“The Web Opera”

Technology, privacy and suicide underscore the haunting three-part production of a true story now streaming online!

Chicago elects an African-American lesbian mayor, and she’s not the only winning queer woman!

More big names and businesses join Brunei boycott, Cayman Islands appeals court-ordered marriage equality, U.S. Attorney General investigates injustice at his Justice Department, Chick-fil-A loses its “Buffalo wings,” and more international LGBTQ news!

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of April 8, 2019

The Web Opera!

Program #1,618 distributed 04/08/19

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): The boycott of Brunei over its new “stone queers to death” laws escalates exponentially as more celebrities and government officials condemn the institution of harsh Islamic law in the tiny east Asian nation, while CNN talks with some LGBTQ Bruneians who’ve already fled the country, and a number of multi-national companies cut ties with not only the luxury hotel properties owned by the governing Sultan, which are already being boycotted, but with Royal Brunei Airlines as well the Cayman Islands government decides to appeal the Grand Court’s March 29th marriage equality ruling, despite a similar effort having failed last year by another British Overseas Territory – Bermuda  U.S. Attorney General William Barr acts on the late-March letter signed by several members of DOJ Pride, the Justice Department group representing LGBTQ workers, that charged pervasive bias throughout the agency, notably the FBI and Bureau of Prisons the Buffalo Niagara, New York International Airport joins their San Antonio, Texas counterpart by denying eatery space to the certifiably-anti-queer Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant  and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg tells HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher why he may stand out among the stampede of Democratic presidential wannabes [with a brief excerpt from the interview] (written by GREG GORDON, produced with BRIAN DESHAZOR, and reported this week by CAROLE MEYERS and ROB LECRONE).

Feature: Several U.S. cities are deciding that if they want the job done right, they should give it to a lesbian – including voters in America’s third largest city. This Way Out’s LUCIA CHAPPELLE centers her report around the election of Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s first African-American lesbian mayor (with excerpts from her victory speech).

Feature: LGBTQ-themed operas are still relatively rare, but two daring artists are trying to change that. It’s not just the storyline that breaks new ground — it stretches the boundaries in style as well. This Way Out’s CHRISTOPHER GAAL sat down with composer Michael Roth and director Kate Jopson, whose work, The Web Opera is now streaming online (with excerpts from the three-part series).

NewsWrap

A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending April 6, 2019
Written by Greg Gordon, produced with Brian DeShazor,
reported this week by Carole Meyers and Rob Lecrone

The boycott of Brunei has grown exponentially since the government of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah began enforcing Islamic law on April 3rd that punishes consensual adult same-gender sex with death … by stoning, among several harsh provisions.

An earlier boycott included protests outside some of the luxury hotels the Sultan owns, and lasted a few months in 2014 when the small East Asian country first announced the move to Islamic law – known as Sharia.

Actor/activist George Clooney “officially” re-launched the boycott with an open letter last week, again targeting several high-end hotel properties owned by the Sultan, including the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Dorchester in London.

A number of other celebrities soon joined in, including Sir Elton John, Ellen DeGeneres, and Billie Jean King.

United Nations Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet called the new laws “cruel and inhumane.” The laws were also criticized by the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, and Australia.

The Sultan issued a brief statement near week’s end insisting that Brunei “enforces its own rule of law,” and called his country “fair and happy.”

CNN spoke with a few LGBTQ people from Brunei who would disagree.

None of them wanted their real names used in the story. One gay man said life in Brunei is “really scary. … [the] very aggressive punishment [is] not something that a human should suffer,” he said.

Another man fled Brunei in October to escape a probable prison sentence for sedition after he criticized the government in a Facebook post. He now lives in Vancouver and said he was only able to come out after he settled there. “Being gay in Brunei was difficult enough without Sharia [shah-REE-ah],” he said.

A transgender woman who’s seeking asylum in Canada said that, “Under Sharia … I would be fined and caned and jailed.” Another queer refugee told the news service that, “If you feel like you’re in danger, I made it out, [and] you can, too.”

A number of multi-national companies are cutting business ties with the government of Brunei to protest the harsh new laws, which also punish heterosexual Muslims with death by stoning for adultery. The global travel agency STA Travel said it would no longer sell flights on Royal Brunei Airlines. STA Travel is a privately owned Swiss conglomerate that claims to be the largest in the world for young travelers.

Virgin Australia Airlines stopped offering its staff discounted tickets on Brunei’s national air carrier. It’s the second biggest airline Down Under after Qantas.   Don’t be surprised if Qantas soon follows, led by it’s proudly out CEO. Transport For London is pulling ads promoting Brunei tourism from the city’s sprawling public transit system, because of – it said – “great public sensitivity.”

Deutsche Bank has banned its staff from staying in any of the Sultan’s luxury hotels. And Britain’s TV Choice Magazine announced on Twitter that its annual TV Choice Awards would not be handed out at London’s Sultan-owned Dorchester Hotel, as in previous years. The London-based Financial Times newspaper announced that it, too, was cancelling a planned event at the Dorchester.

In response to the mounting criticism, social media pages for the Sultan’s hotel properties have all but disappeared, even as media statements from many of them insist that they welcome all visitors and do not discriminate.

(You can read George Clooney’s call-to-boycott letter, and see the list of the Sultan’s properties, including those in Milan, Paris and Rome HERE.)

The government of the Cayman Islands announced this week that it would appeal the Grand Court’s March 29th ruling that denying civil marriage to same-gender couples is unconstitutional. The appeal charges that Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s decision overstepped his legal authority by changing marriage laws from the bench.

Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly is urging opponents of equality to disrupt the upcoming wedding of Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden-Bush, the victorious lesbian couple in the Grand Court case. The government has already asked the Court of Appeal for a stay of that ruling to prevent their wedding, and those of any other same-gender couples who’ve already obtained marriage licenses.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said that the government had not taken its decision to appeal lightly. He claimed in a speech, met with applause in the Legislative Assembly, that the appeal was necessary to address “significant and potentially far reaching” implications to the Constitution of the Cayman Islands.

The Cayman Islands is a self-governing British Overseas Territory, located in the Caribbean Sea. If history is any guide, the Caymans will fail to overturn the Grand Court ruling in a series of appeals that could go all the way to the U.K. Privy Council. Another British Overseas Territory tried that route under similar circumstances last year … and Bermuda lost.

As we record this newscast, U.S. Attorney General William Barr already has his hands full defending his refusal to release the long-awaited Mueller Report investigating possible election conspiracy with Russian agents, and obstruction of justice, by President Donald Trump and/or his family, friends and associates.

However, Barr took time to comment this week on reports of the low morale of LGBTQ employees at his Justice Department, and the claims that they were leaving in droves because of increasing discrimination against them. Barr responded on April 4th to an open letter signed by a number of queer Justice Department workers last week complaining about the anti-queer environment they’ve been working under. Their letter included allegations that LGBTQ FBI agents at the academy were being forced out, and that similar employees at the Bureau of Prisons also face blatant hostility.

The letter was signed by members of DOJ Pride, the agency’s LGBTQ group that represents what it says are thousands of employees at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency Barr said he was “troubled by the concerns” they expressed.

The Attorney General wrote that he has directed the FBI and the Bureau of Prisons “to take appropriate action to investigate and address … the allegations.” Barr also issued an Equal Employment Opportunity statement that the Justice Department is a “workplace free of discriminatory harassment.”

The last time the Justice Department issued such a statement was during the Obama administration – which means that Donald Trump will probably try to find a way to overturn it.

In other news, the anti-queer fast food chain Chick-fil-A has been denied space in another major airport. This follows the recent rejection by the San Antonio, Texas City Council of the eatery’s request for space in the San Antonio International Airport. And now in New York, the Buffalo Niagara International Airport has pulled out of installing a Chick-fil-A in its food court.

Chick-fil-A had tried to stave off a boycott a few years ago over its funneling millions of corporate dollars to anti-queer causes by announcing that it was no longer doing that. But recent tax returns uncovered by the news site Think Progress revealed that the company is still supporting anti-queer entities. Led by rabidly homophobic CEO Dan Cathy, the company served up more than 1.8 million dollars to such groups in 2017 alone.

The Buffalo Niagara International decision was based on that Think Progress report … and pressure from Democratic state Assemblyman from Buffalo Sean Ryan. After Chick-fil-A’s welcome mat was yanked by the agency responsible for allocating space at the airport, Ryan issued a subdued tweet saying that “A publicly financed facility like Buffalo Niagara International Airport is not the ‘appropriate venue’ for a Chick-fil-A restaurant.”

And finally, South Bend, Indiana’s Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg continues to solidify his credentials as the first credible openly queer politician to seek the presidential nomination of a major political party. In a new poll by NBC and the Wall Street Journal released this week, 68% of U.S. voters say they would feel comfortable or enthusiastic about a candidate who is gay or lesbian. That’s a huge jump from the last time voters were asked about it. Fifty-three per cent of the respondents in a similar 2006 poll said that they either had “reservations” about, or were “very uncomfortable” with, the idea.

Buttigieg has already raised more than 7 million dollars for his campaign, consisting mostly of relatively small amounts from some 65,000 individual donors. Among the close to 20 Democrats already running or expected to run, that total already qualifies Buttigieg to participate in the Party’s first presidential debates in late June.

Buttigieg continues to make the media rounds, ranging from MSNBC to CNN to Fox News. On the March 29th edition of HBO’s political comedy show Real Time with Bill Maher, the host marveled at “Mayor Pete’s” success:

MAHER: Why are you suddenly rising in the polls?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think part of it is that people are looking for something completely different. And you know, we’re in this moment, I really believe that all …

MAHER: We got that.

BUTTIGIEG: Well in a way we did, right? I mean each, each election in many ways produces somebody who is the reverse of what we just had. And you could argue that it doesn’t get more different from this president than a laid back intellectual young gay mayor from the Midwest.

MAHER: No.

[laughter/applause fades out]

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