The Republic of Latvia has voted to define family solely as “a union of a male and female person”, excluding the country’s countless loving LGBT+ families.
On Thursday (14 January) the Latvian parliament, or Saeima, voted 47-25 for an amendment to the constitution stipulating that a family unit consists of a marriage between a woman and a man.
Section 110 of the constitution will now read: “The state protects and supports marriage – a union between a man and a woman, a family based on marriage, blood relation or adoption, the rights of parents and a child, including the right to grow up in a family based on a mother (woman) and father (man).”
The vote came in response to a pro-LGBT+ ruling last year by the constitutional court which confirmed that parents in a family can also be same-sex, and imposed on the state the “obligation to protect and support” them as well.
But National Alliance leader Raivis Dzintars declared that the court had violated its powers, creating a “definition of a family that is not acceptable to the general public in Latvia”.
“Latvia is a democratic country with a diversity of views and respect for every citizen. But at the same time, there are values that have been especially close and even sacred to our nation and its culture for hundreds of years,” he told Skaties.
“One of these values is the understanding of the family, which is based on the father and mother – man and woman – and their children. Until now, such an understanding seemed self-evident, but with the decision of the constitutional court it is questioned.”
The decision represents a huge setback for the Latvian LGBT+ community, and yet another troubling example of the anti-LGBT+ rhetoric sweeping across eastern Europe.
“Today’s vote in the Latvian Parliament threw us back to the times when being an openly homophobic politician was a thing to be proud of,” tweeted activist Kristine Garina of the European Pride Organisers Association.
“Forty-seven members of the parliament voted YES to proceed with ‘same-sex families are not families’ statement to be added to the constitution.”
Latvian politician Marija Golubeva described the move as a “call for discrimination” and an attempt to separate families into right and wrong.
“Support for these changes is a mockery of the principles of a democratic state, and I call for their rejection,” she urged the parliament.
New guidelines, drafted by Israel’s health ministry after three years of consulting with LGBT+ and trans organisations, set out how hospitals and healthcare facilities must treat transgender people.
The guidance directs that hospitals and healthcare facilities must have at least one staff member trained in trans awareness, use a trans person’s correct pronouns regardless of the gender on their official documents, and to provide unisex facilities where possible while allowing trans people to use gendered spaces in accordance with their gender identity.
Ministers also noted that so-called conversion therapy that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity has no ethical or professional basis, as well as confirming that being trans is not a psychological disorder.
“Transgender people, or people on the trans spectrum, is an umbrella term used to describe people who span a broad spectrum of gender identities, distinctive from the one they were identified with and registered as at birth,” the guidance says, according to Haaretz.
“People from this population group are at high risk of suffering physical and verbal violence, discrimination in employment and a lack of access to public resources being treated as social outcasts, which can worsen psychological distress and lead to susceptibility to a high rate of illness relative to the rest of the population,” the guidelines continue.
“This is particularly noticeable when it comes to mental health.”
Ella Amest, co-director general of trans advocacy group Ma’avarim, said the new guidelines are “an important and significant step for the community and for the health system”.
“Many of us require psychological services due to our confrontations with transphobia, beyond the more common reasons experienced by the rest of the population, but the system doesn’t always know how to treat us,” Amest said.
She added: “The guidelines provide those who work in the field with substantive, clear tools and support from above. We hope that more and more public services will adopt this process and formulate similar guidelines together with trans spectrum organisations.”
The new guidance on how to treat trans people in healthcare settings follows joint recommendations, made in December 2020, by the Justice and Social Welfare Ministries that suggested implementing sweeping reforms to trans rights in Israel.
Deputy attorney general Dina Zilber and deputy director general of the Social Affairs Ministry Avi Motola wrote in an interim report that gender markers and names on government-issued documents should be able to be changed via self-declaration.
The policy, Haaretz reported, would have trans citizens’ declarations authenticated by a lawyer or the Administrator General’s Office. Documents and forms should also provide a third gender option, “other”, they advised.
The Czech Republic has ruled against adoptions from same-sex couples registered abroad as anti-LGBT+ rhetoric continues spreading across eastern Europe.
On Monday (11 January) the Czech Constitutional Court rejected a regional court’s proposal to amend a law that prevents same-sex couples registered abroad from adopting Czech children.
Same-sex couples are currently unable to adopt as adoption is restricted to married couples, and same-sex marriage isn’t legal in the Czech Republic. So the Prague Regional Court proposed changes to the wording on private international law, allowing Czech courts to recognise same-sex partners registered overseas.
This was rejected in the new ruling, which suggested it would allow Czech adoption laws to be “circumvented” abroad, according to Expats.CZ.
“Should the legislators set the rules for adoption, they can substantially prevent the rules from being ‘circumvented’ via foreign legal arrangement,” the finding reads.
The Constitutional Court considered the amendment in relation to the case of a registered same-sex couple, a Czech and a Trinidad and Tobago citizen living in the US.
A court in New Jersey approved their decision to adopt two children with the US citizenship, but the men feared legal complications when travelling back to the Czech Republic as a family.
When they asked a local court to recognise the US adoption their request was dismissed, since private international law doesn’t allow for the approval of a decision that goes against Czech law.
The Czech LGBT+ advocacy group We Are Fair expressed regret over the ruling, saying that the decision is proof that the Czech Republic needs to legalise marriage for everybody.
The troubling news follows a wave of anti-LGBT+ sentiment rising across eastern Europe that has seen both Poland and Hungary restrict adoption for same-sex couples.
Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has suggested changing the country’s constitution to explicitly forbid adoptions from LGBT+ couples, while Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, announced in November that a ban on same-sex adoption had “become necessary” due to coronavirus.
“Family ties shall be based on marriage and the relationship between parents and children. The mother is female, the father is male,” declared the Hungarian minister of family affairs as she announced the changes.
A “liberal” lesbian teenager has outed her family as being involved in a violent confrontation during the US Capitol riots.
Five people died during the chaotic Capitol riots on 6 January, which followed months of escalating posturing and rhetoric by MAGA extremists who vowed not to let president-elect Joe Biden take power.
One woman was shot by police, and three others died as a result of “medical emergencies”, officials said. Fourteen police officers were injured.
Images of white supremacists assaulting police officers spread rapidly online, as both law enforcement and the general public sought to identify the armed and angry Donald Trump supporters.
Helena Duke, a “liberal” lesbian teenager, saw three of her family members in videos of the riots – and identified them online.
“Hi this is the liberal lesbian of the family who has been kicked out multiple times for her views and for going to BLM protests to care what happens to me,” Duke posted alongside pictures of three people on Twitter.
“So, Mom: Therese Duke. Uncle: Richard Lorenz. Aunt: Annie Lorenz,” she added.
Duke’s mum, Therese, had initially lied to her about where she was going – saying she was accompanying a relative to a medical appointment, BuzzFeed News reports.
But Duke and her cousin worked together to reveal that Therese had actually gone to Washington DC during the violent attempted coup.
“My initial reaction was more like, ‘Oh my gosh, I was right. I was actually right about them being there,’” Helena, 18, told BuzzFeed News. “It was very surreal because it was an insane video, first of all, and then it was the revelation that, ‘Oh, that’s my mother. That’s her.’”
Duke said her mum was previously a Democrat voter but made a swift switch to the right when Trump was elected in 2016.
She’s been praised for her bravery in outing her family, particularly by other people who’ve lost family members to the “Trump cult”. Many of them contacted her to sympathise.
“I think it kind of makes me feel better knowing other people have gone through the same thing,” Duke said. “I obviously feel very sad that they have to go through it too, but that I’m not alone, and that they’re not alone.”
It is unclear whether Duke’s family actually stormed the Capitol or if they remained outside. On returning home they asked Duke to take down her tweets identifying them. She refused.
An Ontario, Canada, court has ruled that a trans woman must pay the travel costs for her two children to move in with their mother in Washington, US.
Increasingly isolated from her family, the upshot of a legal custody battle has seen Darcy feel she is drifting from her children after her former spouse divorced her in 2017.
Her ex is now remarried to a man who works for Microsoft, theOttawa Sunreported. Darcy and her family were then plunged into a custody battle that sowed division and fear, she said, as her former partner wished to relocate to Washington as her new husband’s job is there.
In the judgment released last month, justices ruled that Darcy’s youngest children can move some 4,000 kilometres away to stay with their mother, step-father and half-sibling.
“I’m in shock, just shock,” the 37-year-old told the outlet.
“They’re moving my kids to a place I can’t go and the idea that I somehow should pay their costs to take my children away seems kind of unfair.”
Ontario Superior Court justice David Broad considered that while a joint custody agreement would be in the best interests of the children, they need to be allowed to move with their mother.
“The likelihood of me seeing my kids now is just so low because of COVID,” she explained, finding little respite in the virtual access judges granted her alongside extended long weekends, four weeks in the summer and a week over Christmas vacation.
To her list of woes, she added that as a trans person she “doesn’t feel comfortable” in the US. “I used to travel there for work and I won’t anymore,” she added, worrying that her children would be exposed to transphobia if raised there.
But Broad disagreed. Writing in his judgement: “It was clear from her testimony that the applicant’s concerns respecting these issues are sincere and strongly held.
“However, no expert evidence was led that would suggest that living in the State of Washington, with exposure to the local culture, would adversely affect the children’s development and best interest.”
LGBT+ rights will be “at stake” on Tuesday (5 January), when America elects two Georgia senators in a run-off elections determining which party has control of the US Senate.
Neither of the two Republican senators running for election in Georgia, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, managed to draw a majority on election day (3 November), so they were forced into run-offs against their Democratic challengers, Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
If Republicans win either race in Georgia, they will retain control of the Senate, posing a serious challenge to Joe Biden’s pro-LGBT+ legislative agenda and the Democrat-controlled lower House of Representatives.
If the Democrats win both seats, the Senate will be equally split and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will have a tie-breaking vote.
Sarah Kate Ellis, president of LGBT+ advocacy group GLAAD, told Reuters that the run-off elections puts everything “at stake” when it comes to US LGBT+ rights.
She said: “These two Senate runoff races in Georgia will be defining for the LGBTQ community and whether or not our rights are moved forward in Congress.”
One big example of LGBT+ rights legislation that could be at risk with a Republican Senate is the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT+ people from discrimination in areas like employment, housing and education by amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Equality Act has struggled to pass through Congress, and Gabriele Magni, a professor of political science at Loyola Marymount University, said: “Chances that a Republican-controlled Senate will all of a sudden decide to change their minds on this are very, very limited.”
The Democratic and Republican candidates in Georgia are polar opposites when it comes to the Equality Act, as well as trans rights.
While Ossoff and Warnock have been vocal about their support for the trans community and trans rights and have both committed to voting in favour of the Equality Act, Perdue opposes the Equality Act and has voted for bills to undermine LGBT+ discrimination protections, and Loeffler has previously put forward bills seeking to legally erase transgender children.
One of the most talked-about promises that Biden has made when it comes to LGBT+ rights is to overturn Donald Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the US military which, unlike legislation that would require bills to be passed by Congress, he could do using executive powers.
Queer MPs such as Charlotte Nichols, Nadia Whittome and Olivia Blake reflect a Britain where young people feel comfortable with and empowered by expressing their identities.
In December 2019, three more MPs in the House of Commons came out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual or queer, bringing the total number of out LGB MPs to a remarkable 56. Of course, Britain is still without its first transgender MP.
The Labour MPs Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East), Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) and Olivia Blake (Sheffield Hallam) came out as queer and bisexual. At 24, 28 and 30 years of age, they represent a new Britain where rapidly growing numbers of young people, in particular young women, now feel they have the space to identify as queer, bi or pansexual.
The average age of an MP is 52, but the average age of an queer MP is 45. Today, nine per cent of the 650 MPs identify as LGB+ but a remarkable 21 per cent of the 130 MPs aged 40 or younger say they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual or queer. When it comes to the 20-somethings who were elected in the general election of 2019 the proportion is one-third.
In contrast, only five per cent of MPs over 50 identify as queer.
This level of representation may seem surprisingly high but it reflects British society today.
Westminster is becoming a place where politicians, young and old, can express their identities honestly.
A June 2020 Ipsos-Mori poll found eight per cent of UK citizens 18 and above said they were only attracted to the same sex (gay or lesbian), three per cent said they were mostly attracted to the same sex, while four per cent were equally attracted to both sexes.
Another eight per cent said they were mostly attracted to the opposite sex but not uniformly. In sum at least 15 per cent of Britons identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, alongside another eight per cent who, in theory, could because they acknowledge their own same-sex attractions.
The growing number of people saying they are same-sex loving is driven by a younger generation who have found space to honestly express their identity.
The 33 per cent of MPs 30 years old or younger mirrors the 25 per cent of 18-30 Brits who say they are only attracted to the same sex (eight per cent), mostly attracted to the same sex (five per cent) or equally attracted to both sexes (12 per cent).
In 2020 just three-quarters of Generation Z (18-24) identify as heterosexual. Similarly, the 21 per cent of MPs under 40 who say they are LGBT+ matches the 22 per cent of Brits 18-40 who say they are same-sex attracted.
The 56 queer MPs represent parties across the political spectrum: 24 Conservatives, 21 Labour, 10 Scottish Nationalist and one Liberal Democrat.
All parties with multiple queer MPs have a broad mix of young and old but all the women MPs are Labour, SNP, or Liberal Democrat. Since Justine Greening and Margot James left the House at the last election, the Tories are without a woman in their LGBT+ caucus.
Whittome, Nichols and Blake illustrate something more about the politics of queer youth. There is evidence that bisexual/pansexual Brits are more left-wing than their gay and lesbian counterparts.
In the Ipsos-Mori 2020 poll, the gay and lesbians split equally into thirds between Tory and Labour voters and others including the Lib Dems, SNP and Greens.
But nearly half of all voters who expressed a degree of same-sex attraction (bisexual/pansexual) went for Labour and only 25 per cent for the Tories. Similarly, gay and lesbians were split 50/50 on how they voted on Brexit, half voting to remain, half voting to leave, but bisexual voters went 57 per cent for remain against only 43 per cent for leave.
Meet the 56 LGBT+ MPs sitting in the House of Commons.
Nadia Whittome, Labour, 24 Mhairi Black, SNP, 26 Jacob Young, Conservative, 27 Charlotte Nichols, Labour, 28 Elliot Colburn, Conservative, 28 Olivia Blake, Labour, 30 Antony Higginbotham, Conservative, 30 Gary Sambrook, Conservative, 31 Paul Holmes, Conservative, 32 William Wragg, Conservative, 33 Angela Crawley, SNP, 33 Dan Carden, Labour, 34 Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour, 34 Stewart McDonald, SNP, 34 Cat Smith, Labour, 35 Mark Fletcher, Conservative, 35 Kieran Mullan, Conservative, 36 Hannah Bardell, SNP, 37 Wes Streeting, Labour, 37 James Murray, Labour, 37 Chris Clarkson, Conservative, 38 Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat, 38 Stephen Morgan, Labour, 39 Luke Pollard, Labour, 40 Stephen Doughty, Labour, 40 Damien Moore, Conservative, 40 Lee Rowley, Conservative, 40 Rob Roberts, Conservative, 41 Stuart McDonald, SNP, 42 Peter Gibson, Conservative, 45 Alyn Smith, SNP, 47 Conor Burns, Conservative, 48 Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative, 48 Iain Stewart, Conservative, 48 Mark Menzies, Conservative, 49 Stuart Andrew, Conservative, 49 Martin Docherty-Hughes, SNP, 49 Peter Kyle, Labour, 50 Gerald Jones, Labour, 50 Kate Osborne, Labour, 54 Joanna Cherry, SNP, 54 Neale Hanvey, SNP, 56 Steve Reed, Labour, 57 David Mundell, Conservative, 58 Chris Bryant, Labour, 58 Angela Eagle, Labour, 59 John Nicolson, SNP, 59 Ben Bradshaw, Labour, 60 Crispin Blunt, Conservative, 60 Mike Freer, Conservative, 60 Nick Gibb, Conservative, 60 Nigel Evans, Conservative, 63 Nia Griffith, Labour, 64 Nick Brown, Labour, 70 Michael Fabricant, Conservative, 70 Clive Betts, Labour, 70
Andrew Reynolds teaches politics and public policy at Princeton University and is director of Queer Politics at Princeton.
A police officer caught in a Christmas Day bombing incident in Nashville has spoken about hoping to make it home to her wife ahead of the explosion.
Officer Amanda Topping is among six officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department who have earned praise for their actions preventing casualties on 25 December after a camper van exploded on Second Avenue in downtown Nashville.
Bombing suspect Anthony Warner, 63, is believed to have died in the blast, which occurred after police were called to the scene – with the vehicle rigged to play an ominous automated message and the vintage song “Downtown” as it counted down to the detonation.
Three civilians were hurt in the explosion, with Topping and her colleagues hailed as “heroes” by local officials for their quick work to prevent further casualties by evacuating the area.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Topping spoke about being called to the incident after an “odd” call on Christmas morning.
Topping, who has been with the department for two years, said: “We were sitting [in the station], and my wife had just called because it was toward the end of our shift, so she was seeing what time I was coming home.
“I’m talking to her, and I told her, ‘We’re about to head to this call, it’s a little strange.’ I hung up with her, and we get there but we didn’t really know. too much about it.”
After getting to the scene, she recalled: “I heard what the RV was saying, and it’s stuff that I’ll never forget – it was a female voice saying, ‘Your primary objective is to evacuate. Evacuate now.’
“I was pacing back and forth, having to turn pedestrians around… you just have a feeling, ‘Something’s not right.’ You just don’t get stuff like that.
“I was standing there by my car, and I heard [another officer] say that music just came on. I was about to get on the radio and say, ‘I know it’s not my place, but everybody’s getting out of the buildings, right?’
“I was getting really antsy… I had talked to my wife again and told her things were really strange.”
A Democratic politician has resigned from his leadership role on Providence City Council after he was recorded referring to a Black transgender activist as “it”.
Recordings surfaced last week of councilman Michael Correia, who represents ward 6 of Providence in Rhode Island, mocking trans activist Justice Gaines.
The recording sees Correia and an unnamed staffer mocking and misgendering Gaines over a run for city council, with the councilman saying: “[She’s] still working on developing [her] breasts and everything.”
Asked what Gaines would be called if elected, Correia responds: “An it. It.”
The Democratic lawmaker notably failed to apologise in his initial statement,claiming the secret recordings were a “grave intrusion of privacy” and had been taken out of context. He also suggested it was illegal to record someone without their consent in Rhode Island, which it is not.
Michael Correia ‘regrets’ causing hurt with ‘flippant’ remarks.
However, after a wave of anger in the city and calls from colleagues for him to step aside, Correia has since resigned from his position as the council’s president pro tempore.
Correia said in a Facebook post: “As someone who has spent the greater part of my adult life serving my community and city, I regret that my words may have hurt anyone in the LGBTQIA community, my friends, family colleagues and constituents in that community.
“I know that LGBTQIA people struggle, face discrimination and abuse and to think that I may have somehow contributed to that sentiment is unacceptable and for that I truly apologise.
“I would like to personally apologize to Justice Gaines for any hurt that I may have inflicted on her. My words were flippant and inappropriate as a leader and as a person.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I may from time to time try to joke around but I would do anything to help someone who needed it regardless of who they are or their station in life. There is no place for discrimination in our city and again I apologize to Justice for anything I have done to hurt her.”
Correia also called for “sensitivity training” to be offered to city council members and council staff “so that we can collectively understand the importance of a safe and respectful environment”.
Despite resigning from his leadership role, Correia will remain a member of the city council.
High-profile Ugandan LGBT+ rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was “violently arrested” on money laundering charges in what activists have said was “an attack on human rights defenders”.
Opiyo is well-known for representing LGBT+ people in the harshly anti-LGBT+ African country. He was arrested in a restaurant in Kampala on Tuesday (22 December), according to Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organisation of which he is executive director.
Four other lawyers were also arrested: Anthony Odur, Herbert Dakasi, Simon Peter Esomu and Tenywa Hamid.
The organisation said it was deeply concerned about the “abduction and incommunicado detention” of Opiyo.
He was reportedly arrested by more than a dozen plain-clothed men with guns at Lamaro Restaurant in the suburb of Kamwokya. He was subsequently handcuffed and blindfolded alongside the four other lawyers.
‘Brutal abduction’ of human rights advocate Nicholas Opiyo condemned.
“Chapter Four is further concerned about the safety and well-being of Mr Opiyo, considering that he is being held outside of the protection of the law,” Chapter Four said in a statement released Tuesday.
“We condemn this brutal abduction and we call upon our colleagues and partners to condemn this arbitrary violation of his personal liberty, incommunicado detention, and call for his immediate unconditional release.”
Advocates for Nicholas Opiyo were granted access to see him at 11am on Wednesday (23 December).
“I feel OK health-wise – but my captors have not told me what I am being charged with. I have done nothing wrong, and of that I am absolutely sure,” Opiyo told activists.
They should have summoned him to the police to record a statement. Instead, he was violently arrested and detained incommunicado.
Chapter Four condemned the “high-handed and brutal” arrest, saying the country’s constitution is clear that a person charged with a criminal offence should be informed immediately of the charges levelled against them.
“Nicholas Opiyo is a fearless defender of human rights. His bold, unapologetic conviction and tireless work towards upholding and defending the constitutionally guaranteed rights for all is what the country needs,” said Angelo Izama, a board member with the organisation.
“We must fight against any efforts to crucify him on the altar of evolving political circumstances because wherever human beings exist – so will inalienable human rights.”
Opiyo appeared in court on Thursday (24 December) where he was remanded custody. His case was adjourned to 28 December.