Roundup: Gay Marriage in DC Brings Cupcakes and Clowns

Rachel Larris

Gay marriage is happening in a lot of new places this week, which always attracts a party. Meanwhile in Afghanistan some mullahs are promoting birth control and distributing condoms.

Gay marriage is happening in a lot of new places this week. For example, our nation’s capitol. After the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday refused to step in and block the implementation of DC’s law allowing for gay marriage, couples were free to line up in front of the D.C. Superior Court to get their marriage certificates.

According to the Washington Post some couples started lining up as early as 6 a.m.:

About 45 couples with their coffee, newspapers and blackberries – many dressed in blazers and slacks as they planned to go to work after filing an application – were waiting in line when the court’s marriage bureau opened its doors at 8:30 a.m. Employees allowed 10 couples to enter at a time, and had extra personnel on hand to accept the applications.

Every time a new state or municipality opens the doors to gay marriage it’s a celebration. And what’s a celebration without cake? In DC’s version the first 200 couples get cupcakes passed out by the DC city councilmember who authored the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, David Catania.

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Of course sometimes celebrations also have clowns, and for that we have perennial hate activist, the God-hates-fags man himself, Fred Phelps, also coming to DC. Washington City Paper blogger Amanda Hess has some pretty good suggestions for those who want to counter-protest Fred Phelps.

Tomorrow, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church will be protesting the first day of same-sex marriage in the District. Why? Well, because “God hates fags! God hates fag-enablers! Ergo, God hates District of Columbia, all of DOOMED america, and the World! You’ve turned the country over to the fags; now your soldiers/fire fighters/cops/kids/parents/etc. are coming home in body bags! Judges 19-21. Praise God! Amen.”

One District resident has dared to defy this logic. Bridget Todd is organizing a Phelps counter-protest from 11-12 p.m. tomorrow outside of D.C. Superior Court. Todd also intends to challenge the creative signage of the most flamboyant hate group around (”Bitch Burger”?).

Hess has some wonderful examples of signs one can hold next to a Phelps. Because “God hates ___” has so many absurd possibilities which only makes counter-protesting the more fun!

But least you think DC is where all the gay marriage action is, another capitol city, Mexico City, is also getting into the spirit. The Washington Post reports:

The Mexican wedding may never be the same.

On Thursday, this sprawling megalopolis will catapult to the front lines of gay rights in Latin America when a city law legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption goes into effect.

This liberalization of gay marriage laws is occurring all over Central and South America.

With the news, same-sex couples across the region began to demand equal access to the altar.

“Homosexual Marriage is Approved in Mexico. And in Chile, When?” read a headline in Chilean news Web site El Paradiario 14.

On Feb. 23, Buenos Aires judge Elena Liberatori told a gay couple to set a wedding date, despite policies that are “not in line with the times.” In late December, two men whose wedding plans were derailed by a Buenos Aires court married in Tierra del Fuego — home to a tolerant governor — becoming the first gay couple in Latin America to legally wed.

Mexico City legalized same-sex civil unions in 2007; they also are recognized in Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina, but advocates for gay rights say only marriage can protect the rights of families in such matters as property and custody.

Meanwhile even England, which legalized civil unions in 2004, is opening up a little more by voting to lift the ban on holding civil union ceremonies in churches. The BBC reports:

The House of Lords agreed an amendment to the Equality Bill which would allow, but not compel, religious organizations to host the occasions.

Gay rights campaigners celebrated the change, but opponents said it could be impractical and undermine marriage.

Peers voted by a majority of 74 in favor of the amendment, which was not backed by the government.

It is yet to be approved by the Commons, but it is thought to be unlikely that MPs would make any significant changes.

In Other News: The Associated Press is reporting that in Afghanistan some mullahs are promoting birth control and distributing condoms.

Some mullahs in Afghanistan are distributing condoms. Others are quoting the Quran to encourage longer breaks between births. Health experts say contraception is starting to catch on in a country with the world’s second highest maternal death rate.

Afghanistan’s maternal death rate of 1,800 per 100,000 live births is topped only by Sierra Leone worldwide, according to UNICEF. The U.S. rate is 11 per 100,000 births.

Quotes were used from the Quran to promote breast-feeding for two years, while local religious leaders, or mullahs, joined community and health leaders to explain the importance of spacing out births to give moms and babies the best chance at good health.

In total, 37 mullahs endorsed using contraceptives as a way to increase the time between births, some delivering the message during Friday prayers. The mullahs’ major concerns centered on safety and infertility, the report said.

“All the mullahs at the community level knew of these things that the Prophet Muhammad himself advised his followers,” Huber said. “This was not a hard sell.”

Islam, unlike Catholicism, does not fundamentally oppose birth control. Everything from vasectomies to abortions are supported in various parts of the Muslim world.

March 3, 2010

Death threats for woman who talks online about abortion Chicago Sun-Times

Same-sex couples arrive at DC courthouse to apply for marriage licenses Washington Post

D.C. Catholic Charity Drops Spouse Coverage Over Gay Law Politics Daily

Hoyer: ‘We’ll See’ If Abortion Compromise Possible on Health Care Bill CNSNews.com

Abortion measure calls for viewing of ultrasound Charleston Daily Mail

Church gay ceremonies ban lifted BBC

House holds key to unlocking health care reform bill Las Vegas Sun

With same-sex marriage law, Mexico City becomes battleground in culture wars Washington Post

Clinic fell through cracks Philadelphia Inquirer 

UN warns HIV/Aids leading cause of death in women BBC

Fremont volunteer group criticized for donation to anti-abortion clinic Oakland Tribune

Over 1000 come to hear Pam Tebow speak on abortion issue Macon Telegraph 

Two Kalamazoo County commissioners want abortion insurance coverage removed Kalamazoo Gazette

Plea deal possible in abortion doc’s threat case  Seattle Times

March 2, 2010

Antiabortion activists see a racial conspiracy Los Angeles Times

US to study effect of ending gay ban on military ‘readiness’ AFP

Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill won’t be dropped: Parliament speaker New York Daily News

California Pro-Life Group Takes on Meg Whitman Over Taxpayer-Funded Abortions LifeNews.com

Abortion battle intensifies at Louisville clinic as lines between sides blur WHAS 11.com

Mullahs help promote birth control in Afghanistan Associated Press

Infected babies dying as syphilis rate soars Vancouver Sun

Commentary Sexuality

Black Trans Liberation Tuesday Must Become an Annual Observance

Raquel Willis

As long as trans people—many of them Black trans women—continue to be murdered, there will be a need to commemorate their lives, work to prevent more deaths, and uplift Black trans activism.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

This week marks one year since Black transgender activists in the United States organized Black Trans Liberation Tuesday. Held on Tuesday, August 25, the national day of action publicized Black trans experiences and memorialized 18 trans women, predominantly trans women of color, who had been murdered by this time last year.

In conjunction with the Black Lives Matter network, the effort built upon an earlier Trans Liberation Tuesday observance created by Bay Area organizations TGI Justice Project and Taja’s Coalition to recognize the fatal stabbing of 36-year-old trans Latina woman Taja DeJesus in February 2015.

Black Trans Liberation Tuesday should become an annual observance because transphobic violence and discrimination aren’t going to dissipate with one-off occurrences. I propose that Black Trans Liberation Tuesday fall on the fourth Tuesday of August to coincide with the first observance and also the August 24 birthday of the late Black trans activist Marsha P. Johnson.

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There is a continuing need to pay specific attention to Black transgender issues, and the larger Black community must be pushed to stand in solidarity with us. Last year, Black trans activists, the Black Lives Matter network, and GetEQUAL collaborated on a blueprint of what collective support looks like, discussions that led to Black Trans Liberation Tuesday.

“Patrisse Cullors [a co-founder of Black Lives Matter] had been in talks on ways to support Black trans women who had been organizing around various murders,” said Black Lives Matter Organizing Coordinator Elle Hearns of Washington, D.C. “At that time, Black trans folks had been experiencing erasure from the movement and a lack of support from cis people that we’d been in solidarity with who hadn’t reciprocated that support.”

This erasure speaks to a long history of Black LGBTQ activism going underrecognized in both the civil rights and early LGBTQ liberation movements. Many civil rights leaders bought into the idea that influential Black gay activist Bayard Rustin was unfit to be a leader simply because he had relationships with men, though he organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Johnson, who is often credited with kicking off the 1969 Stonewall riots with other trans and gender-nonconforming people of color, fought tirelessly for LGBTQ rights. She and other trans activists of color lived in poverty and danger (Johnson was found dead under suspicious circumstances in July 1992), while the white mainstream gay elite were able to demand acceptance from society. Just last year, Stonewall, a movie chronicling the riots, was released with a whitewashed retelling that centered a white, cisgender gay male protagonist.

The Black Lives Matter network has made an intentional effort to avoid the pitfalls of those earlier movements.

“Our movement has been intersectional in ways that help all people gain liberation whether they see it or not. It became a major element of the network vision and how it was seeing itself in the Black liberation movement,” Hearns said. “There was no way to discuss police brutality without discussing structural violence affecting Black lives, in general”—and that includes Black trans lives.

Despite a greater mainstream visibility for LGBTQ issues in general, Black LGBTQ issues have not taken the forefront in Black freedom struggles. When a Black cisgender heterosexual man is killed, his name trends on social media feeds and is in the headlines, but Black trans women don’t see the same importance placed on their lives.

According to a 2015 report by the Anti-Violence Project, a group dedicated to ending anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected community violence, trans women of color account for 54 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicides. Despite increased awareness, with at least 20 transgender people murdered since the beginning of this year, it seems things haven’t really changed at all since Black Trans Liberation Tuesday.

“There are many issues at hand when talking about Black trans issues, particularly in the South. There’s a lack of infrastructure and support in the nonprofit sector, but also within health care and other systems. Staffs at LGBTQ organizations are underfunded when it comes to explicitly reaching the trans community,” said Micky Bradford, the Atlanta-based regional organizer for TLC@SONG. “The space between towns can harbor isolation from each other, making it more difficult to build up community organizing, coalitions, and culture.”

The marginalization that Black trans people face comes from both the broader society and the Black community. Fighting white supremacy is a full-time job, and some activists within the Black Lives Matter movement see homophobia and transphobia as muddying the fight for Black liberation.

“I think we have a very special relationship with gender and gender violence to all Black people,” said Aaryn Lang, a New York City-based Black trans activist. “There’s a special type of trauma that Black people inflict on Black trans people because of how strict the box of gender and space of gender expression has been to move in for Black people. In the future of the movement, I see more people trusting that trans folks have a vision that’s as diverse as blackness is.”

But even within that diversity, Black trans people are often overlooked in movement spaces due to anti-Blackness in mainstream LGBTQ circles and transphobia in Black circles. Further, many Black trans people aren’t in the position to put energy into movement work because they are simply trying to survive and find basic resources. This can create a disconnect between various sections of the Black trans community.

Janetta Johnson, executive director of TGI Justice Project in San Francisco, thinks the solution is twofold: increased Black trans involvement and leadership in activism spaces, and more facilitated conversations between Black cis and trans people.

“I think a certain part of the transgender community kind of blocks all of this stuff out. We are saying we need you to come through this process and see how we can create strength in numbers. We need to bring in other trans people not involved in the movement,” she said. “We need to create a space where we can share views and strategies and experiences.”

Those conversations must be an ongoing process until the killings of Black trans women like Rae’Lynn Thomas, Dee Whigham, and Skye Mockabee stop.

“As we commemorate this year, we remember who and why we organized Black Trans Liberation Tuesday last year. It’s important we realize that Black trans lives are still being affected in ways that everyday people don’t realize,” Hearns said. “We must understand why movements exist and why people take extreme action to continuously interrupt the system that will gladly forget them.”

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

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