Hungary’s parliament passed a resolution on Tuesday which will empower the government to hold a referendum on LGBTQ issues, raising Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s anti-LGBTQ campaign to a new level as he heads into a tough election race next year.
Orban, a nationalist who has been in power since 2010, this year proposed a referendum on ruling party legislation that limits schools’ teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues, stepping up a culture war with the European Union.
Facing his first competitive election in more than a decade, nationalist Orban has sought to promote social policies that he says safeguard Christian values against Western liberalism, putting gender issues and what he calls LGBTQ propaganda at the center of his campaign along with migration.
Parliament voted on four referendum questions one by one, passing them with Fidesz’s ruling majority.
“The Hungarian government proposes that citizens should have a chance to express their stance on the issues of gender propaganda,” deputy minister Balazs Orban told parliament.
“We are committed. We believe that we …have to say no to LGBTQ propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent.”
He said holding the referendum on the same day as the parliamentary vote would save taxpayers money but it is up to President Janos Ader to set the date. Ader, an ally of the government, has not yet fixed a date for the parliamentary elections which are expected to be held in April.
In the referendum, Hungarians will be asked whether they support the holding of sexual orientation workshops in schools without parents’ consent and whether they believe gender reassignment procedures should be promoted among children.
They will also be asked whether media content that could affect sexual orientation should be shown to children without any restrictions.
The law passed in June, which the government says aims to protect children, has caused anxiety in the LGBT community.
Same-sex couples can wed in Switzerland from July 1 next year, the government said on Wednesday, enacting the results of a groundbreaking referendum on the issue in September.
Voters approved the “Marriage for All” initiative by a nearly two-thirds majority, making Switzerland one of the last countries in Western Europe to legalize gay marriage.
In a two-stage process, same-sex couples who have married abroad will have their status recognized from the start of January. Previously, the couples were seen as a registered partnership in Switzerland.
The new law will start six months later, which means couples will be allowed to marry or convert their registered partnership from July 1, 2022.
Preparations for the marriage can be submitted before this date, the government added. No more registered partnerships will be allowed after this date.
Advocates expect several hundred people to take advantage of the law change in the first year it comes into effect.
“We are really happy with the outcome of the vote, and that it is now being put into law,” Maria von Kaenel, co-president of the Marriage for All campaign, said on Wednesday.
“We have been fighting for marriage equality for 30 years and the referendum result was a historic moment.”
The U.S. Department of Labor on Monday announced a proposal that would rescind a Trump administration rule that expanded a religious exemption from anti-discrimination laws for federal contractors.
The rule, which went into effect in the last days of the administration of President Donald Trump, broadened the exemption to include employers who “hold themselves out to the public as carrying out a religious purpose.” The exemption previously applied to a more narrowly defined set of religious groups.
By rescinding the rule, the department will return to policies consistent with those in place during the administrations of President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, Jenny Yang, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said in an interview.
“We are proposing a rescission of the religious exemption rule to protect workers from discrimination and safeguard principles of religious freedom,” Yang said.
The Trump administration framed the rule as a necessary step to ensure the full participation of religious organizations in the federal contractor system. But critics of the rule, including LGBTQ groups, warned that it would open the door to discrimination.
In light of pre-existing protections for religious organizations, the OFFCP found the Trump rule to be “unnecessary and problematic,” Yang said. Rescinding the rule would help ensure the exemption is applied consistently, she added.
“The proposed rescission would also promote economy and efficiency in federal procurement by preventing the exclusion of qualified and talented employees on the basis of protected characteristics,” she said. “This ensures that taxpayer funds are not used to discriminate.”
The OFCCP enforces discrimination and wage-and-hour laws against federal contractors. In 2014, the agency banned contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the country that first legalized gay marriage, the Dutch crown princess has the right to marry a person of any gender without giving up her right to the throne, the prime minister said Tuesday.
Crown Princess Catharina-Amalia, 17, has not made any comments on the matter, and little is known of her personal life. The question arose after recently published books argued that the country’s rules exclude the possibility of a same-sex royal couple.
But Prime Minister Mark Rutte said times have changed since one of his predecessors last addressed the issue in 2000.
“The government believes that the heir can also marry a person of the same sex,” Rutte wrote in a letter to parliament.
“The cabinet therefore does not see that an heir to the throne or the King should abdicate if he/she would like to marry a partner of the same sex.”
Gay marriage was legalized in the Netherlands in 2001.
Rutte said that one issue remains unresolved: how a gay marriage would affect later succession of the royal couple’s children. And it doesn’t make sense to try to decide that now, he said.
“It’s just very dependent on the facts and circumstances of the specific case, as you can see by looking back at how family law can change over time,” he wrote.
Unlike regular marriages, royal marriages need the approval of parliament. Members of the Dutch royal house have on occasion given up their place in the line of succession to marry someone without permission.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has moved to block Biden administration guidance requiring that employers allow transgender workers to use bathrooms and dress in a manner aligned with their gender identity, following a separate challenge by 20 other Republican-led states.
Paxton’s office, in a complaint filed in Amarillo, Texas, federal court on Monday, said state agencies will not allow workers to use bathrooms designated for the opposite sex or discipline employees over their use of gendered pronouns, placing them at risk of facing legal action in light of June guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The AG also said the guidance is invalid because it was approved by EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows without a vote from the full five-member commission.
Paxton in a statement said states should be able to place the rights of employers over “subjective views of gender,” and that the EEOC guidance puts many women and children at risk.
“These backdoor attempts to force businesses, including the State of Texas, to align with their beliefs is unacceptable,” Paxton said.
The EEOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In August, 20 other Republican-led states filed their own challenge to the EEOC memo and a separate U.S. Department of Education directive covering the rights of transgender students. The states, led by Tennessee, moved for a preliminary injunction earlier this month.
The EEOC guidance was issued in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which said discrimination against gay and transgender workers is a form of unlawful sex bias under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The commission in June said that under Bostock, employers cannot prohibit transgender workers from using bathrooms and wearing clothes that align with their gender identity. Employers also can violate Title VII by refusing to refer to employees by their preferred pronouns, the EEOC said.
But Paxton’s office on Monday said the guidance interpreted Bostock too broadly. The justices expressly declined to decide if the ruling applied to sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms, the AG said, but the EEOC improperly concluded that it did.
The bathroom, dress code and pronoun policies targeted by the guidance apply equally to workers of all sexes, and do not violate Title VII, according to the complaint.
“While [Bostock] held that ‘discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex,’ the June 15 Guidance instead addresses the converse question: whether discrimination on the basis of sex necessarily entails discrimination based on transgender status,” the AG said.
Paxton’s office is seeking an order vacating the guidance and will pursue a preliminary injunction barring the guidance’s enforcement while the lawsuit is pending, the AG said.
The case is Texas v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, No. 2:21-cv-00194.
Health insurer Aetna Inc has been sued for allegedly discriminating against beneficiaries that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer by requiring them to pay more out of pocket for fertility treatments.
In a proposed class action filed Monday in federal court in Manhattan, plaintiff Emma Goidel said she and her spouse were forced to spend nearly $45,000 for fertility treatments as a result of Aetna’s policy, which required same-sex couples to pay for fertility treatment out of pocket before becoming eligible for coverage.
A spokesperson for Aetna, which was acquired by CVS Health Corp in 2018, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Goidel is covered through her spouse by Aetna’s health insurance plan for Columbia University students, which provides broad coverage for intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, according to the complaint.
However, while couples that can try to get pregnant through heterosexual intercourse can receive coverage simply by representing that they have tried for six or 12 months, depending on age, couples that cannot conceive through intercourse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity must first pay out of pocket for six or 12 months of IUI, according to the complaint.
Goidel alleges that beginning last year, she and her spouse paid for four unsuccessful IUI cycles, and one unsuccessful IVF cycle, before becoming pregnant through a fifth IUI cycle, all of which Aetna refused to cover.
She said she chose IUI despite previous failures in part because of the higher cost of IVF.
“Ms. Goidel has endured great emotional distress in having to choose a course of treatment based on cost, rather than based on her personal and medical circumstances in consultation with her doctor,” she said.
“Aetna’s discriminatory policy is an illegal tax on LGBTQ individuals that denies the equal rights of LGBTQ individuals to have children,” Goidel alleged. “At best, these individuals incur great costs due to Aetna’s policy language. At worst, these exorbitant costs are prohibitive and entirely prevent people who are unable to shoulder them — disproportionately LGBTQ people of color — from becoming pregnant and starting a family.”
The lawsuit cited a report from New York’s Department of Financial Services in February explicitly stating that policy’s like Aetna’s violated state law.
Goidel is bringing claims under the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination provisions and New York state and city human rights laws, seeking to represent a class of people covered by Aetna student health plans in New York.
The case is Goidel v. Aetna Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 21-cv-07619.
Chinese tech giant Tencent’s WeChat social media platform has deleted dozens of LGBTQ accounts run by university students, saying some had broken rules on information on the internet, sparking fear of a crackdown on gay content online.
Members of several LGBTQ groups told Reuters that access to their accounts was blocked late on Tuesday and they later discovered that all of their content had been deleted.
“Many of us suffered at the same time,” said the account manager of one group who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“They censored us without any warning. All of us have been wiped out.”
Attempts by Reuters to access some accounts were met with a notice from WeChat saying the groups “had violated regulations on the management of accounts offering public information service on the Chinese internet.”
Other accounts did not show up in search results.
WeChat did not immediately respond to emailed questions.
Homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder in China until 2001, when it became legal. However, this year, a court upheld a university’s description of homosexuality as a “psychological disorder.”
The LGBTQ community has repeatedly found itself falling foul of censors. The Cyberspace Administration of China recently pledged to clean up the internet to protect minors and crack down on social media groups deemed a “bad influence.”
“Authorities have been tightening the space available for LGBT advocacy and civil society generally. This is another turning of the screw,” said Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai’s China Center, who focuses on LGBTQ rights and gender equality.
The loyalty of LGBTQ university groups to the government and Communist Party was discussed in meeting in May between student groups and university representatives of the Communist Youth League — a department in charge of student affairs run by the Chinese Communist Party, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter.
The sources declined to be identified or say at which universities the meetings took place but said LGBTQ student groups were asked if they were anti-Party or anti-China, and whether any of their funds had originated from abroad.
“We explained that our LGBT education work was within campus only,” one university student told Reuters. “After our meeting in May we were dismantled.”
LGBTQ student groups traditionally do not get the support of university authorities in their work to raise awareness of the community, even though they are not banned outright.
Brazilian governor and potential major party presidential candidate Eduardo Leite, a prominent critic of President Jair Bolsonaro, came out as gay in a TV interview.
Leite, governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, would be the first openly gay presidential candidate in Brazil. Anti-gay rhetoric has been a staple of speeches by Bolsonaro, who once declared that if he had a gay son, he would rather he died in an accident.
“I have never spoken about a subject related to my private life”, Leite told Brazilian journalist Pedro Bial in a TV interview on Thursday evening.
“But during this moment of low integrity in Brazil, I have nothing to hide, I am gay. I am a governor who is gay, not a gay governor, as former President Obama in the U.S. was a president who was Black, not a Black president. And I am proud of that.”
Leite, a member of social democratic party PSDB, supported Bolsonaro in the second round of Brazil’s 2018 elections, but became a critic of the president’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leite, 36, will be a candidate in the PSDB primaries scheduled for November to choose the presidential candidate for the 2022 elections. Other candidates in the primary are the Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria, senator Tasso Jereissati and former senator Arthur Virgílio.
Bolsonaro on Friday told supporters Leite was trying to use his coming out as a “business card” for the presidential campaign.
“I have nothing against his private life, but he cannot impose his lifestyle on others,” he added.
People took to the streets of Spain’s biggest cities on Monday evening to express their anger at the death of a man in a suspected homophobic attack at the weekend.
Crowds filled a central Madrid square and activists marched down a major street in Barcelona, chanting slogans and waving placards and rainbow-colored flags.
“The response to the wave of LGBT-phobic hatred that ended the life of Samuel in A Coruna is overwhelming,” the left-wing Podemos party that governs in coalition with the ruling Socialists wrote on Twitter.
Samuel Luiz, a 24-year-old nursing assistant, was beaten near a nightclub in the early hours of Saturday in the town of A Coruna, northern Spain, by several assailants including one who shouted a common pejorative description of a gay person, state broadcaster RTVE reported. He later died in the hospital.
Jose Minones, a local government representative in the region where A Coruna is located, tweeted that the police were working to find out what happened and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Local media quoted him as saying the investigation would show whether or not the attack was motivated by homophobia.
Interior Ministry data shows 278 hate crimes related to sexual orientation or gender identity were reported in Spain in 2019, an 8.6 percent increase on the previous year. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights warns only a fraction of hate crimes are reported to the police.
In central Barcelona, 21 year-old Sergio Cuevas said: “I think this crime happened because homophobia kills.”
Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games, a decision set to fuel the debate over inclusion and fairness in sport.
Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to mitigate the biological advantages of those who have gone through male puberty, including bone and muscle density.
Advocates for transgender inclusion argue the process of transition decreases that advantage considerably and that physical differences between athletes mean there is never a truly level playing field.
NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith said Hubbard met IOC and the International Weightlifting Federation’s selection criteria.
“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said.
“As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of …. inclusion and respect for all.”
The New Zealand government offered its support.
“Laurel is a member of New Zealand’s Olympic team. We are proud of her as we are of all our athletes, and will be supporting her all the way,” Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson said in a statement.
Center of debate
Weightlifting has been at the centre of the debate over the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women, and Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo could prove divisive.
Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an advocacy group for women athletes, criticized Hubbard’s selection.
“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the group said in a statement.
Hubbard’s gold medal wins at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the host nation.
Samoa’s weightlifting boss said Hubbard’s selection for Tokyo would be like letting athletes “dope” and feared it could cost the small Pacific nation a medal.
Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said last month allowing Hubbard to compete at Tokyo was unfair for women and “like a bad joke”.
Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but organizers rejected the move.
Hubbard was forced to withdraw after injuring herself during competition, and thought her career was over.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” said Hubbard on Monday, thanking New Zealanders.
“But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.”
Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said Hubbard had “grit and perseverance” to return from injury and rebuild her confidence.
“We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations towards Tokyo,” he said.
Another transgender athlete, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe, will travel to Tokyo as part of the United States team, but is named as an alternate and not assured of competing.
Canadian women’s soccer player Quinn, who came out as transgender last year and uses only one name, also has a chance to be selected for the Olympics, five years after winning bronze with the women’s team at the 2016 Rio Games.