Coping In Place!

AIDS survivor Rev. Steve Pieters shares lessons learned about dealing with isolation and illness, and how believing in “good faeries” encourages hope in frightening times!

“In-casting” with the OutCasting crew, as Sarah describes how the LGBTQA youth team continues to fulfill its commitment to provide reliable content, even under lockdown!

Tunisia flip-flops on imported marriage equality, Japanese nonprofit offers employers proof of same-gender relationships, one in five Russians favor queer “elimination,” Uganda jails 19 men for alleged pandemic restriction violations, Kenyan court refuses to free Rafiki, and more international LGBTQ news!

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of May 4, 2020

Coping In Place!

Program #1,675 distributed 05/04/20

Hosted this week by Greg Gordon and produced with Lucia Chappelle

NewsWrap (full transcript below): Tunisia recognizes its first legal same-gender marriage – until it doesn’t  Japanese companies are signing on to a nonprofit website to accept queer couples’ partnership certificates that allow them to offer familial benefits to those workers a new survey finds about one in five Russians want to “eliminate” LGBTQ people a Ugandan court denies bail to 19 men arrested at a shelter for sexual minorities for violating COVID-19 rules against gatherings of more than five people a Kenyan court upholds the ban on screenings in the country of the acclaimed homegrown lesbian romance Rafiki because the movie violates “traditional family values” transgender former Byron, Georgia Fire Department Chief Rachel Mosby sues the city in federal court for wrongful termination after she began transitioning former Hamilton County, Ohio Sheriffs Deputy Charmaine McGuffey, who filed suit in federal court after she was fired for being lesbian, defeats the incumbent who fired her in the Democratic Party primary (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by JOHN DYER V and MICHAEL TAYLOR-GRAY, produced by BRIAN DESHAZOR).

Feature: Working or finding work-arounds during the COVID-19 crisis is a daily challenge for everyone, and our friends at OutCasting are getting more creative to get it done (“Outcaster” SARAH comments, produced by MARC SOPHOS, and with TWO-added intro/outro music by PEGGY LEE).

Feature: Reverend Steve Pieters is one of the longest-living AIDS survivors in the United States. He served numerous AIDS activist and religious organizations, was Director of Metropolitan Community Church’s AIDS Ministry from 1987 to 1997, met with President Bill Clinton in 1993, and famously drew tears from televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in a live interview. This Way Out Associate Producer LUCIA CHAPPELLE donned her theologian hat to talk with Rev. Steve over Zoom about how life in coronavirus isolation reminds him of life in the AIDS years (with intro music by JAKE HOLMES and outro music by THE GAY MEN’S CHORUS OF LOS ANGELES).

NewsWrap

A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending May 2, 2020
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by John Dyer V and Michael Taylor-Gray,
produced by Brian DeShazor

The North African nation of Tunisia recorded its first legally recognized same-gender marriage – but only briefly.

The Tunisian LGBTQ rights group Association Shams had announced late last week that the marriage in France of a gay Tunisian man and a gay Frenchman was registered in the capital city of Tunis. But Local Affairs Minister Lotfi Zitoun denounced the story as “fake news” a few days later. He called it “an error committed by the municipality of Tunis,” and said that, “it has been rectified.”

The Republic of Tunisia is a predominantly Muslim country. LGBTQ citizens get no protections from discrimination, and of course there is no marriage equality there. President Kais Saied vocally supports the continued criminalization of consensual adult same-gender sex. He’s called LGBTQ people “deviants.”

But Association Shams leader and lawyer Mounir Baatour is still very proud of the group’s success. Baatour said, “To my knowledge, Shams is now the only [queer] legal association in the Arab-Muslim world. This is not nothing and offers us hardly believable opportunities, sometimes beyond our borders.”

A non-profit in Japan is not waiting for official government approval of marriage equality. The Famiee Project is offering digital partnership certificates for lesbian and gay couples as a way to verify their relationships. Some progressive companies have been looking for a way to do that, so that they can provide the same benefits to them that are offered to other partnered employees. Those benefits include family health insurance coverage, parental leave, and other perks given to coupled heterosexuals.

National marriage equality is highly unlikely given the ruling party’s adamant refusal to even consider the issue. A number of municipalities in Japan have issued civil partnership certificates to same-gender couples, but their limited benefits are only available to residents of each municipality.

At least 17 companies have already signed on to the Famiee Project, including the major investment bank Mizuho Financial Group, and two insurance companies, Sompo Japan and Hotto Link. According to the Kyodo News Service, Mizuho has offered familial benefits to its queer workers since 2016, but cannot offer them unless the worker can provide proof of their relationship. The digital certificates being offered through the Famiee Project solves that problem.

Famiee founder Koki Uchiyama told “Reuters” that their goal is to have at least a hundred companies enrolled by July. Uchiyama said, “If we have a big network of corporations that support us, we can persuade the government to change the law.”

Perhaps wishful thinking, but a nice thought nevertheless.

A disturbing new report suggests that almost one in five Russians support the entire “elimination” of LGBTQ people.

The non-governmental research group Levada Center’s independent survey also found 32 percent of respondents want to “isolate” LGBTQ people from society. Just nine percent said they wanted to support queers.

The Center has conducted the survey every year since 1989 to measure tolerance for people who “deviate from socially acceptable norms.”

Actually this year’s numbers represent a slight increase in the acceptance of LGBTQ people in Russian society. Three percent fewer people favor the “elimination” of queers than in 2015. The number favoring “isolation” was down 5 percent. And there was a three percent increase in respondents who said they wanted to support LGBTQ people.

The survey published this week was conducted between February 20th and 26th. 1,614 respondents in 50 urban and rural regions of Russia participated.

St. Petersburg lesbian activist Svetlana Zakharova expressed concerns that the survey results might spark even more anti-queer government actions, not to mention assaults against people perceived to be queer by nationalist thugs. However she insists that Russians are “not as homophobic as authorities or federal mass media try to portray them.” While the survey results are far from ideal, Zakharova told NBC News that the situation “is slightly changing for the better.”

Caught up in a raid on the pretext of a COVID-19 lockdown violation, 19 Ugandan men perceived to be queer remain in jail with bail denied. Police rounded them up at a homeless shelter for sexual minorities on March 29th. The men range in age from 19 to 32.

According to the Voice of America, 23 men were detained at the Children of the Sun Foundation shelter in the town of Kyengera, 10 kilometers southwest of the capital city, Kampala. Four were released on medical grounds, but the other 19 have been behind bars ever since. Most of the men were outed during television coverage of the raid.

The defendants are charged with conduct likely to cause the spread of an infectious disease. Bail was ostensibly denied out of fear that their release could further expose the population.

A police spokesman said that officers made the arrests after complaints from neighbors, and claimed that it had nothing to do with the men being gay. Gatherings of more than five people are outlawed under the Ugandan government’s emergency lockdown rules.

Veteran activist Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda said that shelters for LGBTQ people have had to change policies under the lockdown. Shelters like the one in Kyengera often house queer young people who’ve been kicked out of their homes with nowhere else to go. Mugisha charged that only LGBTQ gatherings are being targeted for breaking the “five person rule.” Uganda is well known for being one of the worst places on earth to be queer.

It’s not known if any of the 19 detainees have actually been tested for coronavirus. Unless bail is unexpectedly granted, they’re stuck in jail, a common breeding ground for COVID-19. Their first court hearing is scheduled for May 12th.

The Chief of the Byron, Georgia Fire Department is suing the city in federal court for wrongful termination after she came out as transgender.

Rachel Mosby was hired in 2007 as Fire Marshall of Byron, a farming region outside of Macon, Georgia with about 4500 residents. She was promoted to Chief in January 2008 to lead its first professional fire department. She was fired by the City Administrator last June for allegedly “poor performance.” Despite nary a mention of her transgender status, the lawsuit Mosby filed last week contends that in reality the termination was “based on her sex, gender identity, and notions of sex stereotyping.”

It argues that Mosby spent years developing the department from the ground up, secured funding to pay for equipment, and improved the department’s rating that insurance companies use to help determine a community’s fire risk. The city denies that her transition was a factor in the termination.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard cases testing federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers in October. It may be the ultimate arbiter of cases just like Mosby’s. A ruling there is expected in June.

Finally, this is what democracy looks like: a lesbian former deputy sheriff in Hamilton County, Ohio has won the Democratic primary, defeating her former boss – the guy she’s suing for wrongful termination.

Charmaine McGuffey crushed incumbent Sheriff Jim Neil by a nearly 70 percent margin. She’ll face a Cincinnati police lieutenant on the November ballot who ran unopposed in the Republican primary.

McGuffey was responsible for jail and court services. Under her tenure, the Hamilton County Justice Center went from being the lowest-ranked large jail system in Ohio to the best in the state. Neil actually admitted to firing McGuffey for being a lesbian, claiming that it created “a hostile work environment.”

McGuffey’s federal lawsuit also charges that she was fired for expressing concerns about excessive use of force by sheriff’s deputies. The lawsuit is still pending.

Neil was already unpopular in Democratic circles for being too conservative – he even appeared at a Donald Trump rally in 2016. So it’s no surprise that the local Democratic Party’s nominating committee endorsed his primary challenger.

McGuffey had said that she believed she would win, but by 70 percent? She said, “I didn’t know it would be that large.”

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