Gay Rights In Uganda (Or Lack Thereof)

Sometimes it’s important to remember that there are places in the world where human rights haven’t progressed much at all. Some believe that Uganda in Africa is one of the worst places in the world where you can grow up gay, and it’s not difficult to see why. There is a culture of hatred, disrespect, and disgust toward LGTBQ individuals that has seen little in the way of conflict resolution. These are the “rights” enjoyed by those in Uganda.

In 2014 Uganda’s government passed the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act. It was often referred to as the “Kill the Gays bill” by media outlets because the original version included a death penalty for those found to have violated the bill’s mandate. The new version poses a sentence of life imprisonment instead. Although the Anti-Homosexuality Act was quickly signed into law by Yoweri Museveni, the president (see his thoughts of LGBTQ below), it was ruled invalid by the Constitutional Court of Uganda.

One of the most heinous aspects of the proposed law is that it is written to apply to those living inside OR outside Uganda. Those who violate the provisions of the law who are not residents of Uganda may be extradited to the country to face punishment. The law continues to ensure that same-sex relationships–and marriage, of course–are illegal. There are additional penalties for those who would make it easier for homosexuals to engage in sexual activity with one another.

Activists have estimated that the LGBTQ community in Uganda may be upwards of 500,000 people. Those who are perceived to be gay are subject to violent assault or even murder. Both are commonplace in Uganda. In addition, media outlets are onboard. Some tabloids and newspapers have published lists of individuals who may be gay, spurring readers to take extreme action.

When the Rolling Stone newspaper (not to be confused with America’s Rolling Stone magazine) published personal information and called for the execution of about 100 individuals, the tabloid was precipitously sued by members of the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, including David Kato, Kasha Jacqueline, and Pepe Julian Onziema. Although they won the lawsuit and the tabloid was forced to pay damages to the individuals in question, Kato was murdered not long after the victory.

 

Hong Kong Recognizes Same Sex Marriages On Spousal Visa Applications

The government in Hong Kong changed their policy regarding visa applications after a long legal battle from a case in July. A married British lesbian was denied a spousal visa to live in Hong Kong with her wife.

This new policy will consider applications from six different relationships including:

  1.  Same Sex Marriage
  2. Same Sex Civil Unions
  3. Same Sex Partnerships
  4. Opposite Sex Marriage
  5. Opposite Sex Civil Unions
  6. Opposite Sex Partnerships

The person must also meet all other immigration requirements.

It’s important to note that the government, in general, is not on board with same-sex marriage and unions. Currently, in Hong Kong, you cannot apply for a same-sex marriage or union and be legally married. So while policy change is good, there are more policies that need to be changed. Holden Chow Ho-ding, a legislator said, “the government should assure the public that the change did not mean Hong Kong would recognize same-sex marriage.”

While many LGBTQ activists are happy about the policy change, they feel that the government should consider other social policy changes including things like applying for housing. Or you know, start to be on the same level as the rest of the world and allow same-sex marriage.

Currently, there are 56 applications and 20 were successful while 33 of them are still pending. According to Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C., the department will begin to process outstanding visas and new visas that will start to come in. 

BEST OF FRENEMIES: REPUBLICANS CAITLYN JENNER AND DONALD TRUMP

President Donald Trump has been nothing if not a hurricane in his first 18 months in office.

He has attacked allies for not doing enough, sided with enemies because they claim to be working with the U.S. and they say nice things about him, and he criticizes members of his own Republic Party who don’t two the Trump party line. He even sides with Democrats on certain issues and butts heads with Republican leadership if they resist the policy.

In some ways, he has been a true maverick and independent, not going along with the traditional party platform in many ways, but some also praise him for being more conservative policy-wise than they originally thought.

Another maverick is Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner, perhaps the most famous transgender in the world these days. What makes Caitlyn a maverick is the affiliation with the Republican Party and being longtime friends with Trump – yet is on the opposite side of the administration because of transgender rights.

Jenner is a true unicorn – being a Republican and transgender. But Jenner is using that to advantage, lobbying for transgender rights as a GOP liaison in Washington. Caitlyn voted for Trump in the 2016 election but is now claiming to not be a fan of his – probably unless he relents on some of his transgender policies currently in place.

As a transgender, Jenner should be a Democrat, but there is room for growth and influence on the Republican side of the aisle, and the gravitas and celebrity status gives Jenner near carte blanche in Washington where both Democrats and Republicans will at least listen. Trump, so far, however, has not budged on any transgender policies that are deemed discriminatory.

Jenner showed some upset in February of last year when Trump announced that transgender guidelines for students in schools were being rescinded – the guidelines which allowed for transgender students to use the bathroom that matched their identity instead of their birth gender. For the last 18 months, Jenner has been on the opposite side of Trump after hearing Trump campaign on promises of protecting the LGBTQ community.

For those who are Never Trump on the GOP side, Jenner is a champion by working behind the scenes for transgender and lobbying against the policies of the sitting Republican president. As part of the Resistance, Jenner is a champion for transgender and is fighting for the same equal rights as every other demographic that claims victimhood in the Democratic Party.

In many ways, Jenner and Trump truly are the best of frenemies as they straddle the gulf between the two sides of the political aisle together, but with different motives.

Which US City Has The Largest LGBT Population?

In recent decades, the demographics of gender identity and sexual orientation have started to be studied in social science fields. The NHIS carried out the first large-scale government sexual orientation data collection survey in 2014. The final report showed that 0.7% of people identify as bisexual and around 3% identify as gay or lesbian. In 2016, The Williams Institute conducted a survey to try to get an estimate as to how many citizens identify as transgender. Their report showed that around 0.6% of Americans over the age of 18 identify as transgender.

The top five US cities with the largest LGBT populations are San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Boston. This is based on data from the American Community Survey. Many people might question the validity of the data because it is over 18 years old. It is thought that the estimates may have changed for the current year with more people feeling comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and gender identity in a national survey. Gathering accurate data is difficult because the census does not ask any sexual orientation or gender identity questions. In addition, many people in the LGBT community don’t wish to reveal personal details about their lives because they fear their own families might not accept them.

San Francisco is a very LGBT friendly city. The LGBT community in the city is one of the largest in the world and it is an important hub for activism efforts. The city has many nicknames, including “gay capital of the world”. The city’s gay population increased from 30,000 to 100,000 during the 1970s. In a 2006 survey, it was reported that 15.4% of the city’s population identified as LGBT.

There is lots of information about LGBT culture in many major US cities available on the internet. You can use Google, to quickly find LGBT friendly hotels, bars, businesses, clubs and more. You can also organize meetups and activities using online forums and social media platforms. If you have just moved to a new city, it should not take you long to connect with the city’s LGBT community as each community has activists and advocates dedicated to helping newcomers to settle in. You can learn tips and public awareness information about any places you might want to avoid for safety reasons. While the majority of the population has no issue with people who identify as LGBT, there are some places that vulnerable members might wish to avoid.

Title VII And Sexual Orientation

In the past, employers could deny jobs to people because of their sex, religion, or race. They could discriminate against their employees and potential employees and it would be totally legal. Thanks to Title VII, employers can no longer discriminate against people because of their race or religion. Employers also cannot discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation.

Title VII is part of the Civil Rights Act and it was enacted in 1964. Basically, the law states that people cannot be discriminated against because of their religion, sex, race, or where they come from. People are now protected at work and this law has made a big difference in the lives of millions of people.

People were routinely turned down for jobs and they were often fired or harassed if they did get hired. There was nothing that anyone could do about it. If you think you have been discriminated because of your sexual orientation, you might want to speak with an employment or medical malpractice lawyer. You could decide to sue your employer and if your case is strong you could be eligible to receive sizable compensation for your hardships.

If you have a strong case, you can find a lawyer who won’t charge anything upfront. Hiring a lawyer is expensive and if you can find one who works on contingency then you won’t have to worry about coming up with any money in advance. The lawyer will get paid when they get a settlement against the company you used to work for.

Taking legal action if you have been discriminated against is a good choice because you don’t want to let your employer get away with unethical and illegal behavior. In addition, you will be helping prevent them from doing this to anyone else. Taking legal action can help ensure that your employer doesn’t try to do this to anyone else because the only time they are likely to listen is if they get punished financially. Many corporations only pay attention to money so if you affect their finances, they are going to be more likely to stop their illegal practices.

Title VII is a wonderful law and it can help protect you in a variety of situations. When you have been treated unfairly by an employer, Title VII is there to give you legal back up if you decide to sue.

Motor City Pride Festival

The Pride Festival travels the country hitting major cities along the way. Detroit, Motor City Pride Festivalalso known as the Motor City, has been the on and off home of Michigan’s LGBT pride parade since 1986. Since then, the parade has evolved into a weekend long festival that is hosted by three different non-profit charities. If you are in the Detroit metropolitan area during the weekend of June 9th and 10th 2018, we suggest you check it out.

The History of the Pride Parade in Michigan

The pride parade began as a civil rights movement for the LGBT community. The movement quickly gained traction as individuals of this community believed that they were often being singled-out and discriminated against. In 1986, the pride parade came to Michigan for the first time. From 1986-1988, the civil rights movement trotted through the city and ended at McGregor Center on the campus of Wayne State University. By 1989, the parade had gathered a good amount of momentum. In order to capitalize on this, the committee decided to move the location of the march to Lansing, Michigan. The reasoning for the move was because Lansing is a more central city of the state and the committee wanted to attract as many people as they could. Detroit felt abandoned by the move. In the same year, Frank Colasonti Jr. founded the very first Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival.

From this point, the festival only grew. In 1990, the name of the festival was officially changed to PrideFest. In 2003, the festival would once again undergo a rebranding as the name changed to Motor City Pride. By 2009, the festival registered over 35,000 participants and featured over 200 performers. Nowadays, the festival begins with a parade on Griswold Street and ends at the festival hub in Hart Plaza.

The 2018 Motor City Pride Festival

In 2018, the Motor City Pride Festival will be held on June 9th and June 10th. The cover charge for this year’s festival is $5.00. However, children 12 and under will be granted free admittance. If you are planning on driving your car to the event, there are plenty of parking garages nearby. If you are going to ride your bike to Hart Plaza, there will be a bicycle valet service east of the main entrance.

Food and beverages will be available at the event. According to the website, there will be about 14 different food trucks. AS far as beverages go, you will not be permitted to bring outside beverages into the festival. Bottles of water will be sold for one dollar USD. The event will have a bevy of alcoholic beverage options featuring Miller Lite, Summer Shanty, a variety of frozen slushies, and Deep Eddy Vodka drinks.

Smoking is only permitted in designated areas. Restrooms will be provided on the festival grounds. Pets are permitted if they can walk on a leash, but it is not recommended that you bring your furry friends.

The Pride Vigil

On June 10th at 8PM, the festival planners have sectioned off a time slot where festival-goers are encouraged to gather for a vigil. The festival committee is planning to honor those who have died in the LGBT community, including the 49 lives that were lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

If you are in the Detroit metropolitan area in the second week of June, check out Motor City Pride Festival.

A Look At: Reverend Troy Perry

To say that there has been a great difference of opinion between the LGBTQ community and certain religious establishments within recent years would be a massive understatement. It’s no secret that Christianity, or at least various sects within Christianity, have campaigned against the supposed “sin” of homosexuality for a long time now, and despite more and more legislation taking hold that legalizes gay marriage in various parts of the country, there are still several instances which see the adverse treatment of those trying simply to tie the knot in holy matrimony, even expanding far beyond the threshold of the church itself. News headlines abound with discrimination against gay couples regarding housing, jobs and the obvious infringement of civil liberties. And for those of who feel that the LGBTQ community has no champion on the inside, I’d like to introduce to the Reverend Troy Perry.

Troy Perry was born July 27, 1940 in Florida and, unlike many people in life, had a pretty good hold on what he wanted to do at a relatively early age. By the time he was 13 years old, he had become enamored with the idea of becoming ordained and, two years later at the age of 15, found himself licensed as a Baptist minister. And while the story could have easily ended there, Rev. Perry found himself a rocky start to his adult life. Coming to terms with his own sexuality was nothing short of challenging. Following what he once likened to “youthful exploration” with other men, the estrangement of his family and the loss of his license as a Baptist minister quickly came after. By 1964, Perry had found himself without his family, without his vocation, and on the other side of the country before being drafted into the Army in 1965. He served two years in Germany before returning stateside.

A failed love affair and the incarceration of a close friend led to a failed attempt at suicide for Perry before he was inspired to found what would later become the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. A modest 12 people gathered in his living room for the first service in October of 1968. By 1971, the congregation had expanded to over 1,000 people that required them to move from a theater into their own building dedicated for sermons.

It was also around this time that Perry was inspired to activism. Seeing the arrest of his close friend and the reactions of others within the community (particularly mentioned in an interview was “the Blond Darling” Lee Glaze), Perry attributes this event to his loss of fear of the police. By March of 1969, he was dressing in full minister regalia to lay flowers for the deceased Howard Efland at the Dover Hotel where Efland had been brutalized to death by police. The very next year, Perry and two of his friends had organized the world’s first Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles. By 1977, Perry had become such a highly influential figure within the gay community that he was invited to the White House to speak with President Jimmy Carter regarding issues surrounding the LGBTQ community.

Perry would be invited to return to the White House four more times: three times on behalf of President Bill Clinton and once more by President Barack Obama. During this time, he had organized and assisted in various demonstrations of gay rights, including the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights with Robin Tyler in 1979. During this time, Perry’s congregation within the UFMCC grew immensely as well, and the fellowship now plays host to over 44,000 people in 300 different congregations that span across 16 countries around the world.

Most recently, in an interview conducted by Richard Bence in 2017, Perry made comment regarding the upcoming Gay Pride Parade and its shift to “Resist” for the sake of attracting new attention and renewing the cause of the community.

“…our community needs to hear again that we are going to resist, like the early demonstrations here in LA. Black lives do matter. Hispanic lives matter, union groups matter, women, trans lives matter.”

Perry also affirmed that he would speak at the start of the parade with the Mayor of Los Angeles present. The parade itself wound up drawing tens of thousands into attendance.

Our Olympic Hero: Adam Rippon

It’s actually quite odd that the first time there’s an openly gay member of the United States of America’s Olympic Team in the year 2018. It’s been ten years since Massachusettes legalized gay marriage causing several other states to file suit and upheld by our Federal Government. LOGO the first network for LGBTQ+ community has been accessible since 2005 making the LGBTQ+ community visible and celebrated. And let’s be honest, we’ve always suspected that other male figure skaters were gay like Brian Boitano and Johnny Weir. Yet, this is the first year where an Olympic level athlete felt comfortable being open with their sexuality, and that athlete is male figure skater Adam Rippon.

Adam Rippon is a member of the figure skating team representing the United States of America at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Not only is he one of the first openly gay members of the Olympic Team in general (Gus Kenworthy, the skier, is the other), he is the only openly gay member to have an Olympic medal. Adam played an integral part in America’s Bronze Medal win in the Team Figure Skating Event earlier this week.

But this great accomplishment of being an openly gay Olympic Athlete did not go without controversy. The skater has criticized Vice President Mike Pence for his belief that homosexuals should attend gay conversion therapy saying  “I don’t think he has a real concept of reality”. Adam Rippon also stated,

“I spoke out because there are people out there whose lives have been affected by change that he’s tried to make,” Rippon said. “I spoke out for them because right now I have a voice, and I think it’s really important for me to use it.

This bold statement has caused some people to boycott his Olympic debut, whereas some who were not originally interested in figure skating would tune in to support him. Although Mike Pence tweeted Adam Rippon to show support for #TeamUSA and had his office try to arrange a meeting with the Olympic athlete, Adam also stated that he would not go to the White House for a post-Olympic event and refused to meet with the Vice President.

This situation only caused more controversy with an unprovoked tweet from Donald Trump Jr. who claimed that he’s never heard Mike Pence mention Adam Rippon’s name and that he should stop talking about the Vice President. Adam Rippon has not yet responded. But plenty of Twitter users retweeted the Vice President’s tweet directly to Adam and shake their head in disbelief.

With a campaign slogan of wanting to Make America Great Again, the best option would be to try to unify the country to support our Olympic Athletes who are representing our country to the rest of the world. But the Trump Administration can’t even get that right.

Adam Rippon is scheduled to skate in the Men’s Individual Figure Skating Competition tonight February 15th. You can watch the event on NBC’s primetime Olympic Coverage starting at 7pm.

 

LGBTQ & The Media

By the day, our world seems to grow smaller and smaller. Global communications technology has connected nearly every single human being on the planet, and media entertainment sources continue to thrive with what many would call rich diversity of film, music and television programming.

But not everyone would call it that.

A recent column on Variety.com has again brought to light the unfortunate and somewhat alarming truth about under-representation or even misrepresentation of certain groups in the world, specifically the politically-charged-particularly-as-of-recent-years LGBTQ community.

In fact, as of 2012, the representation of the LGBTQ community had been so poor on the silver screen that GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) brought about a standard for grading films to determine their representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ population: the Vito Russo Test, a measure included as part of the Studio Responsibility Index. In order for a film to pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.
  • The character cannot be defined or portrayed predominantly through their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The character must matter to the story in that their removal would have a significant effect on plot progression. This means the character cannot be present for the sole purpose of color commentary or to set up a punchline.

According to a poll that included films as recent as 2016, the authentic and realistic representation of LGBTQ characters has been alarmingly low. Out of 125 major films released, only 23 of them contained any character that identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – a staggering 18.4%. And of those 23 films that actually portrayed a character who identified within the LGBTQ community, only nine of those films actually passed the Vito Russo test – 39%. The real sad part was that this statistic was a “bounce back” year from the previous, which scored 36% of films passing the test, down from 55% the year before.

39% out of 18.4%. I’m not necessarily saying that every single film needs to have clear-cut gender- or sexuality-identifying characters. But, when the final tally of well-represented characters from the LGBTQ community in all major films across the entire year equates to 7.2%, there is most certainly a problem with representation.

Unfortunately, as Monica Trasandes wrote for Variety.com, the bottom line is money and “inclusion is good for the bottom line.” This is not to say that all platforms are failing in this regard. Trasandes points out examples such as “Orange is the New Black” and the ever-popular “Will and Grace,” which is recently seeing a revival on network television, and streaming platforms such as Netflix are putting in effort with more shows.

What is unfortunate is that, despite younger crowds being the target audience for most of these media entertainment outlets, their inclusion into this entertainment is often being put to the wayside. Trasandes notes that research from Harris Poll and GLAAD concluded that 20% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 did not identify as heterosexual.

One fifth of everyone surveyed did not identify as heterosexual. And yet Hollywood cannot get even half of their films that portray a character within the LGBTQ community to represent them well. GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in 2016, “Leaving LGBT people out of the picture – or including them only as a punchline – keeps old prejudices alive and creates an unsafe environment, not only here in America, but around the world where most audiences see these depictions.”

If inclusion is good for the bottom line, then the major motion picture industry might want to get its act together rather quickly.

Who was Bayard Rustin?

This blog is written by our good friend Timothy Abeel. You can check out his website here: https://timothyabeel.com/

During the 1960’s, America was undergoing drastic change and opposition when it came to the civil rights movement. Demonstrations were being made frequently, some peacefully and some not so peacefully. And everyone knows the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man credited as the champion of the civil rights movement for African Americans. A name many people probably aren’t as familiar with, however, is that of one of King’s assistants and possibly the greatest influence on King’s nonviolent approaches to civil rights reform – Bayard Rustin.

Born on March 17, 1912, Rustin was an advocate for civil rights and protested segregation in the military and in civilian settings. He was also a supporter of rights for the LGBT community, though there were complications in publicly disclosing his own sexuality until later on in life, entering into the 1980’s. Rustin was well-known for writing poetry as well his strong convictions regarding desegregation and nonviolent protest, as well as his unfortunate knack for being forced to leave causes which he had supported. He had been a supporter and member of the Youth Communist League, subsequently asked to leave due to protesting desegregation within the armed forces. He participated in the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947, only later to find himself on a chain gang after already serving 3 years in prison due to refusing service in World War II as a conscientious objector. He was also forced to resign from the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1953 due to an alleged sexual act with two white men in an automobile – this after having joined the FOR 12 years prior. All of these acts had put Rustin on the FBI watch list, compromising his ability to perform for various groups at the time.

Rustin was an outspoken believer in nonviolent protest, having attended a world pacifist conference being held in India in 1948. He was a supporter of Gandhi’s ideals and was determined to bring them back to America to implement them. He reached out and assisted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in an effort to expand his resumé to peaceful protests before Dr. King was forced to part with Rustin due to threats of spreading rumors that Dr. King and Rustin were gay lovers. While Dr. King suffered a hit to his credibility, Rustin appeared unphased and continued his efforts through other avenues.

Rustin ended up being recruited by A. Philip Randolph, who was attempting to organize a march on Washington in 1963. Reaching out to Dr. King again, Rustin helped form a coalition of several different civil rights reform groups for one massive march on Washington. And while he had to take a backseat due to his weight as a “liability” according to Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, the march was closer than ever to being underway. But Rustin and his credibility would be tested again, this time by Strom Thurmond who personally read from Rustin’s FBI file, which caused internal turmoil among the coalition heads that needed to be addressed.

In the end, the march on Washington was a rousing success, even if it came at great personal cost for Bayard Rustin. And Rustin’s credibility would only continue to decline from there, as many claim he had begun to neglect the causes he had once tried so fervently to champion: hesitating to decry the war in Vietnam, alienating himself from “proponents of black power” by associating closely with the Democratic party, and cautioning Dr. King against speaking out at Riverside Church. Despite this, Rustin remained active in the pursuit of civil rights (and economic) justice, and even expanded his efforts internationally to the likes of Israel, Central America and Africa.

In the 1980’s, only a handful of years before his death, Rustin came out publicly regarding his sexuality and urged others like him to do the same for the sake of civil rights aimed toward the LGBT community, as they had become the new standard for “judging the character of people in regard to human rights…” Rustin died in 1987, leaving behind a legacy of nonviolent protest and support for civil rights involving various and diverse social groups – and nearly all of it from behind the scenes.