The Kramer Heart

Writer and ACT UP co-founder Larry Kramer speaks for himself, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, playwright Tony Kushner, and activists/journalists Ann Northrop and Andy Humm pay tribute to the life and legacy of the late, great activist.

China and Hong Kong queer couples seek inheritance rights, gay Malaysian man challenges enforcement of Islamic sex laws, well-known Turkmen actor imprisoned for being gay, Zambia’s president pardons harshly-sentenced gay couple, Black gay bird-watcher clips dog-walking racist’s wings, and more international LGBTQ news!

Complete Program Summary and NewsWrap Transcript for the week of June 1, 2020

The Kramer Heart

Program #1,679 distributed 06/01/20

Hosted this week by Lucia Chappelle and produced with Greg Gordon

NewsWrap (full transcript below): China’s new civil code “right to reside” provisions may allow gays and lesbians to leave their property after they die to their same-gender partner … a Hong Kong gay man sues for the right to leave his property to the man he legally married in London … a Malaysian man’s lawsuit challenges his state’s Islamic law against consensual adult gay sex … a well-known Turkmenistan actor and his partner are among several men netted in a police raid on a private home and sentenced to two years in jail, ostensibly just for being gay … Zambian President Edgar Lungu pardons the gay couple infamously sentenced to 15 years in prison last November … Black bird-watching gay activist Chris Cooper discusses (on GayUSA) his Central Park confrontation with an unhinged racist white woman and her unleashed dog (written by GREG GORDON, edited by LUCIA CHAPPELLE, reported this week by MICHAEL LEBEAU and JOHN DYER V, produced by BRIAN DESHAZOR).

Feature: After surviving the wartime of AIDS, many people probably thought the indomitable Larry Kramer would live forever … but the infamous author and co-founder of ACT-UP died of pneumonia on May 27th in Manhattan at the age of 84. Tributes to Kramer’s legacy have been pouring in, and we’ve collected a few of them, including Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and fellow New Yorkers playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and activists/journalists Ann Northrop and Andy Humm (GayUSA) – along with some of Kramer’s comments/critiques/exhortations over the years, including his remarks at the 20th anniversary celebration of ACT UP in March 2007, and last year at the alternative Stonewall 50th Anniversary rally (with intro/outro music from Living In Wartime by MICHAEL CALLEN, and a brief “Save The Date” announcement about midway in by BRIAN DESHAZOR about This Way Out’s June 25th Virtual Pride Celebration/Global Queer Read-In).

NewsWrap

A summary of some of the news in or affecting global LGBTQ communities
for the week ending May 30, 2020
Written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle,
reported this week by Michael LeBeau and John Dyer V,
produced by Brian DeShazor

Queer couples in China may be the winners under the nation’s first civil code to include “right to reside” provisions. It appears to offer the chance to specify the right of a partner to live on any property an individual owns after they die.

Zhang Qianlin is an attorney who specializes in property law. He told Reuters that the provisions in the civil code lawmakers approved this week do not “put restrictions such as kinship or gender on the people who can be given the right to reside. … It could become gospel for the LGBT community.”

But another property law specialist was more cautionary. Yang Jianwei told the news agency that every authority may not interpret the general wording of the code that way. He warns that, “Whether it can protect the property rights of same-sex couples is still up for debate.”

Meanwhile Chinese government officials have dismissed any notion of marriage equality. An official with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee rejected organized public lobbying for it in late May. Huang Wei said that the country “insisted [only] on heterosexual marriage.” During the draft civil code public comment period, she dismissed thousands of letters and posted online comments supporting marriage equality. She called it “an organized act” with “copied and pasted” messages.

The new civil code was passed on May 28th, and is set to take effect in China on January 1st, 2021.

A gay homeowner in Hong Kong is challenging inheritance laws that don’t allow him to bequeath his property to his legal spouse. Edgar Ng Hon-lam married Henry Li Yik-ho in London in 2017, but Hong Kong does not recognize the marriage. Married heterosexual couples enjoy automatic inheritance rights, however.

The South China Morning Post reported on May 27th that lawyers for Ng are not demanding marriage equality, just inheritance equality — the orderly distribution of estates. They argue that Ng’s spouse Li would, “in essence [be] treated as an outsider” if Ng neglected to prepare a will, even though Ng would want to provide for his husband. Attorney Jin Pao argued that, “It’s no good answer to say you can prepare a will … The implication of difference in treatment is very serious for my client [and] wholly disproportionate.”

Representing the Hong Kong government, Abraham Chan Lok-shung countered that marriage equality and civil unions had been rejected by Hong Kong courts as recently as last November. He argued that Ng and Li are “simply not in a comparable legal position” to their heterosexual counterparts, and that even they must prepare wills if they don’t like the property distribution provisions in the Interstates’ Estate Ordinance.

According to the news report, “Mr. Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming has reserved his decision.”

An anonymous man in Malaysia is challenging his state’s religious laws that make consensual adult homosexual sex a crime.

There’s essentially a dual legal system in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Secular laws against same-gender sex are not often enforced. But in the 13 states ruled by Islamic law, Muslim citizens are frequently prosecuted for the same violations. “Reuters” reported this week that the 30-something Muslim man in the state of Selangor was arrested in 2018 for “attempting gay sex,” a charge he denied. He had been caught up with 10 other men in one of the country’s frequent raids by religious authorities on a private residence. Five of his co-defendants pleaded guilty and were sentenced last year to canings, fines, and jail.

The plaintiff’s attorneys say that they are keeping his identity private for safety reasons. They argue that the state has no power to enforce its Islamic law banning “intercourse against the order of nature” when same-gender sex is already criminalized in civil law. Malaysia’s top court allowed the lawsuit to go forward in a May 14th decision that was only made public this week.

A statement by the Malaysian queer rights coalition LGBTIQ+ Network, cheered the court’s green light. The Network points to what it calls an “ongoing national trend” of using laws against “unnatural sex” to “disproportionately criminalize marginalized and persecuted communities based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Attorney Surendra Ananth told Reuters that he expects the man’s case to be heard before the end of this year.

A well-known actor in Turkmenistan is among a number of men who have been sentenced to two years in prison – just for being gay. The unidentified actor, his spouse and about a dozen other men were arrested in March on suspicion of engaging in homosexual acts, according to local news sources. No one was reported to have been literally having sex when the raid occurred. Some detainees are thought to have bribed police or agreed to testify against the others to gain their release. The remaining men were convicted on the basis of signed confessions – probably coerced. Each got a two-year prison sentence. Under Turkmen law, a repeat offender could be sentenced to up to ten years behind bars.

Most LGBTQ people in the conservative and unaccepting mostly Muslim central Asian nation stay deeply closeted. According to the Sydney Star Observer, the unnamed actor is the son of a diplomat, but family connections did not save him.

Human Rights Watch joined several advocacy groups to condemn the arrests and jail sentences. A statement called on Turkmenistan to repeal laws criminalizing consensual adult same-gender sex, “and protect people from violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.” It said that, “This blatantly discriminatory law … violates Turkmenistan’s international human rights obligations, [and] enables police to subject gay and bisexual men to harassment, including with the purpose of extortion, humiliation, and abuse.”

The president of Zambia has pardoned the gay male couple infamously sentenced to 15 years for sodomy. They are reportedly among almost three thousand people pardoned by President Edgar Lungu on Africa Freedom Day, which commemorates the creation of the Organization of African Unity.

39-year-old Japhet Chataba and 31-year-old Steven Samba were jailed in November 2019 — convicted for “crimes against the order of nature” and slammed with 15-year sentences. U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote became collateral damage when the Trump administration recalled him after Zambian officials took exception to his outspoken criticism of the harsh prison sentences. He was quoted as saying that it “personally horrified” him.

Reacting to the announcement of the May 22nd pardons, Opposition Party leader Sean Tembo told a Zambian radio station that Lungu has “no option” but to apologize to Foote for his “victimization and humiliation” now that the sentences have been overturned.

Pink News noted that evangelical Christianity affects virtually every aspect of daily life in Zambia, and anti-queer attitudes are pervasive. So the pardons are not seen as any sign that life for LGBTQ people in the East African country will be getting any better.

Finally, just one day after the cameras of witnesses captured George Floyd’s “death by cop” in Minneapolis, MN, an incident involving an African American gay activist and a white woman in New York’s Central Park also went viral. Chris Cooper is a colleague of This Way Out’s friends Ann Northrop and Andy Humm of GayUSA, and is an avid bird-watcher. While pursuing his passion on May 26, he tried to get another park patron to leash her dog in an environmentally sensitive, restricted area. Chris told Ann and Andy what happened when the woman refused and demanded he stop videotaping her.

[Chris Cooper:] “Up until then, it was just a conflict between a dog-walker and a bird-watcher. And here’s where she took it to a dark place, wherein she said, ‘If you don’t stop recording me, I’m gonna call the police …’”

[Amy Cooper:] “I’m gonna tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”

[Chris:] “And I’m like, ‘Oh boy! Well, what do I do now?’ Because, you know, the implications for me are clear.”

Long story short, Chris was gone and the woman was unable to give the police her exact location, so fortunately nothing drastic occurred at the scene. However, when the news got out, the woman lost her job at a prestigious financial firm, “voluntarily surrendered” her dog to the rescue organization she got it from, and may be banned from Central Park for life. She has tried to issue an apology, but Chris thinks there’s more to it than that.

[Chris:] “I’m trying to look at this beyond her, because, you know, her split second, extremely poor judgment that led her to a racist place … she’s paying the consequences for that. How do we start to address the underlying issue that led her there, that leads to all these deaths and all these problems.”

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