Monday, December 22, 2014

Uganda LGBT Update

Though Ugandans won’t be getting a new anti LGBT law for Christmas the government of Uganda has launched a crackdown on political activists who use social media to convey their messages. Masindi News Network (MANET), which has more than 9,200 Facebook followers recently attracted the wrath of the government. The first causalities were 3 young activists who are behind the popular Facebook page Masindi News Network where young people in the rich oil Bunyoro region exchange views on government issues. The administrator of the page Jonathan Akwetereiho & 2 other youth activists Rogers Kanuti & Fredrick Banage were arrested last month for 3 days. Social media is crucial for our Ugandan LGBT community as well. We asked filmmaker Tim McCarthy who is working on a documentary in Uganda “Voices of the Abasiyazzi” that features LGBT Ugandans who talk directly to their fellow Ugandans about their shared culture & lives about this recent social media crackdown. McCarthy stated, “Social media is the only platform that activists have in Uganda to get the word out about corruption & discrimination. It is no wonder that the dictatorship is cracking down. We were beaten up by riot police at a free press demo in June of 2013”. The word “Abasiyazzi” is Ugandan for queer.
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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice Yuletide Gay

The Winter Solstice happens today marking the shortest day of the year & also the longest night. Winter Solstice is also known as Yule. Witches & warlocks celebrate this date as the birth of the Sun God since from this point forward the days get longer. Wiccan celebrations include Yule logs, Yule trees & Mistletoe which all sounds a lot like our traditional Christmas celebrations. The Winter Solstice is also celebrated by druids & pagans as the ‘re-birth’ of the sun for the New Year. In the UK thousands gather each year to mark the occasion at Stonehenge in Somerset. At the North Pole the sun actually never rises on this day. There are many customs associated with the Winter Solstice that derive from stories of a mighty battle between the dark & the light which is won of course by the light, even the Christian faith of a savior (the Sun-Child) being born to a virgin mother. Then there’s Albert Camus the French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist & philosopher famous Winter Solstice quote “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” However our LGBT community celebrates the shortest day & longest night, whether alone or with family & friends in the northern hemisphere just remember that the southern hemisphere is basking in sunshine & enjoying the first day of summer.
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Florida Gay Marriage Update

Good news for our LGBT community in Florida. The United States Supreme Court denied the State of Florida’s motion for a stay of an August federal court ruling that overturned the state’s ban on marriage for gay & lesbian couples. The order means the stay expires at the end of the day on January 5th 2015. This means that gay & lesbian couples will be free to marry in Florida once the stay in the ruling is lifted. Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida stated, "We are thrilled the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the State's request to delay marriages in Florida. Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving & committed gay & lesbian couples in Florida. It's time to break out the wedding bells! We look forward to January 6th being a special day -- Florida is ready for the freedom to marry." Daniel Tilley of the ACLU of Florida emphasized that now clerks across the entire state have a duty to marry couples adding “The Supreme Court has spoken & we expect clerks to begin marrying couples who will finally get access to the protections their families deserve.” On December 3rd the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied the State of Florida’s request for an extension of that stay, allowing gay & lesbian couples to marry, even as the appeal in the case proceeded.
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Friday, December 19, 2014

US Transgender Workers Protections

Attorney General Eric Holder has released a memo that the US Justice Department is now interpreting federal law to end workplace discrimination against transgender people. This means that the Justice Department will be able to bring legal claims for our trans community who have been discriminated against by state & local public employers based on sex identity. In defending these lawsuits the federal government will also no longer take the position that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act that bans sex discrimination & does not protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of gender status. However the Justice Department does not have authority to sue private employers & the new memo does not affect that but it is a sign that perhaps LGBT workplace protections may be on the horizon for all. As you know in July Obama ordered employment protection for gay & transgender employees who work for the U.S. government or for companies holding federal contracts. Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, welcomed Holder's memo stating, "It's just another message to employers, whether they are public employers or private employers, that it is illegal in every state in this country to discriminate against transgender people in employment."
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Thursday, December 18, 2014

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Update

The organizers of South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade this week approved an application by the LGBT group OUTVETS to march in their 2015 parade. The vote was by the Allied War Veterans Council that won a landmark US Supreme Court ruling back in 1995 that allowed organizers to ban marchers who proclaimed their sexual orientation. The vote was 5 to 4 in favor of OUTVETS according to its founder Bryan Bishop who addressed the council stating, “I think it’s very significant. Ensuring that there is 100 percent inclusivity is important.” Bishop also noted that OUTVETS is not a political action group seeking to break barriers. We contacted MassEquality which is the leading statewide grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination & oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Carly Burton the Interim Co-Executive Director, MassEquality stated, "We applaud the Allied War Veterans for voting in favor of allowing the OUTVETS contingent to march in the 2015 Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade. This is a great step forward for these veterans & we are pleased that the parade is becoming more inclusive. I'd like to add that we will be submitting an application to march in the parade in early January.”
Updates to Come…
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Transgender Equality Update

The final frontier for LGBT equality will be achieved within the transgender community. In Florida with the growing momentum for transgender equality nationwide & across their state, Equality Florida has launched TransAction Florida. Tricia Russell stated “As we continue the work of identifying & breaking down barriers across the state of Florida for our transgender brothers & sisters, the work of TransAction Florida is integral to the effort & our progress.” In
Massachusetts MassEquality is one of the grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across that state can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination & oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. There are protections in Massachusetts for our trans brothers & sisters but more protections are needed. It has been a town-by-town issue. So far the cities of Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, Brookline, Somerville, Amherst, Worcester, Newton, Salem & recently Melrose have all passed an ordinance providing nondiscrimination protections for transgender & gender non-conforming people in public spaces such as restaurants, parks & malls. KC Coredini, Executive Director of MassEquality stated, “Melorse has officially pushed the number of jurisdictions in the Commonwealth with these protections into the double digits. In the last year alone, seven cities & towns have made the right decision in ensuring the basic rights of transgender & gender non-conforming people. As we see more & more of these ordinances, we are inspired by the affirmation of the dignity of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We look forward to working with the city in implementing this ordinance and continuing the growing movement towards equality for transgender people.”
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Gay Marriage $2.6 Billion Gain

A new interactive resource exploring the amount of money state economies have to gain by allowing gay & lesbian couples to marry has been released by The Williams Institute in partnership with Credit Suisse. Based on a series of state-level studies authored by Williams Distinguished Scholar, M.V. Lee Badgett & other Williams Institute scholars the resource estimates that the nationwide economic boost from marriage of gay & lesbian couples could be up to $2.6 billion in just the first three years. Badgett stated, “Gay & lesbian couples & their out-of-town guests spend money to celebrate weddings. As we have seen in states that already extend marriage to gay & lesbian couples, this spending boost can lead to an influx of tourism dollars that benefit local businesses & an increase in state & local tax revenue.” The report also addresses states in the South & Midwest that do not recognize marriage equality. These states are missing out on an economic benefit of $733 million. The report also shows that 29 percent, $750 million nationwide remains unlocked by states that have not yet extended marriage to gay & lesbian couples. Pamela Thomas-Graham, Credit Suisse’s Chief Marketing & Talent Officer & head of the firm’s New Markets business concluded, “This new interactive resource communicates what the Credit Suisse LGBT Equality Index & Portfolio communicates, which is that being pro-LGBT is good for business & that data proves it.”
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