Australians Vote Overwhelmingly For Marriage Equality; and More in Global LGBT Recap

Australia: Voters overwhelmingly support marriage equality; opponents seek religious exemptions

Australian voters overwhelmingly expressed support for marriage equality in a non-binding mail referendum whose results were released on November 15. The win came in spite of a “well-organized religious campaign” urging a vote against marriage equality. According to the government, 79.5 percent of eligible Australians participated in the survey, including more than 78 percent of voters 18 or 19 years old, a “large cohort who had probably never sent a letter in their lives,” one marriage equality supporter noted. The official results:

Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

Of the eligible Australians who expressed a view on this question, the majority indicated that the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, with 7,817,247 (61.6%) responding Yes and 4,873,987 (38.4%) responding No. Nearly 8 out of 10 eligible Australians (79.5%) expressed their view.

All states and territories recorded a majority Yes response. 133 of the 150 Federal Electoral Divisions recorded a majority Yes response, and 17 of the 150 Federal Electoral Divisions recorded a majority No response.

Marriage equality supporters wasted no time, with debate on a marriage equality bill beginning in the Senate the day after the results were announced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who pushed for the referendum, wants marriage equality legislation passed before the end of the year.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Dean Smith, who is gay and who received a standing ovation from colleagues after his speech, in which he said “any attempts to deny LGBT people rights would face strong opposition,” a sign of a battle to come over conservatives’ plans to seek exemptions for people who based on religious grounds do not want to provide goods or services for same-sex couples’ wedding. “Australians did not vote for equality before the law so that equality before the law that is already gained by stripped away,” Smith said.

More from Associated Press:

Another Liberal Party senator, James Paterson, had won the support of lawmakers who oppose marriage reform with a proposed bill that offered “a limited right of conscientious objection to ensure no one is forced to participate in a same-sex wedding against their sincerely held beliefs.” It also would safeguard speaking out against gay marriage and would bar government agencies from acting against people who hold such views.

The Law Council Of Australia, the nation’s peak lawyers group, said Paterson’s bill “would encroach on Australia’s long-established anti-discrimination protections in a dangerous and unprecedented way.”

Paterson decided to not introduce his bill because senators favored Smith’s bill as the starting point for the debate, but many lawmakers will argue for contentious features of Paterson’s bill to be incorporated in Smith’s bill as amendments.

While supporters celebrated the outcome, some still resented the fact that the survey was held, providing opponents in the Coalition for Marriage, which included the Australian Christian Lobby, with an opportunity to run advertisements warning that marriage equality would pose a threat to children.

The Washington Post notes:

In a wealthy, urbanized country where 52 percent of the people regard themselves as Christian, according to a census last year, the vote marks a defeat for Australia’s two big churches, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, whose leaders were behind a well-organized campaign to defeat the referendum.

It also demonstrated deep rifts in Australian society. Opposition was concentrated in suburbs with high numbers of working-class immigrants on the suburban fringes, including locations popular with Islamic communities.

Brazil: Conservative Christian activists protest gender theorist Judith Butler

At Inside Higher Ed, philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler describes to Scott Jaschik her experience earlier this month in Brazil, where “she faced an ugly protest at which she was called a witch and accused of trying to destroy people’s gender identities and trying to undercut the values of the country.”

The conference she helped organize was not even focused on gender issues, but on democracy, but she was burned in effigy at a protest organized by “far-right Christian groups.”

In advance of her arrival in Brazil, Butler said that a “petition called for the cancellation of my lecture, and assumed that I would be speaking on gender since the allegation is that I am the founder of ‘the ideology of gender.’ That ideology, which is called ‘diabolical’ by these opponents, is considered to be a threat to the family. There does not seem to be any evidence that those who mobilized on this occasion had any familiarity with my text Gender Trouble, published in late 1989. But they took that text to be promoting the idea that one can become any gender one wants, that there are not natural laws or natural differences, and that both the biblical and scientific basis for establishing the differences between the sexes would be, or already is, destroyed by the theory attributed to me.”

Not only were the protesters talking about a topic that wasn’t on the agenda of the conference, Butler said, but they didn’t understand her work or portray it even close to accurately. …

“The aim of the theory was to offer more language and recognition to those who found themselves ostracized because they did not confirm to restrictive ideas of what it means to be a man or a woman. But that theory never denied the existence of constraints, and as I developed it in later years, I sought to show how it served the moral purpose of creating a more livable life for all people who span the gender spectrum.”

Protesters even followed her to the airport screaming for her to leave the country and telling her to go to hell. Butler says one of them shouted in English that “Trump will take care of you!”

As to what the protesters are really after, Butler said, “My sense is that the group who engaged this frenzy of effigy burning, stalking and harassment want to defend ‘Brazil’ as a place where LGBTQ people are not welcome, where the family remains heterosexual (so no gay marriage), where abortion is illegal and reproductive freedom does not exist. They want boys to be boys, and girls to be girls, and for there to be no complexity in questions such as these. The effort is antifeminist, antitrans, homophobic and nationalist, using social media to stage and disseminate their events. In this way, they resemble the forms of neo-fascism that we see emerging in different parts of the world. Indeed, they reminded us at the conference why we were right to worry about the state of democracy.”

Brazilian singer Yann has recruited more than two dozen celebrities, including Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Lorde, and John Waters for a music video calling for an end to anti-LGBT violence in Brazil.

From Kelsey Minor at NewNowNext:

Sao Paulo is home to one of the world’s largest Pride celebrations and Brazil passed marriage equality two years before the U.S. But ignorance and religious intolerance still fuel acts of hate in the country: In fact, more than 40% of all anti-LGBT violence in the world occurs in Brazil. Murders of gay and trans people are particularly gruesome—and including stonings, hangings and decapitations. In June 2015, the charred bodies of gay professors Edivaldo Silva de Oliveira and Jeovan Bandeir were discovered in the trunk of a burning car.

Earlier this year, Rio Mayor Marcelo Crivella declared homosexuality was caused by botched abortions: “We live off this image as an open and tolerant place,” says Jandira Queiroz of Amnesty International Brazil. “[But] homophobic violence has hit crisis levels and it’s getting worse.”

Bhutan: Activist calls for greater compassion and tolerance in predominantly Buddhist nation

At The Wire, Chencho Dema and Peky Samal write about the LGBT community’s search for acceptance in Bhutan, where sodomy or “unnatural sex” is against the law. “While Bhutan is predominantly Buddhist and teaches values like compassion and tolerance,” they write, “its laws are highly unfavorable toward the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) community that forms a tiny segment of its society.”

Deyon Phuntsho with Rainbow Bhutan asks for greater openness:

“Being guided by a religion that teaches compassion, the society is quite tolerant, but they are bound too much by the traditional and stereotypical gender roles and sexual orientations,” he said, adding that this creates a detrimental environment for community members to come out and they are often forced to adapt to the traditional gender roles which are contrary to their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

Turkey: Officials ban film festival and other LGBT events

A planned festival of German gay films was banned by officials who said it “could incite grudges and enmity toward a part of society.” The BBC notes:

LGBT groups have complained that their rights are being curtailed under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is rooted in conservative Islam.

They say they are frequently targeted with animosity, harassment and abuse and that authorities have failed to uphold their rights.

In Istanbul, the annual gay pride parade, once a popular event, has been banned for three years in a row.

AP reports further that “Turkish officials have banned all events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights group in the country’s capital” for an “indefinite” period of time.

Two Ankara-based LGBTI associations slammed the “arbitrary” ban in a statement late Sunday, saying it violates domestic and international laws.

Kaos GL and Pink Life organizations argued the vagueness and wide scope of the decision would legitimize rights violations against LGBTI individuals and turn them into targets.

The organizations said the decision would cripple their work to combat discrimination and hate crimes, calling on officials to withdraw the ban.

ILGA, a global organization for LGBTI rights, called the ban “a disgraceful breach of fundamental rights and freedoms” and warned that it constituted an example of the “shrinking space” for LGBTI civil society in Turkey.

Singapore: Pro-LGBT Methodist minister and retired bishop dies

The Singapore Times reported the death of 88-year old Rev. Dr. Yap Kim Hao, “the first Asian bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore and Malaysia and a vocal advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.”

LGBT rally group Pink Dot acknowledged with gratitude the support Dr Yap had shown towards the community, citing how he had backed a legal challenge that sought to declare as unconstitutional, laws which ban homosexual sex.

Free Community Church Executive Pastor Miak Siew told The Straits Times: “He was the first religious leader to voice support for LGBT people. He discerned that in the time of his retirement, he was called to minister to the lost sheep of the LGBT community – to speak up for the voiceless and the marginalised.”

Dr Yap was consecrated the first Asian bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore and Malaysia in 1968. After retiring from full-time service at 65, he continued to champion many causes, including LGBT issues, although his views on homosexuality did not represent those of the Methodist Church.

Indonesia: Trans boarding school feels anti-LGBT backlash

The Guardian profiles Shinta Ratri, founder of the world’s only Islamic transgender boarding school.

According to Shinta, transgender people in Indonesia find it hard to pray at ordinary mosques, where men and women are divided and they often elicit hostile reactions from other congregants.

It was for this reason that Shinta helped found the Pondok Pesantren Waria al-Fatah, the world’s only Islamic boarding school for transgender people. “In the public mosque we made people uncomfortable. We needed a safe place for trans women to pray,” she says.

Since its establishment in 2008 the boarding school, or pesantren, has become a safe haven for trans people from across Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

“In here you can be with a women’s clothes or men’s clothes, it’s up to you,” Shinta says. “It depends how comfortable you are.”

The Guardian reports that the school has not escaped the broad anti-LGBT backlash that has been engineered by conservative religious and political leaders:

The Pondok Pesantren Waria al-Fatah has not been immune from the backlash. In February 2016 the school was forced to close for four months after threats of violence from conservative groups, including a local vigilante group calling itself Front Jihad Islam (FJI). After the local authorities proved unresponsive to her appeals, Shinta says she agreed to close the school temporarily.

Abdurrahman, the leader of FJI, claims the boarding school is violating Islamic precepts. “In the Qur’an it is said that men should not behave like women,” he says at his home outside Yogyakarta. “It violates sharia.”

But many local residents are supportive of the pesantren and its mission. One is Arif Nuh Safri, a religious teacher, or ustadh, based at the Institute of Qur’anic Studies outside Yogyakarta, who volunteers his time to take prayer sessions and Qur’anic readings at the school.

Egypt: Intensifying persecution leads to fear and paranoia

ABC’s Ben Gittleson reported on the fear and paranoia gripping the LGBT community as a result of the persecution that has swept the country during the past two months, which is a targeted intensification of a trend toward “increased oppression against a variety of minority, political and religious groups in Egypt since 2013, when the military took control of the government.”

Meanwhile, scores of Egyptian legislators are lobbying for a law that would explicitly criminalize homosexual acts to ensure harsher penalties by replacing a 1961 anti-prostitution law that has been used against LGBT people for decades.

“Homosexuality” is not clearly defined or mentioned in Egyptian law, so authorities have been prosecuting LGBT people under charges of “habitual debauchery” that can send them to jail for up to three years.

More than 60 Egyptian members of parliament have backed a bill that for the first time would explicitly punish those who engage in “homosexual” acts or promote “homosexuality.” The act would imprison violators for up to five years for individual offenses and up to 15 years if convicted under multiple provisions, according to Amnesty International.

“If passed, this law would further entrench stigma and abuse against people based on their perceived sexual orientation,” Amnesty International’s North Africa campaigns director, Najia Bounaim, said in a statement.

India: Pride celebrations called ‘short gasp of breath’ for LGBT people living in ‘choked’ situations

In a commentary for the Hindustan Times, Dhrubo Jyoti calls Delhi’s price celebration a “short gasp of breath in a choked environment.” Jyoti notes that the LGBT community in India “has stumbled in the courts but has made impressive strides in turning the tide in social opinion, especially with younger people who don’t view queer people with a mix of suspicion of hatred like their parents did.”

Jyoti notes that pride celebrations are now held in more than 15 cities and smaller towns, but says that many revelers “return to homes of violence where they have to hide who they are, travel in buses and metros where people leer t and abuse them, or change urgently out of their colourful outfits to staid denims in public toilets because their genteel homes in south Delhi are bent on stifling their gender.”

Prides have tried to address this. Delhi’s queer community, for example, have taken stands against anti-Dait atrocities, against violence inflicted on trans bodies and anti-minority bias. But a broader understanding of queer folks as occupying multiple axes of oppression remains to be built.

Queer people are also Dalits, who wake up the next morning to a lifetime of struggle of dignity. They are minorities who fear for their safety. They are people who own shabby clothes not enough to cover bodies unsuitable for cameras scanning the march for the next spectacle. They are women who find little space in even their own communities. They are transpeople who find every door of education and employment closed. They are disabled and cannot come to pride. They are poor and cannot afford pride.

For far too long, many of us in the queer community have been focused on the law and prides. Legal recognition is important, yes, and section 377 is a reprehensible law that must go, but our social and cultural spaces must become more inclusive.

An Associated Press story on New Delhi’s Queer Pride march touched on similar themes:

Manak Matiyani, one of the organizers, said his wealth and education allowed him to live as openly gay but it was much harder for those with less privilege.

“We’re fighting for the right of everybody in this country to live as an equal citizen, which means that everybody should be able to live their life the way they want to,” he said.

AP reminds us of the Indian legal context:

Indian law makes gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Matiyani said the law is often used by the police and community members to threaten people or extort money from them.

In 2009, the New Delhi High Court declared the law unconstitutional. But that was overturned four years later when India’s Supreme Court decided it should be a decision for the parliament, not the judiciary. Last year, the top court said it would reconsider its decision.

Anjana Pasricha from Voice of America found at the festival “renewed optimism that a recent Supreme Court ruling has paved the way to overturn an archaic law that criminalizes gay sex.”

Hopes for a favorable outcome are riding high after a recent landmark judgment in which the Supreme Court declared privacy as a fundamental right which must protect — among other things — sexual orientation.

Anjali Gopalan, founder of the Naz Foundation, which is at the forefront of the legal battle for gay rights, says that the judgment will have an important bearing when the Supreme Court reviews the law called Section 377.

Mozambique: Court tells government to recognize LGBTQ organization

The Constitutional Council found unconstitutional a law that has been cited by the government to refuse recognition to Lambda, an LGBTQ organization. The law permits the recognition of nonprofits only if they benefit “the moral, social and economic order of the country and not offend the rights of third parties or the public good.” More from Mamba Online:

The six judges of the council agreed and found that under the Constitution, as amended in 2004, the “moral order” or “the public good” are not legitimate grounds on which to bar any organisation and thereby declared the clause unconstitutional.

A Lambda spokesperson told the Mozambique News Agency (AIM) that he regarded the Constitutional Council ruling as “a great victory” for the LGBTQ community. He said Lambda would contact the Ministry of Justice yet again, send the ministry the Council’s ruling and await the ministry’s response.

Chile: Opponent of marriage equality takes top spot in presidential voting, heads to run-off

Chileans voting on November 19 had eight presidential candidates to choose from. Conservative billionaire Sebastián Piñera and Alejandro Guillier have apparently advanced to a runoff election. Before the election, DW examined the possibility that the outcome could jeopardize the GLBT community’s recent progress. Outgoing president Michelle Bachelet had introduced marriage equality legislation.

Out of the eight candidates running, Piñera was one of only two candidates in the race opposed to marriage equality, a fact that some activists suggest shows a social and cultural change in Chile.  DW quotes activist leader Ramón Gómez suggesting that cultural change “is closely related to the loss of credibility of religious institutions, especially the Catholic Church.”

In fact, a few months ago the country experienced a viral episode in much of the Castilian-speaking world in which an evangelical pastor was expelled from the program “The Switch”, the Vía X chain, after stepping on a rainbow flag (international symbol of the LGBTI collective ) in full interview. The pastor tried to take advantage of the conversation with the presenter José Miguel Villouta, openly homosexual, to charge against what religious conservatism calls “gender ideology” and did so stepping on what he called “filthy rag”. Immediately, the content director ended the interview.

Guam: Legislation would include gender identity in legal protections based on ‘sex’

Legislation has been introduced in the Senate to clarify the definition of “sex” in nondiscrimination law “ to protect trans and other gender identities,” according to KUAM. The Pacific News Center reports that a University of Guam professor said that “registered sex offenders or persons arrested or indicted for sex offenses” should be exempted from legal protections.

Costa Rica: Vice President discusses family connection to human rights issues

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers interviewed Vice President Ana Helena Chacón, who spoke at the Civil Marriage Equality Congress held in San José on November 10. Chacón said her human rights advocacy was prompted by the birth of her youngest daughter, who has Down Syndrome.

“I began a fight against discrimination against people with disabilities, especially for people with intellectual disabilities,” she told the Blade. “I then began fighting for other human rights that were being violated.”

Chacón told the Blade the Costa Rican Supreme Court in 2005 “was very clear . . . in saying that the recognition of economic and civil rights of people of the same sex were a matter of law.”

Costa Rica in 2013 extended inheritance and other economic rights to same-sex couples who have lived together for at least three years.

Assemblywoman Ligia Elena Fallas in 2015 introduced a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Chacón told the Blade that opposition among Costa Rican lawmakers remains strong.

“Our legislature is a very fragmented legislature in which many ideologies exist and in which conservatism is also present,” she said. …

Chacón told the Blade the government has not focused its efforts on the country’s churches, noting many of them continue to promote the idea that marriage is “only between a man and a woman.” She said they have instead focused on increased education around LGBT-specific issues.

“What we have tried to do is create more education,” said Chacón. “The approach that we are going to look at here is there is no danger . . . to the traditional family, but what we can do is to expand the idea that a great variety of families exist.”

Bolivia: Hunger strikers protest court ruling restricting gender identity law

A group of LGBT activists have reportedly begun a hunger strike to protest a decision this month by the Constitutional Court that  2016 gender identity law did not grant trans people the right to be married or adopt a child. The Catholic Church praised the ruling as “wise.”

China: Report exposes use of drugs, electroshock as part of ‘conversion therapy’

BBC reports on a Human Rights Watch study of forced “conversion therapy” involving drugs and electroshock treatment.

France: Paris moves to create LGBT movement archive

The Paris city council is planning to open an archive to “preserve documentation of the LGBT movement in France from the 1960s onwards.”

Russia: Activists attacked with acid at LGBT family conference

A man reportedly threw some kind of acid on six activists leaving an LGBTIQ+ family conference held in Moscow on November 11.