Remembering “the gay-bashing murder heard ’round the world,” we observe the 20th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard with an updated broadcast of our coverage from October 1998.
Taiwan voters face dueling marriage referenda, Uganda official calls LGBTQ safe space a crime, Romania’s government proposes same-gender civil unions, Pristina Pride march gets Kosovo PM’s support, Tokyo bans anti-LGBTQ hate ahead of 2020 Olympics, U.K. top court turns frosty on pro-equality cake ruling, and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of October 15, 2018
The Book of Matthew
Program #1,593 distributed 10/15/18
Produced and Co-Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): Taiwan voters will choose between three anti-LGBTQ and one pro-LGBTQ referenda on November 24h Romania’s government proposes a civil unions bill for same-gender couples following the rejection of a referendum that would have enshrined hetero marriage exclusivity in its Constitution Uganda’s so-called Ethics Minister warns that activists’ plan to open a “safe space” LGBTQ Center in Kampala would be an illegal act Kosovo queers and allies celebrate a second annual peaceful Pride march in the Balkan nation’s capital city, Pristina Tokyo’s Metropolitan Assembly clamps down on anti-queer hate speech ahead of hosting the 2020 Summer Olympic Games the U.K. Supreme Court rules that it was legal for a Belfast baker to reject a gay man’s order of a cake with a pro-gay message on it because it would have forced the baker to express a political statement with which he disagreed [with comments by Supreme Court President Lady Hale, plaintiff Gareth Lee, baker Daniel McArthur, and human rights activist Peter Tatchell] and “Don’t Postpone Joy today – take a stroll the Edie Windsor Way!” (written by GREG GORDON, produced with BRIAN DESHAZOR, reported this week by JOHN DYER V and BRIAN DESHAZOR).
Feature: It was not the first time a gay, lesbian, bi, or transperson had fallen victim to brutally-fatal homophobia, and it certainly was not the last. But when Matthew Shepard died on October 12, 1998, his murder became an international emblem of senseless homophobic hatred. As the world observes the 20th anniversary of the tragedy and its aftermath, we re-open our extended report from October 19, 1998 – a collection of sounds of outrage and response during the week immediately following the shocking event:
At dozens of marches, memorial services and candlelight vigils, gays and lesbians across the U.S. have been responding to the brutal gay-bashing death of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard with shock, grief and anger.
- VERNA AVERY BROWN [Pacifica Network News] details the crime and explores some of the issues it raises with Jim Osborne, President of the University of Wyoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association — who disputes claims by one of the suspect’s father that his son’s actions were provoked by Shepard’s coming on to him
- Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer and state legislator Michael Massey discuss the merits of legislation to enhance the penalties for hate crime convictions
- Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center Executive Director Lorri Jean charges right-wing Christian groups behind the recent spate of “change” ads with fomenting violence, and laments the reluctance of public officials to support anti-bias education in the high schools
- Tony Varona, legal counsel for the queer advocacy group Human Rights Campaign describes the pervasiveness and impact of anti-queer violence
- openly-gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, trailblazing comedian Ellen DeGeneres and Shepard`s best friend Walter Bouden are among the speakers at a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. October 14th
- participants at an October 12th vigil in West Hollywood, California describe anti-gay actions they’ve experienced, how the threat of violence has affected their public conduct, and blame homophobia-spouting lawmakers for indirectly endorsing anti-gay violence
- JOHN QUINLAN reports from an October 13th march, rally and candlelight vigil in rainy Madison, Wisconsin, where the importance of community and visibility are reaffirmed in speech and song
- religious extremists travel from Kansas and Texas on October 16th to Matthew`s hometown of Casper, Wyoming to damn him as a sodomite in a placard-waving demonstration across the street from his funeral as onlookers condemn them
- Matthew’s father Dennis Shepard expresses the family’s appreciation for the overwhelming support they’ve received from around the world
- one of Matthew’s cousins bids him a poignantly-poetic farewell during the funeral
- concluding thoughts — given the prevalence of homophobic violence — about the sudden mainstream media attention to this one albeit especially horrifying example (with transition music into the closing commentary from When Will The Ignorance End by BLACKBERRI and segment intro/transition music into the Epilog from the instrumental intro to Fight the Good Fight by TRIUMPH)
Satisfying your weekly minimum requirement of queer news and culture for more than 30 years!
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBT communities for the week ending October 13th, 2018 Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor, reported this week by John Dyer V and Brian DeShazor
Taiwan’s Constitutional Court declared in May last year that civil marriage should be open to same-gender couples. The Justices gave the Legislative Yuan [u-AHN] up to two years to change relevant laws. If they fail to do so, the ruling said, marriage equality would automatically become the law of the land.
Lawmakers have resisted taking action as strident opposition grows from the conservative Christian umbrella group calling itself the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance. They gathered more than enough signatures on petitions to qualify three separate referenda earlier this month, one to confirm that civil marriage is exclusively heterosexual, another to offer same-gender couples less-than-equal civil unions instead of marriage, and a third asking if LGBTQ subject matter should be taught in public schools – they are, of course, opposed.
Led by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, equality activists appear to have succeeded in qualifying a competing referendum to open civil marriage to same-gender couples. So Taiwan voters will have to decide which of the four referenda to approve.
They’ll go to the polls on November 24th, when Taiwanese citizens were already scheduled to vote for candidates in regional elections.
A referendum cannot overturn a Constitutional Court ruling, but according to media reports, the government is required to propose laws that match referenda outcomes. So the government would need to propose a marriage equality law, or some kind of civil unions law, depending on the referenda results. There could be yet another lawsuit if a civil unions law is ultimately enacted instead of the Court-ordered marriage equality.
In a related story, press reports this week suggested that Romania’s government would be introducing legislation to create civil unions for same-gender couples. It follows the stunning rejection last week of a referendum there, also pushed by conservative Christian forces, to enshrine hetero-only marriage in the socially conservative country’s Constitution. The proposal required the participation of at least 30 percent of eligible voters to take effect, but – perhaps heeding the call by equality advocates to stay home – just 20 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.
Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, said this week that Rainbow Riots, an activist group planning to establish a “safe space” center for LGBTQ people in Kampala, would be an illegal act. “They will have to take it somewhere else,” Lokodo said, adding that, “Homosexuality is not allowed and completely unacceptable in Uganda.” Same-gender sex in the East African nation is a criminal act under colonial-era laws, punishable by up to life in prison.
After months of planning and fundraising, organizers at Rainbow Riots say they’ll continue working on their project. It would be the first queer center in the region. Trans activist Alicia Houston told Gay Star News that, “[Lokodo’s] condemnation cannot stop us. This center is not a criminal act.”
Entrenched Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni claimed at a rally earlier this year that “outsiders” were trying to import oral sex into his country. “The mouth is for eating,” he said, “not for sex.”
Attempts to hold a simple Pride event in Kampala have usually been banned in advance by government authorities, or shut down by security police, so Rainbow Riots no doubt has a difficult road ahead.
A second annual LGBTQ Pride march filled the streets of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, on October 10th. A far right political party had called for the “parade of shame” to be banned, but it went ahead without incident under the slogan of “In the name of freedom.” Kosovo’s first Pride march was successfully held last year.
Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj posted his support for this year’s event on Facebook, writing that “Sexual orientation is up to the individual and should be respected”, and that “LGBT and Pride Week will always have institutional support, to be free and secure to express their orientation.” A number of government officials and members of foreign embassies joined the Mayor of Pristina [PRISS-tee-nuh] and several hundred LGBTQ activists and allies in the march, which was guarded by a large number of police officers and security forces.
Homosexuality is a difficult subject in the socially conservative mostly Muslim Balkan nation. As part of its effort to join the European Union, Kosovo has a law protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination – but it’s not always enforced. And same-gender couples have no legal rights.
Tokyo wants to put its best foot forward ahead of hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. The city’s Metropolitan Assembly took one of those steps this week by approving an LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinance that specifically targets hate speech. Officials will monitor public spaces, like city parks, to shut down hate rhetoric by anti-queer groups. It also commits Tokyo officials to conducting LGBTQ rights education programs. The ordinance reportedly includes steps to improve access by same-gender couples to mutual hospital visitation. The city will also host an Olympics Pride House during the 2020 Games and Paralympics.
While the conservative federal government lags behind growing public support for basic anti-discrimination protections and legal recognition for same-gender couples, eight cities and city wards have passed local measures that allow queer couples to register their unions. Those registrations allow them hospital visitation and a few other rights that heterosexual couples in Japan take for granted.
[:07 sound/cold: Lady Hale:]
“This Court has held that nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.”
That’s Lady Hale, the President of the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, announcing the much-anticipated ruling in the U.K.’s very own “gay cake” case. This one pitted queer activist Gareth Lee against Belfast’s Ashers Bakery.
It started four years ago when Lee asked the bakery to make a cake that depicted Sesame Street’s rumored gay couple Bert and Ernie with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage.” Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom without marriage equality. Lee told reporters after the ruling was announced that he was made to feel like a second class citizen when Daniel McArthur, who owns the bakery with his wife Amy, refused to make the cake for him on “religious grounds.”
[:06 sound/Gareth Lee:] “I’m concerned not just for the implications for myself or other gay people but for every single one of us.”
The Court was careful to distinguish the difference between this case, however, and the high-profile Masterpiece Cake Shop case in the United States. Ashers Bakery “would have refused to supply this particular cake to anyone, whatever their personal characteristics,” so “there was no discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.”
Cake maker McArthur celebrated the ruling, which overturned lower court decisions:
[:14 sound/Daniel McArthur:] “The judges have given a clear signal today. In fact it couldn’t be clearer. Family businesses like ours are free to focus on giving all their customers the best service they can without being forced to promote other people’s campaigns.”
While some LGBTQ activists condemned the ruling, Australian born but British-based human rights activist Peter Tatchell tended to agree with McArthur during an interview with his native country’s PM program:
[:21 sound/Peter Tatchell:] “Let’s put things in reverse. I wouldn’t feel happy with a gay baker being forced by law to decorate a cake with a message against gay marriage. This is just a judgment that people should not be compelled against their wishes to promote messages and ideas with which they disagree.”
In an interesting twist, a photography company rejected the business of the Christian Institute, the notoriously anti-queer group that bankrolled the Ashers Bakery appeal. The company had accepted a deposit from the Institute to provide photography services outside the Court following the announcement of the ruling. After learning the details of the case, however, the company refused service and refunded the deposit. Tony Xu of the online agency through which the Institute booked the photographer told Pink News that the high court affirmed that companies could do that “if they feel that it goes against their morals … We appreciate that this looks like tit for tat, and it is.”
And finally, the diminutive plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act – a prelude to the high court’s subsequent ruling that opened civil marriage to same-gender couples – has been honored in her home town of Philadelphia. If you don’t know who she was, check out her story online.
“Edie Windsor Way,” the new street sign for the block between Walnut and Locust streets – in what’s known as the city’s “gayborhood” – was unveiled on October 7th. The irrepressible Windsor died in September 2017 at the age of 88 after virtually becoming the “poster person” for marriage equality in the U.S.
Reacting to her passing last year, former President Barack Obama said that “Few were as small in stature as Edie Windsor – and few made as big a difference to America.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a proclamation earlier this year declaring June 20th, Windsor’s birthday, as Edie Windsor Day.
Quoting one of the slogans in the campaign for renaming the street sign, a Facebook posting celebrated the unveiling with “Don’t Postpone Joy today – take a stroll The Edie Windsor Way.”