Sorry I haven’t updated in a while. Keep an eye out for new posts soon!
- Current Events
- Taiwanese laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying violate their personal freedom and equal protection, the island’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday. The justices called sexual orientation an “immutable characteristic that is resistant to change.” “The judges have today said yes to marriage equality. This is a huge step forward for LGBTI rights in Taiwan and will resonate across Asia,” said Amnesty International’s Lisa Tassi, who directs campaigns in East Asia. Taiwan’s president has asked the Ministry of Justice to come up with a legal framework for complying with the decision. The court’s ruling gives Taiwan’s government two years to change its marriage laws. If that deadline passes without legislative action, same-sex couples will be allowed to register for marriage and obtain “the status of a legally recognized couple.” Allowing single people to have the autonomy to decide whether to marry and whom to marry, the Taiwanese court said in a news release, “is vital to the sound development of personality and safeguarding of human dignity, and therefore is a fundamental right.” The court also said that when same-sex couples create “a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together,” they’re not affecting the rights of people in a heterosexual marriage. The issue of same-sex marriage has been a source of contention for decades in Taiwan. The key plaintiff, Chi Chia-wei (sometimes written as Qi Jia-wei), has fought for gay rights since the 1980s and first sought a marriage license 16 years ago, Focus Taiwan reports. Groups opposing same-sex marriage, including Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, protested outside the Judicial Yuan after the result came out. Some requested the invalidation of the interpretation and the president to step down. Noting a history of discrimination against homosexuality and homosexuals’ lack of political power, the court said that “in determining the constitutionality of different treatment based on sexual orientation, a heightened standard shall be applied.” Ahead of Wednesday’s ruling, there were signs that Taiwan was poised to legalize same-sex marriage. It was a key campaign issue for President Tsai Ing-wen, who took office one year ago, and the legislature has been weighing a change to Taiwan’s Civil Code, according to The China Post. (NPR)
- Texas is proposing a bill that could keep transgender students out of high school sports. The stated focus of the bill, SB 2095, is steroid use. But because gender confirmation often includes the use of steroids, critics say the true purpose of the bill is to discriminate. This year, a Texas teenage transgender boy, Mack Beggs, was allowed to wrestle only girls, because his birth certificate says he was female at birth. Some complained that the boy’s prescribed testosterone treatment gave him an unfair advantage over girls. State law already bans steroid use, but it allows a “safe harbor” exception for students using steroids prescribed by a doctor, said Garcia, the Democratic senator. The bill would give authorities the power to block kids from playing. The board could find that an individual’s steroid treatment affects safety or fair play. Not all transgender people necessarily take steroids. “All young people should have the opportunity to play interscholastic sports and have their personal dignity respected,” advocacy group Equality Texas said. “Transgender people are no different.” The bill “does not eliminate the birth certificate problem, and creates the potential for student athletes like Mack Beggs to be prohibited from competing in sports altogether,” Equality Texas said. (CNN)
- One bill would make it legal to decline adoption services to gay couples. Another could deny them marriage licenses. Others would bar transgender Texans from using the public bathroom of their choice. Supporters of the bills circulating in the Texas Legislature this session say they’re intended to protect the religious rights of citizens or maintain safety in public bathrooms. Critics counter they’re an unprecedented attack on LGBT rights. One of the most contentious bills has been Senate Bill 6, the so-called “bathroom bill,” which would require that people use bathrooms in public schools and government buildings based on their “biological sex” and prohibit transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Just as it did for a similar law recently passed in North Carolina, Senate Bill 6 has drawn withering criticism from civil rights activists as well as business and tourism leaders. In a letter to Texas senators in March, Chris Wallace, president of the Texas Association of Business, warned that the bill, if passed, would lead to at least $407 million in direct spending losses for the state. The bill passed the Senate but has stalled in the House. Another bill would allow county clerks to pass off issuing marriage licenses to other county officials if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and another would keep transgender athletes from competing in high school sports. Texas is not alone. This year, state lawmakers have introduced 131 anti-LGBT bills in 30 states, according to figures compiled by the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign. Only nine of those bills so far have passed into law. Texas leads the nation with the number of bills considered anti-LGBT. Last year, 252 bills were introduced, eight of which became laws, according to the HRC statistics. Texas Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, said the Texas bills are about allowing citizens and agencies to exercise their religious beliefs, not impeding LGBT rights. His initiative, House Bill 3859, would allow faith-based agencies to deny adoption and fostering services to couples if it goes against their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Agencies that deny a couple would have to offer a referral to that couple, according to the bill. Randy Daniels, vice president of Dallas-based Buckner Children & Family Services, a Baptist-affiliated adoption and foster service agency, said HB 3859 could shield agencies such as his from lawsuits if they turn away same-sex couples. Laws that specifically target the LGBT community are hurtful and could have lasting impacts in their communities, even if they’re not passed, said the Rev. Karen Thompson, lead pastor at Metropolitan Community Church of Austin, a majority LGBT congregation. Earlier this month, Thompson and other clergy filed into the State Capitol for a “prayer protest” of the bills and handed lawmakers a letter signed by 40 faith-based leaders across Texas denouncing the initiatives. Just debating the bills has already harmed members of her congregation, she said. (USA Today)
- Rick Brattin, a Missouri state representative from Harrisonville, seems pretty certain: Homosexuality and humanity are incompatible. “When you look at the tenets of religion, of the Bible, of the Qur’an, of other religions,” he said [last] Monday, “there is a distinction between homosexuality and just being a human being.” The statement, made on the Missouri House floor, was deplorable. It betrayed a stunning lack of understanding of theology and self-government: The Constitution protects all Americans from the tyranny of any single faith-based approach to secular law. It isn’t the first time Brattin has tripped over the Constitution. He has sought an equal footing for teaching creationism in public schools. He proposed requiring the father’s consent before an abortion except in cases of “legitimate rape.” He suggested college football players who refuse to play for political reasons should lose their scholarships. [Last] Monday, state lawmakers tried to pass an amendment prohibiting discrimination in the state on the basis of sexual orientation or gender status. In Missouri, you can still be fired because the boss thinks you might be gay. It gets worse. After all the amendments were dropped, including the protections for gays and lesbians, the House passed Senate Bill 43, a measure that would actually make it more difficult to sue for discrimination. The bill is another unnecessary blemish on the state. The legislation’s original sponsor owns a company facing a discrimination lawsuit, making the decision even more questionable. The bill now sits on Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk. The governor has made clear his desire to bring new businesses and jobs to Missouri. Supporters say SB 43 is part of an effort to make the state more business-friendly. (The Kansas City Star)
- In what is being described as the speediest signing of a bill passed by Connecticut‘s legislature, Gov. Dannel Malloy outlawed the practice of trying to change the sexual orientation of young people from gay, lesbian, bisexual to straight. The law also applies to all efforts to force transgender youth to not identify according to their authentic gender identity. “This is supported by the science,” Gov. Malloy told legislators and advocates gathered around his desk before signing the bill into law Wednesday, mere minutes after the state senate passed it, unanimously. Connecticut is the 9th state to enact such a law. Other states already banning what’s been called “ex-gay” therapy, “reparative therapy” and “conversion therapy” are: California, Vermont, Oregon, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, and Illinois. It’s also banned by three cities — Seattle, Miami Beach and Cincinnati —as well as Washington, D.C. Critics of such bans, like Federalist op-ed writer Marcus Gregory — a gay man who claims to work as a scientist — cite debunked studies, discredited “experts” and falsely claim the bans result in preposterous treatments for children such as gender confirmation surgeries and hormone replacement therapy. (LGBTQ Nation)
- The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled this week that anti-gay attacks cannot be prosecuted under the state’s hate crime law, a decision that activists said diverged from recent outcomes in gay and transgender rights cases. The ruling clears the way for a college athlete accused of assaulting two gay men to be tried on lesser charges. The case hinged on whether attacks based on sexual orientation could fall under a hate crime law that does not explicitly mention sexual orientation. Prosecuting lawyers in Cabell County, where the attack took place, argued that “sex,” which the law lists as a protected category, includes crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation. But the court was not convinced. In a 3-to-2 ruling handed down on Tuesday, it found that “the word ‘sex’ in West Virginia Code § 61-6-21(b) is unambiguous and clearly imparts being male or female, and does not include ‘sexual orientation,’” according to a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry II. The court’s ruling was celebrated by West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, who did not side with the state, which argued that sexual orientation was a protected category under the hate crime law. In a statement, he called the attack on the two men “deeply disturbing and heinous” but said “such conduct does not give the judicial system a license to rewrite state law.” West Virginia is one of only six states with a hate crime law that includes sex in its protections but not sexual orientation or gender identity. In recent years, gay and transgender advocacy groups have won a string of federal anti-discrimination cases in areas like employment, housing and education by arguing that federal laws that forbid sex discrimination, particularly Title VII and Title IX, also cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But that approach has not always been effective. In March, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Jameka Evans, a lesbian, could not sue her employer for anti-gay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people make up roughly 20 percent of bias attacks and harassment reported to law enforcement agencies, according to statistics compiled by the F.B.I. in 2015. Those episodes included assault, intimidation, vandalism, murder and rape. Robin Maril, the associate legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, an L.G.B.T. advocacy group, said the West Virginia ruling was not consistent with “the broad legal trajectory we are seeing in the courts” toward including both sexuality and gender identity under legal protections based on sex, especially in the context of anti-discrimination law. (New York Times)
- The government of Ontario is considering the introduction of gender-neutral birth certificates as early as next year. The province already issues gender-neutral driver’s licenses and health cards. The minister’s statement comes after an Ontario-born filmmaker and activist pushed the province to recognize non-binary people in all government documentation. (BuzzFeed)
- An anonymous spokesperson has revealed details of efforts by the Russian LGBT Network to evacuate gay men from Chechnya. In April, Russian journalists revealed details of six known prisons for gay men in Chechnya. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has told Vladimir Putin that concentration camps do not exist. Last Friday, Putin appeared to support a request by Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights to form an investigative team to look into “the well-known information, or rumors” of torture against men “with a non-traditional sexual orientation” in Chechnya. The anonymous source said that the Russian LGBT Network has so far managed to evacuate around 40 men from Chechnya to various locations around Russia. The source also confirmed reports that parents in Chechnya are being told to kill their gay children, adding that “some of them are already hunted by their relatives outside of Chechnya.” (Towelroad)
Today HRC recognizes the 13th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) with the launch of a video series highlighting global innovators in the fight for LGBTQ equality. In addition, the organization is shining a spotlight on the need for continued U.S. engagement on protecting the human rights of LGBTQ individuals around the world, especially in the ongoing crisis occurring in Chechnya.
Despite the work of innovative LGBTQ advocates from around the world, discrimination and social stigma continue to have negative, often tragic, consequences for LGBTQ people. Last month, reports surfaced that Chechen police have detained, beaten and tortured at least 100 gay men. The Russian LGBT Network claimed that as many as 20 men may have been killed in the attacks in Chechnya, a republic within Russia. From working with the U.S. administration and Congress to activating membership, HRC has sent a clear message that we have our #EyesOnChechnya and that the human rights violations in Chechnya must stop.
The situation for LGBTQ people around the world varies widely. As some countries embrace equality, in others, LGBTQ people continue to suffer from discrimination, persecution and violence.
- Anti-LGBTQ discrimination continues to put lives at real risk. 72 countries currently criminalize same-sex relationships. More than 2,300 murders of transgender people were recorded between 2008 and 2016, according to data from the Trans Murder Monitoring project
- In up to 10 countries, same-sex conduct may be punishable by death
- Governments in Lithuania, Nigeria, and Russia are silencing equality advocates and organizations with so-called “anti-propaganda” laws — a disturbing trend that leads to human rights violations
- Same-sex marriage licenses are being issued nationwide in 20 countries, and in some jurisdictions of Mexico and the United Kingdom.
IDAHOT celebrates the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) resolution to declassify same-sex attraction as a mental disorder. The move followed a similar decision by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. The WHO’s monumental change created a shift in how many LGBTQ people were treated. In 2004, LGBTQ activists gathered for the first time to mark this date with rallies in support of equality. The anniversary is now marked by celebrations, governmental proclamations, and renewed efforts to end the discrimination and violence that LGBTQ people throughout the world still face.
A small anti-LGBT group called the “American College of Pediatricians (ACP)” created a name that is easily confused with the AAP, the largest pediatrics organization in the country. It is disturbing that news organizations and physicians are citing the “ACP” as a reputable source. The ACP is a small group of physicians that left the AAP after the AAP released a 2002 policy statement explaining that gay parents pose no risk to adopted children. The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly labeled the ACP as an anti-LGBT hate group that promotes false claims and misleading scientific reports. Here are a few false statements propagated by the ACP that have the potential to harm LGBT youth:
1. Reparative Therapy for Homosexual Youth Is a Good Idea
Reparative therapy refers to an attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation (generally from homosexual to heterosexual). The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Psychiatric Association, among others have labeled reparative therapy dangerous and unethical. Reparative therapy has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective at changing sexual orientation, and non-acceptance of a youth’s sexual orientation dramatically increases the risk of suicide, depression, and substance abuse.
2. Gay Parents Are Bad Parents
This was the reason for the ACP’s original formation. The American Academy of Pediatrics explained in 2002, citing a range of literature, that children of gay and lesbian parents have the same potential for health, adjustment, and development as children whose parents are heterosexual. In response, the ACP ignored key literature and issued a non-peer-reviewed report under its new legitimate-sounding name: “The American College of Pediatricians.” The ACP seems to be the only group of physicians holding this stance, with the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Medical Association, among others vehemently disagreeing.
3. Affirming Transgender Youth Is a Bad Idea
Perhaps the most popular falsehood publicized by the ACP recently is that transgender youth who are supported in their transgender identities are caused harm by this affirmation. Again, they ignore major studies. In the journal Pediatrics in 2014, researchers showed that pubertal blockade and cross-sex hormones resulted in improved mental health for transgender youth. In 2016 and 2017, two papers showed that transgender children who are supported in their identities and allowed to socially transition have developmentally normal rates of anxiety, depression, and self-worth. Furthermore, transgender individuals whose families do not support their transgender identities are 20 percent more likely to attempt suicide. (Psychology Today)