The Upper House of the States General of the Netherlands, the supreme bicameral legislature of the kingdom, on Wednesday voted to amend Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution, expanding it to prohibit discrimination against someone because of a disability or sexual orientation.
In a 56–15 vote in the Dutch Senate, the proposal for amendment passed and is now headed to King Willem-Alexander for his royal assent and the Dutch government. Once approved it will be published in the Staatscourant, the official government publication that formally announces new laws in the kingdom.
LGBTQ advocacy groups and activists celebrated the vote.
Enshrining the rights of LGBTI people in the constitution is a “historic victory for the rainbow community,” said advocacy group COC Nederland. The Dutch LGBTQ rights group was founded in 1946 and is considered the oldest existing LGBTQ organization in the world.
Dutch media outlet NL Times noted that Article 1 states that everyone in the Netherlands “shall be treated equally in equal circumstances.” The following sentence goes on to explicitly mention several examples, including “religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex.” That list will now be expanded.
The procedure for such an adjustment takes years because it has to be voted on several times. With the Senate’s vote, that process has now been completed.
The change was the result of an initiative from coalition party D66 and left-wing opposition parties PvdA and GroenLinks that has developed over the course of 12 years. “You can rightly call this day historic!” said D66 MP Alexander Hammelburg, who helped defend the law in the Senate.
“A disability, or who you fall in love with, should never be a reason to be excluded,” said PvdA MP Habtamu de Hoop.
NL Times also reported that since 2004, COC Nederlands has advocated anchoring the rights of gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Constitution. This has already happened in countries such as Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Mexico and South Africa.
An association representing people with physical and mental disabilities, or chronic illnesses, also called it a “historic” day.
The Nassau County Republican Committee convened a press conference in New York on Wednesday to demand the immediate resignation of disgraced gay freshman GOP Rep. George Santos.
“He has no place in the Nassau County Republican Committee nor in elected office,” said Joseph Cairo, chair of the county’s GOP political committee. “We do not consider him one of our congresspeople.”
“I join with you and my colleagues in saying Santos does not have the ability to serve in the House and should resign,” said U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), addressing the audience virtually from Washington.
Cairo and other speakers noted the multiple investigations of Santos reportedly underway by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Santos’ office did not return requests for comment regarding Wednesday’s press conference. Shortly after the event, however, he told ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that he would not resign.
Santos then published a brief statement on Twitter: “I was elected to serve the people of #NY03 not the party and politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living. I will NOT resign!”
About 150 protesters gathered around Santos’ in-district office on Sunday to demand his resignation, including Robert Zimmerman, his Democratic challenger in the 2022 midterm elections.
On Monday, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, the Campaign Legal Center, filed a complaint against Santos and his campaign with the Federal Election Commission, while Democratic U.S. Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman of New York filed a complaint with the House Committee on Ethics Tuesday.
When House Republicans passed a rules package over the weekend that severely weakens the ability of the House Ethics Committee to investigate members of Congress, Santos called the move “fantastic.”
Several speakers on Wednesday admonished Santos for lying about his grandparents having survived the Holocaust, noting how hurtful that was for so many of his constituents who have personal and familial ties to the genocide.
Others lamented the ceaseless news coverage that has revealed more and more information about lies and misrepresentations Santos has made.
Hempstead, N.Y., Town Supervisor Don Clavin said, “You see a unified voice here. [Santos has] unified the county in their opposition to him. He’s a national joke, he’s an international joke, but this joke has got to go. Not tomorrow, not next week, today.”
“Our vetting process has to go much deeper,” Cairo said, adding that he was personally deceived by Santos, who claimed to have been a volleyball star at Baruch College — an institution where, the New York Times revealed several weeks ago, Santos was never enrolled.
Cairo said he has not spoken about Santos with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, “but all of our elected officials have spoken today and we’re calling for his resignation and we’ll pass that along to the Speaker.”
Charles Moran, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, America’s largest LGBTQ conservative group, shared a statement with the Washington Blade:
“We are closely following the evolving story on George Santos and are listening to our local Log Cabin membership, the GOP leadership in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, and ultimately, the voters themselves.
“It has been widely reported that House GOP leadership will also be holding their own internal conversations about George’s continuing responsibilities in Congress, and we look forward to hearing their response.”
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.”
D.C. police are seeking help from the public in identifying a suspect or suspects responsible for the stabbing death of a transgender woman whose body was found along the street on the 2000 block of Gallaudet Street, N.E. around 3 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7.
A D.C. police incident report says Jasmine “Star” Mack, 36, was found lying in the street unconscious in front of 2005 Gallaudet St., N.E. by a citizen who flagged down a nearby police officer for help.
The officer “located the decedent in an unconscious and unresponsive state with an apparent stab wound to their right leg,” the police report says. The report says the officer called for an ambulance and someone with the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, in consultation with a physician, pronounced Mack deceased at the scene at 3:10 a.m.
It says her remains were taken to the office of the city’s Chief Medical Examiner for an autopsy to determine the official cause and manner of death.
Andrew McArdle, a spokesperson for the medical examiner’s office, told the Washington Blade on Monday that the cause of death was a “stab wound of the right lower extremity” and the death has been classified as a homicide. McArdle said he didn’t have access to specific findings of an autopsy, but he said the medical examiner’s office has found that a severe stab wound to a person’s leg can lead to fatal bleeding.
A spokesperson said police have no further details to release at this time other than the incident was not listed as a suspected hate crime. The spokesperson, Alaina Gertz, told the Blade the case is under active investigation by the homicide unit and a decision on whether to classify the murder as a hate crime could change if new information is obtained.
Police are urging anyone with information about the incident to contact police at 202-727-9099. Anonymous information may also be submitted to the police TEXT TIP LINE by sending a text message to 50411, police said in a statement announcing the Mack homicide.
“The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone that provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for each homicide committed in the District of Columbia,” the statement says.
Longtime D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd said she knew Mack, who Budd said preferred to go by the name Star. Budd said Mack was a client at the D.C. community services and sex worker advocacy group HIPS, where Budd works.
The narrow, one-block-long 2000 block of Gallaudet Street, N.E., where Mack’s body was found, is in a mixed warehouse and residential area that is two blocks from the section of Okie Street, N.E. where the popular nightclubs Ivy City Smoke House and City Winery are located. Both clubs have hosted LGBTQ events.
City Winery became the subject of recent news media stories when it announced plans to move to another location because of what it says have been serious crime problems in the Okie Street area impacting its customers. Ivy City Smokehouse responded by saying it disputes claims that the street where the two clubs are located has been riddled with crime.
It couldn’t immediately be determined why Mack was at the location on Gallaudet Street at the time she was attacked and fatally stabbed. The D.C. police statement announcing her murder says she had no fixed address at the time of her death. But the police incident report says her last known address was 828 Evarts St., N.E., which is located about a mile north of Gallaudet Street where she was found deceased.
The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus announced Monday that gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) will serve as the new chair for the 118th Congress, replacing outgoing chair Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will continue to serve as a co-chair.
The chair position “rotates every Congress between the Caucus’ openly LGBTQI+ members based on seniority,” according to a press release from the Caucus announcing Pocan’s appointment.
“We are witnessing a dangerous increase in anti-LGBTQI+ hate, legislation, and violence that we must forcibly push back against and defeat,” said Pocan in a statement.
The Equality Caucus will do everything in our power to defeat anti-LGBTQI+ bills and amendments proposed by extremist anti-LGBTQI+ politicians this Congress, especially those targeting our transgender and nonbinary community members.”
The Equality Caucus was founded in 2008 by then-Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), now the state’s junior senator, and former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). As of the 117th Congress, there were 175 members – a 92 percent increase in membership from 2009.
The group is historically co-chaired by openly LGBTQ members of the House, with membership open to LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ members from either party.
In the last Congress, the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force was chaired by Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Marie Newman (Ill.), and Jennifer Wexton (Va.).
“With the support of our 175 members, we were able to celebrate many accomplishments in our pursuit towards achieving full equality for LGBTQI+ people, including House passage of the Equality Act and the Global Respect Act, increased funding for LGBTQI+ priorities at home and abroad, and, most recently, the President signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law,” said Cicilline in a statement.
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.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric on Wednesday launched his government’s first LGBTQ and intersex rights campaign that seeks to reduce discrimination against the country’s queer community.
According to the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), a Chilean LGBTQ and intersex rights organization, hate crimes against the community have increased this year by 66 percent. Five people have also been murdered because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression.
Boric during his campaign against José Antonio Kast, a far-right former congressman, pledged to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights and policies during his administration. The #LivingWithPride campaign is part of these efforts.
Boric’s first gesture towards the queer community was to appoint Marco Antonio Avila, a gay man, as his government’s education minister and Alexandra Benado Vergara, a lesbian woman, as Chile’s next sports minister. Ávila and Benado arrived at La Moneda, the Chilean presidential palace, with Boric on March 11 when he took office.
“President Gabriel Boric Font’s government has implemented a series of measures that seek to advance in safeguarding the rights of LGBTQ+ people,” Women and Gender Equity Undersecretary Luz Vidal Huiriqueo told the Washington Blade in an exclusive interview after the government launched the #LivingWithPride (#VivirConOrgullo in Spanish) campaign.
Vidal said “one of the relevant lines of work that the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity has developed since we took office … seeks to highlight the structural difficulties experienced by people of the LGBTIQA+ community, move towards state representation, since there is currently no institutionality that welcomes this community.”
“This is why we have taken the mandate to welcome this population, within the legal possibilities that govern the ministry,” Vidal emphasized to the Blade.
Vidal said “the gender mainstreaming network that has been reactivated with our government has opened a door to the organizations of the LGBTIQA+ community in all portfolios.”
“The advisors in charge of gender mainstreaming do not understand gender in a binary way, they have the conviction that we must also develop public policies for the LGBTIQA+ community.” she told the Blade.
Boric directed the Women and Gender Equity Ministry and his administration’s sociocultural coordinator to create and lead an “LGBTIQA+ Roundtable,” which includes organizations, activists and members of the LGBTQ Congressional Caucus to work to implement their demands because Chile thus far does not have a government institution that specifically addresses queer rights.
“The roundtable’s objective is to generate and prioritize, together with the LGBTIQA+ community, guidelines for the development of public policies on the matter, from an intersectoral perspective,” said Vidal. “More than 35 civil society organizations from all over the country, representatives of the Legislative Branch and different (Executive Branch) portfolios have participated.”
Vidal stressed “this space of constant linkage with social organizations has allowed us to know the reality that social organizations of the LGBTIQA+ community live when linking with State agencies.” She also noted “the experience has been successful, being a valuable space that will allow us to build a work path for the design of gender equality public policies relevant to the LGBTIQA+ community, to improve their lives and eradicate gender-based violence and hate crimes against the community.”
The roundtable has been meeting once a month since May. It’s last 2022 meeting will take place this month, and it will resume its work next year.
Vidal told the Blade that transgender women can now use her ministry’s public policies.
“We consider trans women as part of the diversity of women, which implies that they can access the different benefits of the National Service for Women and Gender Equity (SernamEG), which is the executing body of the ministry’s programs,” she said.
Another initiative Vidal highlighted is the incorporation of a “social name” section in the public employment pages for those who have not yet legally changed their name. This option allows people to identify themselves as trans or nonbinary.
The Education Ministry “has developed a participatory process for the design of the Bill on National Policy on Education on Affectivity and Comprehensive Sexuality. It has also made it possible for students, mothers, fathers, parents, guardians and education workers to participate in what Vidal described as “non-sexist” education workshops.
It hit me one morning this fall as I woke up: I’ve turned 70.
As I’ve been celebrating this milestone, I’ve marveled at the changes that have occurred for our LGBTQ community during my lifetime.
Marriage equality, Pete Buttigieg (or any LGBTQ person) running for president and/or the fab queer rom-com “Bros” would have been unimaginable when I began coming out 50 years ago.
Then, just three years after the Stonewall uprising, I and many other LGBTQ folk felt far more shame than pride about our queerness.
Most of us in that era wouldn’t have dreamed that, decades later, not only LGBTQ teens, but queer people our age would have marched, out and proud, in Pride parades. We’d never have thought that in the 21st century any of us would ever proudly say, shout or chant “we’re queer!”
Nothing is more emblematic to me of the progress made in LGBTQ rights from Stonewall to today than the evolution of the word “queer” from a hateful epithet to an expression of pride.
Today, the term “queer” can be found everywhere from news outlets (including NPR, the Blade, the New York Times and the Washington Post) to museum exhibits such as “Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer” at the Schwules Museum Berlin through the end of January and “Queer Creativity Through the Ages: Artwork from the Center on Colfax Open Art Studio” at the Denver Art Museum through Dec. 31.
I can’t think of any of my under 60 friends, hetero or LGBTQ who don’t use the word “queer.” Sometimes they’re proudly writing it on Pride parade signs. Often, they use it as a neutral adjective. The way you’d say “they’re from Boston” or “he’s about six-feet tall.”
Many of my over-60 pals are beginning to use the word “queer.” If they’re not comfortable using it about themselves, they’re increasingly comfortable with others using it. My 70-something hetero cousins, who are LGBTQ allies, no longer feel I’m putting myself down when I say I’m queer.
Given that “queer” is so often used as an affirmation of identity or neutral descriptor, I was surprised when New York Times columnist Pamela Paul recently lamented the popularity of the “q-word.”
I’m an avid reader of Paul’s column. Paul, a former editor of the New York Times Book Review, is, like many writers, obsessed about language. She’s an astute observer of the culture and of how we use words.
Yet, I can’t help but wonder what Paul was thinking. “Language is always changing – but it shouldn’t become inflexible,” she wrote, “especially when new terminologies, in the name of inclusion, sometimes wind up making others feel excluded.”
Paul, who is hetero, worried that the widespread use of “queer” excludes LGBTQ people who don’t identify as queer. She was upset that so many Gen-Zers identify as queer, and annoyed that “gays and lesbians can feel crowded out” under the LGBTQ umbrella.
Paul chided new Human Rights Campaign president Kelley Robinson for using the word “queer,” and not saying the words “gay,” “lesbian” or “bisexual” in a video where she introduced herself.
People at HRC do say “gay,” “lesbian” “bisexual” “transgender” and “nonbinary,” Robinson wrote in response to Paul’s column in a letter to the Times.
“I identify as a Black queer woman,” Robinson wrote, “and when I say ‘queer,’ it’s to be as inclusive as possible, to re-center those at the margins, to embrace our differences and to embrace our power, too.”
Robinson nailed what attracts so many of us to the word “queer.”
Of course, many LGBTQ boomers and Gen-Xers vividly recall when “queer” was a homophobic slur.
A hetero friend remembers when she was seven riding on a school bus. “I was mad at a kid,” she told me, “I wanted to call him something mean. So I said he was ‘queer.’”
“My sister told me not to say that again,” my pal added, “She said it was too horrible to tell me what it meant.”
But in recent decades (starting with AIDS activists), we’ve reclaimed the word “queer.” We’ve taken away its sting: transformed it from a hate-mongering, othering slur to a source of power. It’s hard to think of a more inclusive word than queer. It includes and values all LGBTQ folk. In the wake of the Colorado Springs LGBTQ club shooting, it’s more important than ever to be proudly queer.
Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.
The Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Poland (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny, NSA) issued a ruling on Nov. 3 that same-sex marriages of Polish citizens legally married in other countries were not expressly forbidden under the country’s constitution.
Article 18 of the constitution states: “marriage as a union of a man and a woman, family, motherhood and parenthood are under the protection and care of the republic of Poland.”
“Article 18 of the constitution cannot in itself constitute an obstacle to transcribing a foreign marriage certificate if the institution of marriage as a union of persons of the same sex was provided for in the domestic [legal] order,” the court ruled.
“The provision of the constitution in question does not prohibit the statutory regulation of same-sex unions,” said the court, adding that it was simply the case that “at present the Polish legislature has not decided to introduce such solutions” into Polish law.
The suit had been brought by Jakub Kwieciński and Dawid Mycek, a gay couple who are popular vloggers and social media celebrities who had legally married in Portugal. The case was litigated in the lower courts after the governor of the Polish province of Mazovia refused to acknowledge that their nuptials were legal.
Ordo Iuris, a Polish ultraconservative legal group that has campaigned against what it labels “LGBT ideology,” tweeted that the decision was “fake news.”
LGBTQ rights have become a hotly contested issue in Poland in recent years that has been met by a conservative backlash in this heavily Catholic nation.
The majority of Polish people support LGBTQ rights surrounding marriage and family, according to research by Miłość Nie Wyklucza (Love Does Not Exclude.)
The survey found 56 percent of respondents believe same-sex marriage should be legal to ensure the safety of their children. Even more, 65 percent, said they felt “a biological parent raising a child with a same-sex partner” fits the definition of family. And 58 percent of people said a same-sex couple is a family even without children.
According to Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland is one of only six EU member states where same-sex couples cannot marry or register a civil partnership.
The survey reveals a stark difference between the Polish government and public opinion on LGBTQ rights.
As a result of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and the continued limits on LGBTQ rights in Poland, the country has for the last three years been ranked as the worst in the EU for LGBTQ people by ILGA-Europe, a Brussels-based NGO.
Poland has also drawn condemnations from the EU for its discriminatory laws surrounding LGBTQ people.
In September, the European Commission threatened to withhold pandemic relief funds, totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million,) in Polish jurisdictions that passed measures forming “LGBTQ Free Zones.”
Some regions have since repealed the anti-LGBTQ resolution.
In 2020, Poland narrowly re-elected President Andrzej Duda, who ran a campaign that regularly attacked the LGBTQ community, according to Pink News.
Polish LGBTQ advocates are also pushing back against a proposed law that would ban the so-called “promotion” of LGBTQ lifestyles. It would also make Pride parades illegal.
In 2017, Danica Roem made history as the nation’s first out transgender representative elected to a state legislature and ran alongside a group of 20 other trans candidates. Now, five years later, the number of trans and nonbinary people running for office has nearly quadrupled to 72, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Leigh Finke is among this historic group and if elected, she will become Minnesota’s first out trans person in the state legislature. She is running to represent District 66A in Minnesota, which encompasses part of Minneapolis. Finke is a journalist, and filmmaker who focuses largely on civil rights and LGBTQ issues.
Finke said her desire to run for office built up steadily as she watched politicians around the country attack LGBTQ people through legislative proposals and harassment campaigns online. One of things that pushed her decision was the 2021 proposed bill that would ban trans girls in youth sports in her state.
“I realized that we’re just one election away from having the whole legislature flip and this legislation becoming law,” Finke said in an interview with the Washington Blade. “That really scared me and made me nervous, not just for myself but for the community.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 191 anti-LGBTQ bills have been proposed in state legislatures around the country in 2022. 168 of these bills specifically target trans people.
Victory Fund spokesperson Albert Fujii said in an email that the political attacks have fueled a “record-breaking Rainbow Wave” for the midterms.
“These candidates showed tremendous grit in the face of unrelenting bigotry on the campaign trail from transphobic bigots like Ron DeSantis,” Fujii said. “While we are confident they will perform well on Tuesday, their impact is already visible — we are seeing a new wave of trans and nonbinary candidates considering a run for office themselves. Voters’ voices are loud and clear: enough is enough.”
Alicia Kozlowski, a two-spirit and nonbinary candidate for Minnesota state house district 8B, said they are standing on the backs of other history-making figures like Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, and U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).
“When you elect queer folks and people of color to office, you change entire conversations, which leads to different results,” Kozlowski said in an email. “As a state representative, I won’t leave my powerful identities at any door to make others comfortable.”
Jessica Katzenmeyer, a candidate for the Wisconsin state Senate, said seeing trans people win elections creates a snowball effect, encouraging others to run. Roem’s 2017 victory inspired her own run for office.
“When you see other trans folks who are successful, it kind of makes you go ‘oh, maybe I can do this too’ and it just brings more encouragement to the rest of the community,” she said. “Even if I don’t win my race, I hope people see me and realize that they can do this too.”
Katzenmeyer, a longtime Wisconsin resident, Teamsters leader and LGBTQ activist ran in 2020 for the State Assembly but fell just short of winning. This time, she is running for state senate with the chance of becoming Wisconsin’s first out trans legislator and the nation’s second out trans person elected to a state senate.
“It’s been hard to really consider it because I’ve been so busy,” Katzenmeyer said of her historic run. “But to be the first trans person in the legislature would mean a lot to me and a lot to the community, not just in my district but also statewide. So, there’s a lot of responsibility with that.”
Another candidate who has been driven by the increase in anti-LGBTQ legislation is Emily Dievendorf, who is running to represent Michigan’s 77th House District. As attacks have ramped up from Republican politicians, Dievendorf said she has become increasingly frustrated at how members of her own party are responding.
“In Michigan, trans and nonbinary people are the butt of the joke for Republicans. We are also the community that is taking the blame for supposed threats to children and the public,” Dievendorf said in an interview. “And we have the other party whose main strategy seems to be silence.”
If elected, Dievendorf would become the state’s first nonbinary state legislator and said she wants to be a voice to call out bigotry in both parties.
“We’re seeing that Democrats in general want to stick to mild conversation to make sure that no one feels pushed out but what that actually does is condone extreme hate towards marginalized folks, making it easier to pass legislation that furthers the disposal of human lives,” she said. “So I’m excited — and a little scared — to be able to stand on the house floor and make my colleagues across the aisle see me be my authentic self.”
As an example of trans representation working to stop discriminatory legislation, Finke pointed to an anti-trans bill in Utah which was vetoed by the governor after he met with trans people and their families.
“I don’t think [representation] is enough to change the trajectory of the country right now but it means something to have a voice in those rooms and make them at least have to look you in the eye when they say they’re taking away your healthcare or punishing your kids because they’re trans,” Finke said.
The “Rainbow Wave” in the 2022 midterms will only be the beginning as communities push to change the demographic makeup of their leaders, Kozlowski said. If elected, they said they plan to fight for the civil rights of every community.
“Everything we do is interconnected — LGBTQ rights, climate justice, reproductive freedom, economic justice, racial justice — our liberation and sovereignty on all these issues are braided together,” they said. “This is more than one person stepping up to run for office, more than one election cycle, it’s about a movement about having a government that has our backs, it’s a movement for our shared future that’s at stake.”