Registry of LGBT community in Tajikistan raises concerns
Washington, D.C. – On October 18, Human Rights First expressed alarm over reports that Tajikistani authorities have created a registry of gay and lesbian citizens and called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to publicly raise concerns about this action. The organization notes that this registry could serve as a precursor to violence and discrimination against the LGBT community. These reports come amidst the ongoing crisis for LGBT communities in Azerbaijan and in Chechnya, where victims, mostly gay and bisexual men, have been detained, tortured, and killed in custody.
“Drawing up a registry of gay and lesbian Tajiks should trigger alarms throughout the region,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “The State Department needs to act quickly and decisively to ensure that Tajikistan does not become the next Chechnya.” Reports of the registry continue a troubling pattern of persecution of LGBT communities in the former Soviet Union. The escalation is part of a broader pattern of organized persecution of LGBT people in the region that dates back to legislation targeting the free speech and expression of LGBT people in Russia.
Creation of the registry was ostensibly done under the auspices of protecting the LGBT community and cracking down on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the Central Asian country. Last year Tajikistani authorities identified 319 gay men and 48 lesbians as part of two initiatives entitled “Morality” and “Purge,” ominously named projects the purposes of which have not been divulged by the Interior Ministry. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Tajikistan in 1998. “Tajikistani authorities can dress this up any way they want, but they are fooling no one. This is not an effort to protect the LGBT community; it is the first step in a broader scheme to persecute them,” added Gaylord. “The State Department needs to say loudly and clearly that attacks on LGBT Tajiks will not be tolerated.” (Seattle Gay News Human Rights First Press Release at sgn.org)
Federal Judge voids Kentucky internet bar for sex offenders
Lexington, KY – A federal court has struck down two parts of Kentucky’s sex offense registration law. Individuals on the registry were banned from using social media, and required to divulge email addresses, screen names, etc. to law enforcement. U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove overturned these sweeping restrictions in an October 20 ruling that strengthens the First Amendment rights of everyone to use the Internet.
The Kentucky decision builds on a major US Supreme Court victory (Packingham v. North Carolina) in June when the court unanimously ruled unconstitutional a North Carolina law banning registrants from social media. The “John Doe” who brought a lawsuit challenging Kentucky’s restrictions was represented by attorney Scott White.
The Lexington Herald-Leader quotes White saying, “This is a very important decision. The laws effectively deprived anyone on the sex offender registry of access to the most effective forms of communication that we have today. It was a complete suppression of speech.” The Herald Leader article noted that the Supreme Court’s decision in the North Carolina case recognized that so many civic institutions — from elected officials to news media — are now tied into social media. (The Dobbs Wire & The Lexington Herald Leader – John Cheves at http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article179967661.html)
Dallas lawyer’s religious beliefs prohibit work with bigots
Dallas, TX – In the last issue of this newspaper, we reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a directive “to do as much as possible to accommodate those who claim their religious freedoms are being violated.” That directive “lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held.” Previous wording protecting “religious objectors” included the words “sincerely held” in legal arguments to protect those rights. Now those beliefs don’t have to be so sincere.
Dallas attorney and Equality Texas board chair Steve Rudner has some religious beliefs of his own — sincerely held ones at that. “My religion tells me we’re all created in God’s image,” Rudner said. “We’re all supposed to love and respect each other. We’re supposed to ‘clothe the naked,’ so I believe in a living wage. We’re supposed to respect whatever religion your employees are, so I give them the day off for their holidays.”
Because Rudner’s religion simply won’t allow him to do businesses with people who discriminate against LGBT people, the disabled, immigrants or people of certain religions or races, he’s sending a questionnaire to his vendors and suppliers to find out just where they stand on certain issues. Rudner Law Offices represents luxury hotels around the world. He said he may be doing business with lots of wonderful people or he may be doing business with a number of bigots. Either way, he wants to know. Rudner said his religious beliefs — and they are most definitely sincerely held — require him to know these vendors’ policies. He said, “I expect answers.” And if he doesn’t get those answers, he’ll be looking for new vendors. “I’d love to have someone find that objectionable and do something about it,” he said. He said with directives like this, Sessions could create a sectarian divide in this country, and the divide is growing deeper. But Rudner hopes that his response will open some eyes and stop the divide. (Dallas Voice – David Taffet at dallasvoice.com)
Report 40% of LGBT employees face workplace bullying
Seattle, WA – Forty percent of LGBT employees in the United States reported that they encountered bullying in their workplaces, a new study by CareerBuilder says. Fifty-three percent confronted the bully, but only 20% said the behavior stopped afterwards. Fewer than one-third of LGBT workers said they reported bullying to human resources. Most of those bullied said the guilty party was a single person, but 13% reported being bullied in a group setting. Bullying has a demonstrable negative effect on LGBT workers’ well-being. More than 40% of LGBT Americans said they left a job because of harassment.
Bullying against LGBT people takes many forms. Nearly two-thirds said they were falsely accused of mistakes. Other common complaints included being ignored by others, being held to different standards, being the subject of gossip, and being excluded from projects or meetings.
According David Kilmnick, CEO of the LGBT Network, the number of LGBT workers with concerns about workplace bullying has grown since the 2016 election. The White House LGBT rights page – a fixture of the White House website when President Obama was in office – disappeared immediately after Donald Trump was inaugurated in January. Trump then announced a ban on Transgender people serving in the military. A study conducted earlier this year by Out Now, an LGBT consulting firm based in the Netherlands, found that the share of LGBT individuals in the US who were out to everyone at work dropped from 44% in 2010 to 38% in 2015. The US was the only place in the multi-country study where this metric declined. (Seattle Gay News – Mike Andrew at sgn.org)
PA GOP state senators remove Trans coverage from CHIP
Harrisburg, PA – A Pennsylvania state Senate committee this week approved a bill that would ban state funding of transgender medical services for children enrolled in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program. The Oct. 18 vote in the state Senate banking and insurance committee was 10-5, with all 10 Republicans on the committee supporting the proposed measure.
H.B. 1388’s main purpose is to continue funding for the state’s CHIP through December 2019. Without passage of the bill, funding could expire in December 2017. The bill didn’t contain anti-trans language until an amendment was introduced by state Sen. Donald C. White (R) at the Oct. 18 committee meeting and approved by his Republican colleagues. White’s amendment excludes payments for trans-related medical services including gender-confirmation surgery, counseling, hormone therapies and physician and hospital services.
Democrat lawmakers said they’ll seek to amend the bill as it winds its way through the legislative process, to reduce its anti-trans impact. In June, the state House unanimously approved H.B. 1388 without any anti-trans language. CHIP provides health insurance for children 18 and under whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid insurance but cannot afford private insurance. Nationwide, CHIP serves about 9-million children. An estimated 800 children in Pennsylvania are receiving trans-related medical services but it’s not clear how many of them are enrolled in CHIP. State Sen. Sharif Street (D) plans to introduce an amendment to H.B. 1388 after it reaches the state Senate Appropriations Committee. The amendment would restore payments for all non-surgical Trans services including counseling and hormone therapies. Street said, “Current protocols don’t call for gender-confirmation surgery for children.” (Philadelphia Gay News – Tim Cwiek at epgn.com)
VMI Swim team captain comes out on Coming Out Day
Lexington, VA – On 11 October, John Kim truly embraced National Coming Out Day. A swim team captain at the Virginia Military Institute, he was nervous to tell his coaches and teammates. ”My fear was based on the school being conservative and tradition-laden,” Kim wrote in an honest and moving piece for Outsports. He’s a cadet at the school and this year, was elected captain of the VMI swim team. It’s a Division 1 team, consisting of 45 male and female swimmers.
In his story, Kim admits it was honesty that led him to come out: “If I wasn’t honest with my coaches and teammates, how could I expect others to be honest with me?” He first texted two of his best friends, and then told his co-captain. Then, he approached his coaches privately and this is what he said: “Coaches, I have been meaning to share this with you since the first day of the season, but after some setbacks, I am finally ready to share … I’m gay.” According to Kim, he received nothing but support and happiness. After, it was time to tell the team. The swimmers came out of the pool and gathered around Kim. He told them and was met with “murmurs, then cheering”. “When I jumped into the water and started swimming, I couldn’t get the smile off my face,” he revealed. He further received text messages and comments on an Instagram post of support.
“By telling my story, I hope that I can help anyone who is struggling to come out,” Kim explains. “I realized I was gay in high school, and it still took me until I was 22 to feel comfortable telling my story.” More and more athletes are starting to come out and share their true selves. In August, a college football player came out to his team on stage. These are important stories for the world of sports. (Gay Star News – Anya Crittenton at https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/military-swim-captain-comes-out/#gs.O0kIbl4)
PA court rules lesbian is not co-parent of ex spouse’s child
Philadelphia, PA – A lesbian mother says she’s “heartbroken” after Pennsylvania Superior Court last week said she isn’t entitled to partial custody of her former life partner’s biological child. The woman, identified as “C.G.” in court papers, lived with “J.H.” for about a decade in Florida. Prior to her life partnership with J.H., C.G. had two children from a previous relationship. In 2006, J.H. gave birth to a son, identified in court papers as J.W.H. In 2012, J.H. left the household and moved to Pennsylvania with J.W.H., according to court records. C.G. had sought partial custody of J.W.H., who recently turned 11.
Last year, Centre County Common Pleas Judge Pamela A. Ruest said C.G. didn’t have legal standing to pursue partial custody of J.W.H. Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed Ruest’s ruling. In a 31-page opinion, the court said: “C.G. did not participate in educational or medical decisions regarding the child, was not intended to be the child’s guardian if something happened to J.H., and acted more like a babysitter than a parent. Further, there were no formal documents indicating a co-parenting arrangement, the child did not bear C.G.’s surname and C.G. did not visit the child frequently and regularly after the parties separated.”
C.G., 57, lives in Boca Raton, Fla., and disagrees with the court’s ruling. “It is so unjust,” she told PGN. She said she helped select a sperm donor, was present when J.W.H. was conceived, cut the umbilical cord when he was born, named him as a beneficiary on her life-insurance policy and co-parented him for six years. Additionally, J.W.H. was listed as C.G.’s son on her workplace health-insurance policy. “He called me ‘Mama Cindy,’” she said. Her two daughters consider J.W.H. to be their brother. “We were a family,” C.G. continued. “He is my son.” C.G. was last allowed to visit with J.W.H. in 2014, but she has sent him monthly packages and gifts and spoken with him on the phone minimally since the visit, she said. An attorney for J.H. had no comment for this story. (Philadelphia Gay News – Tim Cwiek at epgn.com)
Curacao prime minister opens the island’s Pride celebration
Willemstad, Curacao – The prime minister of Curaçao, Eugene Rhuggenaath, opened the fifth anniversary of Curaçao Pride by citing key phrases of the Declaration of Independence to announce his support for LGBT equality in his country. The prime minister’s remarks come at the same time that equality-rights activists here are working on potentially groundbreaking new LGBT legislation, which is expected to be introduced in Parliament before the end of the year as part of a pathway to equality for all citizens. Curaçao is a Lesser Antilles island country in the southern Caribbean Sea about 40 miles north of the Venezuelan coast. It is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Rhuggenaath acknowledged that his attendance at Curaçao Pride “was not positively received by all people in our community.” The prime minister was wearing a shirt with the word “#HUNTU,” meaning together, and appeared with his sister, who is a lesbian. In an interview with PGN about why he chose the Declaration of Independence as the cornerstone of his speech and position, he said, “It is inspiring.” As I profoundly reflect on why I choose to be here today, the answer to this question comes to a simple and all-encompassing phrase: All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” he said. “The universal declaration of human rights. I also draw inspiration from the U.S. Declaration of Independence.” He continued, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable that all men are created equal and independent and from all that equal creation they derive rights inherent and unalienable, upon which are the perseveration of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Rhuggenaath went on to say that he is the prime minister for all people.
With rainbow flags adorning the famous Queen Emma Bridge, Curaçao Pride has ignited a controversial debate reported by the local media. The controversy centered on the island’s Pride celebration and at least one member of Parliament’s questions about the urgency of new LGBT-equality laws. For the first time, Curaçao Pride coincides with Curaçao Culture Week, which the tourism office confirmed is traditionally held the week before Pride. Curaçao is widely known as a beacon of LGBT human rights in the Caribbean, drawing thousands of local, regional and international tourists to four days of Pride events held last week. Eighty percent of the island’s population is Roman Catholic. (Philadelphia Gay News – Jeff Guaracino at epgn.com)
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