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Sudan repeals death penalty for homosexuality

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized

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Sudan has repealed a provision of its Penal Code that imposed the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Article 148 of the Sudanese Penal Code from 1991 said anyone who is convicted of sodomy three times “shall be punished with death, or with life imprisonment.”

Noor Sultan, executive director of the Bedayaa Organization, an LGBTQ advocacy group that works in Sudan and Egypt, told the Los Angeles Blade from Cairo that Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, chair of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, which was created last year to govern the country on an interim basis after then-President Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, removal of the death penalty provision from Article 148.

The Sovereignty Council also removed the “hundred lashes” punishment from Article 148. Consensual same-sex sexual relations in Sudan are still punishable by up to seven years in prison.

“It is a great step toward change and reflect the willingness of the government,” Sultan told the Blade. “The law is still there and the jail sentence is still there, but we are optimistic.”

Maria Sjödin, deputy executive director of OutRight Action International, in a statement noted the repeal of the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual relations is among the reforms the Sovereignty Council approved.

“The removal of the death penalty for same-sex intimacy in Sudan among other important reforms, such as the banning of female genital mutilation and stoning for apostasy, is an important step for the human rights of LGBTIQ people, and human rights in Sudan overall,” said Sjödin.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

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U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Federal Judge tosses Florida “Don’t Say Gay” lawsuit

The judge also ruled the law should not be used to treat LGBTQ students differently or to fail to step in when they face bullying

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Zander Moricz (R) a plaintiff in the lawsuit over 'Don't Say Gay' law, at Sarasota Pride 2022 (Photo Credit: Zander Moricz)

GAINESVILLE, Fl. – U.S. District Court Judge Allen Cothrel Winsor dismissed a lawsuit Monday against Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay law,” on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing to challenge the law. 

Winsor, a judge on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida nominated by former President Donald Trump,  issued a 25-page order dismissing the case brought by students, families, educators, Family Equality, and Equality Florida, against the “Parental Rights in Education” bill passed in March of this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The lawsuit alleged, in part, that the law violated First Amendment and due-process rights. It reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

In his ruling, Winsor left open the question on the constitutionality instead focusing on whether the plaintiffs showed they had standing to pursue the case — and concluded that they had not met that requirement.

“The principal problem is that most of plaintiffs’ alleged harm is not plausibly tied to the law’s enforcement so much as the law’s very existence,” Winsor wrote. “Plaintiffs contend the law’s passage, the sentiment behind it, the legislators’ motivation, and the message the law conveys all cause them harm. But no injunction can unwind any of that.”

The judge also pointed out that violations of the law would be enforced against school districts, not individual teachers.

“With or without the law, school districts direct teachers as to what they may and may not teach,” he noted. “Plaintiffs do not allege otherwise; they do not assert, for example, that Florida’s public-school teachers may teach whatever lessons they wish. So to the extent plaintiffs allege that some teachers or others wish to provide ‘classroom instruction . . . on sexual orientation or gender identity’ to students ‘in kindergarten through grade 3,’ they would have to show (at a minimum) that without the law their individual school district would allow it. Yet plaintiffs offer no specific allegation that any teacher would be providing such classroom instruction absent HB 1577.”

Winsor gave the plaintiffs 14 days to file a revised lawsuit but also took the state to task. He stated that “nothing in the law—much less in its conceivable enforcement—could ’empower’ other students to do anything they could not otherwise do with respect to treating LGBTQ students differently.”

The judge also spelled out that the law should not be used to silence students from talking about their LGBTQ parents, to silence LGBTQ teachers from acknowledging their partners, or to exclude LGBTQ parents from school events.  And that it should not be used to treat LGBTQ students differently, to fail to step in when they face bullying, or to remove signs of support like rainbow flags from classrooms. 

In a June motion to dismiss the case, the state’s lawyers argued that the plaintiffs did not have standing. But they also wrote that the plaintiffs “have not come close to showing that the Legislature acted out of animus against LGBTQ individuals.”

“The bill reflects no governmental preference about what students should learn about sexual orientation and gender identity,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “Those subjects must be taught appropriately and, for the youngest children, they may be taught by parents, not in public-school classroom settings. That is a legitimate (state) interest.”

In a statement released after the ruling from Winsor, Equality Florida wrote:

“Judge Winsor acknowledges what has been clear from the beginning: that in DeSantis’s Florida, the political climate is so toxic for LGBTQ people that school districts are actively abdicating their responsibilities, choosing instead to capitulate to extremists and the toxic anti-LGBTQ brew they have created rather than adhere to the letter of the law.

This fight is not done. We will continue to expose the harm that Florida’s Don’t Say LGBTQ law is inflicting on children and families.  A court decision doesn’t negate that harm. This ruling focuses on whether the parents, students or organization were the right plaintiffs to bring it forward. Equality Florida made a commitment to fight to ensure every student is protected and every family is respected, and that’s exactly what we intend to do through any means necessary.”

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs who are represented by Kaplan Hecker & Fink, LLP; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; and Elizabeth F. Schwartz said in an emailed statement:

“While we are currently assessing our options, one thing we can promise for sure is that we will not give up this fight on behalf of all the Florida LGBTQ+ kids, parents, and teachers who this law literally seeks to erase from their schools and communities,” said Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Anti-Trans far-right pundit Matt Walsh says gender affirming is evil

Walsh, who has over a million Twitter followers which includes the anti-LGBTQ Libs of Tik-Tok, called gender-affirming surgery “mutilation”

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Screenshot/YouTube

NASHVILLE – Daily Wire host and far-right extremist anti-transgender activist Matt Walsh went on Twitter Monday attacking trans people writing: “I believe that gender ideology is one of the greatest evils in human history. There is nothing they can threaten that would make me back down from this fight. I’d rather be dead than surrender to this madness. It’s as simple as that for me.”

Walsh, who has over a million followers which includes the anti-LGBTQ activist account Libs of Tik-Tok, has called gender-affirming surgery human body mutilation, added in another tweet: “The medical establishment, Big Tech, and the federal government conspire to punish those of us who criticize the accepted narrative. This is full on tyranny, and it will of course be defended by every single leftist who spends every day whining about “fascism.”

Alejandra Caraballo, a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic and a former staff attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund and a Staff Attorney at the LGBTQ Law Project at New York Legal Assistance Group, noted on Twitter that Walsh’s tweet could incite violence against Trans Americans.

“This is a direct threat and incitement of violence against trans people. When he says “gender ideology,” he really means trans people. Matt says he’s willing to die to fight it. Some of his followers may take him up on that and engage in real violence,” Caraballo wrote.

Most recently attacks on American hospitals providing trans healthcare, especially those with clinics treating trans youth have been targeted by anti-Trans extremists led by Walsh and Brooklyn, New York-based Chaya Raichik, a former real estate agent whose ‘Libs of Tik-Tok’ have spread misinformation and lies about gender-affirming surgery which has fostered attacks on those healthcare facilities by far-right extremist elements.

Alarmed at the increase of violence,  in a letter sent Monday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the American Medical Association joined with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Children’s Hospital Association asking the Department of Justice investigate [the] increasing “threats of violence against physicians, hospitals and families of children for providing and seeking evidence-based gender-affirming care.”

Referencing Walsh’s declaration and others who complain that their anti-trans view points are free speech and being censored, including the recent 7 day suspension of Raichik that expired Monday as well as the letter asking the U.S. Attorney General and the Justice Department to investigate , Caraballo noted:

“The instigators of the anti-LGBTQ moral panic are now pushing the narrative that they are going to be prosecuted by DOJ for their speech. They won’t be prosecuted. They haven’t violated the law. However, they need to fuel further outrage and feign persecution.”

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Illinois

ACLU sent letters rejecting lawsuit threats by anti-LGBTQ group

Awake Illinois has repeatedly used hostile epithets against those they disagree with, labeling them “groomers,” “hateful,” and “perverts”

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Awake Illinois advert soliciting for new members (Screenshot/YouTube)

CHICAGO – The ACLU of Illinois has authored letters to a homophobic and transphobic group that threatened two residents, who have posted online their opposition to the organization and its anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, with defamation lawsuits.

Maggie Romanovich of Wheaton and Kylie Spahn of Downers Grove received letters from leaders of Awake Illinois in early September suggesting that Awake would file a defamation lawsuit against them if they did not “cease and desist” from such criticism and remove existing online posts. 

The anti-LGBTQ+ far-right extremist group has urged removal of LGBTQ inclusive books and cancellation of drag events in the suburbs. The group and it’s members consistently use harsh and offensive language against others to advance their interests, and now are trying to suppress their critics.

Awake Illinois officials have repeatedly used hostile epithets against those they disagree with, labeling them “groomers,” “hateful,” and “perverts.” Yet in the instance of the letters to Romanovich and Spahn, the ACLU of Illinois says Awake seeks to curb the speech of others. 

The ACLU of Illinois letters to Awake Illinois on behalf of Romanovich and Spahn reject the threatened lawsuits as groundless, noting that all of the material cited by Awake Illinois is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

“These letters from Awake Illinois are empty threats with zero legal basis,” said Rebecca Glenberg, senior supervising attorney at the ACLU of Illinois who signed the letters. “Awake Illinois and its members consistently use harsh and often offensive language directed against others to advance their interests, but now feign injury when our clients express strong feelings against them.”

“If they think these letters will stop our clients or others from speaking out against what they see as a dangerous agenda, they are wrong.” 

Awake Illinois’ letter to Romanovich referred to her letter to the editor printed in the Daily Herald, which criticized a congressional candidate for his connection to Awake Illinois, opining that the group is appalling, extremist, homophobic, racially insensitive and otherwise objectionable.  Such opinions are constitutionally protected and cannot be the basis of a defamation lawsuit, the ACLU of Illinois wrote. 

The action comes shortly after a Member of Congress revealed that he had received a similar “cease and desist” letter from Awake Illinois. In mid-September, the Chicago Tribune reported that Awake Illinois sent the letter to Representative Sean Casten, a vocal critic of the group.  Like Romanovich and Spahn, Casten rejected the group’s threats of a lawsuit. 

“Our Constitution allows groups like Awake Illinois to express their views in the public square like anyone else. But they may not use the courts to suppress the views of others,” Glenberg noted. 

You can read the letters to Awake Illinois on behalf of Romanovich and Spahn here and here.

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