Botswana’s High Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex

Botswana’s High Court ruled on Tuesday to overturn colonial-era laws that criminalized homosexuality, a decision hailed by activists as a significant step for gay rights on the African continent.

“Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized,” Botswana’s High Court Judge Michael Leburu said as he delivered the judgment, adding that laws that banned gay sex were “discriminatory.”Botswana's high court

Three judges voted unanimously to revoke the laws, which they said conflicted with Botswana’s Constitution.

“Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement,” Judge Leburu added. “It is an important attribute of one’s personality.”

The small courtroom in Gaborone, the capital, was packed with activists on Tuesday, some draped in the rainbow flag of the L.G.B.T. movement.

“It is a historical moment for us,” said Matlhogonolo Samsam, a spokeswoman for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, a gay rights group. “We are proud of our justice system for seeing the need to safeguard the rights of the L.G.B.T. community.”

“We still can’t believe what has happened,” Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, the chief executive of the gay rights group, said as celebrations began outside the courtroom. “We’ve been fighting for so long, and within three hours your life changes.”

The laws had been challenged by an anonymous gay applicant, identified in court papers only as L.M. In a written statement, read by lawyers in the courtroom, the applicant said: “We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant.”

Homosexuality has been illegal in Botswana since the late 1800s, when the territory, then known as Bechuanaland, was under British rule. Section 164 of the country’s penal code outlaws “unnatural offenses,” defined as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature.”

NYTimes.com by Kimon de Greef, June 11, 2019

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Americans’ views flipped on the gay rights movement. How did minds change so quickly?

Fifty years after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Manhattan, spurring days of riots thatwould become a catalyst for the gay rights movement, the leap in public opinion has been followed by leaps on the ground, even as work remains.

A record number of LGBT candidates have been elected to Congress, Colorado elected the country’s first openly gay governor, Chicago has a lesbian mayor and the first openly gay Democratic candidate is running for president.  The gay rights movement has come a long way.gay rights movement

But while it’s clear that the gay rights movement managed to change people’s minds faster than any other civil rights movement in memory, it’s less clear why. How, in 15 years, did Americans’ views flip on such a charged social issue? And why haven’t other groups that have also publicly fought discrimination managed to change public opinion as quickly? The answer lies in human behavior and demographic realities, as well as a winning strategy by gay rights activists that capitalized on both.

Steve and Teri Augustine met, fell in love and got married in a conservative evangelical Christian community. They grew up believing homosexuality was a sin, and that the “gay agenda” was an attack on their values.

Then, six years ago, their son Peter — their youngest child who loved theater and his church youth group — returned home to Ellicott City, Md., from his freshman year of college and came out to his family as gay.

Teri asked her son not to tell anyone else, and drove herself to a mall parking lot to cry. Steve questioned his son’s faith, reciting Bible passages from Corinthians. The Augustines decided to put their son through a year of conversion therapy, determined to “set him straight.”

But after the therapy failed, something changed. Steve and Teri Augustine started meeting Peter’s friends and inviting other gay Christians to dinner. Two summers after Peter came out, the family stood on the sidelines of the Capital Pride parade wearing rainbow beads and shirts with the words “I’m sorry.” Teri now hosts a support group for Christian moms of LGBTQ children.

“I knew that if I was going to get a handle on who my son was,” Teri said, “I really needed to step into that world.”

The transformation in the Augustine family parallels a shift in public opinion that social scientists say is unlike any other of our time.

As recently as 2004, polls showed that the majority of Americans — 60 percent — opposed same-sex marriage, while only 31 percent were in favor, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, those numbers are reversed : 61 percent support same-sex marriage, while 31 percent oppose it.

“You can’t find another issue where attitudes have shifted so rapidly,” said Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas who has studied public opinion of LGBT rights over the years.

What’s perhaps most surprising is that support for same-sex marriage has increased among nearly all demographic groups, across different generations, partisan lines and religious faiths. Even among the most resistant religious group, white evangelical Protestants like the Augustine family, support for same-sex marriage has grown from 11 percent in 2004 to 29 percent in 2019, according to Pew.

WashingtonPost.com, by Samantha Schmidt, June 7, 2019

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WHY I’M AN ORTHODOX RABBI WHO IS GOING TO OFFICIATE LGBTQ WEDDINGS

Shouldn’t our Orthodox communities rush at the opportunity to keep as many Jews, including LGBTQ jews, engaged in their Judaism? Is this the Torah and this its reward?

orthodox LGBTQ

A queer friend of mine from a haredi Orthodox background had posed a query publicly on social media. She had attended a conference on LGBTQ inclusion. There she learned a practice of certain Catholic priests who described going into gay bars in full clerical garb: They would sit in the bar, and when queer Catholics approached them, the priests would affirm God’s love and their belonging place in the church.

My friend asked her community of observant Jews, acknowledging that rabbis don’t have any identifying clerical garb: When might Orthodox rabbis do the same?

As an Orthodox rabbi myself, I was intrigued. I discovered a rainbow kippah online and decided to purchase it.

It managed to garner attention the first day I wore it. A woman took a picture of me and motioned a thumbs-up. A homeless man on the subway who was begging for money approached, pointing to my kippah, and said, “Now I like that,” and bumped my fist. A man in high heels came up to me before getting off his stop and said, “Thanks for the yarmulke.” I even had made my way to the headquarters of Chabad Lubavitch that very same day for a meeting and a Hasid asked me where he could find a kippah like mine. I surmised: The kippah works.

But what is it symbolizing and is it enough?

The kippah is a symbol of my commitment to God, to Torah and the Jewish people. To me, the rainbow kippah is also a symbol that God and Judaism love you no matter your sexual orientation.

I understand that the plain reading of Leviticus considers homosexual sex a “toevah,” often translated as an abomination. I understand that Jewish law views kiddushin, the ritual ceremony of marriage, as a legal structure between a man and a woman. I know and respect this.

But I also believe that the Torah does not want human beings to live alone, and supports a covenantal relationship between parties as they build a faithful Jewish home. I know that Judaism has, for thousands of years, had a rich understanding of the diversity of gender identities. I know that the Torah affirms the God-endowed dignity of all human beings.

In the recent film “Boy Erased,” based off Garrard Conley’s memoir describing his experience in a gay conversion program, a scene between a Baptist pastor father and his adult gay son has stayed with me. Conley’s character says something along the lines of “I’ve tried to change, God knows I’ve tried. I can’t change. Now it is your turn.”

www.thejerusalempost.com, April 7, 2019 by Avram Mlotek

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Mormon Church to Allow Children of LGBT Parents to Be Baptized

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, announced a remarkable reversal to its policies on LGBT people on Thursday.

mormon lgbt day

The decision rolls back a 2015 policy that barred children living with same-sex couples from important religious practices like baby-naming ceremonies and baptisms. That policy also declared that LGBT Mormon church members in same-sex marriages were apostates and subject to excommunication.

“Effective immediately, children of parents who identify themselves as LGBT may be baptized without First presidency approval,” the Mormon church’s First Presidency said in a statement on Thursday.

“While we still consider such a marriage to be a serious transgression, it will not be treated as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline,” the statement said. “Instead, the immoral conduct in heterosexual or homosexual relationships will be treated in the same way.”

The decision, instructed by President Dallin H. Oaks, who leads the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, comes as the church prepares for its general conference this coming weekend.

NYTimes.com, by Elizabeth Dias, April 4, 2019

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Americans Show Broad Support for LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections

Across Lines of Party, Demographics, and Geography, Americans Broadly Support Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People

gay america

Americans remain supportive of broad nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Nearly seven in ten (69%) Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in the job market, public accommodations, and housing.

Support by Age Group

Younger Americans are 17 percentage points more likely than older Americans to say they support laws protecting LGBT people from various forms of discrimination. More than three-quarters (76%) of younger Americans (ages 18-29) favor such laws, compared to (59%) of seniors (ages 65 and older).

Support by Political Party and Ideology

Support for nondiscrimination protections enjoys broad support across the political spectrum. Majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (70%), and Republicans (56%) say they favor laws that would shield LGBT people from various kinds of discrimination. While support among Democrats and independents has remained relatively constant, Republican support for these provisions has fallen five percentage points over the past few years, down from (61%)  in 2015.

Majorities of liberals (81%), moderates (76%), and conservatives (55%) all favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

Ideological differences are more pronounced among Democrats and independents than among Republicans. The biggest intra-party divide is among Democrats: Liberal Democrats (87%) are likelier than moderate (76%) and conservative (61%) Democrats to favor nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people. Liberal (79%) and moderate (78%) independents are also likelier than conservative independents (58%) to support nondiscrimination protections.

Notably, self-identified moderate Republicans (69%) are likelier than self-identified liberal Republicans (59%) or conservative Republicans (53%) to favor laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. Conservative Democrats (61%) are about as likely as liberal Republicans (59%) to favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

PRRI.org, March 12, 2019 by
Daniel GreenbergEmma BeyerMaxine Najle, PhDOyindamola BolaRobert P. Jones, PhD

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Brunei to Punish Adultery and Gay Sex With Death by Stoning

When Brunei announced in 2013 that it was bringing in harsh Islamic laws that included punishments of death by stoning for adultery and gay sex, the move was met with international protest.

Some investments by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, including the Beverly Hills Hotel, were targets of boycotts and calls for divestment.

Following the outcry, Brunei, a sultanate of about 430,000 on the island of Borneo, delayed carrying out the harshest provisions of its Shariah law.

Now, it is quietly going ahead with them.

Beginning on April 3, statutes allowing stoning and amputation will go into effect, according to an announcement posted by the country’s attorney general last year that has only recently received notice.

That has set off a renewed outcry from human rights groups.

“Brunei’s Penal Code is a deeply flawed piece of legislation containing a range of provisions that violate human rights,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a researcher for Amnesty International, said in a statement. “As well as imposing cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, it blatantly restricts the rights to freedom of expression, religion and belief, and codifies discrimination against women and girls.”

Brunei has had the death penalty on the books since it was a British protectorate, but in practice executions are not typically carried out.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Brunei, with a punishment of up to 10 years in prison, but the new laws allow for penalties including whipping and stoning. The new laws also introduce amputation of hands or feet as a punishment for robbery.

“To legalize such cruel and inhuman penalties is appalling of itself,” Ms. Chhoa-Howard said. “Some of the potential ‘offenses’ should not even be deemed crimes at all, including consensual sex between adults of the same gender.”

Brunei is ruled by a sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, who lives in a 1,788-room palace and whose wealth amounts to tens of billions of dollars thanks to Brunei’s oil riches. In recent decades he has advocated a conservative vision of Islam that has clashed with the more moderate strains generally practiced in the region, and with the royal family’s own luxurious lifestyle.

New York Times, by Austin Ramzy, March 29, 2019

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How ‘Real America’ Became Queer America

The Trump administration may be busy waging culture wars. But in the heartland, it’s never been a better time to be L.G.B.T.

This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of L.G.B.T. rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.

In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.

What I learned on the way from Utah to Georgia only reaffirmed what I have come to believe over the past decade: Attitudes toward L.G.B.T. people are changing rapidly in conservative states, and no one inside the Beltway can stop it. This country’s bright queer future is already here, hiding where too few of us care to travel.

From a bird’s-eye perspective, it may not seem that life has changed for L.G.B.T. Americans in so-called flyover country. State laws prohibiting discrimination against them remain elusive in red states — although Utah notably passed one in 2015. But in their absence, midsize cities have become pockets of L.G.B.T. acceptance.

In the West, cities including Boise, Idaho; Salt Lake CityBozeman, Mont.; and Laramie, Wyo., have passed L.G.B.T.-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the past decade. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the list of cities with such laws includes Atlanta and New Orleans; Birmingham, Ala.; and Jackson, Miss. L.G.B.T. Texans have had to fend off all manner of horrific state-level bills, but if they live in Austin, Dallas, Plano or Fort Worth, they have solid local laws on their side. And Midwestern hubs like St. Louis and Omaha likewise offer L.G.B.T. protections.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national L.G.B.T. advocacy organization, is downright cheerful about this trend at a time when queer optimism feels in short supply. In the its 2018 Municipal Equality Index, the group’s president, Chad Griffin, wrote
that “while cynical politicians in Washington, D.C., attempt to roll back our hard-fought progress, many local leaders are championing equality in big cities and small towns from coast to coast.”

And this progress includes transgender people. According to the group’s data, over 180 cities and counties in states whose electoral votes went to Mr. Trump in 2016 now protect employees not just on the basis of sexual orientation but gender identity as well.

On my road trip through what is ostensibly Trump country, I met many L.G.B.T. people who saw no need to flee their conservative home states for the coastal safe havens of generations past, thanks to local progress.

In Utah, I made arts and crafts with transgender and gender-nonconforming teenagers, most of whom belong to Mormon families. Over coffee in the Rio Grande Valley, a nonbinary friend told me that the region’s L.G.B.T. people remain as hardy as the prickly pear cactuses of South Texas. And in an Indiana town where everyone knows everyone, a transgender woman in her 50s told me how much things have changed in her area since she first came out over the course of the 2000s.

by Samantha Allen, New York Times, March 14, 2019

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‘I Have to Stay Alive’: Gay Brazilian Lawmaker Gives Up Seat Amid Threats

An openly gay federal Brazilian lawmaker who has frequently clashed with the country’s new far-right president said on Thursday that he was giving up his seat because of death threats.

The lawmaker, Jean Wyllys, a fierce advocate for gay rights who was due to be sworn in for a third term in February, said in an interview with the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo that “this environment isn’t safe for me” after the assassination of a political ally last March and violence that followed the election of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, in October.

“For the future of this cause,” Mr. Wyllys said, “I have to stay alive. I don’t want to be a martyr.” He added that he was currently on vacation abroad and did not plan to return to Brazil.

Mr. Wyllys called Mr. Bolsonaro, a former colleague of his in the lower house of Congress, “a president who always vilified me, who always openly insulted me, who was always homophobic with me.”

In 2016, Mr. Wyllys responded by spitting at Mr. Bolsonaro during the hearing to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. Mr. Bolsonaro, before reinventing himself as a fighter of political corruption and rampant violence, was best known for delivering verbal attacks on women, black people and gay people from the congressional floor. 

Shortly after Mr. Wyllys’ interview was published, Mr. Bolsonaro, who was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, tweeted “Great day!” and a thumbs-up emoticon. Supporters weighed in, many with homophobic comments.

Mr. Wyllys has been the target of death threats for years, but he said those threats had become more severe after Marielle Franco, a human rights advocate who was his friend and political ally, was assassinated.

NYTimes.com, January 25, 2019 by Shasta Darlington

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Gay parents challenge stereotypes in China

An Hui, a gay parent and member of the ruling Communist Party, said it’s time for China to rethink traditional views of family and marriage.

gay parent china

Heads turn when An Hui and Ye Jianbin walk down a street in the Chinese city of Shenzhen with their triplets, who were conceived with help from a human egg donor and a surrogate mother.

People are mostly curious about their unconventional family, said An, adding that it was not always the case in China where gay couples have long battled conservative Confucian values.

“I’m lucky because I was born in China during a period of rapid change. Today’s society is far more tolerant,” the investment manager told Reuters at his office in Shenzhen’s financial district.

“If I had been born during the Cultural Revolution, I would be dead,” said An, 33, who met his partner Ye in 2008.

The two men wanted a family and began exploring the option of in vitro fertilization (IVF), with help from a human egg donor and a surrogate mother.

In 2014, a Thai woman gave birth in Hong Kong to three boys — An Zhizhong, An Zhiya and An Zhifei — who were conceived using human eggs provided by a German fashion model, according to An.

He declined to identify the women or the surrogacy company that organized the procedures.

The issue of lesbian and gay couples having access to medically assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF has stirred political debate in several countries, including more recently in France and Israel.

China’s government has not stated a clear position on the country’s LGBTQ community, said Yanzi Peng, director of LGBT Rights Advocacy China, a group based in Guangzhou.

“The best word to describe the attitude of the Chinese government is ‘ignore,’” said Peng.

“It’s hard to gauge their exact attitude. They don’t outright object to the LGBT community because that would really go against international attitudes on this issue,” Peng added.

by Reuters, December 21, 2018

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They were a gay, interracial couple in an age of relentless bigotry. The two Harolds didn’t flinch.

Estate agent Verna Clayborne takes a seat in the dining room of an expansive 16th Street Heights home and sighs.

The two Harolds have tired her out.

It’s Clayborne’s job to get rid of the stuff of the deceased. The couple who lived in the house for more than half a century — Harold Herman, a white man who died in 2016 at 87, and Harold Mays, a black man who died almost exactly a year later at 81 — had a lot of it.Harold

These aren’t your typical finds in the home of retirees. Clayborne is sitting amid a pile of antiques and memorabilia — paintings, LPs, books, coins, stamps, personal correspondence — worth, she estimates, $500,000. These objects, curated lovingly by two collectors in love for over five decades, offer glimpses of what it was like to be black and gay in America when it was dangerous to be either.

“They knew how to live and lived well,” she said of the Harolds.

The Harolds met in New England before moving in together in post-integration, pre-riot Washington in 1965. One was a black Army veteran from St. Louis, the other a white college professor from Pennsylvania. Though family and acquaintances say they were a private couple, they could not help being pioneers.

They later ran Two Harolds Antiques in Alexandria for more than a decade and owned a collection of thousands of signed first editions so extensive that they kept an in-house card catalogue. The books are varied — works by gay raconteur Quentin Crisp amid Janet Evanovich thrillers.

Much of what’s left in the Harolds’ home doesn’t explicitly bear their mark. There’s large black-and-white prints of the last century’s black royalty: Harry Belafonte, Jesse Jackson, Lou Rawls, Cicely Tyson. Another photo includes two faces lesser known outside the Beltway in the 1960s and 1970s, but inescapable within it: Marion Barry and his first wife, Blantie Evans, on a beach.

But every collection reveals the collector, and in other ephemera the Harolds left behind, they come into sharper focus. One snapshot shows Mays shaking Belafonte’s hand at a Politics and Prose. Another shows their modest wedding, held in 2013 at what looks like a courthouse following the legalization of same-sex marriage — after they had already been a couple for almost 50 years.

By Justin Wm. Moyer, Washington Post, October 16, 2018

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