Alturi profiles human rights activist Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher for the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch called on US President Barack Obama to address anti-LGBT discrimination along with laws curtailing free speech and peaceful assembly when he meets with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Washington, D.C. on August 2.
Based on a study in The Lancet Psychiatry, the World Health Organization has moved “closer to removing transgender identity from its global list of mental disorders.”
United Methodist Church: Schism ahead?
Claude Summers explores the possibility of a global schism in the United Methodist Church over the issue of acceptance and ordination of LGBT people. An excerpt:
The denomination has been debating the issue for 50 years and has reached no consensus, in part because conservatives have blocked every attempt to forge a compromise.
While American members of the UMC are by a slight plurality in favor of reform, most of the denomination’s recent growth has been in Africa, where homosexuality remains taboo. Indeed, it is believed that the attempt at the 2012 General Conference to enact a compromise that would have amended the “Book of Discipline” so as to acknowledge that the denomination was divided on the question of homosexuality was defeated by the delegates from Africa voting in concert with the American traditionalists.
It is clear that the traditionalists are frustrated with what they see as the lawlessness of the reformers and that the reformers are no longer willing to honor patently homophobic language and policy within the denomination. Since efforts to reach a compromise have repeatedly been thwarted by conservatives, progressives have resorted to civil disobedience and defiance.
Islam and Homosexuality
At Huffington Post Canada, MacEwan University assistant professor Junaid Jahangir challenges five “commonly held beliefs” about LGBT people and Islam, suggesting ways that LGBT Muslims can “unpack” these beliefs. He concludes:
In conclusion, there is no level playing field between influential Muslim leaders and vulnerable LGBT Muslim youth, who are disowned or threatened with death. Such leaders are less keen in listening to the disenfranchised and more interested towards foisting their beliefs. Yet, for all their influence, heterosexism is not an Islamic value but affirming the values of intimacy, affection and companionship is.
Beenish Ahmed at Out writes that “for queer Muslims, Islamic poetry represents solace and acceptance.” Interviewee Naveed Merchant says he “never felt that his faith was at odds with his sexuality, in part because of a long tradition of accounting for homosexual and homoerotic relationships by the 13th and 14th century Islamic mystical poets Rumi and Hafiz, whose work he was exposed to from an early age.” He quotes a poem by Hafiz, in a translation by Daniel Ladinsky:
It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth —
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are
And women and women
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover’s hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more kind?
WMFE’s Renata Sago reports that the Orlando massacre opened a door for a progressive Muslim perspective to be heard more widely, quoting Muslims for Progressive Values’ Ani Zonneveld:
“We had so many requests for media interviews—Let’s hear the LGBT Muslim perspective. You know, all of a sudden you start hearing, ‘Oh gay Muslims actually do exist!’ It’s like ‘Yeah! They do exist’” she laughs.
Zonneveld’s organization has been advocating for equality and social justice for Muslims in the United States for about ten years. And for all the gray areas surrounding the gunman’s sexual identity and whether that motivated the June 12th shootings, Zonneveld says one thing is for sure:
“The lack of diversity of what a Muslim looks and sounds like in America has a lot to do with the media and how the progressive Muslim voices, the LGBT Muslim voices—have been censored out of the narrative.”
Also included in the story is Imam Daayie Abdullah, an openly gay Islamic scholar: “Abdullah believes American Muslims have the power to bring change by simply being themselves. Unapologetically.”
Russia: Gay American pastor detained and expelled
A gay American pastor was detained and expelled from the country on vague charges that he was in the country to perform same-sex marriages. Jim Mucahy is Eastern European coordinator for the LGBT-friendly Metropolitan Community Churches. More from the Associated Press:
Mulcahy’s arrest this month in the city of Samara braids together several of Russia’s most acrimonious issues: gay rights, alleged Western meddling in Russian affairs, and missionary work by religions that don’t have state approval. It attracted particular attention because the arrest was filmed by state-controlled channel NTV, whose reports often take an especially truculent, pro-Kremlin stance.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty posted a photo essay chronicling the “rollercoaster” of attitudes toward Russia’s gay community since the fall of the Soviet Union, including “a grim U-turn under Vladimir Putin.”
Cayman Islands: Coalition of church leaders launching campaign for ‘Bible-based values’
The Cayman New Service reports that a coalition of church leaders, including Anglicans and Seventh Day Adventists, “are putting aside their doctrinal differences and uniting on a campaign to promote what they see as the biblical basis for family life in the Cayman Islands in a stand against ‘alternative lifestyles’ and same-sex unions in particular.” The project, designed to “raise awareness of biblical teachings,” will kick off with an “island-wide rally” in September.
Pastor Alson Ebanks, deputy chair of the Cayman Ministers Association and senior pastor of the George Town Church of God Chapel, said there was a pressing need for a collaborative effort.
“The time has now come; God has allowed us to come together to work collectively,” he said.
Although the church leaders spoke about a decline in general of “Bible-based values”, their concern over what they repeatedly referred to as a movement “to effect cultural changes in Cayman from outside the territory” and alternative lifestyles appears to be focused on the emergence of the debate locally about the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“This external thrust may be described as ‘cultural colonialism and ideological imperialism’ that is being imposed yet again on Caribbean societies, as a sort of extension of what occurred in slavery,” Ebanks said. “And slavery was very much an anti-family establishment,” he added, making no comment on the Old Testament sanctioning of slavery.
He maintained that the Christian influence in western culture was being eroded and suggested the moral consensus among civilized western societies had come from his religious perspective, a view supported by the local Anglican representative.
“What we are seeing today in the West is a huge collapse of the Christian basis for society,” said Bishop Nicholas Sykes, rector of St Alban’s Church of England, adding that people felt it would not happen here but it has. Sykes said the question for the church was whether the world would go in the direction of a “sort of immoral morality” and take Cayman with it, or if action worldwide may stall this thrust against Christianity.
South Africa: Activists ask government to deny entry to extremist anti-gay American pastor
Activists in South Africa have launched a petition asking the government to block American anti-gay pastor Steven Anderson from entering the country. Here’s how Anderson had responded to the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida:
“These homosexuals are a bunch of perverts and pedophiles, that’s who was a victim here, a bunch of disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar,” he said. He later added: “The good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore. The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle.”
Anderson explained that he didn’t approve of the shooter’s actions … but only because he thinks the victims should have been put to death by the government. “These people all should have been killed anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels, as in, they should’ve been executed by a righteous government,” he said.
Brazil: An ‘epidemic’ of anti-LGBT violence, rising fundamentalism
At ThinkProgress, Zach Ford warns that athletes and visitors to the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro should be aware of an epidemic of LGBT violence in recent years:
Rather than protecting LGBT people from this violence, police are often perpetuating it. In recent months there has been a “surge” of police killings, particularly of young, black men from poor communities. The poverty trans and gender-nonconforming people are more likely to experience because of discrimination makes them all the more vulnerable.
The Brazilian landscape is not guaranteed to improve for LGBT people either, with Christian evangelical fundamentalism on the rise both throughout society and politics. As an example, Congressman Jail Bolsonaro, who many have called “Brazil’s Donald Trump” because of his outrageous views, is already ramping up a presidential campaign for 2018. He is exceedingly anti-LGBT, regularly using anti-gay epithets to attack his opponents. He has compared marriage equality to pedophilia and claimed that LGBT people want to recruit children for sex.
This anti-LGBT violence and sentiment could permeate what should otherwise be an inclusive Olympics. The Pride House is back, promising a welcoming space to celebrate and honor LGBT athletes and promote human rights internationally.
World Congress of Families: More on summit in Republic of Georgia
Eurasianet publishes a story about May’s World Congress of Families summit in Tbilisi, Georgia. The article by Nino Gogua, Nikoloz Bezhanishvil, and Giorgi Lomsadze notes that the event’s anti-LGBT messages were in sync with the anti-Western theme of the conference.
The WCF, which gathers supporters from Russia and around the world, blames liberal views on gender and sexuality for supposedly eroding the “natural family” and birth rates. “The new view… is that the purpose of sexuality is individual fulfillment and individual pleasure, not the children,” said Allan Carlson, co-founder of the Illinois-based WCF.
At the Tbilisi conference’s main event, held in the city’s largest concert hall, some speakers cited the US decision to allow transgender bathrooms in public schools as a portent of the imminent advent of an asexual human being and consequent demographic disaster.
“The gender ideology in the long term will erase [the] differences between man and woman,” warned Alessandro Fiore, spokesperson for Notizie ProVita, an Italian partner of the WCF.
A march with Georgian Orthodox faithful through downtown Tbilisi drowned out objections from the ex-Soviet republic’s gaggle of gay and feminist advocates. Fearing for its safety after a violent 2013 clash with priest-led protesters, Georgia’s LGBT community responded to what they called a “conference of hate” only with a few hit-and-run public measures.
The gathering’s agenda jived with Moscow’s anti-Western propaganda, often centered within Eurasia on emphasizing the wariness of LGBT rights that Russia shares with former Soviet republics like Georgia.
In a fiery denunciation, the WCF’s Georgian host, US-educated businessman Levan Vasadze, declared that the West owes Georgia an apology for foisting “sin and depravity” – a reference to LGBT rights – upon it.
Israel: Prime Minister addresses Jerusalem pride, but is criticized for lack of action on ‘LGBT problem’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke via video to the record-breaking Jerusalem pride parade, declaring, “We are all Israelis, we are all citizens of the state, we are one people.” Writing in Matzav blog, Eli Kowaz welcomes Netanyahu’s words but challenges his actions in failing to defend LGBT rights. While writing that “Israel is light-years ahead of every other country in the Middle East when it comes to LGBT rights,” Kowaz says “Israel has a LGBT problem”
Just two days before the parade, Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich stated on Israeli radio that homosexuality is “dangerous and destructive to [Israeli] society.” Smotrich in part of a list of homophobic Jewish Home MKs.
“This [homosexuality] is a recipe for the end of our people,” said Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan. “Homosexuality is worthy of our pity, not encouragement,” declared MK Moti Yogev and party Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu stated that“we need to cure this disease.”
Yet at the same time, Benjamin Netanyahu tells the Jerusalem pride parade that his government treats all human beings equal.
It’s time for a reality check. Israel has a serious problem when it comes to LGBT rights…
Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, a head of a leading pre-military academy, made headlines last week when he criticized the IDF for educating soldiers to “accept gay perverts.”
He continued to describe the gay community as “an insane movement whose members have lost the normalcy of life. This group makes the country mad and has now penetrated the IDF in full force – and no one dares voice an opinion and mock it.”
A Walla News poll found that 71% of Israelis disagree with Levenstein’s remarks and only 19% agree, but that didn’t stop 300 national religious rabbis from signing a letter in support of his comments.
Among the examples cited in the story are the diversion, as we reported last week, of the pride parade in Be’er Sheva in order to avoid potential violence and hurting “religious sentiment.”
Armenia: Report cites anti-gay politicians using religious arguments to oppose equality
Nearly 50 members of the LGBT community and their allies gathered July 22-24 for the second annual Rainbow Forum, reports Pink Armenia; the forum was preceded by three days of activist training.
Pink Armenia’s annual report on the human rights situation of LGBT people called 2015 a “regressive year” since the new Constitution restricts marriage to only a man and a woman. The report says homophobic rhetoric from political leaders was a major problem. The report cites political leader Naira Zohrabyan citing religious beliefs in pledging to do everything she could to ensure that LGBT people cannot “spread like metastasis.”
“Unlike many of my colleagues, I do not suggest that they [LGBT people] should be burned over a fire or marginalized from society, but I directly accept that as long as our society remains free of such perversion, we will be able to preserve our nation’s moral and ethical character. For me, all of that is absolutely unacceptable,” said Zohrabyan, tying her position to religion, “I know, that there is a natural law, the law of God, commandments, and the class that will go against the commandments of God, will receive God’s punishment. Yes, perhaps among them there is a class that is genetically sick, another class that has mental deviation, but we should not give them tribute.”
The report also cites Rubk Hakobyan a former leader of the Heritage party who is now an independent MP: “I am not a fanatic in religious terms, but the Bible says to go and multiply, different sexes, protect nature. Now what, should we declare the Bible as no longer valid?”
In addition, Robert Aharonyan, leader of the Socialist Movement of Armenia, led anti-LGBT protests against the European Union and compared the LGBT flag to Satan.
Italy: Civil union law takes effect
The new civil union law took effect “despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church,” notes Pink News.
Colombia: Peace deal reportedly includes equality for women, LGBT people
AFP reports that a draft peace deal between Colombia’s government and FARC rebels includes an agreement “to create conditions “for women and people in sexual minority groups, to achieve equal access to the benefits of living in a country that is not at war.”
Australia: Marriage equality, plebiscite still subject of political wrangling
The Labor Party will try to force a vote on marriage equality legislation, which is supported by most Australians and a majority of members of Parliament, but opposed by the leadership of the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been calling for a non-binding plebiscite, though he recently withdrew his pledge that such a vote would take place this year.
Proponents of marriage equality have called the plebiscite unnecessary and expensive and say it would lead to an ugly and divisive campaign. Even some opponents of marriage equality have questioned the point of the plebiscite if members of parliament will not be bound by its results.
Mongolia: Interview recounts gay man’s coming out
LGBT Amantuukh published an interview with Tulga, a gay man who was born in Ulaanbaatar in 1980 and raised during the socialist period. In the story of his gradual coming out and discovery of other gay people, he talks of attempting suicide as a teenager after reading a World Health Organization publication that had been translated into Mongolian which called same-sex attraction “an incurable illness” and that such people “must be isolated from society.”
Belize: Chief Justice again postpones ruling on sodomy challenge
Activists in Belize have been waiting for more than three years for Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin to deliver a judgment in the United Belize Action Movement’s challenge to the country’s sodomy laws. The court had announced that the ruling would be delivered on July 27, but on that day the court announced that delivery of the ruling had been postponed until August. 10.
Isle of Man: First same-sex couple legally married
Marc and Alan Steffan-Cowell became the first same-sex couple to legally marry, converting their civil partnership into a legal marriage under a new law that recently took effect.
Sweden: Prime Minister joins pride parade
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven took part in Stockholm’s gay pride parade, which drew about 45,000 people, according to Associated Press.
Scotland: Father plans 96-mile walk on behalf of gay son, acceptance in schools
The father of an 11-year-old boy who was afraid to let his teachers know that he is gay is planning a 96-mile walk across Scotland to raise awareness and money for a group, Time for Inclusive Education, that aims to end mistreatment of LGBT students in schools.