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Gender transition after Jan 1 in Switzerland for legal documents simplified

The new law will not only simplify and standardize the procedure but will also be less expensive, quicker and based on self-determination

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Photo courtesy of the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship TGEU Programme

BERN – New rules written into Swiss law will allow Transgender and Intersex citizens of Switzerland aged 16 and older to adjust their gender and legal name status on official documents by self-declaration at the civil registry office taking effect January 1st, 2022.

The changes were passed on 18 December 2020, when the Swiss Parliament passed a bill for legal gender recognition (LGR) procedures based on self-determination. Previously Swiss law required require a certificate from a medical professional confirming an individual’s transgender identity. 

In addition, under the current law, Legal Gender Recognition, (LGR) procedures in Switzerland are still based on court proceedings that vary from court to court or even from judge to judge. The new law will not only simplify and standardize the procedure but will also be less expensive, quicker and based on self-determination.

According to Transgender Network Switzerland, costs will be reduced to an administrative fee of 75 CHF. Under the old law, LGR could cost up to 1.000 CHF. 

Transgender Europe, (TGEU), a network of different organizations working to combat discrimination against trans people and support trans people rights, welcomed the adoption of the legislation last year. TGEU’s Executive Director, Masen Davis noted: “Especially given the backlash against trans people’s human rights in 2020, we are happy to see this law pass before the end of the year. Some countries have shown major step-backs in legal gender recognition, such as Hungary or Russia. It offers our communities some hope to see the Swiss example.”

As the law takes effect, TGEU and the Transgender Network Switzerland (TGNS) expressed criticism that for those younger people and those under adult protection will require parent/guardian consent.

In a media release last December TGNS noted:

The joy that Switzerland has achieved the current human rights standard for adult intersex and trans women and men is, however, severely clouded in the communities concerned. In contrast to today, under-16s and people under comprehensive assistance can only apply for the change in the future with the consent of the legal representative, even if they are capable of judgment. You are the only one whose personal rights are restricted in this way, although the change in the gender entry does not affect anyone other than yourself.

Today could be a great day of joy for us: We have wanted a simple, self-determination process for years. But today we are mainly shocked by the way in which Parliament deals with intersex and trans young people. Today’s decision worsens the situation of young people massively and contradicts children’s rights. With this decision the parliament provokes – consciously – great suffering of a minority and lets conflicts in families escalate. “Comments Audrey Aegerter, President of InterAction Suisse, on the approved proposal. And Alecs Recher, who heads TGNS’s legal advice, adds with a view to implementation: “We will support all young people and assisted trans and intersex people, so that they receive the correct gender entry despite this new hurdle! We call on Federal Councilor Keller-Suter and Parliament to observe the practical effects of the approval requirement and to make the necessary corrections. “

Switzerland joins Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Norway as one of the few countries on the continent that allow a person to legally change gender without hormone therapy, medical diagnosis or further evaluation or bureaucratic steps, Reuters reported.

Europe

ILGA-Europe: New program for racialized LGBTQ+ communities

The new initiative will be supporting up to 15 organizations’ work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTI communities

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Photo Credit: ILGA-Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium – ILGA-Europe announced a new two part 12-month program focused on the work being done by and for racialized LGBTQ+ communities across Europe this week.

According to the international LGBTQ+ advocacy non-profit, the new initiative will be supporting up to 15 organizations’ work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTQ+ communities through a combination of grants and other resources.

The program has two interconnected components:

  • Financial support for the implementation of a project (up to 20.000 euro per project), AND
  • Learning and networking that will bring grantees together (on-line) on a regular basis to exchange learning, share challenges and solutions, build solidarity and find points for collaboration and inspiration.

The aim of this program is to:

  • Bring together a group of up to 15 European LGBTI organizations/groups across Europe that work on addressing the intersectional impact of socio-economic injustice, racialization, racism and supremacy and specific harms affecting the lives of racialized LGBTI communities across Europe.
  • Support, strengthen and advance their work on socio-economic justice for racialized LGBTI communities through a combination of grants and regular peer-learning/networking meetings.

ILGA-Europe noted that currently, the LGBTI movement across Europe operates in an increasingly hostile environment that directly affects the lives of LGBTI communities and the work of activists.

This environment is marked by anti-rights opposition, anti-democratic developments, rising unemployment, economic crises, ongoing and brewing geo-political conflicts, deepening structural inequalities, fear-mongering, mounting transphobic, and sexist and racist rhetoric and violence.

In a statement, ILGA-Europe said:

“So many organizations and groups have been doing incredible work and contributing to change, while at the same time being historically excluded from funding. By supporting these groups, we also wish to recognise and acknowledge the specialized knowledge and skills involved in addressing intersectionality. This can mean anything from exposing structural oppressions that shape harm; building and sustaining the resilience of racialized communities; developing and applying anti-racist, feminist and alternative approaches; to working through – and in spite of – institutional violence and trauma.

This programme expresses our commitment to continue our engagement with socio-economic justice and to strengthen our work on anti-racism. We see a great value for the wider movement in making the work of the organizations supported, disseminated and visible. We see an opportunity to bring the learning from this programme to the wider movement, as we believe that solutions and approaches that include a few will pave the way and point to the solutions for many.”

Key information & details:

In selecting proposals, ILGA-Europe will prioritise projects that:

  • Demonstrate clear understanding of how the intersection of LGBTI identities, socio-economic injustice and racialisation works in their local contexts
  • Present a clear plan for how the envisaged change is going to come about in these contexts
  • Seek to establish practices/tools/solutions that can live beyond the project’s lifetime
  • Have the potential to enhance the movement’s thinking on anti-racism and working towards socio-economic justice in general and for socio-economic justice for racialised LGBTI communities in particular.
  • Respond to the framework, aim, objectives, and areas of work of this call
  • Are implemented by LGBTI-run organisations and initiative groups in Europe that have history and practice of working with and for racialised LGBTI communities

Deadline & Timeline:

  • Proposals should be submitted using the attached application form and budget template. The last day to submit your application (deadline) is 2 April 2023, Sunday, 23:59 CEST.
  • We will review applications, decide on projects to be supported and inform all applicants about the results of the review via the e-mail address provided in the application by 5 May 2023.
  • Contracts will be signed with organisations in May 2023. Successful applicants should be available to respond to requests during that period. The project must start on 1 June 2023.
  • To submit an application or if you have any questions in the preparation of your project proposal, please contact: [email protected]

Questions?

If you have any questions in the preparation of your project proposal please submit them via e-mail to [email protected]

We will answer all of your questions via e-mail and then publish answers on a dedicated ilga-europe.org website page on 27 February and on 23 March, in order to share the information among all applicants.

Call for Applications DOWNLOAD

Application Form DOWNLOAD

Budget Template DOWNLOAD

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The Vatican

Activists around the world welcome Pope Francis’ decriminalization comments

Church teaching about homosexuality remains unchanged

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Pope Francis (Photo by palinchak via Bigstock)

CURITIBA, Brazil — Activists around the world say Pope Francis’ comments against criminalization laws are a milestone for the global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights movement.

Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ+ and intersex advocacy group, told the Washington Blade that Francis’ comments are “a message that needs to be assimilated by at least 70 countries that still criminalize homosexuality in some way, including 11 countries in which the death penalty can be applied.”

Reis and his husband, David Harrad, in 2017 baptized their three adopted children at a Catholic cathedral in Curitiba, a city in southern Brazil. Reis later received a letter on official Vatican letterhead that said Francis “wishes you happiness, invoking for your family the abudance of divine graces in order to live steadfastly and faithfully as good children of God and of the church.”

“We are unable to find in the recorded words of Jesus Christ, on whom the Christian faith is founded, any reference to homosexuality as a sin,” Reis told the Blade. “There is no longer room for deliberately decontextualized interpretations of the Old Testament and the books of certain Apostles in this sense.”

Francis during an exclusive interview with the Associated Press on Jan. 24 described criminalization laws as “unjust” and said “being homosexual is not a crime.”

The pontiff acknowledged some Catholic bishops support criminalization laws and other statutes that discriminate against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Francis told the Associated Press that cultural backgrounds contribute to these attitudes, and added “bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.”

Toni Reis, second from left, with his children after their baptism at a Roman Catholic cathedral in Curitiba, Brazil, on April 23, 2017. Reis has received a letter in which Pope Francis congratulated him and his husband, David Harrad, for baptizing their three adopted children. (Photo courtesy of Toni Reis)

Chantale Wong, the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank who was born in Shanghai, is the first openly lesbian American ambassador.

Wong’s aunt and uncle enrolled her in a Catholic bording school in Macau, which at the time was a Portuguese colony, after she fled China with her grandmother in 1960. Wong was baptized and given the name Chantale after St. Jane Frances de Chantale.

She later attended an all-girls Catholic high school in Guam.

“He is definitely my pope,” tweeted Wong on Jan. 25.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is openly gay, in a tweet thanked Francis “for your strong and clear words against the criminalization of LGBTIQ+ persons in the world.” Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ+ and intersex issues who traveled to Cambodia last month, echoed Bettel.

“Criminalization based on sexual orientation is contrary to international human rights law,” tweeted Madrigal-Borloz on Jan. 25. “I welcome this recognition by (the pope.)”

Homosexuality is the ‘real sin’

The Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since Francis assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis — who vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2010 — a decade later publicly backed civil unions for same-sex couples.

The pontiff in 2013 said gay men and lesbians should not be marginalized. 

Francis in 2016 later said the Roman Catholic Church should “ask forgiveness” from gay people over the way it has treated them. The pontiff in 2017 compared politicians who use hate speech against LGBTQ and intersex people and other minority groups to Adolf Hitler.

The Vatican in 2020 gave money to a group of Transgender sex workers in Italy who were struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. Francis in 2021 named Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay Chilean man who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.

Francis last year during several of his weekly papal audiences met with trans people who were living at a Rome church. 

Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged despite these overtures. 

Francis during the Associated Press interview referred to LGBTQ+ and intersex issues within the context of “sin.” The pontiff later sought to clarify the comment.

“When I said it is a sin, I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin,” wrote Francis in a handwritten letter he sent to the Rev. James Martin, editor of Outreach, a website for LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholics, on Jan. 27.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, during an interview with the Blade acknowledged Francis “is giving a message that criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community must be fought.” Serrano added, however, the pontiff’s comments do not change church teachings.

“There is no change in dogma, there is no change in doctrine and nothing has changed in the catechism of the Catholic Church. Everything remains the same,” Serrano told the Blade. “As long as all that remains the same, there is no change.”

Serrano further stressed Francis’ categorization of homosexuality as a “sin” is paradoxical.

“Homophobia: That is the real sin,” said Serrano.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Todes, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, shows his tattoo that pays tribute to the LGBT Puerto Ricans who died inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., during an interview in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 7, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, on Tuesday noted to the Blade that he is Catholic.

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Singapore, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Botswana, Bhutan and India have decriminalized homosexuality in recent years.  

Mugisha said Sexual Minorities Uganda welcomes Francis’ statement, which he made ahead of his trip to Congo and South Sudan. (Consensual same-sex sexual activity is legal in Congo, while South Sudan continues to criminalize it.) 

“Being Catholic, I know the Catholic Church will respect the pope’s views and I hope the church in Africa starts working with us towards discrimination of homosexuality,” Mugisha told the Blade.

ILGA World Co-Secretaries General Luz Elena Aranda and Tuisina Ymania Brown in response to Francis’ comments said “such a simple statement has now the potential to initiate a much-needed change and will provide relief to millions of persons in our communities across the world.” ILGA World Executive Director Julia Ehrt, like Serrano, said Vatican doctrine towards LGBTQ and intersex people needs to change if the pontiff’s position against criminalization laws will have any meaningful impact. 

“We urge the Holy See to turn these words into concrete action,” said Ehrt. “The Catholic Church and its institutions can and should play an active role in supporting decriminalization efforts across the world and within the United Nations and multilateral fora, where demands to scrap these profoundly wrong laws have long been reiterated.”

Outright International, a New York-based global LGBTQ+ and intersex rights group, in its response to Francis’ comments also noted church teachings.

“We welcome Pope Francis’ message of inclusion and acceptance,” said Outright International in a statement to the Blade. “Discrimination, persecution and marginalization are common experiences for LGBTIQ individuals and communities around the world. In some countries, many are subjected to conversion practices and its lifelong physical and emotional damages, which are often performed and sanctioned in the name of church teachings.” 

“Religious leaders have a storied history of perpetuating misconceptions about same-sex relations, promoting them as threats to society. As such, LGBTIQ people are subject to violent attacks, harassment and social stigmatization. The church’s actions have also influenced efforts to oppose the advancement of human rights for LGBTIQ people,” added Outright International. “Our hope is that the pope’s statement will foster respect, dignity and conversations that will lead to change in attitudes and lasting legal protections in this arduous journey for full equality.”

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The Vatican

Pope Francis: Criminalization laws are ‘unjust’

Pontiff told AP that homosexuality is not a crime

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Pope Francis (Bigstock photo)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Tuesday said homosexuality is not a crime and laws that criminalize it are “unjust.”

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis told the Associated Press during an exclusive interview.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in nearly 70 countries around the world, and Francis acknowledged some Catholic bishops support criminalization laws and other statutes that discriminate against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. The Associated Press notes Francis said cultural backgrounds contribute to these attitudes, and stressed “bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.”

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” said Francis. “[They should apply] tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Francis’ comments are the latest indication of how the Vatican’s tone towards LGBTQ+ and intersex issues has softened since he assumed the papacy in 2013.

Francis — who vehemently opposed a marriage equality bill in his native Argentina before then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed it into law in 2010 — a decade later publicly backed civil unions for same-sex couples.

Francis in 2013 said gay men and lesbians should not be marginalized. The pontiff three years later said the Roman Catholic Church should “ask forgiveness” from gay people over the way it has treated them. Francis in 2017 compared politicians who use hate speech against LGBTQ and intersex people and other minority groups to Adolf Hitler.

The Vatican in 2020 gave money to a group of Transgender sex workers in Italy who were struggling to survive during the coronavirus pandemic. Francis in 2021 named Juan Carlos Cruz, a gay Chilean man who is a survivor of clergy sex abuse, to a commission that advises him on protecting children from pedophile priests.

Francis last year during several of his weekly papal audiences met with Trans people who were living at a Rome church. 

Church teachings on homosexuality and gender identity remain unchanged despite these overtures. The Associated Press reported that Francis referred to LGBTQ+ and intersex issues within the context of “sin.”

“Pope Francis denounced laws in nearly 70 countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and called on the Roman Catholic Church to take an active role in repealing those laws,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. “His historic statement should send a message to world leaders and millions of Catholics around the world: LGBTQ people deserve to live in a world without violence and condemnation, and more kindness and understanding. Other influential voices in faith, government, business, sports and entertainment should now similarly speak out on outdated laws that criminalize the lives and relationships of LGBTQ people and that negatively impact travel and business in these countries.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, an LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholic organization, echoed Ellis.

“World leaders and legislators in many, many countries pay attention to what Catholic officials say,” said Duddy-Burke in a statement. “The Vatican’s support of criminalizing homosexuality has made life very dangerous for countless gay people in countries on nearly every continent. Shifting the stance and pushing for an end to making queer identity illegal will make life safer for many people around the world.”

Esteban Paulón, an LGBTQ+ and intersex activist in Argentina, on Wednesday said he “celebrates” Francis’ condemnation of criminalization laws that include the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual relations. Paulón also agreed with Francis’ assertion that Catholic bishops support these statutes, but added the pontiff’s comments are “contradictory” because they don’t change Vatican doctrine.

“The don’t have any consequences because (the church) continues to consider us sinners,” said Paulón. “It does not represent a concrete change in questions of doctrine and action on the part of the Vatican state.”

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The Vatican

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI dies

Retired pontiff resigned in 2013

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Pope Benedict XVI (Photo by hixnhix via Bigstock)

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican on Saturday announced Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI died at the age of 95.

Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said Benedict passed away at 9:34 a.m. local time (3:34 a.m. ET) at the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican.

Benedict was born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl Am Inn in Germany’s Bavaria state on April 16, 1927.

The Associated Press notes Benedict in his memoirs acknowledged his forced enlistment in the Hitler Youth in 1941 and his desertion from the German army just before the end of World War II.

Benedict and his brother, Georg, in 1951 were ordained as priests. He became Munich’s bishop in 1977 and then-Pope Paul VI in 1980 elevated him cardinal.

Benedict assumed the papacy on April 19, 2005, after Pope John Paul II died. Benedict on Feb. 11, 2013, became the first pope to resign since Pope Gregory XII stepped down from the papacy in 1415. His successor, Pope Francis II, on Wednesday said Benedict was “very ill.”

Benedict described gay men and lesbians as ‘intrinsically disordered’

Benedict as the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith enforced the Catholic Church’s moral doctrine.

He wrote in a 1986 letter that gay men and lesbians are “intrinsically disordered.” Benedict also said in the same document that gay organizations could no longer use church property.

Benedict described marriage rights for same-sex couples as “a manipulation of nature” and categorized marriage equality efforts around the world as a threat to “human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” Activists during Benedict’s papacy also criticized the Vatican’s opposition to condom use as a way to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Benedict during his papacy faced scathing criticism over his handling of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church. The Vatican’s finances also came under scrutiny.

“Benedict’s approach to gay and lesbian issues was clearly hindered by the fact that he did not understand the human dimension of love and relationship that characterizes same-gender couples and individuals,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based organization that ministers to LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholics, in a statement. “He relied on centuries-old, abstract philosophical and theological ideas instead of learning about more recent understandings of sexuality. Most importantly, he failed to listen to the lived experiences of real people.”  

“While clearly a man of faith seeking to act with good intentions; his resistance to engaging the lives, love and faith of actual human beings means he will be remembered as a church leader who did not listen pastorally to those the church serves,” added DeBernardo in his statement. “In contrast, Pope Francis, his successor, has called for pastoral leaders to be listeners and learners, particularly in ministry with those on the margins of church and society, such as LGBTQ+ people.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, an LGBTQ+ and intersex Catholic organization, in her statement also acknowledged Benedict’s anti-LGBTQ+ legacy.

“The death of any human being is an occasion of sorrow. We pray for Pope Benedict’s soul and express our condolences to his family, friends and loved ones,” said Duddy-Burke. “However, his death also calls us to reflect honestly on his legacy. Benedict’s leadership in the church, as pope and before that as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), caused tremendous damage to LGBTQIA+ people and our loved ones. His words and writings forced our community out of Catholic churches, tore families apart, silenced our supporters and even cost lives. He refused to recognize even the most basic human rights for LGBTQIA+ people. Many of us experienced the most harsh and blatant religiously justified discrimination of our lives as a result of his policies.”

The Vatican says Benedict’s body will be in St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday “so the faithful can pay their respects.” His funeral is expected to take place on Jan. 5.

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Ireland

Ireland will criminalize incitement to hatred against trans people

The new legislation will repeal the previous incitement to hatred laws and is intended to make prosecutions easier

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Photo credit: TENI - Transgender Equality Network Ireland/Facebook

DUBLIN – Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Minister for Justice, head of the nation’s Department of Justice, presented the Irish government with her approval on legislation that will criminalize incitement by any person to commit acts of hate against transgender people, those with disabilities, and acts condoning, denial or gross trivialization of genocide such as the Nazi holocaust and war crimes.

The Irish Times reported that the new legislation will repeal the previous incitement to hatred laws and is intended to make prosecutions easier. However, the bar for a prosecution remains high — a defendant must have deliberately intended to incite hatred or violence against a person on account of their protected characteristic and there are defense’s for a reasonable and genuine contribution to literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic debates.

A person who seeks to incite hatred against a person or group with one of these characteristics may be guilty of an offense which could carry a penalty of up to five years in prison, the Times noted.

The Times also reported that the Minister for Justice intends to include a “demonstration test” in the Bill, where guilt can be established if the perpetrator uses, for example, racial language or other evidence of hate against the victim. A demonstration test hinges on a perpetrator showing hostility towards someone with a “protected characteristic” at the time of an offence being committed. The Cabinet was told this could include the use of hostile or prejudiced slurs, gestures, other symbols or graffiti.

The public’s input/comment process for the legislation received around  around 4,000 responses and the Justice Department’s staff also consulted with outside leading experts with backgrounds in hate crimes, discrimination, and the LGBTQ+ community.

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Europe

Slovakian Parliament rejects same-sex registration for couples

The legislation did not give equal protections and rights such as marriage or civil unions and needed 76 votes to be passed

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Slovakian Parliament (Photo Credit: Government of Slovakia)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – A proposal that would have codified the ability of same-sex couples in Slovakia to register their partnership, which would have granted inheritance rights, decisions regarding medical care, treatments and compensation in the event of death or injury at work, was rejected by the Slovakian Parliament this past week.

The legislation did not give equal protections and rights such as marriage or civil unions and needed 76 votes to be passed. The bill saw 50 parliamentarians vote in favour, 37 politicians vote against, 15 submitted a blank vote, and 31 did not vote at all.

Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová was critical of the outcome telling various media outlets the legislation was necessary to protect the “safety and acceptance of [our] fellow-citizens.” “We need to act,” she tweeted. “Our society is not threatened by the love of two people of the same sex or their partnership.”

The vote on the legislation occurred a few days after a vigil was held in the Slovakian capital city to honor the two victims killed and a third who was badly wounded in a shooting outside of the Tepláreň bar, a popular LGBTQ+ establishment in the old city, which was also attended by the nation’s president and the European Parliament’s Vice-President.

President Čaputová noted regarding the vote, “Our society is paying for indifference and insensitivity when even such a tragedy does not move a sufficient number of deputies to take the necessary and correct step.”

Opposition to granting rights to same-sex couples as well as opposition to LGBTQ equity in rights in the country is led by the far-right political groups including the Kresťanská únia (Christian Union).  Richard Vašečka, a party Member of Parliament told the Standard  his party promised before the last elections to protect marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

He added he is afraid that this law is only the start of an “avalanche” that ends with allowing the adoption of children by same-sex couples and punishing people for disagreeing with the LGBTQ agenda.

Vašečka stressed that he respects every person but is convinced that “every child deserves a father and a mother, and it is the best family space for raising children.”

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Europe

Montenegro’s 10th pride held despite strong opposition & protests

The country’s government backed Pride in recent years & approved same-sex partnerships in 2020 as it seeks membership in the European Union

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Montenegro Pride in October of 2021 (Photo Credit: Montenegro Pride/Facebook)

PODGORICA, Montenegro – Despite strong opposition from the powerful  Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro joined by pro-Serbian self labeled traditional values and family officials, Montenegro Pride was held with over 500 people in attendance marching Saturday.

Montenegro’s 10th annual pride event in this extremely conservative Balkan country was dubbed “No more buts,” reflecting demands from LGBTQ+ activists that more be done to stem hate speech and harassment of the nation’s LGBTQ community despite huge steps that have been made in the past years Voice of America reported.

Support for the Montenegrin LGBTQ+ community was also expressed by the U.S. Embassy which tweeted “In honor of #MontenegroPride and the #LGBTQI community in Montenegro the U.S. Embassy is illuminated with the rainbow colors! Happy Pride! #nemaviseali

“We gathered here for the 10th time to show we are human, (that we are) live beings made of flesh and blood, wishes and dreams, but rejected and ignored, discriminated and trampled upon because of love,” LGBTQ+/Human rights activist Stasa Bastrica told Voice of America.

The country’s government and elected officials have backed pride events in recent years and approved same-sex partnerships in 2020 as the country seeks membership in the European Union.

Bastrica pointed out while speaking with a reporter from VOA, the church and other conservative forces in Montenegro have fueled hatred against LGBTQ community by “making us the main enemy of the majority and … insanely blaming us for the disappearance of marriage, family (values) and sometimes natural disasters, and all in the name of God.”

Another activist, Danijel Kalezic said Friday’s Serbian Orthodox church-led gathering opposing the Pride March and LGBTQ+ rights in general illustrated the divisions in Montenegro. He insisted that the LGBTQ community will not give up their demands.

“We don’t want them (officials) to come here and take photos with us,” Kalezic said. “We want results. No more buts!”

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Europe

Trans man attacked during Pride event in Germany dies

Malte C. defended two women from harassment

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Malte C. (Photo courtesy of Trans*-Inter*-Münster)

MÜNSTER, Germany — A Transgender man who was attacked at a Pride event in Germany last weekend has died.

Deutsche Welle reported Malte C. on Aug. 27 was defending two women at a Pride event in Münster, a city in western Germany, from a man who was harassing them. The man then began to punch Malte C. Deutsche Welle reported Malte C. fell to the ground and lost consciousness.

Trans*-Inter*-Münster, a local advocacy group who said Malte C. was one of its members, in a Facebook post said he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and had been in a coma at a hospital. 

Malte C. died on Friday.

Deutsche Welle reported police have detained the man suspected of attacking Malte C.

“We are shocked and saddened,” said Trans*-Inter*Münster in its Facebook post. 

The Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany (Lesben- und Schwulenverbandes in Deutschland in German) also condemned the murder.

“This misanthropic attack is an anti-queer hate crime that makes us angry and saddened,” said Andre Lehmann, a member of the Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany’s national board of directors, in a statement. “We call on the investigating authorities to immediately name and classify this act as an anti-LGBTI hate crime.”

“The attack was not triggered by the young man’s efforts to mediate, as stated in a joint press release by the Münster police and public prosecutor’s office today, but by the deeply inhumane attitude of the perpetrator,” added Lehmann. “This act shows once again how much we need action plans against transphobia and homophobia.”

Sven Lehmann, the German government’s queer commissioner, is among those who also expressed outrage over Malte C’s murder.

“Malte died after a hate attack at CSD (Christopher Street Day) Münster. I am stunned and sad ,” tweeted Sven Lehmann. “My condolences and deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends. Violence against queer people is a threat we all need to confront.”

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The Vatican

Vatican newspaper: Pope Francis meets with trans folk sheltered in church

L’Osservatore Romano noted that the pope previously met with some of the transgender residents sheltering in the church

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Screenshot/YouTube Weekly papal audience via EWTN Europe

ROME – The Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported that during the Pope’s weekly audience in St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday, Pope Francis met with a fourth group of transgender people who are staying in a church on the outskirts of The Eternal City.

Sister Genevieve Jeanningros and the Rev. Andrea Conocchia told  L’Osservatore Romano that this was the fourth papal audience since The Blessed Immaculate Virgin community in the Torvaianica neighborhood of the Roman suburbs opened its doors to transgender people during the coronavirus pandemic.

L’Osservatore Romano noted that the pope previously met with some of the transgender residents sheltering in the church on April 27, June 22 and Aug. 3. “No one should encounter injustice or be thrown away, everyone has dignity of being a child of God,” the paper quoted Sister Jeanningros as saying.

Francis has earned praise from some members of the LBGTQ community for his outreach. When asked in 2013 about a purportedly gay priest, he replied, “Who am I to judge?” He has met individually and in groups with transgender people over the course of his pontificate the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

But he has strongly opposed “gender theory” and has not changed church teaching that holds that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” In 2021, he allowed publication of a Vatican document asserting that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since “God cannot bless sin,” the AP noted.

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Europe

U.S. diplomat praises Germany policy towards Ukraine

Embassy Cultural Attaché Cherrie Daniels spoke with Blade on July 22

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Cherrie Daniels, the cultural attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Germany. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Germany)

BERLIN — The cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Germany has applauded the German government’s efforts to welcome Ukrainians who have sought refuge in the country.

“The German government and the municipalities and the 16 states have been extremely welcoming of Ukrainian refugees in Germany,” Cherrie Daniels told the Washington Blade on July 22 during a virtual interview from the embassy in Berlin.

More than 900,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Germany since the war began on Feb. 24.

Ukrainians are able to enter Germany without a visa. 

The German government provides those who have registered for residency a “basic income” that helps them pay for housing and other basic needs that include food. Ukrainian refugees can also receive access to German language classes, job training programs and childcare.

Dmitry Shapoval, a 24-year-old gay man from Ukraine who lives with HIV, is among the LGBTQ and intersex Ukrainians who have found refuge in Berlin. The Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Refuge has partnered with Airbnb.org and Alight (formerly known as the American Refugee Committee), to provide short-term and more permanent housing to Shapoval and other LGBTQ+ and intersex Ukrainians and other displaced people in Germany and other countries in Europe.

Ukrainians, Russians, Iranians, Syrians, Algerians, Ghanaians and people from more than a dozen other countries attended a roundtable on LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees the embassy co-hosted with the Canadian Embassy in Germany on July 19. ORAM Executive Director Steve Roth and representatives of Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association, Queer Refugees Deutschland, Human Rights Watch, Quarteera and Miles also participated. 

“We can and must promote the protection of vulnerable LGBTQI+ refugees and asylum seekers,” said U.S. Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann. “These people are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and we can and we must respond to human rights abuses. And we can and we must engage international organizations on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.”

Daniels said one of the issues roundtable participants discussed was “making sure that asylees get appropriate legal counseling before their asylum hearing.”

“Every country, including the United States and Germany, could do better,” she told the Blade.

Daniels added the roundtable’s overall goal was “to listen to what (participants’) challenges are in the countries they come from.”

“Our job is to listen to what those challenges are and see what our embassies in those regions or what the State Department at-large in the White House can do to support their additional inclusion and equal rights for them,” she said.

Daniels spoke with the Blade a day before Berlin’s annual Christopher Street Day parade took place.

The embassy, which is adjacent to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. was flying several Progress Pride flags in the days leading up to the parade. The canopy over the embassy’s main entrance was also adorned in rainbow colors.

The Progress Pride flag flies in front of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on July 22, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The embassy — along with the U.S. Consulates in Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Hamburg and Munich — on July 6 hosted a discussion about LGBTQ+ and intersex issues in sports. Former Washington Spirit player Joanna Lohman, Portland Thorns coach Nadine Angerer and former German soccer player Marcus Urban participated.

Lohman is a lesbian, while Angerer and Urban are openly bisexual and gay respectively.

The embassy has also launched “UnterFreunden,” a podcast with an episode that highlights LGBTQ+ and intersex issues.

“What we wanted to assure is that we don’t only celebrate Pride during Pride Month, in June or July in Germany,” Jesse George, the embassy’s public diplomacy and media advisor, told the Blade during the interview with Daniels. “So we are amplifying and doing outreach regarding the LGBTQI+ community all year long.”

Viktoriya, a woman from northern Ukraine who is completing her PhD in Berlin, marches in the Christopher Street Day parade on July 23, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

President Joe Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House in the same year named Jessica Stern, who was previously the executive director of OutRight Action International, as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad.

The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. Stern during an exclusive interview with the Blade ahead of Pride Month noted the Biden administration’s continued support of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights abroad also includes marriage equality in counties where activists say it is possible through legislative or judicial processes.

“When together we stand up for LGBTQI+ persons, we stand up for the work of building a country and a world where everyone belongs and everyone’s rights are respected, no matter who they are or who they love,” said Gutmann during the July 19 reception.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 struck down Roe v. Wade. 

Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurrent opinion said the Supreme Court should reconsider the decisions in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex. 

The Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify marriage equality into federal law, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last month with 47 Republicans voting in favor of it. The bill needs 60 votes in the U.S. Senate to overcome a potential filibuster.

Daniels said the Roe ruling is “definitely” on the minds of LGBTQ+ and intersex activists in Germany and “on our mind.”

“What we can do as an administration is to stand in solidarity with those marginalized communities and, of course, for women’s and girls’ rights and for reproductive rights globally,” she said. “That is something we can do as a State Department, as a foreign policy agency.”

Richard Grenell represented U.S. in Berlin from 2018-2020

Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, represented the U.S. in Berlin from 2018-2020.

The previous administration tapped Grenell to lead an initiative that encourages countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The Blade last August filed a lawsuit against the State Department in federal court in D.C. that seeks Grenell’s emails about the initiative.

The embassy during Grenell’s ambassadorship hosted a group of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activists from around the world. Grenell and then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Knight Craft in 2019 organized an event on the sidelines of a U.N. Security Council meeting that focused on decriminalization efforts around the world.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell (Photo public domain)

Grenell, among other things, faced condemnation from politicians in Germany who accused him of supporting far-right politicians and attempting to interfere in German politics. Advocacy groups in the U.S. and around the world also sharply criticized Grenell over his outspoken support of then-President Donald Trump.

Daniels did not specifically discuss Grenell during the interview. Daniels said in reference to the embassy’s work in support of LGBTQ and intersex rights that “people had been invited to the embassy in that period for certain public events.”

“Now having our doors wide open and showing this inclusive face of the United States, you know, I’ll let other people draw that contrast,” she said.

“In these four walls so to speak, we’re hearing, we’re listening and steering to the extent we can, sharing our policies and programs in a way that will address how can we improve that message of inclusion and of equal rights as LGBTQ rights or human rights,” added Daniels. “It’s not some niche issue. It’s mainstreamed into all of our policies.” 

Daniels further stressed “that’s a difference that you’re going to see.”

“Again, it’s not flying the flag on Pride Month, although that’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s fighting for those rights, and all of our programs and all of our outreach and ensuring that that’s human rights. It’s not something that’s just for a particular, you know, trying to show that we do it. I think people can feel that inclusion when they’re in the company of this embassy.” 

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