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Biden urged to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach LGBTQ people abroad

US bought 500 million Pfizer doses for COVAX initiative

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COVID-19 vaccine, gay news, Washington Blade

WASHINGTON — Four Democratic congressmembers have asked President Biden to ensure some of the 500 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine it bought to distribute around the world will reach LGBTQ people that the pandemic has left even more vulnerable.

“While we are pleased to see the administration’s efforts to support global public health, we would like to ensure these vaccines are equitably distributed once they are sent abroad,” wrote U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), William Keating (D-Mass.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) in a letter they sent Biden on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Blade exclusively obtained the letter.

“We are particularly concerned that the LGBTQI+ community may be unjustly excluded from receiving vaccines in various countries,” it reads.

The Biden administration last week announced the U.S. will buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The African Union and 92 countries around the world will receive them through COVAX, a global initiative the World Health Organization co-founded in order to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine.

The letter notes the pandemic “exposed inequity in health care systems around the world for many marginalized groups, especially the LGBTQI+ community.”

“Due to stigma, violence, and discrimination, LGBTQI+ people — and transgender and non-binary individuals, in particular — face additional barriers to accessing relief and health care services,” wrote the congressmembers. “In addition to non-inclusive approaches to distributing relief, unsafe distribution centers and anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments and/or rhetoric of relief workers may also prevent LGBTQI+ individuals from obtaining vaccines.”

The letter, among other things, notes transgender people in Panama faced discrimination under gender-based regulations the country’s government implemented to control the pandemic’s spread. The congressmembers also cite Ugandan authorities who charged 19 LGBTQ people with violating coronavirus-related social distancing rules after their April 2020 arrest at a shelter in the country’s capital of Kampala and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s efforts to further restrict LGBTQ rights in his country after lawmakers gave him more power under the guise of combatting the pandemic.

“These are just a sample of the countless instances where those in the LGBTQI+ community have been unjustly discriminated against because of their gender identity and expression, sexual orientation or whom they love,” reads the letter. “As the entire world focuses on trying to return to some normalcy, we must ensure those who have been marginalized are afforded the same opportunities and resources to resume their lives.”

Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. The congressmembers in their letter notes they “appreciate your long record of promoting LGBTQI+ rights around the world.”

“We hope that as the United States finalizes agreements for vaccine donations to countries, your administration will ensure that governments receiving vaccine doses from the United States will equitably distribute them to their residents regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” they conclude.

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World

Puerto Rico activists condemn police raid on LGBTQ-friendly bar

More than 20 officers descended on Loverbar near the University of Puerto Rico

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Loverbar (Photo via Twitter)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Activists in Puerto Rico have condemned a police raid on an LGBTQ-friendly bar that took place on Thursday night.

Local media reports indicate more than 20 officers with the San Juan Municipal Police Department entered Loverbar, which is near the campus of the University of Puerto Rico, at around 11 p.m.

A video posted to social media shows that some of the officers who entered the bar were armed with what appear to be shot guns.

Media reports cite local authorities who said Loverbar did not have the necessary permits to operate as a bar, and the officers arrived there to fine them. San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero in a statement said officers fined Loverbar and seven other businesses in the city on Thursday for either not having the necessary permits or excessive noise.

“The Municipal Police of San Juan led by Miguel Romero intervened last night with a queer bar,” tweeted Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group. “This reminds us of a time when LGBTQI+ people were prosecuted, criminalized and villified.”

“We won’t tolerate homophobia and transphobia in San Juan,” added Serrano.

Comité Amplio Para la Búsqueda de Equidad (CABE), another Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy group, has called for an “exhaustive and independent investigation into the excessive use of force and intimidation by the Municipal Police of San Juan last night” at Loverbar.

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Argentina becomes first Latin America country to issue non-binary IDs

Country remains at forefront of trans, gender non-conforming rights

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(Photo by Bigstock)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina on Wednesday became the first country in Latin America to issue ID cards that are specifically for non-binary people.

President Alberto Fernández issued a decree that allows non-binary Argentines to choose an “X” gender marker on their National Identity Document or DNI.

“The recognition of the gender identity of people who identify themselves outside gender binary norms is a big advance for the entire society, because it puts to an end the mandatory imposition of ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories,” reads Fernández’s decree. “The decree implements the rights recognized under the Gender Identity Law, interpreting its scope beyond binaryism.”

The Gender Rights Law that took effect in 2012, among other things, allows Argentines to legally change their gender without medical intervention. Fernández last September signed a decree that requires at least 1 percent of all jobs in the country’s public sector to go to transgender people.

Marcela Romero, a Buenos Aires-based trans activist who is also a member of REDLACTRANS (The Latin America and Caribbean Network of Transgender People) Executive Board, in a statement said the decree “once again positions Argentina” as a world leader in extending rights to gender non-conforming people.

Mariano Ruiz, another Argentine LGBTQ rights activist, echoed Romero.

“The recognition of the identity of non-binary people by the State leaves no doubt about the interpretation of the Gender Identity Law,” Ruiz told the Los Angeles Blade on Wednesday.

Ruiz also noted the public sector employment law is named after two trans activists — Diana Sacayán, who was killed in 2016, and Lohana Berlina, who died in 2012.

“Once again and after the recent approval of the Diana Sacayán-Lohana Berlina Labor Quota Law, the Argentine government has shown its firm commitment to sexual and gender diversity and sets the course for where the Latin America region should go,” said Ruiz. “We hope that this is only the beginning and we will soon have a new law against discriminatory acts, a comprehensive law for trans people and a new law for HIV and viral hepatitis.”

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Chilean Senate approves marriage equality bill

President Sebastián Piñera has urged lawmakers to support measure

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The Chilean Congress in Valparaíso, Chile. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

VALPARAÍSO, Chile — The Chilean Senate on Wednesday by a 28-14 vote margin approved a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The vote took place less than a month after President Sebastián Piñera announced he supports marriage equality and urged lawmakers in the South American country to quickly act on the issue. The bill now goes to the Chilean House of Representatives.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), a Chilean LGBTQ advocacy group, described the vote as a “triumph of justice and equality.”

“The Senate, four years after of processing, finally approves and dispatches (the) marriage equality (bill),” tweeted the organization. “The end of discrimination against same-sex partners and same-sex parents is near. A better path for new generations.”

Lorena Recabarren, undersecretary for human rights in Chile’s Justice Ministry, in a statement applauded Piñera for his position in support of the bill. Recabarren stressed the president will continue to urge members of the House of Representatives to quickly approve it.

“Our goal is that this bill gets done as soon as possible and will be signed into law for everyone in our country,” she said.

Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions in Chile since 2015.

Movilh in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who were seeking marriage rights in the country. The group entered into an agreement with the Chilean government over marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples, but withdrew from it last October.

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