The number of anti-LGBTQ hate groups grew 43% in 2019 – White House says that’s a “far-left smear”

The White House said that it’s “disgusting” to call them out for associating with and promoting anti-LGBTQ hate groups.


By Alex Bollinger


LGBTQ Nation (02.04.2020) – – Anti-LGBTQ hate groups are on the rise in the U.S., according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), but the Trump administration is calling it a “far-left smear.”


The SPLC released its 2019 “Year in Hate and Extremism” report, which says that the number of anti-LGBTQ hate groups rose by 43% since 2018. It is now following 70 anti-LGBTQ hate groups in the U.S.


“The Trump administration has demonstrated a clear willingness to embrace their leaders and their policy agenda,” the SPLC report states, referring to how Trump administration officials have filed legal briefs on behalf of hate groups, spoken at events organized by hate groups, nominated judges connected to hate groups, and even hiring former hate group employees to work in key civil rights positions.


“According to a report by Lambda Legal, a third of the more than 50 U.S. circuit court judges nominated by Trump have a ‘demonstrated history of anti-LGBTQ bias,’” the SPLC report says. “Lambda argues that the justice system is ‘now indisputably in a state of crisis.’”


The report says that much of the growth in anti-LGBTQ hate groups has taken place “at the grassroots level” and cites Steven Anderson and his Faithful Word Baptist Church as an example. Anderson has been banned from 33 countries due to his hate speech – which includes calling the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting “disgusting homosexuals… worthy of death” – and his organization was just added to the SPLC’s list of hate groups.


Out White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere – who is on-board when it comes to Trump’s anti-LGBTQ equality agenda – called the report “disgusting.”


“While the radical left has pushed false accusations that LGBTQ Americans are threatened, the president has hired and promoted LGBTQ Americans to the highest levels of government, including positions at the White House, Cabinet agencies, and ambassadorships,” Deere told NBC News.


Deere also cites Trump’s “global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality” – an initiative that the White House announced but took few discernible steps to advance and that has had no successes – and his “bold declaration” to end HIV transmissions in the next 10 years, a promise experts are skeptical Trump’s policies will achieve.


One anti-LGBTQ hate group tracked by the SPLC, the Alliance Defending Freedom, said that it was “appalling” to release the report during the coronavirus pandemic and said that the SPLC should “retract the report.”


“Stop sowing division and join the rest of America against our common foe: COVID-19,” said a spokesperson for ADF, a group that is currently fighting a legal battle to ban transgender girls from competing in school sports.


A group that merely opposes LGBTQ legislation will not appear on the SPLC’s list of hate groups. It has to “attack or malign” LGBTQ people in its actions or official communications, often by associating homosexuality with pedophilia, calling for death to LGBTQ people, and saying that LGBTQ people are a threat to children. Hate speech, the SPLC argues, is often a precursor to violence.


“We are not against Christian groups,” said the SPLC’s Lecia Brooks. “For us, it’s more about the way they go out of their way to demonize LGBTQ folks.”


“Sadly, there is not enough public outcry against anti-LGBTQ groups because we have just let it go saying, ‘That’s just their religion.’”

Uganda charges 20 LGBT+ people with risking spread of coronavirus

By Alice McCool


Thomson Reuters Foundation (31.03.2020) – – Ugandan police charged 20 LGBT+ people with disobeying rules on social distancing and risking the spread of coronavirus on Tuesday, drawing criticism from campaigners who said they were using the restrictions to target sexual minorities.


Gay sex carries a possible life sentence in Uganda, one of the most difficult countries in Africa to be a sexual minority.


The 14 gay men, two bisexual men and four transgender women were taken into custody on Sunday when police raided a shelter on the outskirts of the capital Kampala.


Police said they were disobeying coronavirus-related restrictions on social distancing by “congesting in a school-like-dormitory setting within a small house” despite a ban on gatherings of more than 10, which has now been reduced to five.


Deputy Police Spokesperson Patrick Onyango denied allegations made by LGBT+ campaigners that they were targeted because of their sexual orientation.


“We still have offences of unnatural sex in our law books,” Onyango told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We would charge them with that law, but we are charging them with those counts as you can see.”


Onyango said there were two charges against the group – disobedience of lawful order and committing neglectful acts likely to spread infection of disease. The charges carry a maximum of two and seven years imprisonment respectively.


Although 23 people were arrested initially, three people were released without charges on medical grounds. The group are now on remand and will appear in court on 29 April 29, he added.


LGBT+ campaigners in Uganda say members of the community risk physical attacks in their daily life and routinely encounter harassment, as well as facing prejudice over work, housing and health care.


“They are always using alternative charges to arrest people for unnatural offences so it (coronavirus) just worked perfectly for them,” said Patricia Kimera, a lawyer with Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, defending the group.


“But definitely the reason they have been arrested is their sexual orientation.”

Singapore gay sex ban: Court rejects appeals to overturn law

A bid to overturn a law that criminalises gay sex in Singapore has been dismissed by a court, dealing a blow to the city state’s LGBT movement.


BBC News (30.03.2020) – – The high court rejected appeals by three gay men who had argued the colonial-era law was unconstitutional.


The presiding judge said the law was “important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs” in Singapore.


Under Section 377A, men found guilty of homosexual acts in public or private can be jailed for up to two years.


Speaking outside court, a lawyer for one of the complainants, M Ravi, said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling.


“It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary,” he said.


The legal challenges were the latest attempts to repeal Section 377A, after an effort by a gay couple in 2014 was rejected by the Court of Appeal.


But the LGBT rights movement in Singapore regained momentum after India’s decision to scrap similar legislation in 2018 renewed hopes for reform.


Singapore’s authorities rarely enforce Section 377A, first introduced in 1938 by British colonial rulers.


But Singapore’s leaders, including its current prime minister, have refused to remove it, saying it reflects the conservative mores of the city state’s society.


In Monday’s judgement, the court echoed that sentiment, saying non-enforcement of the law against consensual gay sex in private did not render it redundant.


The court concluded the law was constitutional because it did not violate articles regarding equality and freedom of speech.


The latest attempt to overturn the law was spearheaded by three people: a retired doctor, a DJ and an LGBT rights advocate.


One of the men told Reuters news agency he was disappointed by the ruling, adding “my eyes are firmly on the road ahead”.


Currently 70 countries criminalise same-sex relations.

Andorra set to become latest nation to legalize gay marriage

By Sonia Elks & Hugo Greenhalgh


Thomson Reuters Foundation (23.03.2020) – – Andorra, one of Europe’s smallest countries, is set to legalize gay marriage, highlighting that eastern European countries with anti-LGBT laws are “on the wrong side of history”, leading human rights specialists said on Monday.


A bill presented by the ruling coalition of Andorra, a nation of 80,000 people on the border of France and Spain, will remove the legal distinction between same-sex civil unions and heterosexual weddings. It is expected to take effect in months.


“For countries that continue to discriminate against LGBT people and persecute them as they do in Russia, (Andorra’s) move is further evidence that they are on the wrong side of history,” said barrister Jonathan Cooper at Doughty Street Chambers.


Katrin Hugendubel, advocacy director at LGBT+ rights group ILGA-Europe, stressed that human rights must not be overlooked as the world suffers under the effects of the coronavirus.


“(Andorra’s decision is) also a message to all of Europe that human rights are not to be forgotten, or to be exploited for political gain, at this time of global turbulence,” Hugendubel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.


Around the world, same-sex marriage remains an issue for many countries. Here are the key facts:


– The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in 2001.


– Same-sex marriage is legal in 27 United Nations member states: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay, and the United States.


– A total of 32 U.N. states recognize some form of civil partnership for same-sex couples.


– Taiwan was the first place in Asia where gay marriages were allowed. Drives for that right to be granted in China and Japan have faced stiff opposition.


– In Africa, where homosexuality is a crime in many countries and can lead to imprisonment or the death penalty, South Africa alone allows for same-sex marriage.

– Gay marriage is hotly contested among many religious groups. Leaders of the United Methodist Church announced proposals to split the church into two amid deep disputes over the issue.


– Almost one in three adults globally believe people of the same sex should be allowed to marry, a survey of almost 100,000 people in 65 countries showed in 2016.


Sources: ILGA State-Sponsored Homophobia report, Pew Research Centre, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Reuters.

Coronavirus lockdown exposes LGBT+ people to family abuse in the Middle East

LGBT+ groups are stepping up online and phone support for people trapped in abusive homes or struggling with isolation during coronavirus shutdowns.


By Ban Barkawi


Thomson Reuters Foundation (18.03.2020) – – With phone counselling and emergency deliveries of HIV drugs, LGBT+ groups across the Middle East are stepping up support for gay and transgender people trapped with abusive families or struggling with isolation under coronavirus lockdowns.


With more than 40 confirmed coronavirus cases in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority said on its website that it has closed places of worship, urged people to limit contact, and enforced a curfew in the city of Bethlehem.


“The environment we live in unfortunately can be aggressive toward LGBT+ people,” said Omar Al Khatib of the Palestinian LGBT+ group alQaws, which is based in Jerusalem where gay and trans people often live with families that do not accept them.


“Staying at home can eliminate their access to private spaces and increase bullying,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Acceptance of sexual and gender minorities is low across the largely conservative Middle East. Same-sex relationships are illegal, often risking fines, jail or even the death penalty, according to Human Rights Watch.


As coronavirus restrictions push more gay, bisexual and trans people into lockdown and close off social spaces that usually offer some respite, like coffee shops and clubs, escaping the pressure at home is no longer an option.


As businesses have been forced to close, money worries are also on the rise for LGBT+ people who live alone – often because they have been rejected by their families – Al Khatib added.


“The state of quarantine creates a feeling of isolation and fear, and that they are completely on their own so it’s not safe for them,” said Khatib, whose group used Facebook on Monday to urge people who were lonely and anxious to call its hotline.


The hotline is open on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and usually receives about 500 calls a year, with noticeable spikes during times of crisis, alQaws said.




Further north, Lebanon – the first Arab country to celebrate Pride in 2017 – has recorded about 130 coronavirus cases. Lebanon announced this week that it would shut its borders, banks and most public institutions until March 29.


The advocacy group Proud Lebanon has organised a task force of volunteers to deliver medication to people with HIV who cannot or will not leave their homes.


“They are afraid to come take their medication,” said the organisation’s director Bertho Makso in the capital Beirut.


“They are afraid there will be shortage of medication and they can’t go out because there is no public transport.”


Remote support has been ramped up in Tunisia, which had its first openly gay presidential candidate last year, although he was later forced to flee the north African country after death threats from Islamist elements.


With about 30 cases of coronavirus, authorities have suspended prayers at mosques, closed cafes in the afternoons and banned all cultural, sports and economic gatherings.


The LGBT+ group Mawjoudin has stopped giving face-to-face counselling services and closed the common room at its centre in the capital Tunis where people usually spend their free time or meet with friends in a safe setting, away from the public eye.


Calls to Mawjoudin’s hotline have increased in recent weeks, said Hana, who declined to give her full name as LGBT+ activists face harassment in Tunisia where gay sex is punishable by up to three years in prison.


“They have been expressing their frustration,” she said.


“When they go out alone, they have the freedom to not lie anymore to their families and now they don’t have it.”

Russia lifts house arrest of LGBT activist facing pornography charges



The Moscow Times (16.03.2020) – – Russia on Monday lifted the house arrest of an LGBT rights activist accused of distributing pornography for posting drawings of vaginas on a body-positive social media page.


Yulia Tsvetkova, 26, has been under house arrest since November in the remote Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on Amur, some 6,000 kilometers (3,800 miles) east of Moscow.


Amnesty International said the case was absurd and labeled her a prisoner of conscience.


A district court ruled she can now leave her home but must comply with a travel ban, Tsvetkova said.


“Today they will take off my bracelet,” she wrote on Facebook after the hearing, calling the ruling an encouraging sign.


“The investigation has big plans. But perhaps we had a small victory today,” she said, noting the case had not been closed.


Tsvetkova faces up to six years behind bars over the pornography charges. She was previously fined for violating a controversial Russian law against gay propaganda.


“She still risks a real prison sentence,” Amnesty International’s Russia director Natalia Zvyagina said in a statement after the ruling, calling for “the lifting of all charges against Yulia and an end to her persecution.”


As part of her activism, Tsvetkova hosted lectures for the LGBT community and held classes on sex education, which is prohibited at Russian schools.


She has reported receiving death threats from a homophobic group.


She told AFP earlier that she had maintained a social media page called “Vagina Monologues” for six months as a “hobby.”


She said she believes the authorities are using the pornography charge as a pretext for cracking down on LGBT activists because it is easy to pin on people and carries a long sentence.


The prosecution asked for her house arrest to be lifted because she has still not been charged, reported OVD-Info, a website that tracks detentions at political protests.


It is unclear when the trial will begin.


Her arrest prompted pickets and an online flash-mob where artists posted works of art depicting vaginas.