A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.
Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.
“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”
This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.
A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army secretary or the office of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring soldiers and families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”
The Crystal City-based RAND Corporation had published a study on sexual orientation, gender identity and health among active duty servicemembers in 2015 that listed approximate six percent of LGBTQ troops are gay or bisexual and one percent are trans or nonbinary.
A senior analyst for RAND told the Washington Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than four years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and prior to when the Trump administration enacted the trans servicemember ban in 2017, which has had a chilling effect on open service.
The Biden administration repealed the Trump ban.
Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as “Gen Z” are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.
Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v. Wade.
According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.
One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:
“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”
First lady Jill Biden on Saturday announced the U.S. will provide an additional $80.9 million to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Latin America.
Biden during a visit to Casa Hogar el Buen Samaritano, a shelter for people with HIV/AIDS in Panama City, said the State Department will earmark an additional $80.9 million for President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-funded work in Latin America. A Panamanian activist with whom the Washington Blade spoke said LGBTQ people were among those who met with the first lady during her visit.
Pope Francis visited the shelter in 2019.
“I’m glad we have the opportunity to talk about how the United States and Panama can work together to combat HIV,” said the first lady.
Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson, noted Panama will receive $12.2 million of the $80.9 million in PEPFAR funding.
“This funding, pending Congressional notification, will support expanded HIV/AIDS services and treatment,” said LaRosa.
UNAIDS statistics indicate an estimated 31,000 Panamanians were living with HIV/AIDS in 2020. The first lady’s office notes the country in 2020 had the highest number of “newly notificated cases of HIV/AIDS” in Central America.
The first lady visited Panama as part of a trip that included stops in Ecuador and Costa Rica.
The Summit of the Americas will take place next month in Los Angeles. The U.S. Agency for International Development and PEPFAR in April announced they delivered more than 18 million doses of antiretroviral drugs for Ukrainians with HIV/AIDS.
A group of LGBTQ elected officials from around the world that fights discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has launched a Latin America chapter.
The Global Equality Caucus earlier this month launched the chapter during a meeting in Mexico City.
Upwards of 100 elected officials in Mexico — local, state and national — joined representatives of LGBTQ rights groups and allies at the event. Twenty elected officials from Central America and more than 30 LGBTQ activists and human rights defenders from the region attended.
Mexican Sens. Patricia Mercado and Martha Lucía Mícher; Mexico City Assemblyman Temístocles Villanueva Ramos; Mexico City Secretary of Labor and Employment José Luis Rodríguez Díaz de León; Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent U.N. expert on LGBTQ issues, and Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advises Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues, are among those who spoke at the meeting. Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila, Costa Rican Congressman Enrique Sánchez and Mexico City Assemblywoman Ana Francis López Bayghen Patiño, among others, also attended.
“Right now we see different speeds in the advance of our rights, but we have the conviction that we can advance substantively towards full equal rights if we speak to those who make decisions in Congresses, national and local governments and in civil society,” Global Equality Caucus Membership and Projects Coordinator for Latin America Erick Ortiz told the Washington Blade.
Ortiz in 2021 ran for the El Salvador National Assembly. He would have been the first openly gay man elected to the country’s legislative body if he had won.
The Global Equality Caucus’ Latin America chapter will hold its second meeting in Buenos Aires next month.
A state district court granted a preliminary injunction in Marquez v. State of Montana Thursday, holding that a law passed by the 2021 Montana Legislature likely violates the constitutional rights of transgender Montanans.
The ACLU of Montana, the ACLU’s national office, and Nixon Peabody, LLP challenged Senate bill SB 280 on behalf of two transgender plaintiffs who seek to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.
“Today is a huge win for all Montanans as we strive towards a more equal community,” said Amelia Marquez. “Our constitution provides the means to protect the most vulnerable Montanans, and I am thankful for those who continue to advocate for gender diverse Montanans and our rights.”
“We are thrilled that the Court recognized the substantial and unnecessary burdens this law places upon transgender individuals in violation of their constitutional rights,” said Akilah Lane, staff attorney at the ACLU of Montana. “The Court’s injunction affirms the basis of our case: that SB 280 intentionally targets transgender people for unequal treatment because, as Judge Moses wrote, ‘only transgender individuals are subjected to these procedures and burdens in order to have a birth certificate that accurately reflects their gender.’”
“This ruling is an important step forward for our clients and for others affected by the unconstitutional law,” said Seth A. Horvath, a partner with Nixon Peabody’s Complex Disputes practice. “There are limits on legislative authority, and today the court prudently enforced those limits.”
“The needless barrier to accurate documentation for transgender people enacted by the Montana legislature is unconstitutional,” said Jon Davidson, senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Rights Project. “It was rightfully enjoined today. This law serves no valid purpose other than to hurt transgender people like our clients Amelia Marquez and John Doe. We’ll continue to fight this unconstitutional effort to harm transgender Montanans.”
In this case, the ACLU of Montana, the ACLU, and Nixon Peabody are representing Amelia Marquez, a transgender woman, and John Doe, a transgender man, in their lawsuit challenging a law that makes it virtually impossible to correct the sex designation on their birth certificates. Marquez and Doe’s case asserts that Senate Bill 280 (passed by the 2021 Montana Legislature) violates their constitutional rights to privacy, equal protection of the law, and due process.
SB 280 requires a transgender person to obtain a certified copy of an order from a court indicating that the sex of the person has been changed by “surgical procedure.” The court order must then be provided to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). For many transgender Montanans, surgical procedures are either unwanted, medically contra-indicated, or cost-prohibitive.
In granting a preliminary injunction, the court found that, “Plaintiffs provided unrebutted evidence describing that neither gender-affirming surgery nor any other medical treatment that a transgender person undergoes changes that person’s sex. Instead, gender-affirming surgery aligns a person’s body and lived in experience with the person’s gender identity, which already exists.”
Before the passage of SB 280, transgender Montanans needed only to provide an affidavit to DPHHS to change the gender marker on a birth certificate. This process was efficient and easy and was administered without problem for years until the legislature decided to act.
An estimated 58,200 transgender youth and young adults ages 13 and older in the U.S. are at risk of being denied gender-affirming medical care due to proposed and enacted state bans and policies, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
As of March 18, 2022, 15 states have restricted access to gender-affirming care or are currently considering laws that would do so. These bills jeopardize access to care for 54,000 transgender youth ages 13-17—nearly one-third of the estimated 150,000 transgender youth in the U.S. More than 4,000 young adults ages 18 to 20 in Alabama, North Carolina, and Oklahoma would also be at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care under proposed bills that would apply to young people over the age of 18.
The bills carry severe penalties for health care providers, and sometimes families, who provide or seek out gender-affirming care for minors. About half of the bills prohibit insurance companies from offering coverage or restrict the use of state funds for gender-affirming care.
In February 2022, the governor of Texas issued an order restricting access to gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth, classifying it as “child abuse” and directing the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate any reported instances of health care providers or parents who provide or seek out gender-affirming care for children. The order impacts as many as 13,800 transgender youth in the state.
Gender-affirming medical care includes the use of hormones to delay puberty and to promote physical development that is consistent with a child’s gender identity. It is recommended for transgender youth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society.
“A growing body of research shows that gender-affirming care improves mental health and overall well-being of transgender people, including youth,” said lead author Kerith J. Conron, the Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute. “Efforts that support transgender youth in living according to their gender identity are associated with better mental health.”
Prior research from the Williams Institute found that the risk of past-year suicide attempts was lower among transgender people who wanted and received gender-affirming medical care.
Lambda Legal joined by Tulsa attorney Karen Keith Wilkens filed a lawsuit challenging Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt’s executive order prohibiting transgender people born in Oklahoma from correcting the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, states that On November 8, 2021, Governor Stitt issued an executive order that reversed the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH)’s prior practice of allowing transgender people to correct their birth certificates to match their gender identity.
Previously, transgender people could correct their birth certificates by presenting a court order to OSDH, but following the executive order, OSDH has refused to comply with such orders.
“Gov. Stitt’s executive order deprives transgender people born in Oklahoma of equal treatment under the law. Other people have access to birth certificates that match who they are, but the government has singled out transgender people to take away their ability to access birth certificates that match who they are,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Shelly Skeen said. “Inaccurate identity documents rob transgender people of control over their privacy by involuntarily ‘outing’ them to others.
“Oklahoma’s policy wrongfully exposes transgender people to discrimination and harm when accessing housing, employment, education, healthcare, and public accommodations. Transgender people have the right, like everyone else, to keep their private matters private and to be treated equally in society, as who they are, without fear of discrimination,” Skeen said.
Attorney and Tyron Garner Fellow Nicholas Guillory, who is also working on the case, said: “In Oklahoma, 25% of transgender people live in poverty. Having accurate birth certificates that match who they are is critically important to combat the barriers and inequities they face in their daily lives.”
Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, on behalf of a transgender woman, Rowan Fowler, and two transgender men, Allister Hall and a plaintiff proceeding anonymously, C.R.
In the lawsuit, Fowler et al. v. Stitt et al., Lambda Legal argues that denying transgender people the ability to obtain accurate birth certificates subjects them to discrimination, deprives them of their dignity and invades their rights to privacy in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also argues that forcing transgender people to identify with a gender that does not align with their gender identity violates their free speech rights under the First Amendment.
“Having a birth certificate that reflects who I am as a human being is crucial and can present a basic issue of safety for me,” said plaintiff Rowan Fowler, who is a transgender woman. “The state’s denial of my existence is discriminatory and puts me in harm’s way. There was no reason for Oklahoma to take away this basic tool that transgender people need to simply go about their everyday lives with dignity, safety, and respect.”
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, almost one-third of transgender individuals who showed an identity document with a name or gender marker that conflicted with their perceived gender were harassed, denied benefits and services, discriminated against or assaulted. At least 47 states have systems in place that allow transgender people to correct their birth certificates to match their gender identity.
This past Monday, the Russian Ministry of Justice included the Russian LGBT Network and five lawyers from the recently dissolved human rights group, Komanda 29 (Team 29), including its founder Ivan Pavlov, a prominent lawyer, on the list of “foreign agents.”
This latest move by Russian authorities is continuing a months-long crackdown on activists, opposition supporters and independent media. The government has designated a number of independent media outlets, journalists and human rights groups as “foreign agents.” At least two disbanded to avoid a further crackdown.
The Russian LGBT Network has advocated for civil rights in Russia since 2006 and has 17 branches across the country. The group is well-known both in Russia and abroad for its effort to rescue gay men and lesbians from Chechnya.
They played a crucial role in the exposure of a brutal “anti-gay” campaign in Chechnya during which dozens of men were abducted, tortured and several believed to have been killed for their real or perceived sexual orientation. The group also provided shelter for victims of homophobic attacks from Chechnya and elsewhere around the country, and helped with their relocation to safer locations within and outside Russia.
“We don’t know why we have been declared a ‘foreign agent.’ The Russian LGBT Network disagrees with this status. We are not involved in political activities, we offer legal and psychological aid (and) defend the rights of the LGBT+ community,” the statement on the group’s Facebook page read. The statement added that the group would continue to operate and contest the designation in court.
Team 29, was an association of lawyers and journalists specializing in treason and espionage cases and freedom of information issues. Team 29 shut down earlier this year, fearing prosecution of its members and supporters, after authorities accused the group of spreading content from a Czech nongovernmental organization that had been declared “undesirable” in Russia.
Ivan Pavlov and his colleagues have courageously provided help to civil society and political activists and groups that have been targeted by the authorities, including Aleksei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation.
In April, Russian authorities launched a criminal case against Pavlov, who was representing a former Russian journalist accused of treason. They accused Pavlov, who has since left Russia and resettled in Georgia, of disclosing information related to a police investigation, the Associated Press reported.
Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director, in a statement released to international media outlets said:
“Beyond shameful, the justice ministry’s decision reveals that committed, principled lawyers defending the rights of people targeted in politically motivated cases and frontline LGBTI rights defenders are unwelcome and ‘foreign’ in Putin’s Russia.
“LGBT-Network has exposed heinous crimes against gay men in Chechnya and helped evacuate people at risk to safety where they can speak about these atrocities. Now LGBT Network is, itself, a victim of the persecution that is being increasingly targeted at all human rights defenders—openly, viciously and cynically.
“The authorities cite the need to protect ‘national interests’ and resist ‘foreign influence’ in their incessant destruction of Russia’s civil society. But what’s really in the national interest is to protect, uphold and respect all human rights for everyone.
“These reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations must stop, and the ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’ laws must be repealed immediately.”
In an article published this past July, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty’s correspondent Todd Prince explains that a Council of Europe legal advisory body has sharply criticized recent Russian amendments to laws regulating so-called ‘’foreign agents,” saying they constitute “serious violations” of basic human rights and will have a “chilling effect” on political life.
In a report analyzing the amendments, published on July 6, the Venice Commission, which is composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law, called on Russia to reverse aspects of its “foreign agents” laws such as registration and reporting requirements, or alternatively revise “the entire body” of the legislation by narrowing the definition of a “foreign agent.“
The commission warned in its 26-page report that the amendments will have a “significant chilling effect…on the free exercise of the civil and political rights which are vital for an effective democracy.”
It further said the broadened scope of the “foreign agents” legislation allows authorities “to exercise significant control over the activities and existence of associations as well as over the participation of individuals in civic life.
Cornell University’s What We Know Project in conjunction with a coalition of leading LGBTQ rights groups last month published a comprehensive curation of data on studies that chart the intersection of anti-LGBTQ and racial discrimination.
The findings found that discrimination inflicts profoundly greater harm on LGBTQ people of color in a wide range of areas, including grossly disproportionate rates of: experiencing discrimination over the past year, poorer mental and physical health, greater economic insecurity, and attempts to die by suicide.
In addition, LGBTQ people of color are more likely than white LGBTQ people to live in states without protections against discrimination and that state anti-LGBTQ laws harm LGBTQ people.
“This research brief makes clear the tangible harms that discrimination inflicts on LGBTQ people of color, and the urgent need for public policy that reflects what the research tells us about how we can reduce those harms,” said Dr. Nathaniel Frank, the study’s author.
LGBTQ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be people of color, and Black LGBTQ Americans are disproportionately likely to live in states without protections against discrimination. For example, 42% of LGBT people are people of color compared to 32% of non-LGBT people and the majority of Black LGBT Americans live in the South (51.4%, more than twice the share of any other region), where most states lack anti-discrimination protections.
LGBTQ people of color face higher odds of discrimination than both non-LGBTQ individuals and LGBTQ white people. For example, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely to experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination (slurs or other verbal abuse) when applying for jobs than white LGBTQ individuals (32% vs. 13%). LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination when interacting with the police (24% vs. 11%).
Black LGBT Americans are more likely to experience economic insecurity than Black non-LGBT Americans. For example, the majority of Black LGBT people (56%) live in low-income households (below 200% of the federal poverty level) compared to 49% of Black non-LGBT Americans, and Black LGBT adults are also more likely to experience food insecurity than Black non-LGBT adults (37% compared to 27%).
Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of poor mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use, and psychological distress.
LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is linked to discrimination. For example, while 12% of white LGBTQ youth attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% for LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% of LGBTQ Latinx youth.
While supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people of color, anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. For example, states with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents between 2014 and 2016 were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress. Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%).
Supportive laws, family, and peers lower the risk of poor health outcomes for LGBTQ people of color.
• Suicide attempts by LGBT youth dropped by 7 percent in states that legalized same-sex marriage.22
• The corollary is that anti-LGBTQ state laws inflict tangible harm on sexual minority populations. States with “denial of service” laws that give license to discriminate against LGBT residents were linked with a 46% increase in LGBT mental distress.23
• Black LGBTQ youth who reported high levels of support from at least one person, or who had access to an LGBTQ-affirming space, reported attempting suicide at lower rates than those who lacked such support (16% vs. 24%). Those with high levels of family support had rates of past-year attempted suicide nearly one third as high as those who lacked such support (22% vs. 8%).24
• Protective measures that have been found to help reduce anxiety, depression, and suicidality among LGBTQ youth include: Establishing inclusive practices and anti-discrimination policies; peer, community, and family support, including dedicated school groups; access to affirmative mental health and social services; societal confrontation of attitudes and norms that exacerbate minority stress; and practitioner training and interventions designed to disrupt negative coping responses and build resilience.
Experiencing discrimination is associated with greater odds of harm to psychological and economic well-being, which is reflected in data on disparities for LGBTQ people of color.
• Hundreds of studies conclude that experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination increases the risks of poor mental and physical health, including depression, anxiety, suicidality, PTSD, substance use, and psychological distress.
• LGBT people of color have work-place experiences that are more negative than those of white LGBT employees, reporting that their success and work-life balance are fostered less extensively, they have less transparent evaluations, and they are respected less by supervisors.
• Among LGBTQ people surveyed, 51% of Black respondents say discrimination harms their ability to be hired, compared with 33% of white respondents; 41% say it has an impact on their ability to retain employment, compared with 31% of white respondents; 77% of Black respondents report that discrimination impacts their psychological well-being, a rate nearly 50% higher than the total LGBTQ survey population.
• While racial discrimination on its own is not associated with mental health disorders, the combination of racial discrimination with gender and/or sexual orientation discrimination is significantly associated with increased odds of a past-year mental health disorder.
LGBTQ people of color face disproportionate odds of suicidality, which is linked to discrimination.
• Around 25% of LGBTQ youth of all races have attempted suicide, but the rates are starkly higher for LGBTQ youth of color than their white counterparts: While 12% of white LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, the rate is 31% for LGBTQ Native/Indigenous youth, 21% for LGBTQ Black youth, and 18% for LGBTQ Latinx youth.
• In a 95%-non-white LGBT sample, those who report experiencing anti-LGBT victimization (such as bullying and harassment) are 2.5 times more likely to report a past-year suicide attempt compared to those who do not report victimization.
• Black LGBTQ youth who experience anti-LGBTQ discrimination face twice the rate of past year suicide attempts compared to youth who do not (27% vs. 12%). Black LGBTQ youth who experience race-based discrimination also face higher odds of attempting suicide than those who do not (20% vs. 14%).
• Black LGB adults are over 40% more likely to have made a serious suicide attempt in their lifetime than white LGB adults.
• Latinx and Native American/Pacific Islander LGBT youth are 50% more likely to attempt suicide than white LGBT youth. Latinx LGBT girls are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide than white LGBT youth.
• LGBTQ students who experience discrimination “based on multiple social identities” report more use of deliberate self-harm compared to LGBTQ students who experience racial discrimination alone or who do not experience significant discrimination of any kind.
Reflecting on the study’s findings, key executives from participating LGBTQ Advocacy groups weighed in:
“These painful figures highlight an indisputable link between discrimination, economic security, mental and physical health. People with multiple stigmatized, marginalized social and political identities, particularly Black LGBTQ+/Same Gender Loving people, bear a disproportionate amount of the weight illustrated by the data in this study. Statutory equality for LGBTQ+ people nationwide is a necessary foundation to remove the gaps in existing civil rights laws if we are to ever live up to our country’s founding promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all,” said David Johns, Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition.
The majority of Black LGBTQ people live in the South, with nearly half (44%) of all Black women couples raising children. Even today, most of these states still do not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and have overtly discriminatory laws on their books. It is no wonder the disparities are so profound and it is a testament to the strength and resilience of our people that they are doing as well as they are. For our community and for our children it’s time for federal action!” said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director, National LGBTQ Task Force.
“This important brief only further solidifies what we have known for a very long time—the combination of racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination has serious and long-lasting effects for the health and well-being of LGBTQ people of color. This research highlights why federal non-discrimination protections are overdue and vital to protecting the most some of the most underrepresented and vulnerable members of our community. Federal anti-discrimination protections are absolutely necessary in protecting and supporting all LGBTQ people, and this is especially true for LGBTQ people of color,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights.
The president of Ukraine on Wednesday said his country will continue to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
“With U.S. support, Ukraine will continue to advance respect for human rights, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards and obligations, as well as to fight racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community,” says a joint statement issued after Presidents Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy met at the White House. “Ukraine plans to strengthen accountability for violence against all persons regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political views, including through legislation.”
The letter the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus sent to Biden on Aug. 25 noted Ukraine “has made significant strides on human rights generally, but has not been consistent on equality for LGBTQ+ people.”
“In particular, we are alarmed at the introduction of several bills in Ukraine’s parliament that would harm Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community,” reads the letter. “While these bills — which include criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual activity and punishment for homosexual or transgender ‘propaganda’ in the style of a harmful law in place in Russia — have failed to pass, we expect that they will continue to be introduced and to be a threat to Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community.”
The letter notes there has been violence at Pride parades in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and in other cities.
Wednesday’s statement did not note specific LGBTQ rights bills or initiatives, but the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus letter said the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers has introduced a measure that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the country’s hate crimes law. The letter also notes Zelenskyy’s government “recently approved an action plan for the country’s updated National Human Rights Strategy, representing additional progress in the government’s plan to promote equality and human rights” that will promote gender equality and recognize hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.
“Human rights and civil liberties, including for the LGBTQI+ community, is a priority for this administration in Ukraine and around the world,” a senior administration official told the Washington Blade earlier this week.
Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley, who spearheaded the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus statement, applauded the commitment to LGBTQ rights.
“While Ukraine has made significant strides on behalf of LGBTQ individuals, challenges still remain,” said the Illinois Democrat in a statement. “I was pleased to learn that President Biden and President Zelenskyy discussed some of these concerns during today’s meeting. I remain committed to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights around the globe because LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.”
A Virginia school district will pay more than $1.3 million in legal fees to resolve the case of Gavin Grimm, former high school student who challenged its bathroom policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday announced in a press release the Gloucester County School Board in a court filing said it would not challenge Grimm’s request to pay the fees and other costs associated with his case.
Grimm was a sophomore at Gloucester County High School in 2015 when he filed a federal lawsuit against the Gloucester County School District’s policy that prohibited students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that did not correspond with their “biological gender.”
Lower courts ruled the policy violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to consider the case.
“Rather than allow a child equal access to a safe school environment, the Gloucester School Board decided to fight this child for five years in a costly legal battle that they lost,” said Grimm in the ACLU press release. “I hope that this outcome sends a strong message to other school systems, that discrimination is an expensive losing battle.”