The COVID-19 pandemic is placing huge strain on Black queer households as decades of discrimination compound economic insecurity, a worrying new study has found.
The report released by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) identifies American communities that are bearing the brunt of COVID-19, noting that LGBT+ households were disproportionately challenged in work, school, childrearing, healthcare, financial insecurity and social isolation.
In particular Black and Latinx LGBT+ people are facing significantly higher levels of financial insecurity, with a shocking 95 per cent of queer Black households and 70 per cent of queer Latinx households experiencing at least one serious financial problem since the pandemic began.
And more than half of Black LGBT+ households have been unable to get medical care or had delayed medical services because of the economic strain of the pandemic.
“The pandemic has disrupted life for all of us. Yet, some communities have borne the brunt: Black and Latinx people, low-income people, and, as this new data shows, LGBT+ people,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director at MAP.
“Decades of discrimination on the job, in healthcare and beyond, combined with uneven legal protections around the country make LGBT+ people more vulnerable to pandemic-related instability and insecurity, with an even more devastating impact on LGBT+ people of colour.”
The long history of racial discrimination in the US is contributing to many problems, but the disparity is also seen in the wider LGBT+ community, with queer people of all backgrounds experiencing increased challenges compared to the straight population.
For example, LGBT+ households are twice as likely to be unable to get necessary medical care and four times more likely to go hungry.
Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of LGBT+ people and their families experienced a job loss or disruption, compared to just under half (45 per cent) of non-LGBT+ households.
29 per cent had serious problems with internet connection for work or schoolwork at home, compared with 17 per cent of non-LGBT+ families. And a quarter were unable to access prescription drugs or experienced a delay, compared to just eight per cent of straight people.
“It’s clear that the COVID-19 has amplified and exacerbated disparitiesthat existed before the pandemic,” concluded Logan Casey, policy researcher at MAP.
“LGBT+ people were more likely to struggle with economic stability and have challenges with access to health care prior to COVID, and that’s even more true now.
“The existing patchwork of legal protections is insufficient, which is why we need a nationwide law like the Equality Act so that LGBTQ people in every community are protected from discrimination.”
A married lesbian couple have won a lengthy legal battle against a retirement community that refused them housing due to the owners’ religious beliefs.
Mary Walsh, 72, and Beverly Nance, 68, have been together for 40 years and married for 10. In 2016 they applied to move to the Friendship Village senior living facility in St. Louis, where they hoped to spend their last years surrounded by friends with help on hand if they needed.
But once Friendship Village staff learned they were married they refused them, saying the home did not condone homosexuality. The letter they received said that the only married couples they accepted were those in unions between “one man and one woman”.
This blindsided the couple, who had already paid the $2,000 deposit under the assumption that their relationship was not an issue. They’d chosen Friendship Village for financial reasons, as the community offered care options they would need that weren’t available elsewhere without substantially extra costs.
Walsh and Beverly sued Friendship Village alleging housing discrimination, only to have their case dismissed last year when a judge found that the centre had indeed discriminated against them, but that it wasn’t illegal.
But the couple refused to back down, and their case was reinstated in July following the recent Bostock v. Clayton County ruling that determined sexual orientation was protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Walsh and Nance finally got their hard-won victory on Tuesday (8 December), after reaching a confidential settlement with the home.
“This has been a harrowing experience and one that I hope no other same-sex couple has to face,” Walsh said after the ruling was announced. “Bev and I are relieved that this case is now behind us and that we have closure after our lives were thrown into chaos.”
Their focus now is only “on their health and each other,” and trying to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Switzerland has taken a major step on the path to equality after its parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a law to pass same-sex marriage.
The council of states – the upper house of Switzerland’s legislature – voted by by 22 votes to 15 to approve landmark legislation to make same-sex marriage a reality. Just seven politicians abstained from the vote.
It’s a huge moment for a country that has lagged behind most of Europe when it comes to LGBT+ rights, and is the culmination of a seven-year campaign.
“We have been waiting for this for seven years,” Olga Baranova of the Marriage For All campaign told Le Temps. “The emotions are very strong.”
The bill first introduced by the Green Party in 2013, and several versions of the text have since been debated. One of the central questions was whether a constitutional change was required to make it happen or whether a change of law would be enough.
Article 14 of Switzerland’s constitution states that “the right to marry and to have a family is guaranteed.” Those in favour of a legal change argued there was no need to change this because it already accommodates marriages of any kind.
The majority council of states agreed and rejected a motion that would have required a nationwide constitutional referendum on marriage equality, which would have delayed the law even further.
The push for equality was helped in part by progressive parties’ electoral gains in October that shifted parliament more to the left.
It’s been a long time coming for the Swiss LGBT+ community, whose conservative country has been slow to enact positive change: the first law banning LGBT+ discrimination only passed as recently as this February.
It’s not the end of the road though, and the next battle will concern LGBT+ couples’ access to sperm donors.
While the vast majority of Swiss people are now in favour of same-sex marriage, the debate around insemination remains controversial and is likely to be the subject of a national referendum.
Laurie McBride, a beloved LGBT+ leader who became a figurehead for the community during the HIV/AIDS crisis, has sadly passed away at the age of 71.
McBride died of a heart attack on Friday, 4 December, having suffered a stroke in October. She is survived by her wife of 35 years, Donna Yutzy.
The activist will be known to many through her work in defending the rights of HIV-positive people as co-chair of the Californian lobby group Mobilisation Against AIDS.
In 1986 and 1987 she led the successful grassroots campaigns “No on 69” and “No on 64”, bills which would quarantine HIV-positive people and limit their employment.
Together with law student John Duran – who later became mayor of West Hollywood – she drafted the groundbreaking “gay rights” bill, AB 101, which prohibited private employers from discriminating against employees because of their sexual orientation.
“Laurie was a lesbian warrior,” Duran told the Los Angeles Blade, remembering how they drove across California rallying the LGBT+ community to their cause.
“She fought for her brothers with AIDS. So many gay men alive today are deeply indebted to Laurie for saving their lives.
“My heart goes out to her wife Donna,” he added. “She was one of a kind, gentle and fierce at the same time.”
Donna Yutzy confirmed the sad news on Facebook, saying that Laurie had left her “for a new adventure beyond the stars”.
“She was so proud of the culture-changing accomplishments you all worked on together and I know she cherished her friendship with each and every one of you,” she said.
Those wishing to make a donation in her honour are directed to the scholarship programme that was established in McBride’s name at Sacramento State University.
“This scholarship has paid for the tuition of a number of young people to help them on the road to making the world a better place,” Yutzy said.
“She was the light of my life for 35 years and I will hold every single minute of those memories in my heart forever. We will have a big celebration of Laurie’s life in Sacramento post-COVID. I was proud to be Laurie McBride’s wife.”
Indiana’s attorney general has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that allows same-sex couples to both be listed as parents on their child’s birth certificate.
The ruling came after a four-year legal battle fought by two lesbian parents, Ashlee and Ruby Henderson, who sued county health officials when they refused to include them both on their son’s birth certificate.
Their lawsuit argued that it was discriminatory to force one mother from a same-sex marriage to fork over $4,000 to $5,000 to legally adopt their child.
Seven additional couples joined the suit as plaintiffs, and in January 2020 the courts finally ruled that since Indiana law presumes a husband to be the biological father of a child born in wedlock, a same-sex spouse should also be considered a parent on the birth certificate.
Ten months later, Indiana attorney general Curtis Hill is seeking to overturn it all.
He’s submitted a brief asking the Supreme Court to review the landmark decision — a move that had the Hendersons’ attorney wondering why state officials “continue to fight against families headed by same-sex spouses,” Indystar said.
Hill’s 46-page brief argues that upholding the lower court’s decision would violate common sense and throw into jeopardy parental rights based on biology.
“A birth mother’s wife will never be the biological father of the child, meaning that, whenever a birth-mother’s wife gains presumptive ‘parentage’ status, a biological father’s rights and obligations to the child have necessarily been undermined without proper adjudication,” he wrote.
When a similar case from Arkansas came before the Supreme Court in 2017, judges determined that precluding one parent from a birth certificate infringes upon their rights as a married couple. But the courts could reach a very different outcome in Indiana now that Trump has stacked the judiciary in his favour.
It’s among the first cases submitted to the Supreme Court dealing with same-sex marriage since the confirmation of justice Amy Coney Barrett, and is likely to be a test of things to come.
A lesbian couple in India were allegedly forced apart by their families, who barged into their home and publicly beat one of them in front of their village.
The two women, who are both adults, were living happily in the Baghpat area of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. On Sunday (8 November) the relatives of one of the women burst into their house and forcibly separated the pair, Times Now reports.
When one woman attempted to resist she was humiliated and beaten in the street, in full view of bystanders who filmed the scene and circulated the footage on social media.
She told local news that she and her partner had made a conscious decision to live together, and that they wanted to work in the field of education but were facing continuous resistance from their families over their relationship.
The lesbian couple had already notified the police of their situation and appealed for safety, she added, but the family took matters into their own hands.
“We had given a written complaint to the police to provide us protection,” she told The Times of India. “But before they could, Shreya’s [name changed] relatives came here and thrashed me publicly and even tore my clothes. And they took her away.”
A senior police official said that the authorities are looking into the matter.
Homosexual relations were decriminalised in India in 2018, but LGBT+ people still face an enormous amount of stigma, particularly in rural areas.
With same-sex marriage remaining a distant hope for queer Indians, some couples are legitimising their relationships by entering into a maitri karar, a type of “friendship contract”.
The couple were forced to file a high court lawsuit to gain protection when their plea for safety was ignored by police. The courts finally granted a protection order in August, giving the women the right to live together in peace.
The EU has unveiled its first ever plan to tackle LGBT+ discrimination following increasing calls for action over the rise of homophobic rhetoric in Poland.
The European Commission’s unprecedented five-year strategy details a number of targeted actions, including legal and funding measures, aimed at addressing the inequalities still faced by LGBT+ Europeans.×
It includes plans to extend the list of EU crimes to cover homophobic hate speech, ensure that LGBT+ concerns are better reflected in policy-making, and propose new laws to guarantee same-sex parenthood will be recognised across the 27 member nations.
“This is not about ideology. This is not about being men or women. This is about love,” said commission vice-president Vera Jourova. “This strategy is not against anyone. This does not put anyone on a pedestal. But it is about guaranteeing safety and non-discrimination for everyone.”
The commission said some progress is being made toward equality, but acknowledged a 2019 European Fundamental Rights survey that found 43 per cent of LGBT+ people still feel discriminated against, compared to 37 per cent in 2012.
Coronavirus lockdowns are thought to be worsening the situation by forcing some young people to remain in places where they might face violence, hostility and bullying or suffer anxiety or depression.
Although the strategy doesn’t specifically mention Poland, commissioner for equality Helena Dalli made clear that the country’s extreme anti-LGBT+ policies are in direct opposition to the EU’s “core values”.
“Today, the EU asserts itself, as the example to follow, in the fight for diversity and inclusion,” she declared in a statement on Thursday (12 November)
“Equality and non-discrimination are core values and fundamental rights in the European Union. This means that everybody in the European Union should feel safe and free without fear of discrimination or violence on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics.
“We are still a long way away from the full inclusion and acceptance that LGBTIQ people deserve,” she admitted.
Member countries that don’t have equality strategies were prompted to adopt one suited to the needs of their citizens, with the reminder that the commission will be monitoring their progress and reviewing the situation in 2023.
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word “woman” has been updated to reflect LGBT+ relationships following complaints that it was sexist.
The world-famous dictionary previously described women as “a man’s wife, girlfriend or lover”. This has now been amended to acknowledge the fact that a woman can be “a person’s wife, girlfriend, or female lover”, rather than only a man’s.
Other terms have been identified as “derogatory”, “offensive” or “dated”, such as the words “b***h”, “bint” and “besom”, which are listed as synonyms for woman.
The changes came after a petition was launched earlier this year by campaigner Maria Beatrice Giovanardi to get rid of all phrases and definitions that discriminate against or patronise women.
t gained more than 34,000 signatures and included the leaders of Women’s Aid and the Women’s Equality Party among the signatories.
Speaking to PinkNews in March, Giovanardi said she had been “astonished” to realise that the Oxford Dictionary used derogatory synonyms and misogynistic examples that perpetuate negative female stereotypes.
“By contrast, for the word man, the examples and synonyms are exemplary, demonstrating intellect and social status,” she noted.
“I felt I needed to point out the obvious – that not describing men and women in an equally respectful way, disadvantages women because it perpetuates negative stereotypes that present women as lesser beings, which in turn influences the way women are talked about and treated.
“This is just one of many examples of everyday sexism and how mainstream culture frequently dehumanises women by portraying them as sex objects or subordinate to men.”
In a statement to The Telegraph, publisher Oxford University Press said the dictionary is “driven solely by evidence of how real people use English in their daily lives”.
It added: “We have expanded the dictionary coverage of ‘woman’ with more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner.
“We have ensured that offensive synonyms or senses are clearly labelled as such and only included where we have evidence of real world usage.”
Amid a chorus of cheers, applause and pumping car horns, he continued: “I mean it. Especially for those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb — the African-American community stood up again for me.
“They always have my back, and I’ll have yours. I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like.”
Biden’s victory speech was a reassuring return to the professional, presidential rhetoric eschewed by Donald Trump, and a sign of his intention to be president to “all people” – including marginalised groups.
His words carried echoes of Barack Obama’s 2008 speech, which was the first time a president-elect had ever mentioned the gay community in an inaugural address.
And as Biden promised to usher in a new era of cooperation, he acknowledged the painful truth that “too many dreams have been deferred for too long” – a reference to the poem “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, a gay Black man.
“We must make the promise of the country real for everybody — no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability,” he said.
“We stand again at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose. We can do it. I know we can.”
Mauree Turner has become the very first non-binary state lawmaker in US history. The Democratic community organiser and queer Muslim won election to district 88 in Oklahoma City, winning out over Republican Kelly Barlean with a projected 71 per cent of the vote.
Ahead of the US election, they told HuffPost: “I’m Black, Muslim, femme, queer, born and raised in Oklahoma – politics was the last thing in my crosshairs.
“Oklahomans have representation that doesn’t have our shared lived experience – that hasn’t been in a family that had to live off SNAP benefits, [or] a single-parent household because one parent was incarcerated. That was my upbringing, and it’s not a unique one.”
Michele Rayner-Goolsby, Florida’s House of Representatives.
Michele Rayner-Goolsby is the first Black queer woman to win a seat in the Florida legislature. She will represent District 70 in the State House after winning 30 per cent of the vote in a crowded race against three opponents.
It’s not the first glass ceiling she’s shattered: Rayner-Goolsby is also a civil rights attorney, social justice advocate and lead counsel of Civil Liberty Law, her own law firm.
“It really has been a people powered campaign” she told the Tampa Bay Times, saying that she sees her victory as “pushing back on patriarchy.”
“We ran with integrity. We ran with transparency and we ran with accountability.”
Shevrin Jones, Florida State Senate.
Joining Rayner in the Sunshine state is Shevrin Jones, Florida’s first out LGBT+ state senator. He’ll be one of the only out Black men serving in US state senates as he represents District 35.
Jones came out as gay in 2018, explaining he had decided to start living his truth “just a little bit more” after the death of his older brother. He has since become a powerful voice for LGBT+ rights in Florida.
“I’m humbled to have earned the trust of the people of SD 35,” he tweeted after the result was announced. “I am looking forward to serving you in the Florida Senate. Thank YOU! #WEthePEOPLE.”
Raised in a rural town in South Carolina, Jackson moved to Georgia a decade ago and has become a powerful advocate for public education, criminal justice reform, ending the death penalty, and of course, LGBT+ equality.
“I felt really early that I wanted to make a difference in the world,” she told The Advocate in a 2020 Champions of Pride profile.
Jabari Brisport, New York State Senate.
Jabari Brisport, hailed as “the next AOC”, has become the first ever Black LGBT+ person elected to the New York state legislature.
A gay, Democratic socialist, public school teacher and third-generation Caribbean-American, Jabari Brisport has become the New York state senator representing Brooklyn’s 25th District.
Mayor Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Brisport’s experiences as a Black queer person “will provide an essential perspective that has never been represented in the New York state legislature and will pave the way for a government that is more representative of the people it serves.
“Jabari shattered a rainbow ceiling in New York and his victory will encourage more people like him to step up and run.”
Charmaine McGuffey, Hamilton Country Sheriff.
Charmaine McGuffey made headlines when she announced that she was suing former Democratic sheriff Jim Neil, claiming he fired her from her position as major of the jail and court services because she is a woman and a lesbian.
She went on to run in the Democratic primary, putting her experiences with discrimination front and centre in her campaign. She won by a landslide and kicked Neil out of the race in the process.
She’s continued her victory streak by beating her Republican rival Bruce Hoffbauer, winning 52 per cent of the vote and becoming the first woman and first openly LGBT+ person to hold the position of Sheriff in Hamilton County.
Jones is a gay attorney who served in the US Department of Justice under Barack Obama. He recently worked for the Westchester County Law Department and also provided pro bono legal aid through The Legal Aid Society.
He’s claimed victory in New York’s 17th congressional district over Republican Maureen McArdle Schulman.
Ritchie Torres, New York’s 15th Congressional District.
Afro-Latino New York City councilman Ritchie Torres bested Republican candidate Orlando Molina in New York’s safely-Democratic 15th congressional district.
As the race was called, Torres said: “Tonight, a new era begins for the South Bronx. It is the honour of a lifetime to represent a borough filled with essential workers who risked their lives so that New York City could live.
“My pledge to the district is simple: I will fight for you. The Bronx is my home, it is what made me who I am, and it is what I will fight for in Congress. I thank the voters of the South Bronx from the bottom of my heart for the trust they put in me to represent them.”
Brianna Titone, Colorado’s 27th House District.
Colorado transgender lawmaker Brianna Titone won re-election with an increased majority, despite Republicans launching vile transphobic ads in a bid to unseat her.
Republican state representative Stephen Humphrey even took the time torecord a robocall that disparages and misgenders her, declaring she is “just too dangerous for Colorado families.” Despite his best efforts, she was re-elected with an increased majority of 2,280 over GOP opponent Vicki Pyne.
“The voters have spoken and selected me to continue to serve the people of House District 27. Thank you!” Titone said.
“It has been my honour to serve you the last 2 years and it is my honour again to serve for you the next two years. I will always do my best to represent the district to the best of my ability, to listen to views that differ from my own, and apply science and logic to the decisions that we face in governing the great state of Colorado.”
Sarah McBride, Delaware State Senate.
In another history-making victory for the US election, Human Rights Campaign activist and transgender rights champion Sarah McBride has become the first trans woman ever elected to a state senate.
She’s previously played a pivotal role in the fight for LGBT+ discrimination protections in Delaware, and has lobbied for the Equality Act to extend protections nationwide.
Annise Parker of LGBTQ Victory Fund celebrated McBride’s success in shattering the “lavender ceiling”, saying: “Sarah’s overwhelming victory is a powerful testament to the growing influence of transgender leaders in our politics and gives hope to countless trans people looking toward a brighter future.”
In a later interview, he added: “I’m just shocked at the amount of people who were ready to see something different… They truly felt that I will make some type of difference and I’m just so thankful that our voters really truly feel that way.”
Stephanie Byers, Kansas House of Representatives.
Stephanie Byers, a transgender teacher and member of the Native American Chickasaw Nation, is one of the few transgender people of colour to be elected to office anywhere in the United States. She is the first transgender representative in the Kansas state legislature, helping to bolster further representation.
Annise Parker of LGBTQ Victory Fund said Byers’ win “will reverberate well beyond the borders of the state”.
“Her victory will inspire more trans people to run for office because they see it is possible and understand these candidates are transforming how America perceives them,” Parker said.
“While cynical politicians attempted to weaponise trans issues for political gain this cycle, Stephanie’s victory is a powerful reminder that most voters reject the politics of bigotry and will elect trans people who have a positive vision for their communities.”