U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power on Feb. 10 met with three LGBTQ and intersex activists in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
Budapest Pride President Viktoria Radvanyi and Hungarian Helsinki Committee Head of Advocacy András Léderer are two of the activists who met with Power.
USAID spokesperson Jessica Jennings in a press release said the activists “discussed the experiences of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary and their efforts to increase understanding, support marginalized groups and improve the lives of LGBTQI+ people in Hungary” with Power.
“The administrator (Power) emphasized that the United States will continue to stand as an ally with LGBTQI+ people and all marginalized groups in their struggle for equality,” noted Jennings.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s crackdown on LGBTQ and intersex rights in Hungary.
Radvanyi on Monday noted to the Washington Blade it is “impossible to change your gender legally in Hungary” because of a 2020 law that “banned legal gender recognition of transgender and intersex people.”
The European Commission last July sued Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, over the country’s propaganda law.
President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memorandum that commited the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. David Pressman, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, is openly gay.
Jennings in the USAID press release did not say whether Pressman attended the meeting with the activists, but it did note he met with Power before she left Budapest. Radvanyi said the activists who attended “were all very honored that Administrator Power had a dedicated meeting just about the Hungarian LGBTQ community and LGBTQ issues.”
“We know that she has a very, very busy schedule,” Radvanyi told the Blade. “We really appreciated that she treated the case of our community as such a high priority.”
Léderer described the meeting as a “very honest, sincere conversation on the situation of the Hungarian LGBT+ community.”
“In addition to how the community as a whole carries on amidst growing homo- and transphobic government policies and statements, she also wanted to know how individual members of the community, including those fighting for equal treatment and human rights, are coping with the hostile environment,” Léderer told the Blade, referring to Power. “We were happy to share great examples of resilience, including the successful campaign led by civil society organisations last year to invalidate the homo- and transphobic referendum initiated by the government by casting purposefully spoiled ballots.”
Finland to allow transgender people to change gender without sterilization
Lawmakers in Finland on Wednesday voted to allow transgender people to legally change their gender without proof they had been sterilized or were unable to have children.
The Associated Press reported the amendments that Finnish MPs approved by a 113-69 vote margin will also allow trans people who are at least 18 to legally change their name without medical intervention. Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the amendments’ passage was a priority for her government ahead of the country’s general election that will take place in April.
Seta, a Finnish LGBTQ and intersex rights group, described the vote as a “victory for human rights.”
“Translaki strengthens human rights in Finland,” tweeted Seta. “The rights of children and young people must be secured next!”
ILGA-Europe also praised the vote.
“We are thrilled to hear that the Finnish Parliament just adopted Translaki — a new law making legal gender recognition based on self-determination for adults,” said ILGA-Europe. “While there is more work to do, this is a significant step! Congratulations to all who have worked for so long on this!”
The European Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled Lithuania’s anti-LGBTQ propaganda law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
Author Neringa Dangvydė Macatė in 2019 filed a lawsuit against the law after Lithuanian authorities censured her children’s book that featured two same-sex couples.
The law specifically bans the distribution of information to minors that “expresses contempt for family values, encourages the concept of entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution of the republic of Lithuania and the Civil Code of the republic of Lithuania.” The court in April 2022 heard Macatė’s case.
Openly gay U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Bob Gilchrist is among those who have publicly criticized the law. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, an openly gay Lithuanian MP who is running for mayor of Vlinius, the country’s capital, told the Washington Blade the ruling will bolster efforts to repeal the propaganda law.
The Biden administration’s expansion of the the use of “expedited removal” of Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans who enter the U.S. from Mexico without legal authorization has sparked widespread criticism from advocacy groups that specifically work with LGBTQ and intersex asylum seekers and migrants.
The Department of Homeland Security will create a humanitarian parole program for Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans that combines “safe, orderly and lawful pathways to the United States, including authorization to work, with significant consequences for those who fail to use those pathways.”
Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection app “can seek advance authorization to travel to the United States and be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for a temporary grant of parole for up to two years, including employment authorization, provided that they: Pass righrous biometric and biographic national security and public safety screening and vetting; have a supporter in the United States who commits to providing financial and other support and complete vaccinations and other public health requirements.”
“Individuals do not need to be at the border to schedule an appointment; expanded access to the app in Central Mexico is designed to discourage noncitizens from congregating near the border in unsafe conditions,” notes DHS. “Initially, this new scheduling function will allow noncitizens to schedule a time and place to come to a port of entry to seek an exception from the Title 42 public health order for humanitarian reasons based on an individualized assessment of vulnerability. This will replace the current process for individuals seeking exceptions from the Title 42 public health order, which requires noncitizens to submit requests through third party organizations located near the border.”
President Joe Biden on Thursday said from the White House as Vice President Kamala Harris stood beside him that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans “account for most of the people traveling into Mexico to start a new life by getting … to the American border and trying to cross.”
DHS said U.S. Border Patrol “saw” a 90 percent decrease in the number of Venezuelans “encountered at the border” after a similar humanitarian parole progam began for them last October. Uniting for Ukraine, a humanitarian parole program for Ukrainians who fled after Russia launched its war against their country, started in April 2022.
Up to 30,000 “qualifying nationals” from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela will be allowed “to reside legally in the United States for up to two years and to receive permission to work here during that period.”
DHS notes Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans “who do not avail themselves of this procress, attempt to enter the United States without authorization, and cannot establish a legal basis to remain will be removed or returned to Mexico, which will accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month who fail to use these new pathways.”
“The expansion of the Venezuela process to Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua is contingent on the government of Mexico’s willingness to accept the return or removal of nationals from those countries,” said DHS. “It also is responsive to a request from the government of Mexico to provide additional legal pathways for migrants, and it advances both countries’ interests in addressing the effects throughout the hemisphere of deteriorated conditions in these countries.”
The administration’s announcement also notes “individuals who enter the United States, Mexico or Panama without authorization following today’s announcement will generally be ineligible for these (humanitarian parole) processes.”
“My message is this: If you’re trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua, or Haiti, you have … or have agreed to begin a journey to America, do not — do not just show up at the border. Stay where you are and apply legally from there,” said Biden “Starting today, if you don’t apply through the legal process, you will not be eligible for this new parole program. Let me reiterate: You need a lawful sponsor in the United States of America, number one. And you need to undergo a rigorous background check, number two. If your application is approved and you show up at — at a U.S. airport or when and where directed … you have access, but if your application is denied or you attempt to cross into the United States unlawfully, you will not be allowed to enter.”
Title 42 is ‘the law now’
The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 27 ruled Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic, must remain in place.
The Biden administration has sought to end Title 42 but Arizona and 18 other states that include Texas filed a lawsuit. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case next month.
Biden is scheduled to travel to El Paso, Texas, which is across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Sunday before he travels to Mexico City to attend the North American Leaders’ Summit with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I don’t like Title 42 at all, but it is the law now,” said Biden, who predicted the pandemic-era policy will end this year. “I wanted to make sure there was a rational way to begin this now.”
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba, on Thursday told reporters that Title 42 “increases” the number of attempts to cross the border without legal authorization. Mayorkas, like Biden, stressed the administration is “required, given the different court orders, to employ Title 42.”
“We will continue to exercise that authority, consistent with the court orders,” said Mayorkas.
Both Mayorkas and Biden said the U.S. will expel foreign nationals who enter the U.S. without legal authorization under Title 8 once Title 42 ends. They also urged Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“We are here because our immigration system is broken, outdated and in desperate need of reform,” said Mayorkas. “The laws we enforce have not been updated in decades.”
“Many Republicans agree we should do something, but it’s time to stop listening to their inflammatory talk, and it’s time to look at their record,” stressed Biden. “I’ll sit down with anyone who, in good faith, wants to fix our broken immigration system. And it’s hard. It’s hard on the best of circumstances. But if the most extreme Republicans continue to demagogue this issue and reject solutions, I’m left with only one choice: To act on my own, do as much as I can on my own to try to change the atmosphere. Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue. We can make it that way again. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s economically a smart thing to do.”
Layla Razavi, interim executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, in a statement said their organization is “deeplydisappointed at Biden’s shameful expansion of Trump’s Title 42 policy, which further cements his predecessor’s anti-immigrant legacy.”
“The Biden administration should be working to restore and strengthen our asylum system, not eroding what has been a vital lifeline for so many in our communities,” said Razavi. “True to Title 42’s original motives, this policy will continue to disproportionately harm Black and brown migrants seeking asylum.”
Roth in a text message to the Blade described the administration’s announcement as “sad and frustrating.”
“It’s unlawful and will limit access to the asylum system for the vast majority of asylum seekers at the border, including LGBTIQ people,” he said.
Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron C. Morris in a press release said “every LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugee has the right to apply for asylum in the United States.”
“Requiring our community to file for asylum in unsafe third countries will have mortal consequences for many of us,” he said. “Immigration Equality strongly condemns any proposal by the Biden administration to restrict asylum to LGBTQ and HIV-positive refugees. The United States has a great capacity to protect and support asylum seekers and refugees, maybe more than any other nation. President Biden must stop creating barriers to protection, and instead do everything in his power to facilitate the safe relocation of all LGBTQ and HIV-positive people fleeing persecution.”
San Diego Pride Executive Director Fernando Z. López, like Morris, said “asylum is a human right and an LGBTQ issue,” noting consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in 68 countries and “people can be put to death simply for being themselves” in 10 of them.
Harris is among the U.S. officials who have publicly acknowledged violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity is one of the “root causes” of migration from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
“The United States, California and San Diego have been seen as international safe havens for LGBTQ immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and their families seeking refuge from war, political violence, climate disaster and targeted anti-LGBTQ attacks,” López told the Blade. “The longer any administration prevents those seeking refuge from the ability to live safely and freely in this country, as is their internationally recognized right, our LGBTQ community will continue to have to spend time and resources triaging the crisis at our border.”
“San Diego Pride, as an organization supporting the LGBTQ community at the U.S.-Mexico border, knows our LGBTQ community needs and deserves real immigration and asylum reform, so we can fully invest in the binational and international capacity-building work we need to truly thrive,” added López. “Today’s announcement only further delays that life-saving, movement-building work.”
The Irish government has committed to banning so-called conversion therapy in the country this year.
The Irish Mirror newspaper reported Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Minister Roderic O’Gorman, who is openly gay, last month described conversion therapy as a”cruel process rooted in the promotion of shame.” O’Gorman also stressed “a process that seeks for somebody to change their sexual orientation or gender identity is extremely exploitative, particularly if undertaken on someone under 18.
“I’d hope to bring the legislation into the Dáil (the lower house of the Irish Parliament) next year,” he told the Irish Mirror. “Obviously, legislation takes time but I think it’s possible we could have it passed by the end of the year. That’s certainly what I’d be working towards, but it could drift into 2024.”
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is also openly gay.
Malta, Brazil and Canada are among the countries that ban the widely discredited practice.
Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision last year to exclude transgender people from a bill to ban conversion therapy in England and Wales sparked outrage among LGBTQ and intersex activists. The British government subsequently cancelled an LGBTQ and intersex rights conference after advocacy groups announced they would boycott it.
Lawmakers in Indonesia on Tuesday approved a bill that would criminalize sex outside of marriage.
The Jakarta Post, an English newspaper in the country’s capital, noted the marriage provision is part of a revised Criminal Code that would, among other things, also make it illegal to insult the president. The Jakarta Post said anyone, including foreigners, who have sex outside of marriage could face up to a year in jail.
The new Criminal Code — which LGBTQ and intersex activists and other human rights groups have criticized — will take place in three years.
Consensual same-sex sexual relations are decriminalized in most of Indonesia, but officials in Aceh province in 2021 caned two men under Shariah law after their neighbors caught them having sex. The Indonesian government in recent years has faced criticism over its LGBTQ and intersex rights record.
Authorities in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, in 2017 arrested 51 people who were attending a “gay party” at a sauna. The closure of an Islamic school for transgender people in the city of Yogyakarta in 2016 also sparked outrage.
Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights, had been scheduled to visit Indonesia this week. She cancelled her trip after the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s most prominent Islamic group, criticized it.
A State Department official on Friday said the U.S. has raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
The World Cup begins in Qatar on Sunday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the country on Monday in order to open the fifth annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price in a statement he released on Friday said Blinken will meet with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and other officials. Blinken is also scheduled to attend the U.S. men’s soccer team’s match against Wales that will take place on Monday in Al Rayyan.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Daniel Benaim on Friday during a virtual briefing that previewed Blinken’s trip said he would “not going to get ahead of Sec. Blinken on his specific plans.” Benaim, in response to the Washington Blade’s question about whether Blinken plans to raise LGBTQ and intersex rights with Qatari officials, added they are “certainly an issue that we have raised with the Qatari government at depth and will continue to do so.”
Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.
Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.
Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. British comedian Joe Harry Lycett has challenged David Beckham to walk away from a £10 million ($11.84 million) deal to be a World Cup ambassador.
Ten captains of European soccer teams that will compete in the World Cup have said they will wear “one love” armbands to show their support for LGBTQ and intersex people. The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge.
President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy.
A transgender woman who the U.S. deported to Honduras earlier this year has been murdered.
Reportar sin Miedo, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Honduras, reported a group of “hooded subjects” shot Melissa Núñez in Morocelí, a municipality in El Paraíso department in eastern Honduras, on Tuesday night.
Initial reports indicate Núñez, 42, died from a gunshot wound to the head.
Indyra Mendoza, general coordinator of Cattrachas, a lesbian feminist network based in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, on Thursday confirmed to the Blade that Núñez asked for asylum in the U.S.
Mendoza said she did not know on what grounds Núñez asked for asylum, but Reportar sin Miedo reported she had lived in Miami and had more than 20,000 followers on TikTok. Núñez, according to Reportar sin Miedo, became “a strong activist” for LGBTQ and intersex rights while in the U.S.
Mendoza told the Blade that Núñez in December 2021 returned to Honduras after she traveled through Mexico and Guatemala. Núñez tried to return to the U.S., but Mendoza said American authorities deported her back to Honduras in July.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights last June issued a landmark ruling that found Honduras responsible for the murder of Vicky Hernández, a trans sex worker with HIV who died in police custody hours after the 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya from power.
Violence and discrimination based on gender identity and expression nevertheless remains commonplace in Honduras. Vice President Kamala Harris is among the U.S. officials who have acknowledged anti-LGBTQ and anti-intersex violence are among the factors that prompt Hondurans and people from neighboring El Salvador and Honduras to leave their countries.
Camila Díaz Córdova, a trans woman from El Salvador who the U.S. deported, was killed in San Salvador, the Salvadoran capital, in January 2019. A Salvadoran court convicted three police officers of Díaz’s murder and sentenced them to 20 years in prison.
The State Department has named a prominent intersex activist as an advisor to the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad.
Kimberly Zieselman on Oct. 16 announced on her Twitter page that she will work with Jessica Stern.
Zieselman is the former executive director of interACT: Advocates for IntersexYouth and author of “XOXY: A Memoir.”
“As an intersex woman, it’s not only an incredible honor to serve this administration and work with Special Envoy Stern, but my appointment isalso a milestone for the intersex community which has been historically marginalized, if not entirely erased across the globe,” Zieselman told the Washington Blade this week in a statement.
President Joe Biden in 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The State Department earlier this year began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.
“The Department of State is committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of all individuals, including intersex persons, who often face discrimination, harmful medical practices, violence, and social stigma solely based on their sex characteristics,” a State Department spokesperson told the Blade in response to Zieselman’s appointment.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday spoke at an LGBTQ and intersex rights event that took place on the eve of the U.N. General Assembly.
Blinken in his remarks at the LGBTI Core Group, a group of U.N. countries that have pledged to support LGBTQ and intersex rights, noted the meeting took place at “a time when the movement for equality is showing some encouraging momentum.”
He pointed to the decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual acts over the summer in St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda. Blinken also noted the Vietnamese Health Ministry’s announcement last month that it no longer considers LGBTQ people to be sick.
“At the same time, for that progress, which is real and which is worth underscoring, we know that people worldwide continue to experience alarming levels of violence, discrimination, isolation,” said Blinken. “Risks are the highest for people with disabilities, people of color, refugees and LGBTQI+ women. Transgender people are often denied access to legal identity documents that reflect their names and gender markers. Intersex people, including minors, continue to be subjected to unnecessary surgeries without their consent.”
Blinken further stressed that members of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group and countries around the world “have work to do to ensure that LGBTQI+ people have the same rights, the same protections as all other people.”
“Defending these rights is central to the health of our democracies,” he said. “Any system where some groups are treated as ‘less than’ simply because of who they are is fundamentally flawed.”
President Joe Biden in February 2021 signed a memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy. The White House four months later appointed Jessica Stern as its special envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights overseas.
The State Department in April began to issue passports with “X” gender markers. The White House’s efforts in support of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad now includes marriage equality in countries where activists say such a thing is possible through legislation or the judicial process.
Blinken in his speech noted Biden in June issued a sweeping executive order that, among other things, prohibits the use of federal funds to support so-called conversion therapy. The ceremony, which occurred during the White House’s annual Pride reception, took place against the backdrop of the passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and efforts in several other states across the country to curtail the rights of transgender students.
“Standing up for LGBTQI+ people is a top priority for our administration,” said Blinken.
Blinken also referenced the 1969 Stonewall riots.
“Everything we’re doing builds on the work of literally generations of advocates who have — and still are — risking so much to put LGBTQI+ people and their rights on the map,” he said. “And I have to say, as I read the history, learn the history, hear of experiences, I’m quite in awe of generations of advocates who have done so much to put us where we are today. The work we’re doing is only possible because of the work they did — but not only the work they did, the courage that they showed.”
“The 1969 protest at the Stonewall Inn marked a turning point in our nation’s struggle for LGBTQI+ rights and helped galvanize the global movement,” added Blinken. “This is something that is seared into the memories, seared into the consciousness of so many of us. And particularly for me as a native New Yorker, it’s something that I have seen and been inspired by for many, many years.”
Blinken further noted “Stonewall is also a stark reminder of all the places worldwide where people are still subject to abuse simply for being themselves.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir; Permanent Brazilian Representative to the U.N. João Genésio de Almeida Filho, Peruvian Foreign Minister Cesar Landa Arroyo, Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt and OutRight Action International Executive Director Maria Sjödin are among those who attended the event alongside Stern and Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ and intersex issues.