying sports,” said Chao.

Gay Games Hong Kong in September announced the postponement of the quadrennial event until 2023 because of the pandemic. The Federation of Gay Games, which oversees the Gay Games, awarded the games to Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico.

Hong Kong was a British colony until China regained control of it in 1997.

Upwards of 2 million people took part in pro-democracy protests that took place in Hong Kong in 2019.

Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which, according to human rights activists, makes it easier for authorities to punish anyone who challenges the Chinese government, took effect in 2020. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is closely aligned with the Chinese government, supports the statute.

The Women’s Tennis Association last week announced the suspension of tournaments in Hong Kong and throughout China in response to the disappearance of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star, after she publicly accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. The Biden administration on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics that are slated to take place in Beijing in February.

“The Federation of Gay Games continues to monitor the situation in Hong Kong regarding COVID-19, the National Security Law and all other aspects that affect the safety and security of our event,” Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, told the Blade in a statement after the Women’s Tennis Association announced it had suspended all of its tournaments in China. “We are committed to hosting Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2023.”

Chao acknowledged Gay Games organizers are “facing a lot of opposition from all directions.” Chao also noted Hong Kong’s government is “not actually positively promoting it.”

“If we can get really high-profile athletes to participate, I think that’s going to be a huge call for everybody to participate,” said Chao.

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Iowa

Iowa State Appeal Board settles lawsuits by anti-LGBTQ religious groups

The Christian groups claimed the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion

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The University of Iowa during Homecoming (Photo Credit: The University of Iowa)

DES MOINES – The Iowa State Appeal Board, made up of Iowa state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, Auditor Rob Sand and Department of Management Director Kraig Paulsen, approved disbursing nearly $2 million in state funds to settle two Federal lawsuits brought against the University of Iowa in 2017 after a religious group denied an openly gay student a leadership role. 

According to the Associated Press in a U.S. News article Monday, lawyers for the student group Business Leaders in Christ were awarded $1.37 million in fees and costs for litigating their case. A second student group, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, won their federal court case and will be paid $20,000 in damages and about $513,000 in attorney fees.

The groups claimed the university had violated their constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

The monetary amounts were negotiated between the university and the plaintiffs in both cases and approved by a federal judge. Monday’s approval by the State Appeal Board authorizes the state to make the payments the AP reported.

In March of this past Spring, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Business Leaders in Christ after the University of Iowa had ordered group was dismantled in 2017 after claiming the student group violated its Human Rights Policy.

As reported by The Daily Iowan, Marcus Miller, a UI sophomore at the time, filed a discrimination complaint against the Business Leaders in Christ after the group  revoked a leadership position from Miller upon finding out his sexual orientation.

A new law that requires state universities and community colleges to adopt policies that prohibit them from denying benefits to a student organization based on the viewpoint of the group was implemented in 2019.

“In addition, a public institution of higher education shall not deny any benefit or privilege to a student organization based on the student organization’s requirement that the leaders of the student organization agree to and support the student organization’s beliefs, as those beliefs are interpreted and applied by the organization, and to further the student organization’s mission,” the law reads.

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