Condemnation, Condolences in Wake of Orlando Massacre and More

Aftermath of Orlando Massacre

Law enforcement officials continue to investigate last Sunday’s mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Florida and sort through a complex of potential motivations. Although the shooter called a local emergency number during the attack to pledge his allegiance to ISIS, news reports have suggested that there is to date no evidence of any connection to the group. ISIS officials have encouraged supporters to launch attacks in their home countries during Ramadan.

National Public Radio reported on Saturday morning that the shooter’s behavior before the killings did not fit typical evidence of jihadist radicalization, such as having become more religious. Instead, his history seems to more closely fit the pattern of other mass shootings — an angry young man who had been bullied and who had a history of domestic violence. Dina Temple-Raston reported that some law enforcement officials believe that the shooter may have invoked ISIS as a means of generating more publicity.

Response vigils were held around the world, and many governments, NGOs and religious leaders, including Pope Francis, offered condolences for the victims and condemnation of the killings, including the first-ever statement from the United Nations Security Council condemning violence against people targeted for their sexual orientation. US National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers “that the global response to the Pulse nightclub massacre is a direct challenge to the so-called Islamic State and those ‘who foster hate and division’ in the U.S. and abroad.”

Activists worried about the potential for additional attacks against LGBT events. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reported that “anti-immigrant politicians in Europe seized on the attack to accuse liberals of politically correct blindness to security threats, while LGBT organizations are struggling to determine how worried they should be and how to take precautions without stoking anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim fervor.” Meanwhile, progressive advocates for LGBT equality are struggling with how to deal with the plight of LGBT refugees and with the reality that many immigrants from Muslim countries bring anti-gay attitudes with them. One advocate said “he believed it was unrealistic ‘to take someone from a culture where [homosexuality] is the most heinous they can conjure up, and expect them to change’ instantaneously.”

The group Solidarity with Egypt LGBTQ posted a YouTube video contrasting official denunciations of the killings from Arab and Muslim governments with the countries’ legal regimes, a number of which punish homosexuality with death.

A hacker identifying with Anonymous flooded some ISIS-related Twitter accounts with rainbow flags, gay porn, and fake “coming out” tweets.

Mexico: Church driving down support for marriage equality; activists worry about threats

In the weeks since President Enrique Peña Nieto announced plans to push for a constitutional change to guarantee marriage equality nationwide, criticism from the Catholic hierarchy and other opponents have apparently had an effect on public opinion. An earlier poll taken right after the announcement showed 65 percent support for nationwide marriage equality; a new survey conducted by El Universal reported 43 percent in favor of the proposal and 49 percent against. The same poll reported that 49 percent of respondents said they had heard priests or ministers speaking publicly on the marriage question.

Political and religious leaders have also claimed that the poor showing from the ruling PRI party in recent mid-term elections was in part a repudiation of the president’s marriage equality effort. Jorge Trashlosheros wrote in Crux this week:

There is growing unease in Mexican society against Peña Nieto’s initiative, and this feeling increases as its contents are better known. For example, exercising their rights as citizens, Christians of different denominations – Catholic, mainline Protestants and Evangelicals, who represent the majority of the voters – expressed in different ways their rejection of the amendment.

They aren’t the only ones protesting, even though they’re the ones the media has paid most attention to, partially to disqualify them for being “religious.” That’s a common practice in Mexico, where the media can seem anti-Catholic.

The Catholic News Agency reported earlier this month on the religious coalition that has formed to oppose marriage equality.

The president of the Mexican Council for the Family(ConFamilia), Juan Dabdoub Giacomán, told CNA that he clearly sees in the defeat of the PRI the influence of the “protest vote” that pro-family and pro-marriage advocates called for in the country.

After Peña Nieto announced he would promote a constitutional reform to recognize gay marriage throughout the country, as well as amendments to the Federal Civil Code to allow homosexual adoption, more than 1,000 organizations joined together to form the National Front for the Family (FNF).

Heading up this front are the National Union of Parents, Family Network, ConFamilia, CitizenGo, HazteOir, Dilo Bien, and Mexico is One for the Children, among others.

“Yesterday was a historic day in Mexico,” Dabdoub Giacomán emphasized on June 6, and underscored that the protest vote called for by the National Front for the Family was “a mechanism to oppose the decision of President Peña Nieto to regularize so-called homosexual ‘marriages’ and adoption.”

“The important part was that in less than three weeks an organization was created that was able to mobilize an entire country against an initiative of the president attacking the family, calling for a protest vote against him and his party,” he said.

However, the president of ConFamila noted, “this doesn’t end here, because this same week we are going to meet to plan actions that will continue until the 2018 presidential elections.”

On Wednesday, a coalition of “sexual diversity groups” warned about increased threats being made against the National Pride March scheduled for June 25 in Mexico City, something they attributed to the stance of the Catholic hierarchy and the increase in hate speech in recent weeks.

News has begun to emerge about the killing of seven people at a gay club in Veracruz last month, which had initially been treated by authorities as drug-related violence.

Turkey: Pride, under threat from Islamists and nationalists, cancelled by city officials

City officials in Istanbul announced that the city would not allow the annual pride parade to be held this year. It was scheduled for June 26. A far-right youth group affiliated with the nationalist Great Union Party had held a press conference promised to do “what is needed” to stop the event from taking place.

More from the Independent:

Ömer Akpinar, a Turkish gay rights activist, told The Independent hardline Muslim youth associations and ultra-nationalist groups regarded Istanbul’s gay pride event as immoral.

“Religion is always used as an excuse to start riots on freedom,” he said.

“The LGBT community in Turkey is a little divided about whether people should march or not,” said Mr Akpinar. “It’s not only about this latest threat of ultra-nationalists who might attack people, but if you look at the recent history of Turkey, we’ve had so many bombings and attacks.

“So people are afraid it might be an occasion for IS or another terrorist group to kill thousands of people.”

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder has more:

The march had been threatened by factions of the Turkish far right and Islamist groups.

“We will never, ever allow such Immorality, like this march that is called “honor” but really it is immoral, that touch the nation’s nerves, to be normalized or encouraged,” said a group linked to the ultranationalist Great Union Party (BPP).

“We will not allow this disgrace,” declared a group called Muslim Anatolian Youth, which pledged to organize a counter protest on June 19. The announcement was followed by comments including, “If there is no explosion, we will meet [LGBT marchers] in the square” and “I am looking forward to the day when your heads will be halal,” according to screen images captured by pride march organizers.

Australia: Anti-Gay British Muslim cleric has visa revoked; PM sorry for inviting another to dinner

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he regrets having invited to his iftar dinner a senior Islamic leader who has condemned homosexuality for “spreading diseases” and bringing “evil outcomes to our society.” The person in question, Sheikh Shady Asluleiman, is president of the Australian National Imams Council, reports the Guardian. The Prime Minister said he had not been aware of Asluleiman’s views.

Another Muslim cleric, Farrokh Sekaleshfar, was visiting Sydney from Britain as an invited speaker for an Islamic center, but had his visa cancelled and left the country after news reports that he had suggested in a 2013 lectures that death was a “compassionate” sentence for homosexuals. Sekaleshfar had lectured near Orlando, Florida in April.

Canada: Toronto Unity Mosque celebrates 14th all-inclusive iftar

The night before the killing in Orlando, nearly 200 people attended Toronto Unity Mosque’s 14th annual all-inclusive iftar – a meal to break the fast during Ramadan — to which it had invited people “regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, class, disability, or other status. Unity Mosque founder El-Frouk Khaki told ABC News, “The idea was to break breat together and to meet your neighbors,” adding that he was “inspired to creative this event after being invited to a Passover seder by a Lesbian Jewish couple.”

“No community is a monolith, there is no such thing as the LGBTI community or the Muslim community, we have communities within communities within communities,” Khaki said, referring to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex.

In addition to the Iftar, the Toronto Unity Mosque regularly keeps its doors open as a safe space for all.

“The mosque comes out of a visioning of Islam as an egalitarian space, where everyone has access to God,” Khaki explained, noting how this month was special for both Muslims and people who identify as LGBTI.

Kenya: Court OK’s discredited anal exams as evidence of the crime of homosexuality

A Kenyan court ruled that law enforcement officials can force men to undergo anal exams to “prove” allegations of homosexuality, reports BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder. One of the judges called anal testing “a reasonable means of proving that someone had committed a crime.” As Feder notes, “Anal exams are used in many countries that prosecute homosexuality, even though international medical experts say they are useless as evidence of sexual activity andhuman rights groups have denounced them as a form of torture.”

Eric Gitari of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission told BuzzFeed he was optimistic that the ruling would be overturned on appeal, since the judiciary has made some pro-LGBT rulings recently.

Human Rights Watch also responded to the ruling:

“The ruling is a setback, but it does not change the Kenyan government’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Neela Ghoshal, senior researcher on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights at Human Rights Watch. “Kenyan authorities should abandon these abusive practices and, if domestic law permits them, the law should be changed.”

Lithuania: Capital city mayor issues statement in support of Baltic Pride

Mayor Remigijus Šimašius of the capital city of Vilnius issued a public statement supporting the Baltic Pride events scheduled to take place on Saturday in a video celebrating diversity and human dignity. Pink News has some historical context:

The first Pride parade in Lithuania took place in Vilnius in 2010 – although attempts were made by opponents to ban it with anti-LGBT legislation.

The march only took place after the Supreme Court ruled twice that it should be held.

Municipal authorities had previously put the event in jeopardy by declaring it could not be held in the city centre, and failing to provide an alternative route for the parade.

Just three years ago, 28 people were arrested after protesters threw eggs at the 600 attendees of Baltic Pride in 2013.

Lithuanian lawmakers last year postponed a vote on a new anti-LGBT law that emulates Russia’s ban on ‘gay propaganda’.

The state’s Parliament had been due to vote on proposals that would introduce fines for any public display that “defies traditional family values”.

Iraq: Exiled LGBT activist calls for more international support

Attitude’s Chris Godfrey profiles Amir Ashour, an Iraqi LGBT-rights activist living in exile in Sweden, from where he operates an organization, IraQueer, that operates underground. He hopes the aftermath of the Orlando killing will generate more international support for LGBT communities that face official and unofficial violence every day:

“Although what happened there is a terrible tragedy and we all need to react as global citizens to make sure that such violence and racist actions don’t occur again, it is also important to reflect on the fact that we are being selective in showing solidarity,” says Ashour. “Similar and worse attacks have been taking place against the LGBT+ community in Iraq and barely anyone has said or done anything. Life values are equal regardless of the passport you carry, and the necessary actions need to be taken everywhere, not only in places such as Orlando.”

United Kingdom: Man arrested to anti-gay threats, harassment against MP

The same day that MP Jo Cox was murdered by a man with connections to far-right organizations, police arrested a 37-year old man who had been making abusive and threatening anti-gay phone calls to MP Ben Bradshaw.

Europe: Trans activists say Europe shows too much deference to ‘national identities’

Transgender Europe welcomed a statement from the Council of the European Union on LGBTI equality and gender equality, but said the conclusions “are poisoned apples as they lack political aspiration.” More from the statement:

Instead of leading by example in fighting for the rights of LGBTI people, Member States want to reserve the right to discriminate against them; the repeated reference to Member States’ “national identities and constitutional traditions” undermines existing European Union law and universality of human rights.

Uganda: Human rights activists call for police investigation of NGO break-ins

HRAPF, a Ugandan LGBTI support group, joined Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and more than two dozen other organizations in calling on the Ugandan Police Force to investigate break-ins at the offices of NGOs in Uganda, including one that resulted in the murder of an HRAPF security guard. The groups said that the pattern of attacks indicates that the perpetrators “enjoy impunity.” Police have suggested that HRAPF’s own employees could have “masterminded” the attack.

China: Gay man, lesbian move legal challenges to “gay cure” and anti-gay textbook

A 32-year old gay man is suing a psychiatric hospital that he says subjected him to coercive injections, physical and verbal abuse in an attempt to “cure” his homosexuality. And a court in Beijing accepted a lesbian college student’s lawsuit against the ministry of education over a textbook that described homosexuality as a psychological disorder.