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CA Assembly passes Chechnya resolution

by Heather Cassell

Assemblyman Evan Low
Assemblyman Evan Low  

The California Assembly Monday unanimously passed a resolution condemning anti-LGBT violence in Chechnya and called on the Trump administration and Congress to take action.

Assembly Joint Resolution 16 condemns the government-sanctioned persecution, torture, and murder of gay men in the Chechen Republic and encourages the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant asylum and refugee status for people fleeing persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a news release from gay Assemblyman Evan Low's (D-Campbell) office Monday.

The resolution was authored by Low, chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-Templeton).

The release cited reports from Human Rights Watch describing the kidnapping and torture of more than 100 suspected gay men and reported alleged deaths of at least three men at the hands of Chechen police. The arrests and detainment of the men in December and March came to light in April with an investigative piece published by Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov denied the detainment of gay men by authorities and the existence of LGBT people in his state.

Several human rights groups have condemned the disappearances and urged Congress to grant asylum to those fleeing persecution.

Assembly Joint Resolution 16 adds California's voice to the international outcry.

"We are all deeply disturbed by the reports of abuse, kidnapping, and murder of LGBT people living in Chechnya," said Low. "Violence against one of us is violence against us all. We must take action immediately to condemn this horrific abuse."

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said, "The United States must condemn in no uncertain terms and put the full force of our diplomatic efforts to end the horrific treatment and killing of gay men in Chechnya."

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to investigate the situation, following international pressure, including protests in San Francisco. However, Gay Star News reported that Russian LGBT activists have warned that officials put in charge of looking into the matter might not fulfill those promises because of resistance.

In another matter, the European Court for Human Rights last week ruled that Russia's anti-homosexuality propaganda law violated the right to freedom and expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The three gay activists â€" Nikolai Alexeyev, Nikolai Bayev and Alexei Kiselyov â€" who filed the lawsuit were awarded $55,000 total.

"By adopting such laws the authorities reinforce stigma and prejudice and encourage homophobia, which is incompatible with the notions of equality, pluralism and tolerance inherent in a democratic society," the seven-judge panel said in the ruling, according to media reports.


Turkish LGBT activists march for Pride, despite ban

At least 44 activists were arrested during the 15th Istanbul LGBTI Pride March June 25.

Police also detained about 20 ultranationalists Sunday.

It was the third year in a row the march was banned by the governor of Istanbul. According to BBC News, police briefly fired rubber bullets to disperse the marchers and detained a number of them.

Homosexuality isn't illegal in the Muslim country, but it isn't socially accepted either.

In 2014 Istanbul Pride was allowed by authorities and attracted upward of 100,000 attendees. But in 2015 and 2016 Turkish police have used riot control methods to shut down the Pride event, reported ABC News.


Germany may vote on same-sex marriage

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has broken with her party, clearing the way for a vote on same-sex marriage as early as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported.

No bill in parliament to legalize same-sex marriage has been voted on, but several have been submitted, the Journal reported.

Merkel announced that parliament could take up the same-sex marriage as a "question of conscience," allowing lawmakers not to vote along party lines.

Merkel is a member of the conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union, which, along with another conservative party, the Alternative for Germany, has continued to successfully block passage of same-sex marriage despite growing support for marriage equality among lawmakers and the public.

A recent study conducted by the German Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency showed that 83 percent of respondents support marriage equality in Germany, Rene Mertens, representative for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, told Gay Star News.

Civil partnerships for same-sex couples were legalized in 2001.

Mertens also called upon Merkel's party to "stop blocking marriage for all."

The Green and Left parties proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Parliament's upper house. The coalition government is divided on the issue and the lower house's legal affairs committee has repeatedly deferred an official vote, according to media reports.


Marriage equality leading issue on Malta's agenda

Malta's newly elected government headed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's second administration this week started debates to amend laws to "modernize marriage" in the formerly conservative Catholic country.

Muscat won Malta's snap election June 3.

Muscat has been prime minister since 2013 and is a member of the Labour Party. He's modernized the European Mediterranean island country, creating a democracy with more than one political party and reduced unemployment to 4.1 percent, the country's lowest ever, according to media reports.

There won't be a single marriage equality bill, but a "raft of changes to existing laws," in the Marriage Act and several other laws, according to Equality Minister Helena Dalli, who is heading up the debates that will allow all consenting adults to marry, reported the Times of Malta.

In addition to the Marriage Act, the laws targeted for revision are the country's criminal code, the code of civil organization and procedure, the civil code, the Interpretation Act, the Civil Unions Act, and other subsidiary legislation, reported the Times.

The goal will be to update the laws altering "husband and wife" and "mother and father" references to gender-neutral terms, such as spouse and parent.

Religious organizations will not be required to perform same-sex marriages under the modernized laws.


Costa Rica to cover transgender health care

Some transgender Costa Ricans will soon be able to receive comprehensive health care provided by the government.

It's estimated that 100 individuals will access care, said Jose Luis Loria Chaves, director of the Costa Rican Social Security Agency, which oversees health care services in the Central American country.

The agency announced June 19 that it had established an interdisciplinary health professional committee.

Chaves explained that "transsexual" people suffer discrimination, physical aggression, and harassment that often restrict them from education and employment opportunities, as well as social rejection. These personal obstacles could lead to alcohol and substance abuse as well as other "self-destructive behaviors."

The committee is expected to develop a therapeutic care protocol that will offer hormonal and psychological treatment for transgender Costa Ricans.

Once the protocol is developed, health care providers will be trained to serve the transgender community. The protocol is expected to be ready in three months, reported the Star.

However, only transgender individuals with proper health insurance coverage will be able to access the new medical services.


Pakistan issues first third-gender passport

Pakistan will start issuing passports with a separate category, "X," for trans persons, according to Trans Action Pakistan.

Transgender activists hailed the government's move as a "step forward," reported Agence France-Presse.

The third-gender option covers khawajasiras, an umbrella term for trans people and eunuchs.

Transgender activist Farzana Riaz said that she received her passport that identified her gender as "X."

Previously, she had a passport that identified her as male.

"This time I told the authorities that I won't accept my passport if it doesn't identify me as a transgender," said Riaz, the 30-year-old co-founder and president of rights organization TransAction Alliance.

However, the Nation reported that some members of the transgender community don't believe the new category goes far enough to accurately identify their gender because it doesn't allow for identification as "trans-female" or "trans-male," acknowledged Qamar Naseem, co-founder of transgender Pakistani organization Blue Veins.

However, he explained that the "X" demarcation is a win for the community. It is an umbrella symbol covering all gender variant individuals recognized internationally.

"This is a historic moment, for the first time transgender persons are being separated in the gender category of the Pakistan passport. They will be represented with an 'X' and will be allowed to travel without much hassle," said Naseem.

Pakistan joins Australia, India, Nepal, and New Zealand in identifying gender variant individuals on passports.


Got international LGBT news tips? Contact Heather Cassell at



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