Hong Kong Officials Reject Proposal for Gay Rights Public Consultation

Government officials in Hong Kong have voted down a motion that proposed the opeing  up of LGBT rights legislation to public consultation according to the South China Morning Post.

Cyd Ho Sau-lan, of the Labour Party, had originally brought the motion to the floor. The proposal would allow the public to be consulted on whether or not anti-LGBT discrimination legislation should be implemented.

Homosexual activity has been legal in Hong Kong since 1991. Not only legal attitudes have shifted in favor of LGBT rights, but social attitudes have made great strides. In 2006, a public study found that 88% of people in Hong Kong found homosexuality not to affect individual’s ability to work. About 60% claimed that homosexuality did not cause promiscuity, and 47% believed that homosexuals are not psychologically defective.  Around 75% of people surveyed accepted homosexuals in public spaces.  This is a huge change from the days of British colonialism that criminalized homosexuality carrying a sentence of up to life in prison. During the same year, the Hong Kong Court of Appeal declared that the age of consent, 16, should be the same for both same-sex and heterosexual sexual activity.  In 2007, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal held that legislation banning public homosexuality was discriminatory.

Since the 2006 survey, I am sure attitudes have evolved even more toward accepting LGBT individuals as contributing and worthwhile members of Hong Kong society. That evolution is exactly why the government’s rejection of a public consultation is so harmful and contrary to elected officials taking office to represent their constituents. This government doesn’t appear to be serving its people as much as its own, very conservative, agenda.

Source of statistics: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,IRBC,,HKG,,49b92b44c,0.html



First Transgender Public Official Elected in Cuba

Adela Hernandez surrounded by local women. Werk it!

According to ABC news, for the first time in Cuba’s history a transgender person has been elected to public office.

Citizens of Caibarien, in the Villa Clara Province,  have elected Adela Hernandez as a delegate to the municipal government by a vote of 270 to 180 . Hernandez will be eligible in 2013, to take office as a representative in the Cuban Parliament.  Hernandez, 48,  was born a biological male, but has lived her life as a female since a young age. Hernandez has yes to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and is legally a male under Cuban law.

Hernandez’s struggle to find her gender identity were exacerbated by her family’s rejection of her sexuality. A rejection that led to her imprisonment for 2-years during the 80’s. Cuba condemned its gay population for many years, even sending them to work camps. Hernandez’s election to government shows the local culture’s change in attitude toward transgender  and other sexual minorities.

Fidel Castro has taken responsibility for the persecution of gays since the 1960’s, and has openly stated his regret over their treatment. He claimed that while sexual minorities suffered, he was distracted by other matters associated with his revolutionary government.

It is good to see a government official take responsibility for his previous wrongs. Although the violence should have never been committed against the LGBT communities, at least Cuba is moving in the right direction.

Since 2007 the island has been covering sex-change surgery under its freehealth care system. Last year a gay man and a transsexual woman whose operation was paid for by the state garnered headlines for their first-of-its kind wedding.

The country’s most prominent gay rights activist is Mariela Castro, Fidel’s niece and current President Raul Castro’s daughter.



Malawi Suspends Anti-Gay Legislation/Backtracks

(Lilongwe, Malawi) Good news has come for gay and lesbian Malawians, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, as the government has announced a suspension of the criminalization of homosexuality.

The country’s justice minister, Ralph Kasambara, made the announcement Monday declaring that homosexuality will not be prosecuted until the country deliberates further on LGBT rights.

“If we continue arresting and prosecuting people based on the said laws and later such laws are found to be unconstitutional it would be an embarrassment to government,” Kasambara told the Reuters news agency.

Homosexual activity is normally prosecuted under Sections 153 and 156 of the nation’s penal code. According to the relevant sections, homosexuality is an “unnatural offence” and carries a sentence of up to 14 years. This decision comes after  Malawian President Joyce Banda committed to repealing anti-gay legislation following her inauguration earlier this year.

Let’s hope some other African nations will follow suit.

UPDATE: Kasambra now denies ever making such an announcement despite the many reports saying he had promised to suspend the law until a parliamentary vote was undertaken. The continent of Africa is an unwelcoming place for sexual minorities. There are 38 countries in Africa that have criminalized homosexuality, the continent needs change. Let’s hope that African officials can reacquaint themselves with compassion and understanding.

Three States Vote to Allow Same-Sex Marriage

I am proud of the voters in all the states who came out to support their candidate. I have to be a bit biased here, and say that I’m relieved Obama has been reelected. At least I don’t have to worry about my president trying to take away the right of my partner and I to marry or hospital visitation during an emergency. I also don’t have to worry, as my best friend reminded me, of how an imaginary and never fully released economic plan to boost the economy will fare. As a recent law school graduate I am very aware of the economic struggles of the nation and the inability for many to find solid, full-time work. This election left me wondering whether I should be choosing between my personal beliefs in my civil rights as a gay, American man and my desire to be financially stable in the future via a new president’s plans. It was an uncomfortable place to be, and it is a choice that Americans should not have to make. My great grandparents crossed the Atlantic from  Italy, Prussia, and Scotland with hopes of a brighter future not only for themselves but for their children and generations to come. Despite our economic issues this is still the America they dreamed of, and I am very glad they chose to take those potentially fateful trips and worked their lives away in factories and mills so that I had the opportunity to become a lawyer today assisting others fleeing their homelands to start over somewhere they could feel safe.

I want to extend my congratulations, possibly prematurely, to Maine, Maryland, and Washington State who have all voted to allow same-sex marriages so far. These three states would join New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire in permitting same-sex couples to marry.  This election has given me some hope for the future of equal rights, and for the American people who got off their asses to vote for what they believed in.

Just remember, things will get better, they always do.


Malmo, Sweden Launches Hate Crime Hotline

A sculpture dedicated to non-violence in the city of Malmo, Sweden, where recent attacks have occurred against the city’s religious minorities.

(Malmo, Sweden) According to ILGA.org, police have initiated a hate crimes hotline dedicated to dealing with recent complaints over the treatment of victims reporting to police that they’ve been attacked.

The government has created the hotline in efforts demonstrate that Swedish society will not permit hate crimes and intolerance of sexual and religious minorities.  The hotline will be operational from 9AM to 3 PM on weekdays. It is not meant to become an alternative to calling emergency services during an attack.

Hate crimes have become more common in recent Malmo news reports not only against sexual minorities but also mosques and synagogues. Haaretz has reported that Jews in Malmo have suffered not only attacks on their synagogues, but also the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Many believe that these attacks were actually carried out by local Muslims. Malmo’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, advised the Jewish community that they may fare better if they denounce Israeli policy. A disappointing response from a city official. No one should have to denounce their personal belief system to avoid becoming a victim of violence. A better response came  from the government when a grant, worth $76,000, was created by the Swedish committee on anti-Semitism in an attempt to appease the city’s Jewish community.

As far as I have been able to find through my research, there has not been a stark rise in hate crimes committed against the LGBT communities, but the hotline will be helpful to any victim following such an attack made because of their minority status.

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