Religious Resistance to Bolivian Gender Law; US Religious Right Celebrates Court OK For Romanian Marriage Initiative; Will LGBTs Be Banned from Indonesian TV?; Global LGBT Recap

July 22 was recognized as the European Day for Victims of Hate Crime; the date was chosen to commemorate the victims of the 2011 massacre in Norway that claimed 77 lives.

Jordyn Taylor reported on findings from Erik Lamontagne, a researcher with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS that “homophobic laws and social norms” against gay men and other men who have sex with men carry an economic cost that could reach $119.1 billion annually.

Hannah Harris Green reports on the ongoing legal flight of LGBT refugees, taking note of a recent decision by the U.S. Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit that an immigration judge had erred in refusing to acknowledge an asylum seeker’s transgender identity. The article touches on those seeking asylum in Canada, Australia, and Europe. An excerpt:

This decision means that transgender immigrants who fight their cases in the 9th Circuit will have a useful precedent for their claims, but those in other parts of the country will not. For example, last year an immigration judge in Georgia refused the asylum claim of a transgender Mexican immigrant—partly on the basis that gay marriage is legal in parts of Mexico—even though Mexico has one of the highest trans murder rates in the world. This debate over transgender identity in asylum claims is part of a long history of inconsistent and derogatory treatment of queer* asylum seekers, of governments denying, disbelieving, and deriding their sexuality.

The United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951 established that individuals with a “well-founded fear of being persecuted” based on membership of a “particular social group” are entitled to seek asylum abroad. Today, homosexuality is illegal in nearly 80 countries, and at the time of the convention, it was still illegal in Australia, the UK, most of the United States, and most of Europe—in Australia and other former British colonies, these laws were a legacy of British colonial rule. When the United States began accepting gay and lesbian asylum seekers in 1990, some states still had anti-sodomy laws on the books. (The Supreme Court ultimately declared these laws unconstitutional in 2003 with its decision in Lawrence v. Texas.) Even after legalizing homosexuality, some governments disputed LGBTQ asylum seekers’ membership in the “particular social group” category, arguing that queer people are not a unified social group, or that they could simply hide their sexuality.

Bolivia: New gender identity law meets religious and political resistance

The Washington Post’s Simeon Tegel writes about Bolivia’s new gender identity law, which allows people to change the gender listed on official documents. Tegel says it means that “Bolivia joins Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia as the only four nations in the deeply Catholic region to recognize the needs of transsexual and transgender citizens in this way.”

In the story Carlos Parra, aka Paris Galán, “the country’s best known drag queen and a prominent gay rights campaigner,” calls Bolivia a relative beacon of light in a region plagued by homophobia and violence against gay and transgender people.

More from the story:

Predictably, the gender identity law has met with stiff resistance, not least from the Catholic Church. There have been protest marches, particularly in Santa Cruz, the conservative city that is Bolivia’s economic motor. Writing in Bolivian newspaper El Diario, theologian Gary Antonio Rodrígues Alvarez even warned that the concept of “hate,” as used to define crimes committed against gays because of their sexuality, is “highly dangerous.”

Romania: Court approves marriage initiative backed by US religious right groups

The U.S.-based religious right legal group Liberty Counsel put out a press release taking some credit for the Constitutional Court of Romania granting approval to a proposed voter initiative to constitutionally restrict marriage to a man and a woman, which Liberty Counsel called “a major victory for natural marriage and the right of Romanian citizens to determine their own destiny.” Liberty Counsel had filed an amicus brief in the case, which cited, among other things, the infamous and widely discredited Mark Regnerus study.

The group’s press release says its chief litigation counsel, Horatio “Harry” Mihet, was born in Romania. Mihet put this victory in the context of the global religious right’s ongoing rhetorical war against Western Europe, saying, “The CCR has recognized the sovereignty of the Romanian people to define marriage for themselves, as well as the supremacy of their choice over and above the dictates of pro-homosexual forces in Europe and beyond.”

The European arm of the American Center for Law and Justice also filed a memorandum in the case

Indonesia: Will LGBT content be banned from TV?

As we have been reporting, religious and political leaders have been responsible for a wave of anti-LGBT rhetoric this year. Now it looks as if LGBT content could be banned from the airwaves. The Jakarta Post’s Nurul Fitri Ramadhani reports:

As the House of Representatives screens 27 candidates for leadership positions at the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), it remains to be seen whether the new commissioners will uphold pluralism and give recognition to minority groups.

Of the 15 commissioner candidates undergoing screening by House Commission I overseeing information and communication affairs on Monday, most of them voiced opposition to programs involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters being aired on TV.

Many of the candidates argue that anything besides heterosexuality is against the country’s values and norms. Among the candidates are news producer of private TV station Trans7 Arif Adi Kuswardono, Indonesian Television Academy (ATVI) mass communication lecturer Agus Sudibyo, Banten KPI chairman Ade Bujaerimi, West Sumatra KPI chairman Afrianto Korga and journalist Mayong Suryo Laksono.

Ade was of the opinion that LGBT content in TV programs could destroy the morals of youth because of the lifestyle portrayed. “Television must be free of LGBT. We should ban all programs containing LGBT content,” he said…Since hostility toward LGBT people emerged, the KPI has become one of the institutions to introduce discriminatory rules against them.

United Kingdom: Profile of lesbian Muslim hip-hop artist

Nick Street, senior writer at USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, profiles Jaheda Choudhury-Potter, “a self-described ‘geeky dark-skinned lesbian Muslim’ who fronts a queer hip-hop band in the UK.”

In the media coverage that has followed the Pulse nightclub shootings, many news consumers are seeing queer Muslims for the first time. That invisibility is largely a consequence of the risks that coming out entails for queer people in any conservative religious tradition. But well before events in Orlando put their community in the spotlight, artists and activists like Choudhury-Potter have been creating spaces where LGBT Muslims can explore their faith and identity more openly.

Choudhury-Potter’s band, Ajah UK, is based in Manchester—a town that has spawned successive generations of trailblazing acts, including The Hollies, The Smiths, New Order and Oasis. When she performs, Choudhury-Potter, 40, said she sees herself not just as an artist but also as the leader of an insurrection against the misogyny of the city’s male-dominated music scene.

“My name means warrior,” she said. “Part of me wants to be Harriet Tubman or Malcolm X.”

Choudhury-Potter recalls a childhood in which the National Front contributed to tension between young white and brown men, an atmosphere in which she “could have easily succumbed to hatred.” But said she hopes her woman-centered art will contribute to a less violent world.

“Islam is the language and the set of stories that I grew up with,” she said. “As an adult today I choose the bits of Islam that suit my nature.”

When asked about the bit of Arabic script rendered in silver that she was wearing as a pendant—and that appears in just about every photo and video of the band—she leaned forward so that the pendant dangled below her neck.

“It says ‘Allah,’” she replied. “That’s my hijab.”

Isle of Man: Marriage equality now in effect

As of Friday, July 22, a new law allows same-sex couples to legally marry or choose a civil partnership. The Guardian’s Helen Pidd reports:

Church of England ministers do not have to marry gay couples under the new law. The island’s bishop, who sits in the Manx parliament’s upper chamber, was one of a handful of representatives to oppose equal marriage…

[Chief Minister Allan] Bell was one of a number of politicians who faced insults in the House of Keys, the directly elected lower branch of Tynwald, the parliament of the Isle of Man, when arguing for decriminalisation of homosexuality. In one particularly fraught session a politician said that to legalise gay sex would “lead to a charter for wimps and perverts to further infect society”.

And a bit of procedural and jurisdictional explanation:

The bill was passed in April by the Tynwald, the Isle of Man’s parliament, but needed to be rubber-stamped via the Queen. Although the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom, it is a crown dependency, so the reigning monarch must still grant royal assent via the privy council. The Queen granted the bill royal assent last Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the privy council said on Monday.

Mexico: Marriage and family equality continue to advance over local resistance

As a sign of some continued local resistance to marriage equality, the Civil Registry in South Baja California refused to register a newborn child as the son of two women who are married. After a few weeks of back-and-forth with government officials, the couple’s lawyer said he will ask the federal courts for an amparo, or injunction, requiring the registration to be issued.

In the state of Chiapas, federal courts granted an amparo sought by a same-sex couple that had been denied marriage equality. Journalist Rex Wockner explains and tracks the ongoing, complicated march of marriage equality in Mexico.

Nepal: Education minister calls for LGBT issues in curriculum

Hari Lamsal, minister of education, said in a meeting with Parshuram Rai, deputy director of the Blue Diamond Society, that issues regarding gender and sexual minorities should be included more expansively in school curricula as a way to bring about an end to discrimination. According to Rai, the Blue Diamond Society has provided training on LGBTI issues to more than 600 teachers.

Australia: Marriage equality supporters take parliamentary majority, but leadership may block vote

In Australia’s recent parliamentary elections, at least 16 seats that had been held by opponents of marriage equality or those who had not declared their positions were won by supporters of marriage equality, reports BuzzFeed. That gives supporters of marriage equality a clear majority if ruling party leaders would allow members to vote their conscience rather than stick with the party line.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is still insisting on holding a national plebiscite on the issue, which equality advocates have dismissed as expensive, divisive, and unnecessary. Although the government has claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of Australians support a plebiscite, a poll released this week found only 48 percent of Australians backing such a vote, with support dropping sharply the more people knew about the vote. More from Paul Karp at the Guardian:

When told the result of a plebiscite would not be binding and “politicians will still need to vote on whether to agree or disagree with what the public has decided, potentially overriding the public’s vote”, support fell to 33%.

When told the plebiscite is expected to cost $160m, support came in at 25%.

The results are slightly higher than a Centre for Applied Political Psychology (Capp) poll in June, which found 40.4% supported a plebiscite.

Canada: BC will amend human rights law to include trans

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton said that British Columbia’s Human Rights Code will be amended to make it explicitly clear that transgender people are covered, reports Kim Pemberton at the Vancouver Sun.


Moldova: US Members of Congress urge rejection of Russian-style ‘propaganda’ law

Twenty-four members of the US Congress urged lawmakers in Moldova to reject legislation modeled after Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law. More from Human Rights First:

In a letter organized by Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) in close coordination with Human Rights First, 24 members of Congress called on Moldova’s parliament to protect marginalized communities and to honor their country’s commitment to basic freedoms guaranteed in the Moldovan constitution.

“Moldova has already made great democratic, constitutional, and economic advancements. It was only three years ago that the nation took an important stand for human rights and basic freedoms when it overturned a similar anti-LGBT propaganda law,” said Representative Lowenthal. “The U.S. values its relationship with Moldova and hopes to continue strengthening this relationship. The current legislation runs counter to the protection of fundamental human rights, which is the cornerstone of American democracy and our relations with other nations. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in Congress and with Human Rights First in defense of human rights and human dignity around the world.”

The proposed bill would impose fines for spreading “homosexual propaganda” to minors through public meetings, the media, the Internet, and other means. If passed, the bill would threaten the existence of LGBT organizations and limit the speech, expression, and freedom of assembly of activists, civil society leaders, journalists, and members of the LGBT community.

“Time and time again voices of hate in Eastern Europe are attempting to further marginalize an already vulnerable community,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “This bill would not only erode basic rights guaranteed to LGBT Moldovans, but it would bring the very real possibility of increased violence and discrimination against them. It is imperative that the Moldovan parliament reject this bill.”