News Briefs: Thousands March for Gay Rights in Poland and Croatia, Ukraine Holds Major Pride March & More!

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Check out this week's latest news from around the world!

 

International – Suggested renegotiations of Trans-Pacific Partnership would demand equal treatment for LGBT citizens

In response to new persecutions of LGBT residents of Malaysia, Rep. Mark Pocan alongside more than two dozen House colleagues, has issued a letter to President Obama arguing that the Trans-Pacific Partnership to “include protections for gender and sexual minorities,” according to a [email protected] release.

The adjustments to the treaty would also demand that all countries participating in the TPP “treat all of their citizens as equal under the law regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“It continues to be clear that Malaysia will not voluntarily end the repression and harassment directed at its LGBTQ citizens and that pinky promises of future reform are not enough to ensure compliance with basic and needed international human rights standards or ensure new dignities and protections for all Malaysians,” said Jerome Davis, Executive Director of Pride at Work.

The recent mistreatment of the LGBTQ community in Malaysia as well as its neighbor Brunei have justified concerns to further human rights advocacy across the world. Instead of leveraging the trade pact in order to encourage enforceable progress on LGBTQ rights in these countries and others, the TPP has so far been a missed opportunity to improve the lives and protections for all, according to the release.

“Dear Mr. President,” Rep. Pocan wrote, “…we urge you to use the opportunity presented by the United States’ inclusion in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to explicitly protect LGBT individuals in the agreement’s participating countries … Given the continued prevalence of attacks on the LGBT community in Malaysia and Brunei, we urge you to consider renegotiating the agreement to include protections for gender and sexual minorities and further demand that these countries treat all of their citizens as equal under the law regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

 

Religion – Hamas founder’s grandson is a gay Christian in NYC

John Calvin – a name he chose to replace his birth name – is a gay Christian who fled the Middle East for fear of certain execution at the hands of his own family, according to the New York Post.

Calvin left his home, leaving behind his jihadi grandfather, Said Bilal, one of the founders of the jihadist group Hamas, at the age of 14 – fleeing the members of his family involved in the terrorism business.

He began studying Christianity and decided to convert. He moved to Canada, changed his name, and as an adult he came out as gay.

Shortly after, his father and family members began plotting an “honor killing” for Calvin, stating that if he ever returned to West Bank, he’d be killed just as Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law was killed after running from Iraq, according to CNN.

“I’ve lost count of how many threats there are on my life, and yet I prevail,” Calvin said.

Still considered a de facto member of the terror network, Calvin has faced many struggles when it comes to registering for refugee status. He was rejected by the Canadian government last year, and fled to the United States hoping for asylum. Instead he was detained for seven months.

However, with death threats on Calvin’s head ever present, and American judge decided to give Calvin a “deferred” removal, meaning he won’t be deported and can apply for work permits every year, CNN said.

Calvin hopes to go to law school and maybe one day have “a husband and two kids, and I guess live happily ever after,” he said.

 

International – Thousands march for gay rights in Poland, Croatia

(EDGE) Thousands of people marched Saturday in colorful gay pride events in Italy, Poland and Croatia urging support for minority rights in the mostly Catholic nations.

The parades in Poland and Croatia come amid mounting right-wing sentiments that pose new challenges to gay rights activists. Italian participants, however, had more reason to celebrate after winning the right to form same-sex civil unions this year.

Still, the Italians said there is far more to be done given the limited nature of the new civil union law, which took effect last Sunday.

Italy doesn't allow same-sex marriage, and gay rights proponents failed to get the civil unions law to include adoption by a gay civil union partner of the biological child of the other person in the union.

"In a country like Italy where LGBT rights are not fully recognized, the fact of showing ourselves in public in front of other people means that we are claiming our presence. In this moment we are saying: 'even if you do not agree with us, we are here,'" said Nadir Signori, a participant from Brescia.

In Zagreb, former interior minister Ranko Ostojic and several well-known public figures joined an event dubbed "Croatia is Not Over Yet." Ostojic says "I am glad to be here today, this is my Croatia."

Liberals have warned that Croatia has been tilting to the right under a conservative government that took over in January. Similarly in Poland, there are concerns for minority rights under a right-wing government that took office in November.

 

Health – United Nations commits to double AIDS treatment

A high-level United National meeting came to a close on Friday as countries committed to nearly doubling the amount of people who receive HIV treatment in the next five years, according to EDGE.

The U.N.’s 193 member states committed for the first time to monitoring the quality of treatment, with the goal to reduce the viral load of 90 percent of antiretroviral recipients to an undetectable level – thus improving the quality of life and reducing the risk of transmission.

The United Nations is now aiming to raise $13 billion over the next three years in order to support these goals.

The United States also announced Thursday that it would start a new $100 million Key Populations Investment Fund in order to reach people most at risk, such as young women, gay men, transgender people and intravenous drug users.

“Today is the day that we collectively say that we will end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft said. “We must pay greater attention to equality and inclusion, uphold human rights and speak out against stigma and discrimination.”

"Too many leaders say they support the end of AIDS and claim to stand with the people facing the life-threatening effects of bigotry and discrimination on full display during this week's negotiations. But for many governments these are just words – they fail to take action where it counts," Asia Russell, Executive Director of the Health Global Access Project, said in a statement. "We are therefore heartened to see the U.S. government pledging funding to directly confront the human rights violations that keep quality, evidence based prevention and treatment services from key populations around the world."

 

National – Hundreds line up to give blood after gay club shooting

(EDGE) Hundreds of people in Orlando have lined up to give blood to help the victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub.

Officials at OneBlood say they have received such an overwhelming response that they are now asking donors to come back over the next several days. More than 50 people were injured and 49 were killed when a gunman opened fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning.

In the hours after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, officials urged people to donate blood to help the victims.

In December, the nation's three-decade-old ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men was formally lifted, but there are still major restrictions to limit who can give blood. The Food and Drug Administration said it replaced the lifetime ban with a new policy barring donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year.

 

International – Ukraine holds its first major pride march in Kiev

(EDGE) Around a thousand people turned up on Sunday for Ukraine's first major gay pride march which was held amid tight security measures in the capital Kiev.

Several thousand police forces were guarding the procession in central Kiev and the rally was peaceful despite far-right groups making threats last week to attack it.

People were marching with rainbow flags and carried placards saying "Love has no gender."

"The road to equality in Ukraine is difficult as well as dangerous," Bohdan Hloba, one of the rally's organizers, said. "We have been threatened with a 'bloodbath' but every step of this march gives us hope."

Authorities sanctioned gay rights marches when the new pro-Western government came into power after the 2014 revolution, but earlier gatherings have been small and have come under attack from far-right groups.

The Kiev city police cordoned off nine streets and closed one subway station Sunday to ensure tight security and prevent clashes. A few anti-gay activists did get in, however, although they were not violent.

"I'm against gay propaganda that these sick people have organized here in collusion with authorities," said Serhiy Hashchenko, a 56-year-old father of 12 who went to the march carrying a placard "Ukraine is no Sodom."

Ultra-nationalist radicals who have threatened to disperse the march were watching it from the security perimeter lined with riot police.

Last year, a gay pride march in Kiev was called off less than half an hour after it began as right-wing activists pelted the marchers with smoke grenades.

 

National – DC pride event to go on, receives security increase after Orlando shooting.

The DC Capital Pride Festival will “go on as planned,” according to Pink News. This is in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando’s LGBT Pulse club that left 50 dead and 53 injured, and has become the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

“We deplore the wanton and senseless act of terrorism in Orlando, Florida earlier this morning, and our thoughts are with the victims, their families and the people of central Florida,” Capital Pride President Bernie Delia said in a statement.

“Capital Pride will observe a moment of silence from the Capital Stage at 1 p.m. in remembrance of the victims,” Delia added. “We will not give in to terrorism … That’s what they want.”

Following the moment of silence, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington will sing the national anthem as planned.

Delia has “every confidence” in the security the event will provide, as they are pulling from local and federal law enforcement agencies in the Washington D.C. area.

“Today, as always, we will not be deterred by hate as we gather to celebrate love,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement.

 

Education – Trailblazing LGBT studies class expands in San Francisco

The first LGBT studies class at a public high school in the nation is expected to expand to two or more schools in San Francisco next fall after meeting with success at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The class was based on students’ inquiry into LGBT subjects such as the importance of LGBT visibility and voice, the definition of gender, and historic events in San Francisco and beyond.

“I’m really excited to see it expand,” Lyndsey Schlax, who taught and designed the curriculum for the course. “I was trying to design this in a way that was not just the same old class, but just a new topic.”

Instead of taking quizzes, students would listen to their homework on MP3 players and give written responses. Speakers like Felicia Flames, transgender activist and Tom Ammiano, a politician who worked with Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to hold public office in the U.S.

“There’s a lot of interest and support in expanding [the course],” Erik Martinez, LGBT program coordinator for the district said. “There’s also a lot of desire to make sure these topics are infused into other subjects.”

Next school year, the year-long elective course will be taught at Mission High School and Thurgood Marshall High School in the San Francisco Bayview by two veteran teachers, both of whom identify as LGBT, according to Martinez.


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