Lesbian activists musicians Emma’s Revolution offer cheerful wisdom in a timely song parody, From a (Social) Distance!
European Justice punishes Italian homophobe, Israeli printer’s anti-LGBTQ bias fades in court, Finland finalizes first adoptions by same-gender couples, U.S. librarians condemn queer books bans, U.N. warns against rights rollbacks in pandemic politics, gay Polish couple hands out rainbow masks in “LGBT-Free Zones,” and more international LGBTQ news!
Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of April 27, 2020
Breko Shines & Emma Sings!
Program #1,674 distributed 04/27/20
Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon
NewsWrap (full transcript below): A homophobic Italian lawyer gets slammed for employment bias by the Court of Justice of the European Union an Israeli court rejects religious reasons given by owners of a Beersheba print shop that refused to print posters for a queer students group the first adoptions by gay and lesbian couples in Finland finally get approval three years after the law allowing it was passed LGBTQ-content books once again top the American Library Association’s annual list of banned books U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet names the governments of Poland and Hungary among those using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to trample on queer rights notable deaths in the LGBTQ community from COVID-19 complications include Belfast-born New York City Irish queer and disabled rights activist Tarlach MacNiallais, U.S. Army veteran and Live Oaks, Texas City Councilman Anthony Brooks, whose husband Philip Tsai-Brooks died from the virus hours earlier in the same hospital where Brooks worked, and Iranian immigrant and acclaimed London-based gay photographer Shahin Shahablou, who died from the virus two months after meeting the love of his life but it’s kidney cancer that claims the life of Sy Rogers, a major voice for decades in the global “ex-gay/conversion therapy” movement and a Polish gay couple braves ubiquitous homophobia and the COVID-19 lockdown to give away hand-made rainbow colored face masks – with generally positive response (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by WENJEL JONES and TANYA KANE-PARRY, produced by BRIAN DESHAZOR).
Feature: Sheltering in place won’t dim the lights of an Australian tradition. This Way Out Sydney correspondent WILLIAM BROUGHAM found out how LGBTIQ activist-entertainer James “Breko” Brechney is re-imagining the event — and taking it global (with intro music by PETER ALLEN and outro music by HUGH JACKMAN).
Feature: The lesbian social justice singing duo Emma’s Revolution will cheer you up and give you some inspiration with a new take on an old favorite in this era of isolation – based on Bette Midler’s 1990 recording of Julie Gold’s original song From A Distance (and watch their charming video performance at thiswayout.org).
A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities for the week ending April 25, 2020 Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, reported this week by Wenzel Jones and Tanya Kane-Parry, produced by Brian DeShazor
Queer news is not in COVID-19 quarantine.
The highest court of the European Union has upheld a judgment in a discrimination case. It ruled that the senior partner of an Italian law firm violated anti-discrimination statutes by telling a radio interviewer in 2013 that he would never recruit or hire a “homosexual.” Carlo Taormina had said that “Homosexuals are abnormal … they have physical and genetic anomalies.”
That prompted a lawsuit by Lawyers for LGBT Rights, an advocate for LGBTQ people in national and international courts. They first sued in Italian courts demanding monetary damages for Taormina’s breach of E.U. anti-bias laws. Taormina appealed an initial damages award equivalent to about 12 thousand five hundred U.S. dollars. He argued that the issue was moot because his firm was not hiring at the time.
The case finally reached Italy’s Supreme Court, and was referred to the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union. The 7-judge panel’s April 23rd decision affirmed that Taormina’s comments did indeed constitute legal bias. It pointed to a specific provision of E.U. anti-discrimination law covering “conditions for access to employment.” The Court also stressed that “Freedom of expression is not an absolute right, and its exercise may be subject to limitations.”
A statement by Lawyers for LGBT Rights applauded the ruling, saying that “its implications expand beyond the boundaries of LGBTI rights, and serve the interests of associations and NGO’s working in other discriminated-against sectors.”
A print shop in Israel has been ordered to compensate a queer students group for refusing to print posters for them. Three years ago, when the group asked for an estimate from the ironically named Rainbow Colour shop, the response was: “We do not deal with abomination materials. We are Jews!”
In its lawsuit, the Aguda Association for LGBT Equality in Israel demanded that the print shop pay damages close to 30,000 U.S. dollars to the Ben Gurion University LGBT organization.
Attorneys for Rainbow Colour argued that its owners’ religious beliefs prohibited them from assisting offenders of Jewish law. Two Orthodox rabbis testified to back up their claim.
Beersheba Magistrate Court Judge Orit Lipshitz said that courts do not want to “enter into the consciousness of service providers,” but that, “when their beliefs conflict with a necessity of providing service to all in a public space, the latter value holds superior.”
Rainbow Colour was represented by the right-wing Israeli legal aid group Honenu. A Honenu spokesperson condemned the ruling as “secular coercion,” and said, “If in the State of Israel a religious Jew cannot run a business according to his lifestyle, [then] where can he?”
Aguda celebrated the decision, writing that, “We applaud this clear and just ruling that prohibits unfair discrimination, and [we will] continue to fight for anyone and everyone to receive full equality of rights.”
A lesbian couple and a gay male couple in Helsinki, Finland have each adopted a baby at last. It took three years after such adoptions became legal, in part because of Finland’s long and complicated adoption process. Prospective parents must go through extensive evaluation and counseling. Careful consideration is given to the best interests of the child. A child’s biological parents also have a say about which adoptive couple is selected.
While lesbians have had access to fertility services since 2006, adoption gives gay male couples in Finland a new path to parenthood.
According to NewsNowFinland, several other same-gender couples in Helsinki are currently either in adoption counseling or are waiting to access the process.
The American Library Association’s annual list of the country’s most frequently banned books once again stars LGBTQ works. The Association tracks complaints to have books removed from libraries across the nation as part of its mission to promote diversity, inclusion and free access to information. It found that eight of the top 10 most challenged books have LGBTQ themes or characters – in fact, the top six books on the list are queer. The only arguably non-queer books on the list are Margaret Atwood’s dystopian cautionary The Handmaid’s Tale, and the magic- and witchcraft-conjuring Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.
George by Alex Gino is number one on the list for the second consecutive year. It’s the story of a 4th grade transgender girl, and it’s been targeted because of alleged conflicts with religious beliefs about “traditional family structure.” Also on the list is a queer-centered parody of the book Vice President Mike Pence’s wife wrote from the point of view of their pet bunny. In the banned A Day In The Life of Marlon Bundo, their rabbit “Marlon” falls in love and marries another boy bunny.
Other notable entries on the list include the royal gay romance Prince & Knight, which was called “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children.” The enduring list entry And Tango Makes Three was number ten this year. It’s the story of a real-life male penguin couple successfully raising a chick.
The Association also noted that the popular “Drag Queen Story Hour” events held in public libraries were challenged by conservative Christian groups more than 30 times last year.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is warning member states not to use COVID-19 as an excuse to roll back LGBTQ rights. Michelle Bachelet issued a statement this week noting “an increase in homophobic and trans-phobic rhetoric” since the pandemic began. Bachelet was known for championing queer people when she was president of Chilé.
She pointed to the “Stop Pedophilia Act” currently being considered in Poland, which would jail sex education teachers who include LGBTQ-positive material in their instruction. To be fair, that’s just the latest assault on LGBTQ rights in that country in the past few years. Poland’s ruling Law & Justice Party lends its support – sometimes tacitly, sometimes vocally.
Bachelet also singled out Hungary’s far-right leader Viktor Orbán for using emergency COVID-19 powers to prevent trans people from legally changing their gender designation on official documents.
Belfast-born Tarlach MacNiallais was among the notable COVID-19 deaths in the LGBTQ community this week. MacNiallais moved to New York City, where he was best known for pushing for the inclusion of LGBTQ groups in the city’s world famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade. That campaign finally won out in 2017. He was also an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
MacNiallais tested positive for coronavirus in mid-March. He died on April 1st at the age of 57 as loving text messages from friends were read to him by a nurse. He’s survived by his husband Juan Nepomuceno, nine siblings, and three stepchildren.
According to Facebook posts from Live Oak, Texas, COVID-19 claimed the life of City Councilman Anthony Brooks this week. Brooks was a military veteran who worked at San Antonio Military Medical Center. He and husband Philip Tsai-Brooks died there within hours of each other on Easter Sunday. Tsai-Brooks had suffered a virus-related heart attack.
Live Oaks Mayor Mary M. Dennis praised Brooks as someone who served honorably in the U.S. Army, and as an “attentive” and “dedicated” councilman who “will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”
Award-winning gay photographer Shahin Shahablou died in London on April 15th from COVID-19 complications at the age of 56. Shahablou had escaped from Iran to live freely, and according to BuzzFeed News he passed away just two months after finally meeting the love of his life. Kevin Lismore told the press, “He kept telling me how he felt like it was destiny that we meet each other. That’s the cruelest thing, to lose him so soon.”
Kidney cancer took the life of Sy Rogers this week in Winter Park, Florida at the age of 63. Rogers was president of the religious conversion therapy organization Exodus International until it finally shut down in 2013.
Rogers identified as a gay man in his youth. Then he tried living as a woman for about 18 months. He finally emerged as a globetrotting evangelical Christian preacher, identified as a heterosexual man, and married a woman in 1982. The couple lived for a time in Auckland, New Zealand, and then in Singapore.
Australian anti-conversion therapy activist Anthony Venn-Brown met with Rogers on a number of occasions. He claimed that the evangelist privately told him that he was no longer preaching “a re-orientation message.” Venn-Brown said that it was at least “a step in the right direction” for Rogers “’to no longer say ‘God makes gay people straight.’”
Finally, a gay couple is braving Polish homophobia and fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by giving away hundreds of hand-made rainbow-colored facemasks.
Jakub and Dawid Mycek-Kwiecinski are well-known YouTube stars in Poland. They’ve been visiting the announced “LGBT-free zones” that cover almost a third of country. YouTube videos chronicling their giveaways show almost overwhelming appreciation and support for their efforts.
Jakub said, “Many Polish people call [gay people] a plague … So we thought if we help people overcome the actual plague, they might change their mind. I know it’s naïve, but if we can do something good, why not?”
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