A law that bans the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to minors in Hungary took effect on Thursday.
“The homophobic and transphobic amendments to the law, which came into force on July 8, 2021, stigmatize LGBTQI people, deprive LGBTQI youth of information that is vital to them, and illegally restrict freedom of speech and the right to education,” said the Háttér Society, a Hungarian LGBTQ rights group, in a message on its homepage. “Our group’s programs and services will continue to be available to LGBTQI people and their families as they were.”
The Háttér Society and Amnesty International Hungary on Thursday held a press conference outside the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest. The groups said they are prepared to engage in civil disobedience to challenge the law.
The European Union has sharply criticized Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and members of his ruling Fidesz party over the law and other efforts to curtail LGBTQ rights in the country.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last month described the law as a “shame.” She also said the European Commission would seek to block it from taking effect.
“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union and this is human dignity, it is equality and is human fundamental rights, so we will not compromise on these principles,” said von der Leyen.
The European Parliament on Thursday approved a non-binding resolution that condemns the law and urges the EU to “immediately take legal action” against Hungary, according to Politico. The declaration also calls for Brussels to deny EU funds to the country.
The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled Russia violated the rights of a transgender woman who authorities did not allow to visit her children because of her gender identity.
A press release that Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe issued says Moscow authorities “prevented” the woman “from having contact with her children because of her gender identity and transition.”
The Transgender Europe and ILGA-Europe press release notes Russian courts defended the decision to restrict the woman’s parental rights because any contact with a parent who is trans would have had a “negative impact on the mental health and psychological development” of her children. The European Court of Human Rights specifically ruled Russia violated Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights that guarantee a person has the “right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence” and the “prohibition of discrimination” respectively.
“The kids are alright — there is nothing wrong with being a trans parent,” said Transgender Europe Executive Director Masen Davis. “Today, we celebrate this important message together with all trans families. Every fourth trans person in Europe is a parent. Today’s judgement gives legal security to many of them. We congratulate the applicant for having gone all the way to Strasbourg to defend her right to be the best possible parent to her children.”
ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis echoed Davis.
“Too often we are hearing the best interest of the child being abused as an argument to limit the rights of LGBTI people,” said Paradis. “We are glad to see the court clearly rejecting such an abusive argument, and instead naming very concrete responsibilities for state authorities in ensuring the best interest of the child. Spreading hatred, misinformation and splitting loving parents from their children is not in the best interest of children.”
The press release notes the ruling is the first time the European Court of Human Rights has used Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights in a decision about discrimination based on gender identity. The ruling also underscores the lack of legal protections and rampant discrimination that LGBTQ Russians continue to face.
Marina and her then-girlfriend in 2015 fled their home Russia with the child they were raising together and asked for asylum in the U.S. as a family.
“If the government knows that I have an LGBT family, like two women and a child, they can take my daughter away,” Marina told the Washington Blade earlier this year during a telephone interview from Guam where she and her child continue to wait for a decision in their case.
Marina’s child has come out as trans and has begun to transition.
Chantale Wong would become the first openly lesbian ambassador if confirmed as the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank.
The White House in a July 2 press release that announced her nomination describes Wong as “a leading authority in international development policy with over 30 years of experience in the multi-disciplinary field that includes finance, technology and the environment.” The Council for Global Equality is among the organizations that have celebrated Wong’s nomination.
“We are thrilled with the nomination of Chantale Wong — our nation’s first openly lesbian ambassador to represent our country. Extraordinarily qualified and long overdue,” tweeted the Council for Global Equality.
Two U.S. senators on Tuesday reintroduced a bill that would sanction foreign nationals who are responsible for human rights abuses against LGBTQ people.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Global Respect Act. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have co-sponsored the measure.
“No one should be subjected to discrimination — ever, but sadly we see it happening every day and to utmost extreme forms,” said Murkowski in a press release. “This bill sends a strong signal that the United States prioritizes equality for all and puts human rights front and center — that we won’t stand by idly and let persecution to any group of people go unnoticed or without consequence. By creating and strengthening repercussions for those who carry out human rights violations, my hope is that we prevent it from happening in the first place.”
Shaheen added it is “unconscionable that LGBTI communities around the world face persecution, jail and murder because of who they love and how they identify.”
“The U.S. has a moral imperative to make clear to the international community that LGBTI rights are human rights,” said the New Hampshire Democrat. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to hold accountable individuals who trample on the rights of their citizens by committing clear human rights violations. This bill empowers the administration with enhanced authority to ensure violators face repercussions and expand protections for LGBTI folks around the world.”
President Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told the Washington Bladelast month that responding to human rights abuses based on a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation is one of the White House’s five global LGBTQ rights priorities.
The State Department last July banned Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov from traveling to the U.S. because of his “involvement in gross violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic” that includes a continued anti-LGBTQ crackdown. The U.S. in 2017 sanctioned Kadyrov under the Magnitsky Act, a law that freezes the assets of Russian citizens who commit human rights abuses and prevents them from obtaining U.S. visas.
The U.S. in 2017 sanctioned then-Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who carried out an anti-LGBTQ crackdown in his country, under an expanded version of the Magnitsky Act known as the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The State Department has announced it will begin to issue gender-neutral passports and documents for American citizens who were born overseas.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday in a statement that announced the new policy said the State Department “will be taking further steps toward ensuring the fair treatment of LGBTQI+ U.S. citizens, regardless of their gender or sex, by beginning the process of updating our procedures for the issuance of U.S. Passports and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA).”
Blinken noted the State Department will immediately update its procedures “to allow applicants to self-select their gender as ‘M’ or ‘F’ and will no longer require medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents.” The State Department, according to Blinken, has also begun the process to allow people who identify as non-binary, intersex or gender non-conforming to choose a gender-neutral gender marker for their passports and CRBAs.
Blinken did not say when the process will be completed.
“The process of adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming persons to these documents is technologically complex and will take time for extensive systems updates,” said Blinken. “The department will also be working closely with its interagency partners to ensure as smooth a travel experience as possible for the passport holder.”
Blinken announced the new policy less than a week after Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley helped raise the Progress Pride flag at the State Department on Friday.
Dana Zzyym filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their passport application. Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who also identifies as non-binary, had sought to list their sex as “X.”
Lambda Legal represents Zzyym.
“I’ve been at this fight for so long,” said Zzyym in a press release that Lambda Legal released on Wednesday. “I am optimistic that, with the incredible support and work of Lambda Legal and the Intersex Campaign for Equality, I will soon receive an accurate passport. One that reflects who I truly am; and that will allow for me to present in person at the several international conferences to which I’ve been invited to present on issues confronting intersex people.”
Lambda Legal Counsel Paul D. Castillo in the same press release also welcomed the State Department’s announcement.
“The update to the State Department’s policy has been a long time coming and is prompted in large part by three separate court rulings in Dana’s favor,” said Castillo. “Dana showed incredible courage and perseverance throughout, and it is rewarding now to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
“With today’s announcement, countless intersex, non-binary and other gender-diverse United States passport applicants will at last get the accurate passports they need,” added Castillo. “As important, self-certification of their identity removes unnecessary barriers and makes accurate IDs accessible to more people, reducing discrimination, harassment and violence aimed at transgender people.”
The State Department on Monday expressed concerned over the latest police crackdown against participants in an Istanbul Pride march.
Reuters and other media outlets reported police in riot gear on Saturday used tear gas to disperse march participants near Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue.
Videos posted to social media show officers pushing and dragging people who were waiving Pride flags. Reuters cited local media reports that indicate a journalist was among the upwards of 20 people who were detained.
“We are concerned by the recent prevention of the exercise of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly in Istanbul,” tweeted State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday. “We remain committed to promoting human rights and call on Turkish authorities to respect fundamental freedoms for all, including LGBTQI+ persons.”
Reuters reported Istanbul authorities banned the march. They have also thwarted previous Pride events.
Police in 2017 arrested nearly two dozen people who defied a ban on Pride events. They used tear gas and plastic bullets to disperse LGBTQ activists who tried to march from Taksim Square.
The leaders of 17 European Union countries have signed a letter that urges the EU to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Politico reported Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, Luxembourgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven signed the letter ahead of an EU summit in Brussels. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is also a signatory.
The EU heads of state signed the letter a week after Hungarian lawmakers approved a bill that would ban the promotion of homosexuality and sex-reassignment surgery to anyone under 18.
The European Commission on Wednesday said it would seek to block the measure. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described it as a “shame.”
“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union and this is human dignity, it is equality and is human fundamental rights, so we will not compromise on these principles,” she said.
“I will use all the powers of the European Commission to ensure that the rights of all EU citizens are guaranteed, whoever you are and wherever you live,” added von der Leyen.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán rejected the criticisms.
“The recently adopted Hungarian bill protects the rights of children, guarantees the rights of parents and does not apply to the sexual orientation rights of those over 18 years of age, so it does not contain any discriminatory elements,” his government said in a statement, as France 24 reported.
Orbán and members of his ruling Fidesz party in recent years have moved to curtail LGBTQ rights in Hungary.
Munich’s Allianz Arena sought to illuminate the stadium in rainbow colors during a Euro 2020 match between Hungary and Germany as a way to protest the latest anti-LGBTQ bill to pass in the Hungarian Parliament. The Union of European Football Associations, which is European soccer’s governing body, rejected the request.
ILGA-Europe in a statement it sent to the Washington Blade on Thursday notes both Hungary and Poland, another EU country in which lawmakers have sought to restrict LGBTQ rights in recent years.
“For quite some time now, we’ve been informing EU ministers about systematic breaches of EU law committed by Hungary and Poland, which impact on LGBTI rights and the lives of LGBTI people,” says ILGA-Europe. “This week’s developments seem to suggest that the European Commission and a number of member states finally heard that call. Time to keep up the action and follow through on its values and responsibilities as guardians of EU law, keeping the important commitments made this week.”
Four Democratic congressmembers have asked President Biden to ensure some of the 500 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine it bought to distribute around the world will reach LGBTQ people that the pandemic has left even more vulnerable.
“While we are pleased to see the administration’s efforts to support global public health, we would like to ensure these vaccines are equitably distributed once they are sent abroad,” wrote U.S. Reps. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), William Keating (D-Mass.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) in a letter they sent Biden on Tuesday.
The Washington Blade exclusively obtained the letter.
“We are particularly concerned that the LGBTQI+ community may be unjustly excluded from receiving vaccines in various countries,” it reads.
The Biden administration last week announced the U.S. will buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The African Union and 92 countries around the world will receive them through COVAX, a global initiative the World Health Organization co-founded in order to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine.
The letter notes the pandemic “exposed inequity in health care systems around the world for many marginalized groups, especially the LGBTQI+ community.”
“Due to stigma, violence, and discrimination, LGBTQI+ people — and transgender and non-binary individuals, in particular — face additional barriers to accessing relief and health care services,” wrote the congressmembers. “In addition to non-inclusive approaches to distributing relief, unsafe distribution centers and anti-LGBTQI+ sentiments and/or rhetoric of relief workers may also prevent LGBTQI+ individuals from obtaining vaccines.”
The letter, among other things, notes transgender people in Panama faced discrimination under gender-based regulations the country’s government implemented to control the pandemic’s spread. The congressmembers also cite Ugandan authorities who charged 19 LGBTQ people with violating coronavirus-related social distancing rules after their April 2020 arrest at a shelter in the country’s capital of Kampala and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s efforts to further restrict LGBTQ rights in his country after lawmakers gave him more power under the guise of combatting the pandemic.
“These are just a sample of the countless instances where those in the LGBTQI+ community have been unjustly discriminated against because of their gender identity and expression, sexual orientation or whom they love,” reads the letter. “As the entire world focuses on trying to return to some normalcy, we must ensure those who have been marginalized are afforded the same opportunities and resources to resume their lives.”
Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. The congressmembers in their letter notes they “appreciate your long record of promoting LGBTQI+ rights around the world.”
“We hope that as the United States finalizes agreements for vaccine donations to countries, your administration will ensure that governments receiving vaccine doses from the United States will equitably distribute them to their residents regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” they conclude.
“As you know, transgender and HIV-positive people are severely suffering in U.S. immigration detention facilities,” reads the letter. “Those who do not perish from mortally deficient medical negligence are regularly mistreated, isolated and sexually assaulted.”
The letter notes DHS “for years” has “attempted to create conditions of confinement that are safe for these historically disenfranchised minorities.”
“This has been a fool’s errand,” it says. “Under both Democrat and Republican leadership, DHS has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars attempting to overcome a simple and inevitable truth: It is not possible for the U.S. government to house transgender and HIV-positive asylum seekers safely. Every progressive policy, every well-meaning protocol and every specialized facility has utterly failed. This has to stop. It is in your exclusive power to put an end to this ongoing human rights atrocity.”
“What makes this situation even more intolerable, is that the vast majority of the transgender and HIV-positive people suffering in immigration detention fled to the U.S. to escape persecution and torture,” adds the letter. “To these asylum seekers, the U.S. is more than a symbol of liberty. It is one of the few places in the world where they may hope to build a safer future. And yet, by detaining trans and HIV-positive people in such inhumane and unsafe conditions, the U.S. government is subjecting them to some of the same kinds of mistreatment they sought to escape.”
The groups in their letter demand ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to immediately release all transgender and HIV-positive people in their custody” and “review its system for identifying transgender and HIV-positive individuals, and work with stakeholders to ensure that it is effective and safe.” The groups also seek the creation of a policy “that deems all transgender and HIV-positive individuals non-detainable.”
The letter notes the case of Roxsana Hernández, a trans asylum seeker from Honduras with HIV who died in a New Mexico hospital on May 25, 2018, while she was in ICE custody.
Hernández’s family in a lawsuit it has filed against the federal government and five private companies who were responsible for Hernández’s care allege she did not have adequate access to medical care and other basic needs from the time she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego on May 9, 2018, to her arrival at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a privately-run facility in Milan, N.M., a week later.
ICE in 2017 opened a unit for trans women at the Cibola County Correctional Center. It closed last year.
The letter also notes the case of Johana “Joa” Medina León, a trans woman with HIV from El Salvador who asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2019 after she suffered persecution in her home country because of her gender identity.
Medina was in ICE custody at the privately-run Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M., until her transfer to a hospital in nearby El Paso, Texas, on May 28, 2019. ICE on the same day released Medina from their custody.
“She became worse, worse, worse,” Medina’s mother, Patricia Medina de Barrientos, told the Washington Blade in an exclusive interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador that took place a few weeks after Medina’s death. “She asked for help because she was a nurse, but they refused. She was denied help. There was no medical attention.”
The letter also includes testimonials from dozens of other trans and/or HIV-positive people who say they suffered physical abuse and survived sexual assault while in ICE custody. They also allege they did not receive adequate health care — including access to hormones and antiretroviral drugs — while in detention.
“Throwing LGBTQ and HIV-positive asylum seekers into prison is cruel, expensive and dangerous. For transgender and HIV-positive people, it can even be deadly,” said Immigration Equality Policy Director Bridget Crawford in a statement. “In response to years of consistently documented abuses against the community, the government has implemented ineffective half-measures that have utterly failed. That is why we have demanded that DHS release all transgender and HIV-positive people immediately. No one should ever be locked into prison because they fled persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. Doing so during a pandemic is a human rights atrocity.”
Two members of Guatemalan civil society who work with the LGBTQ community and people with HIV/AIDS participated in a roundtable with Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday.
Visibles Executive Director Daniel Villatoro and Ingrid Gamboa of the Association of Garifuna Women Living with HIV/AIDS are among the 18 members of Guatemalan civil society who participated in the roundtable that took place at a Guatemala City university. Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is among those who also took part.
Villatoro is among those who attended a virtual roundtable with Harris on April 27.
“When we met last time, I was so moved to hear about the work that you have been doing, the work that has been about helping women and children, indigenous, LGBTQ, Afro-descendants, people who have long been overlooked or neglected,” said Harris before Monday’s meeting began.
Visibles in a tweet acknowledged it participated in the roundtable.
“Today we participated in a meeting with the vice president of the United States to talk about development opportunities for Guatemala and the search for inclusive justice,” tweeted Visibles. “We, as an organization, spoke about the importance of addressing discrimination and acts of violence towards LGBTIQ+ people.”