Sistagirls to Sydney!

The Tiwi Islands’ Sistagirls are doing it for themselves! Find out what happened when these Aboriginal transwomen participated in their first Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras!

Pink tourism money still green in repressive Malaysia, Taiwan lawmakers test less-than-marriage equality proposal, U.S. military trans ban block bushwhacked, queer advances and setbacks in several U.S. states, Mr. Rogers’ neigh-BI-hood, and more international LGBTQ news!

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of March 11, 2019

Sistagirls to Sydney!

Program #1,615 distributed 03/11/19

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Malaysian tourism takes a hit when its Tourism Minister tells a German broadcaster that there are no LGBTQ people in his country vocal homophobic forces demand a less-than-equal marriage bill for same-gender couples in Taiwan a U.S. federal district court judge in Maryland lifts one of two remaining obstacles to the implementation of Donald Trump’s proposed ban on military service by qualified transgender enlistees  Iowa’s Supreme Court rules that certifiably necessary gender reassignment surgery is covered by the state’s Medicaid program  Missouri’s Supreme Court approves of a male trans-teen’s lawsuit against his school district for denying him access to the boy’s bathrooms and locker rooms, and also green-lights lawsuits by LGBTQ people charging sex discrimination even though the state has no specific laws banning bias based on sexual orientation  Tennessee’s Attorney General apparently makes his the first Southern state to specifically include transgender people in its hate crime laws  Colorado is on the verge of becoming the 16th U.S. state to ban so-called “conversion therapy” for minors, but a similar bill dies in the Utah legislature bills to ban sexual orientation-based bias fail – again – in the North Dakota and Nebraska state legislatures Fairbanks, Alaska’s mayor vetoes a City Council-passed human rights ordinance for LGBTQ people, saying he wants a public vote on the issue social media is abuzz with the revelation that venerable children’s TV show host Mr. (Fred) Rogers was bisexual and after 48 years of wedded bliss, the groundbreaking 1971 marriage of a Minnesota gay couple is finally validated by the U.S. Social Security Administration (written by GREG GORDON, produced with BRIAN DESHAZOR, and reported this week by SARAH SWEENEY & CAROLE MEYERS).

Feature: Every year the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras brings people from far and near to celebrate queer pride with festivals, parties and the famous grand parade. The events go on from February to early March. For many it’s the experience of a lifetime. Two years ago a group of transgender women from the unique Aboriginal culture of the Tiwi Islands shared that experience for the first time. These Sistagirls travelled 2,000 miles from the “Top End” of Australia’s Northern Territory, where they’ve been making impressive progress achieving acceptance. This Way Out’s BARRY McKAY met some of the Sistagirls and spoke with them about their lives, their community-centered work back home, and how they got their name.

NewsWrap

A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending March 9, 2019
Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor,
reported this week by Sarah Sweeney and Carole Meyers

In response to a question at a travel conference in Berlin this week about how safe it is for Jews and LGBTQ people in his country, Tourism Minister Datuk Mohamaddin bin Ketapi claimed that there are no LGBTQ people in Malaysia. He told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that, “I don’t think we have anything like that in our country.” The government came under fire earlier this year when it tried to ban Israeli athletes from an international swim meet.

The Tourism Ministry issued a statement less than two days later claiming to clarify Mohamaddin’s pronouncement by saying that there are no plans for a Malaysia tourism campaign in the LGBTQ community. “As a main tourism destination in Asia,” the statement added, “Malaysia has never and will not do anything to stop our guests based on their sexual orientation, religion, and cultural belief.”

That’s little comfort to Malaysia’s homegrown queer citizens, who have been under relentless attack by a number of high-ranking government officials, including the Prime Minister, for the past few years. Police raids on popular queer venues, and verbal and physical assaults by thugs against people perceived to be LGBTQ, are common. Several government jurisdictions have established so-called “change” clinics for transgender people. Queer rights activist Numan Afifi told The Advocate that, “Erasure of our existence will not only just trivialize our struggle, but also perpetuate the injustices towards us.”

Anthony Chong, who advocates for Malaysia’s queer deaf community, told the news outlet that, “Minority communities – not only LGBTQ people but also people with disabilities and indigenous people – are ashamed at how our ministers run our government.”

The country’s Criminal Code, a “gift” from British colonizers to Malaysia’s mostly Muslim 32 million people, punishes consenting adults convicted of engaging in same-gender sex with up to 20 years in prison.

Lawmakers in Taiwan are being battered by opposing forces as they deliberate some form of legal recognition for the island’s same-gender couples. The Constitutional Court ruled in May 2017 that denying civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples was unconstitutional. The judges gave the Legislative Yuan two years to remedy the situation. If legislators fail to pass a bill before the May 24th deadline this year, the Court said that marriage equality would automatically take effect.

Groups on the right, led by the anti-queer Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance, are demanding that a separate category outside of marriage be created, which would reflect the majority vote on the issue in ballot measures the group sponsored last November. Local media reported this week that 20 lawmakers from the ruling party and nine minority party members have signed on to a draft bill that would restrict the use of words such as “marriage” and “spouse” to heterosexual couples, and raise the age of consent for lesbian and gay couples to 20.

According to Taiwan News, Canadian diplomat Michael McCulloch nevertheless called the island’s progress on introducing a marriage bill “a win for the people of the world.”

However, the government is trying to have it both ways. The draft bill submitted by Taiwan’s cabinet on February 21st, called The Enforcement Act of Judicial Yuan Interpretation Number 748, doesn’t alter the Civil Code to include same-gender couples, but creates a separate category for them.

Activists have suggested that the exhausting fight over anti-queer ballot measures last November has tempered community enthusiasm for a further fight in the Constitutional Court if the final version of the bill fails to extend all the rights of civil marriage to same-gender couples.

A U.S. federal judge in Maryland this week eliminated one of two remaining obstacles that have prevented the implementation of Donald Trump’s ban on military service by qualified transgender people. U.S. District Judge George Russell III agreed with the Trump administration’s claim that because a recent Supreme Court ruling lifted two of the injunctions in California and Washington state, while legal challenges continue in lower courts, there was no reason to keep his injunction in place. According to the ACLU, one active case remains that keeps the trans-ban at bay, Doe v. Trump, in a D.C. court.

Military service by transgender people is still governed by the Obama-era policy, instituted in 2016, that lifted a ban on qualified trans troops and allowed them to seek medical transition care. When asked about this week’s lifting of another injunction, Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell told CNN that the Defense Department is expected to “issue further guidance, which will be forthcoming in the near future.”

“While not surprising,” ACLU staff attorney Joshua Bell said the Maryland court injunction being lifted is “deeply disappointing … Each and every claim made by President Trump to justify this ban can be easily debunked by the conclusions drawn from the Department of Defense’s own review process.”

Catching up on recent U.S. state news, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously on March 8th that the state’s ban on Medicaid coverage for certifiably necessary surgical care for transgender individuals violated the gender identity protections in Iowa’s Civil Rights Act. The state’s Department of Human Services argued unsuccessfully that the surgeries were “cosmetic, reconstructive or plastic … performed primarily for psychological purposes.”

Missouri’s Supreme Court overruled the lower court dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a transgender male teen who’s challenging his school district’s refusal to let him use the boy’s bathroom and locker room facilities on campus.

The high court said that the teen, who’s lived as male since the age of nine, has the right to sue under Missouri’s human rights act for discrimination based on sex.

In a separate ruling issued the same day, the Missouri Supreme Court also opened the door to other lawsuits by gay people charging sex discrimination, even though the state has no specific laws banning bias based on sexual orientation.

Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slatery, in response to a lawmaker’s question in mid-February, confirmed that transgender people are protected by existing legislation criminalizing hate crimes motivated by gender.

It’s believed to be the first Southern state to specifically include transgender people in its hate crime laws.

The Colorado House of Representatives passed a bill banning so-called “conversion therapy” for minors that claims to make queer people straight. Similar bills have repeatedly failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.   But now that Democrats have the majority – thanks to the November elections – passage there now seems likely. And the signature of openly gay Governor Jared Polis is a foregone conclusion. It would make Colorado the 16th U.S. state to ban the bogus practice.

But a similar proposal has died in the Utah legislature after the Republican governor and GOP lawmakers couldn’t agree on whether or not to allow a therapist to counsel a minor about changing sexual orientation while also swearing not to try to do that.

And measures to ban bias based on sexual orientation have failed – again – in both the North Dakota and Nebraska state legislatures.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Alaska’s second-biggest city vetoed an ordinance this week that was approved by the City Council to extend sweeping human rights protections to LGBTQ people. Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly said he wanted to put the issue on the October ballot and let the people decide.

{Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood vocal opening, fades quickly out under:}

It all started with a tweet that went viral: Mr. Rogers, the venerable children’s TV host who told all of his young viewers that he liked them just the way they were, was apparently bisexual. A well-known YouTuber cited Maxwell King’s 2018 biography, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. While he’s not on record identifying as bisexual, Rogers did describe his sexual attraction as fluid.

The revelation lit up the Internet this week, with most queer fans celebrating – though a few hetero critics said it would have been “inappropriate for children” if Rogers’ bisexuality had been known at the time.

During conversations with openly gay Dr. William Hirsch, Rogers reportedly said that he’s “right smack in the middle” of the Kinsey scale, and said he found both men and women attractive.

One queer tweet expressed surprise that, as a Presbyterian Minister, Rogers “ever stated anything so clearly. I do not find it hard to believe, he was just that kind of a person, but I am delightfully shocked he ever said even that much.”

Rogers died in 2003, two years after his show ended, following more than three decades on the air.

And finally, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker applied for and got a marriage license in Earth County, Minnesota … in 1971. The clerk didn’t realize that both applicants were male. It made headlines around the world, even though authorities refused to recognize the marriage.

The U.S. Supreme Court finally opened the civil institution to same-gender couples in 2015. But McConnell and Baker have spent the past five decades trying to get their marriage legally recognized. At long last, the McConnells – Jack took Michael’s last name – received a letter in mid-February from the Social Security Administration officially validating their 1971 marriage.

After 48 years of wedded bliss, they’re now believed to be the most enduring legally married same-gender couple in the United States … and maybe … in the world.

“Satisfying your weekly minimum requirement of queer news and culture for more than 30 years!”

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