The Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives preserves chronicles of queer life!
Lesbian lyricist Katherine Lee Bates lifts U.S. patriotism in a Rainbow Minute!
Top U.S. court will consider LGBTQ job rights, gay Tunisian activist runs for president, Polish officials probe firing of homophobic IKEA worker, threatened tour guide cancels queer Ethiopian excursion, Pride brew supports tear-gassed Turkish activists, and more international LGBTQ news.
Australia’s Queer Archives
Program #1,632 distributed 07/08/19
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will hear cases on October 8th to determine whether or not federal law protects LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the first serious openly-queer US presidential candidate, but Tunisian lawyer and activist Mounir Baatour becomes the first openly-gay presidential candidate in the Arab world multi-national furniture retailer IKEA takes heat in Poland after one of its stores fires a homophobic employee Chicago-based Toto Tours cancels a planned 16-day excursion for its mostly queer clientele to Ethiopia that includes visits to many of the African country’s most revered religious sites because of anti-queer death threats World Pride on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion is celebrated where it all began, New York City, while a smaller march protests the erosion of the grassroots commemoration to corporatization a first-ever Pride parade is held in the North Macedonian capital of Skopje [with brief comments from a Radio Free Europe report by participant Maria] police use teargas and rubber bullets to disperse another attempt to hold a Pride celebration in Istanbul one of Turkey’s leading breweries defies government disapproval of Pride observances by adorning the bottles of one of its most popular beers, Bomonti, with the colors of the rainbow flag (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by WENZEL JONES and LAURA DICKINSON-TURNER, produced by BRIAN DESHAZOR).
Feature: A Rainbow Minute remembers Katharine Lee Bates, the lesbian poet who wrote the words to America The Beautiful (produced by JUDD PROCTOR and BRIAN BURNS, read by BRENDA THORNTON).
Feature: There’s just one community-based organization in Australia dedicated to preserving the history of the LGBTQ+ movement. This Way Out Sydney correspondent BARRY McKAY caught up with one of the group’s Melbourne-based leaders, Nick Henderson, at this year’s Mardi Gras Fair Day (with vintage intro music from He’s So Unusual by DES TOOLEY).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending July 6, 2019 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Laura Dickinson-Turner, produced by Brian DeShazor
Circle October 8th on your 2019 LGBTQ+ “dates to watch out for” calendar! That’s when the U.S. Supreme Court will start its process to finally determine whether federal law protects sexual and gender minorities from employment discrimination.
The specific question before the high court is whether or not Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. It’s the law that bans workplace bias based on sex. Lower courts have diverged on the issue in specific cases involving anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination. A majority of judges have decided that Title VII does, indeed, protect LGBTQ people, but a few courts have not. So now it’s up to the high court to decide.
The Justices’ ruling in these cases is likely to affect how other federal anti-discrimination laws are interpreted. For example, the ban on sex-based bias in schools in Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 has been cited in cases involving transgender students. LGBTQ people and their families could also be covered by the Fair Housing Act by extension with this Supreme Court ruling.
It’s hardly a surprise that the Trump administration has filed briefs with the Court in support of continued workplace discrimination. They’re especially dedicated to defending it based on “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”
Equality activists have become justifiably nervous since two Trump-nominated Justices were added to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts is now seen as the “swing vote,” even though he usually sides with the conservative 5-4 majority. In his story in the Washington Blade, reporter Chris Johnson quoted Roberts during the high court discussion in 2014 that led to marriage equality. The Chief Justice said, “I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?” No matter how straightforward the question, Roberts eventually joined the conservative minority in the narrow 5-4 decision that opened civil marriage to same-gender couples in all 50 U.S. states.
A few prominent Republicans have filed friend of the court briefs in support of workplace protections for LGBTQ people. Dozens and dozens of Democrats have done the same.
More than 200 major companies have filed supportive briefs. They include Disney, Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, IBM, Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks, Viacom, and Xerox. Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays also joined the signatories in the Supreme Court brief in support of workplace protections for LGBTQ people.
LGBTQ people in the U.S. might toast Mayor Pete Buttigieg as an historic first queer candidate among the almost 2-dozen Democrats seeking the presidency – but now Tunisia has a gay presidential candidate, too. Lawyer and activist Mounir Baatour threw his hat into the ring with a June 25th social media posting. Baatour is not only the North African nation’s first “out” contender for the presidency, he’s the first “out” candidate in the Arab world.
Baatour’s Facebook announcement proclaimed, “Tunisia needs a democratic program that can include the different identities, cultures, beliefs and languages of this country. After many years in the fight for minority rights, I have understood that no one can do the job better than me.”
Article 230 in Tunisia’s century old Penal Code sends adults convicted of engaging in consensual same-gender sex to prison for up to 3 years. Baatour has led the country’s major LGBTQ advocacy group Shams to push for repeal of those laws. Several courts have rebuffed efforts by the government over the years to shut down the group, whose name means “Sun” in Arabic.
The Tunisian presidential election will be held in November of this year. Most observers don’t give Baatour any serious chance of unseating the incumbent in a field of other high profile contenders. But nevertheless his candidacy is as groundbreaking as “Mayor Pete’s.”
The government of Poland is threatening legal action against global furniture retailer IKEA for firing a worker who had posted anti-queer remarks on the company’s internal website. Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has called for a probe into what he called an “unacceptable” and “absolutely scandalous” action if it’s proven to be true. He told the country’s public television channel that the incident shows how foreign companies in Poland “discriminate” against those who don’t share their values.
Identified only as “Tomasz K,” the worker’s comments were in reaction to a company statement on the internal site in support of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Tomasz K quoted the Old Testament’s condemnation of same-gender love in graphic terms, and complained in his posting that, “I’ve been hired to sell furniture but I’m a Catholic and these aren’t my values.” He was fired after he refused to take down the offensive comments.
A statement issued by the Sweden-based multi-national pointed out that the employee’s citations of the Old Testament warned of “death [and] blood in the context of what fate should meet homosexual people. Many employees … contacted our [Human Resources] department. … The basis of our corporate culture is freedom of opinion, [but also] tolerance and respect for each employee.”
Other Polish government officials are calling for a nationwide boycott of the furniture chain.
According to Bloomberg News, IKEA has more than a dozen factories in Poland making some 4 thousand products that are sold globally. IKEA has close to the same number of retail outlets in the country.
There are new developments in last month’s story about a Chicago-based tour operator facing opposition for planning excursions to Ethiopia with his mostly-queer clientele.
Toto Tours owner Dan Ware told NBC News that he’s decided to cancel the tour. Ware had received email threats that he said were “not something to ignore.” One warned that “you cannot come here, you are not even human.” Others called it “sex tourism … trying to pervert youth.” Ware said another message included an ISIS-style video with a sword-brandishing masked man saying, “we are going to cut your throats.”
The 16-day itinerary would have included visits to some of Ethiopia’s most revered religious sites, which is apparently what had ignited the threatening opposition. Ware said Toto Tours still has tours planned to other countries where gay sex is illegal, including Botswana, Bhutan, and Egypt. But he thought it would be prudent to cancel the planned October Ethiopia visit, and to refund customers who’d already booked passage.
Toto Tours has served a primarily queer clientele since 1990. By the way, the company website says that its name comes from the Latin word meaning “all-inclusive” – no, it’s not an homage to Dorothy’s famous dog in The Wizard of Oz.
World Pride was officially celebrated on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion where it all began: New York City. The festivities were capped off by a huge parade on June 30th. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that as many as 5 million people gathered for the record-breaking parade.
A more grassroots alternative march was also held to protest the “corporatization” of Pride, and to return the annual observance to its political roots.
LGBTQ Pride was celebrated for the first time in North Macedonia on June 29th. Several hundred people participated in the festivities in the capital city of Skopje, including cabinet members and foreign diplomats. People from Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and the UK also travelled to the Balkan city to lend support. North Macedonia’s government is trying to improve minority rights as part of its effort to join the European Union.
One local participant identified only as “Maria” expressed her enthusiasm in a Radio Free Europe report:
[sound:] “We want to send a message that we are here, that we are going to fight for our rights no matter what, and that the whole Balkans is gathering together here to fight for equality everywhere.”
But finally, another attempt to hold a Pride march in Turkey was broken up by police using teargas. Government officials had banned the event in Istanbul for the fifth consecutive year.
According to news agencies, several hundred people rallied on a side street off Istanbul’s main pedestrian walkway. The demonstrators were waving rainbow flags and chanting “shoulder to shoulder against fascism” and “We will not be quiet.” Then police moved in. They reportedly used rubber bullets and water canons in addition to teargas to disperse the crowd.
The government Pride ban is apparently being defied by one of Turkey’s largest breweries. A spokesperson for the popular beer Bomonti announced online that the company was stocking bars nationwide with bottles sporting rainbow-colored labels.
The government has yet to weigh in on whether or not the brewery is breaking any laws by marketing their beer this way.
But queer social media lit up with celebratory support. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a Turkish company embrace the rainbow,” tweeted Bradley Secker. The poster admitted, “Yes, Pride has become more corporate, but in some cases it helps with visibility, and has greater political and social ‘oomph.’”
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