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Are you ready for the New Year – 2017?

How we should get ready for 2017!

Happy New Year - 2017In America we have seen Donald Trump’s election win, and in the UK we have seen Brexit win out. Whilst we don’t know what the courts will say in terms of the Prime Minister’s rights, it is clear that the referendum has been taken and won and that the New Year will bring many changes, and that the far right seems to have gained ascendancy in terms of leaving Europe and also in terms of how we are supposed to ‘handle’ immigrants and other minorities.

President Elect ‘Trump’ has through his cabinet choices shown that he and his cronies are completely anti-LGBTQ, as all of them have either voted for some bill that denied the LGBTQ community one or all of the following:

  • job protections
  • right to marry
  • health services

In the UK we have seen the backlashes and phobias starting with people being beaten up because ‘they are not British’. Taunts like ‘ go back from where you came from’, ‘go back into the closet’, ‘your are not normal’.

It is obvious that things will get worse, especially if the Prime Minister, Theresa May, decides to push the removal of the Human Rights Act and replace with a Britsh Bill of Rights, which in all probability will be of no use at all, and probably only protect the rich and business.

LGBTQ Community

So what can we do about it?

Firstly, we need to make certain that our LGBTQ organisations are actually working for our community, and not just fund raising to ensure there existence. But also, we as a community need to be involved with these organisations – they cannot exist in a vacuum. And it is pretty obvious that funding is drying up from government and other sources.

Secondly, we need to remember that back in the 60s and 70s, whilst we did have some problems regarding personalities, we all realised that we needed to work together to achieve the common goal. This is even more relevant in the light of the attacks that are being made on our community from so many directions. We need to work together in the New Year to achieve our common goals.

LGBTQ Voting Power

Thirdly, we need to channel our voting power in the New Year. No longer should politicians of any ilk or cloth assume because they say they support they support the LGBTQ that they will automatically get our vote – they must prove they are more than fair-weather friends.

PA at Belfast Pride Snow Ball ‏ 2011

Lastly, we need to work with other groups who have experience and knowledge; they can help us develop our policies and mechanisms, the same as they can learn from us. There is strength in numbers, as well as that feeling of not being alone.

We need only look back in our history to discover how we in the past have come together and fought and won. Don’t stand alone, find friends, gather together in groups and support and learn to fight within the bounds of the law to get our rights and those of the future community

 

Further reading:

Consign homophobia to history, urges ex-Irish president Mary McAleese

Homophobia Not AllowedJeff Dudgeon MBE, is part of the history of Northern Ireland, and with his court case made the case for homophobia to be abolished in N Ireland.  Unfortunately until 1982 it was still a crime to be a homosexual in Ulster, indeed people were still persecuted under other laws for being gay, and their lives destroyed by what can only be called vindictive police cases which should never have ended up in court subsequent to this repeal.

Today, liFe has improved, but there are still problems; only within the last two weeks was a gay man attacked for challenging two men passing by who called him’queer’ and other words.

People are regularly still harassed in their homes. and probably more worrying is that fact that being young and gay is still open to abuse in schools, colleges and universities.

This is not acceptable in today’s world, and the more that we stand up against any form of persecution the more we as human beings earn the right to be called ‘human’.

Homophobia Not Allowed

President Barack Obama talks with Irish President Mary McAleese during a courtesy call in the Drawing Room of the President’s residence in Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Mary McAleese has said homophobia should be consigned to history in Northern Ireland.

Source: Consign homophobia to history, urges ex-Irish president Mary McAleese – BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

Russian Embassy mocks Europeans as ‘gay pigs’ as warships taunts Bris | Daily Star

RussiaRussian Humour.

As with all reporting, you need to take a step back and try to see if it is balanced.  Lovely headlines do not make for in depth reporting.  Yes, the Russian fleet (or part of it) did sale up the North Sea; however we did know about it, it was a planned sailing, so why the big headlines from the papers.  Secondly, Russia is doing no more today than it has been doing for the last 10 plus years, and whilst the West is in disarray it will continue to do so!

If the UK, which is now going to disconnect from Europe, is worried then it needs a cohesive defence plan, not the piece meal one which it now seems to offer to its voting population.  If we have restrictions due to our balance sheet, then we must be realistic about what we can and can’t do.

For me the worrying thing in Russia, is its backward stepping in terms of LGBT rights, the rights of woman and in particular their right to a free, safe abortion when necessary.  For a country which has as its political background and current leanings Communism, it is very funny (and not funny amusing) on how much the church and indeed now outside American groups seem to be influencing Russian policy!

 

Russian humourSource: Russian Embassy mocks Europeans as ‘gay pigs’ as warships taunts Bris | Daily Star

Change.org Petition Launched to Stop the DUP using Petition of Concern to derail Equality in NI

 

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People in Northern Ireland are sick of living in a discriminatory backwater for gay people’ – Patrick Corrigan (Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director)

 

 

 

The Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont have now voted on the issue of marriage equality 5 times. All 5 of those motions were blocked by the Democratic Unionist Party through their use of a parliamentary veto called the “petition of concern.” 

Under the complex rules of power sharing in Northern Ireland, parties from either the unionist or nationalist community can use this veto if they feel there is not enough backing from Protestants or Catholics for particular legislation. It was designed to ensure no one community dominated the other following the 1998 Belfast agreement.

This mechanism established to ensure the rights of minorities in Northern Ireland is being continually abused to deny a fundamental right to the LGBT community and, because of this, Northern Ireland is lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in adopting a fairer, more equal and more forward thinking approach to human rights. 

Four previous motions failed to reach a majority in favour of Marriage Equality. However, even if any of these motions did achieve a majority in favour , the DUP had already implemented the petition of concern prior to each vote to ensure the result was a foregone conclusion.

This was also the case with vote 5 in November 2015, but on this occasion the mechanism was officially enacted to veto a majority of politicians who voted ‘AYE’ in favour of the legislation.

Four independent unionist assembly members joined nationalists and others with 53 votes in favour of marriage equality – one vote ahead of the remaining unionists and independents opposed to any reform. A narrow majority but a majority all the same.

The party known as the “Democratic” Unionist Party (DUP) thwarted a democratic vote and derailed equality by using the mechanism unfairly on this issue and it seems most people are not happy about this. 

Numerous surveys have shown that a majority of people in NI are now in favour of marriage equality.

  • In November 2015 a poll jointly commissioned by BBC Northern Ireland and Irish broadcaster RTÉ, revealed that 64 percent of people support equal marriage in Northern Ireland while just 23 percent oppose it. Over 2000 people were surveyed for the cross-borders research, carried out by the polling company B&A. Not far off the landslide 62% YES vote in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum last year.
  • In June 2015 an Ipsos MORI survey interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 16+ from across Northern Ireland. The interviews were conducted face-to-face between 20th May and 8th June 2015 with data weighted to match the profile of the population. The results showed that 68% of those surveyed supported marriage equality. The figure rises to 82% among 16 to 34-year-olds and 75% support among 35 to 54-year-olds, but falls to 47% among those aged 55 and over. 

In 2005 UK government actuaries suggested 6% (1 in 16.66) of the population, or about 3.6 million citizens, are either gay or lesbian. The Treasury calculated this estimate when analysing the financial implications of the Civil Partnerships Act. The figures were based on the 2000 National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL), which asked respondents about sexual attitudes and behaviours, but not orientation, and on comparable research from Europe and America.

In a study examining the responses of 7,441 individuals, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland, found that 2.7% of men and 1.2% of women self-identified as homosexual or bisexual. A question based on a variant of the Kinsey scale found that 5.3% of men and 5.8% of women reported some same-sex attraction. Of those surveyed, 7.1% of men and 4.7% of women reported a homosexual experience some time in their life so far.

In reality however this has less to do with numbers and more to do with human beings with feelings and without access to an equal definition and commitment to love. Most of us will know someone who is gay. This issue is not just about our friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues and neighbours. It is about standing up for basic human rights. 

The DUP have to stop differentiating peoples’ rights under the law according to their sexuality. It’s simple genetics. It would be absurd to say blonde people couldn’t marry. We’ll give them blond partnerships. Blond people could ruin the sanctity of marriage.

The DUP should step up on this issue and show NI is about equality and unity. The negative narrative has clearly has now so evidently isolated us in Western Europe.

The love between same sex and opposite sex couples is the same. Why can’t their love be recognised in the same way?

Love is love regardless of gender and hair colour.

This shouldn’t be an issue of gay rights, blond rights, transgender rights or Christian rights. This is about human rights and the equal recognition of love under the law.

It has already been established that any marriage equality legislation will grant religious organisations protections so that they will not have to officiate same sex ceremonies. This means there is no threat to the religious interpretation and view that marriage should remain as between a man and a woman. It’s just not right that in a democratic society everyone should be forced to think that way. The only people truly affected by this legislation would be those who wish to marry someone of the same sex.

Sign this petition to voice your opposition to the DUP’s abuse of the petition of concern and to petition OFMDFM to agree not to use such a veto on what is evidently a human rights and equality issue.  
As first minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster has the power to bring Northern Ireland into the 21st century and alter the perception that her party is trapped in the past. The last thing Northern Ireland needs for its image right now is the perception that it is “on the wrong side of history.” Sign your name on the petition HERE and stand up for human rights.

Letter to
Office of the First and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland (OFMDFMNI)
Stop the DUP using the ‘petition of concern’ to veto Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland

Britain’s concentration camps for gay men

 

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Historian and author Simon Webb writes about the gay men who were kept in concentration camps in the UK.

We are most of us aware that gay men were routinely sent to the concentration camps of the Third Reich for no other reason than that their sexuality was unacceptable to the Nazis.

A special section of the Gestapo, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was set up by Heinrich Himmler in 1936, with the avowed intention of rooting out homosexuality wherever it was to be found in Germany.

In Britain during the 1930s and 1940s, gay men were certainly imprisoned for what was then classified as criminal behaviour, but few people know that there were also concentration camps operating in this country between 1940 and 1946, to which one special category of gay men were sent.

In 1940, following the fall of France, an estimated 30,000 Polish soldiers arrived in Britain; men who had fought alongside the French army in an effort to stave off the invading Germans.

They were led by a former Prime Minister of Poland, General Wladyslaw Sikorski. Fearing that this country was itself about to be invaded, these troops were rushed to Scotland to defend the east coast against possible landings of German troops launched from Norway.

Britain was thus indebted to the new Polish government-in-exile, which was led by Sikorski. Without the Polish troops, Scotland would have been all but undefended against German attack.

General Sikorski was not universally popular with his fellow countrymen and opposition groups emerged which threatened his position as leader of the Polish government and commanding officer of the tens of thousands of Polish soldiers.

The solution, at least as far as Sikorski was concerned, was simple. These enemies would have to be neutralised.

General Sikorski – the man responsible for the concentration camps in Scotland
On 18 July 1940, General Sikorski told the Polish National Council in London: “There is no Polish judiciary. Those who conspire will be sent to a concentration camp.”

Since he and the others were likely to be in Britain for the foreseeable future, it was plain that the concentration camp of which he talked, would be set up in this country.

General Marian Kukiel, appointed Commander of Camps and Army Units in Scotland by Sikorski, received a secret order relating to what were described as, ‘an unallocated grouping of officers’, who were to be held in a special camp.

Not only did Sikorski wish to see senior officers and political rivals who might challenge his authority tucked out of the way, he also wished to purge the Polish army of what he termed, ‘Person of improper moral level.’

General Sikorski was an austere and autocratic leader and had very strong ideas on what constituted acceptable behaviour.

He loathed drunks, gamblers, the sexually promiscuous and especially homosexuals.

So it was that along with all the men he feared might interfere with his leadership of the Polish government-in-exile, generals and senior politicians from pre-war Poland, Sikorski made the decision to lock up many other men of whose conduct he happened to disapprove.

The site chosen for this, the first concentration camp to be established in Britain, was the Isle of Bute.

Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, before the Second World War. The first Polish concentration camp was established here in 1940

The inmates of the new camp were at first housed in tents. Not all were military men.

Among the first to be imprisoned there were men such as Michael GrazynskI, President of the Polish Scouting Association. Another important prisoner was Marian Zyndram-Kosciakowlski; who was Prime Minister of Poland from 1935-1939.

The atmosphere in the camp on the Isle of Bute was toxic.

The senior officers, no fewer than twenty generals were held captive there at various times, refused to have anything to do with what were known as the ‘pathological cases’; I.e. the drunks and homosexuals.

This led to the development of a sub-culture of gay prisoners, who tended to stick together; a situation which represented something of a scandal to those running the camp and it was decided that the ‘pathological’ types should be separated from the political prisoners.

A new and harsher camp was set up on the Scottish mainland at Tighnabruich and the gay prisoners transferred there.

This village, voted in 2002 ‘the prettiest village in Argyll, Lomand and Stirlingshire’, is on the coast, facing the Isle of Bute. The commandant of the new camp was Colonel Wladyslaw Spalek.

How was it possible that the Polish government-in-exile was allowed to operate concentration camps in this way, without any objections from the British government?

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British needed all the help they could get to defend their country against a German invasion.

The Allied Forces Act was accordingly passed that same year.

This gave the governments-in-exile of Poland, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium and Czechoslovakia the legal right to raise their own independent forces from among citizens of their countries resident in Britain.

Their army camps and military bases were to be regarded as the sovereign territory of the various countries concerned and, as such, immune from interference by the British police or any other authorities.

How this worked in practice was that if General Sikorski took a dislike to any Polish person living in this country, he was able to draft that person into his army and then have him arrested by the military police and taken off into captivity as either a deserter or mutineer.

This neat little trick meant that any Polish man whose behaviour, sexual or otherwise, did not meet with Sikorski’s approval was apt to find himself being shipped off to Scotland and held behind barbed wire.

In another grim echo of the situation in Nazi Germany, not only were gay men marked down for imprisonment in the camps; communists and Jews were also likely to fall foul of the Polish government in London.

One of the most famous prisoners on the Isle of Bute was the writer, journalist and biographer of Stalin; Isaac Deutscher.

Although born in Poland, Deutscher, a Jew, had emigrated to Britain where he made a life for himself before the outbreak of war in 1939.

In 1940, following Dunkirk and the Fall of France, he travelled to Scotland to volunteer for the Polish army which was now based there.

No sooner had he joined up, than Deutscher found himself arrested and sent to the camp at Rothesay.

Being both a Jew and also a communist, he was regarded as a dangerous subversive by senior figures in General Sikorski’s administration.

Rumours began to circulate among MPs in London that something unsavoury was going on in Scotland.

Names began to emerge of Polish citizens being held for no apparent reason in secret installations.

In all cases, the men being detained seemed to be Jews.

On February 19 1941, for example, Samuel Silverman, MP for Nelson and Colne, raised the question in the House of Commons of two Jewish brothers called Benjamin and Jack Ajzenberg. These men had been picked up by Polish soldiers in London and taken to a camp in Scotland.

The following year, Adam McKinley, MP for Dumbartonshire in Scotland, asked in the House what was happening on the Isle of Bute.

The government, which had no wish to upset a valuable ally, refused to provide any information.

Under the terms of the Allied Forces Act, the British had in any case no legal right to interfere in what was happening at camps and army bases being operated by the Polish Government in Exile.

Having found that they were apparently able to operate concentration camps on British soil with complete impunity, the Polish leadership opened new facilities for holding political prisoners and others at Kingledoors, Auchetarder and Inverkeithing.

The last named of these was located just eight miles from Edinburgh.

These were dreadful places which looked like the traditional idea of a concentration camp; barbed wire fences, primitive accommodation and watch towers containing armed guards.

Those living nearby heard rumours of maltreatment, starvation, beatings and even the death of inmates.

In a number of cases, the reports of deaths by shooting turned out to be quite true. On 29 October 1940, for instance, a Jewish prisoner called Edward Jakubowsky was shot dead in the camp in Kingledoors, for allegedly insulting a guard.

The Polish camps were to operate for another six years.

Increasing unease on the part of British MPs and others, led to questions being asked in the House about what precisely was going on in Scotland.

Matters came to a head on 14 June 1945. Robert McIntyre, the Member for the Scottish constituency of Motherwell, stood up in the House and asked the following question:

“Will the government make provision for the inspection, at any time, by representatives of the various districts of Scotland of any penal settlements, concentration camps, detention barracks, prisons, etc. within their area, whether these institutions are under the control of the British, American, French or Polish governments or any other authority; and for the issuing of a public report by those representatives?”

This caused something of a sensation; the suggestion that there were concentration camps in Scotland.

That same day, Moscow Radion made the same accusation, citing the detention of a Jewish academic called Dr Jan Jagodzinski in a camp at Inverkeithing.

This provoked widespread interest and the world’s press began to ask what was happening in these Polish camps.

Cutting from the Brisbane Courier and News, 15 June, 1945

In an attempt to defuse the anger being felt, the Polish government-in-exile agreed to allow journalists to visit the camp at Inverkeithing.

This action did little to reassure anybody. The first prisoner to whom reporters spoke turned out to be yet another Jew, by the name of Josef Dobosiewicz.

He alleged that a prisoner had recently been shot dead in the camp. The commandant conceded that this was true, but claimed that the dead man had been trying to escape.

Once again, the local police had been powerless to act, under the terms of the Allied Forces Act.

A year after the Second World war had come to an end, the camps were still in existence and still seemingly holding Jews.

On 16 April 1946, the MP for Fife West, William Gallacher, asked the Secretary of State for War to look into the case of two more Jews being held in a camp in Scotland; David Glicenstein and Shimon Getreudhendler.

It is impossible at this late stage to know precisely what was happening in these camps.

That they were in fact concentration camps is undeniable; that after all is what general Sikorski had announced that he would be setting up.

We have no idea at all how many gay men were sent to the camps, nor how long they were held there.

The same is true for the statistics relating to communists and Jews.

What is beyond dispute is that from 1940 onwards, men in this country were being arrested and taken to concentration camps for no other reason than that they were gay.

Simon Webb is the author of ‘British Concentration Camps: A Brief History from 1900 – 1975′.

Poor sex education is ‘failing’ UK school pupils, survey finds

Sex education provisions are 'failing' pupils

Sex education provisions are ‘failing’ pupils

 

A survey has found that young people in the UK are being put at risk by “inconsistent” sex and relationship education – which leaves them at risk.

The Sex Education Forum carried out a survey of over 2,000 young people aged 11 to 25 – finding their safety may be at risk due to inconsistent sex and relationships education.

The survey found that many young people did not report education about a range of topic – including sexual consent, sexual abuse, or information about female genital mutilation.

It found that half (50%) of young people reported they did not learn how to get help if they were abused, over half (53%) did not learn how to recognise grooming for sexual exploitation, and more than 40% had not learned about healthy or abusive relationships.

A third (34%) of young people said they learnt nothing about sexual consent at school.

It comes amid calls for statutory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools.

Neil Carmichael MP, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, recently wrote for PinkNews to urge the government to make sex and relationship education compulsory in schools.

Ads by Rubicon Project

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said: “The odds of a young person learning vital information about equal, safe and enjoyable relationships are no different than the toss of a coin.

“The ultimate consequence of this is that many children don’t know how to recognise abusive behaviour or how to seek help.

“With evidence about the benefits for children and young people of teaching SRE stacked up high and a growing list of politicians calling for the subject to be mandatory, there is no excuse for Government to continue leaving SRE to chance.”

Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “As members of the Sex Education Forum, ATL fully supports its call for mandatory and inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

“We know that education staff want high quality training so that they can deliver the SRE that will enable young people to keep themselves safe.

“We call upon the Government to take this important step, which parents, education staff and young people all want, so that we can all help to tackle child abuse, sexual health issues

Army law which allowed soldiers to be sacked for being gay finally thrown out

 

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AN outdated legal ban which forced gay men out of the armed forces is set to finally be officially removed from armed forces legislation.

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The law, which prohibits gay men, lesbians and transgender personnel from the forces, was put into force in 1994.

Existing rules state homosexuality is incompatible with military service and engaging in a homosexual act can constitute grounds for discharging a member of the armed forces

The ban was written into law in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 yet has been disregarded since the European Court forced the British government to allow homosexuals to serve in 2000.As such it has been ignored in practice since 2000, yet technically remains in force.

ncompatible with military serviceGETTY

Existing rules state homosexuality is incompatible with military service

MPs have now agreed a new Armed Forces Bill, which legislates for the UK during peace time. The law cleared its final House of Commons hurdle yesterday.The Government amendment to get rid of the sexuality discrimination laws was added to the Bill unopposed.

The Bill, which also deals with changes to armed forces pensions, will now proceed to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

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The Government amendment to get rid of the sexuality discrimination laws was added to the Bill

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said the existing rules were “inconsistent with the department’s current policies and the Government’s equality and discrimination policies more generally”.Mr Lancaster said when the provisions were originally put in place it was government policy that homosexuality was “incompatible with service in the armed forces” and therefore people who “engaged in homosexual activity were administratively discharged”.

But since 2000, he said the rules “have had no practical effect and they are therefore redundant”.

The Bill also deals with changesGETTY

The Bill also deals with changes to armed forces pensions

He added: “These provisions in no way reflect the position of today’s armed forces.“We are proud in defence of the progress we have made since 2000 to remove policies that discriminated against homosexual men, lesbians and transgender personnel so that they can serve openly in the armed forces.”

“This amendment is a practical step which shows that this Government is serious about our commitment to equality in this area.”

Shadow defence minister Toby Perkins welcomed the move.He said: “Removing this from the statute book will be a welcome step forward so that the explicit refusal to discriminate against homosexual service men and women is expunged from the service book just as it has in practice been outlawed.

“It is very clear that this is an important step forward and it is one we welcome very strongly.”

Can you be LGBT and Catholic? This documentary investigates

Gay Times Logo

A documentary has gone inside the walls of an LGBT-friendly church in Baltimore to dispel myths that people cannot be both gay and Catholic.

The LGBT Educating and Affirming Diversity Ministry within the Saint Matthew Catholic Church seeks to provide church-goers with a community that is universally accepting of people from all walks of life.

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© Eric Kruszewski

 

Filmmaker Eric Kruszewski recently crossed paths with LEAD and decided to create a documentary series to share their mission statement, and look at the lives of people who identify as both LGBT and Catholic.

He told Out magazine: “I was raised Catholic, but have not practiced my faith in years. And before this project, I had never heard of Saint Matthew Catholic Church. One of the parishioners knew my work and me. So when we bumped into each other at a media event, she told me, ‘I have a story for you…’

“There’s no way I can fully understand what it’s like to be an LGBT Catholic in 2016. But through interviews, the documentary process and getting close to the individuals portrayed in these videos, my goal was to accurately capture their thoughts, feelings and experiences.”

Watch the first part of the documentary below

Stop Neglecting the True State of LGBT Refugees

 

 

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Crowd gathers to watch as ISIS throws man from roof after accused of being gay.

LGBT people face mortal danger from ISIS and around the world, yet few ever obtain refuge in the U.S.

In December 2011, President Obama published a trailblazing memorandum vowing to apply U.S. power to create safety for LGBT people oppressed and endangered around the world. Among the key means: securing LGBT refugees’ access to the U.S. refugee system. This venerable goal is eluding us.

As the president delivers his final State of the Union address tonight, the perils facing LGBT people in many countries around the world have never been so dire.

Never have so many LGBT people been so viciously targeted by state and nonstate actors in so many countries. Never before have leaders outside the U.S. used LGBT issues for political gain with such ease. And far from gaining access to refugee systems, the few LGBT people who escape carnage in their countries are unable to access the fortress of international refugee protection or the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Several months ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power shocked the world when she revealed that of the 70,000 refugees the U.S. took in during 2014, fewer than 100 were LGBT. The numbers for 2015 will not be better.

Without a solution, LGBT people will continue to be executed in places like Syria, where the bloodthirsty Islamic State terrorist group and the masses alike execute accused gays in the name of piety.

With so much goodwill and commitment on the president’s part, something is terribly wrong. Without a firm understanding of how and why LGBT refugees access — and are locked out of — refugee systems, the State Department, which runs our country’s refugee program, has been faltering at efforts to improve the dismal picture, using methods that have been tried and have failed.

But there is a way. The U.S. certainly can admit vastly more LGBT refugees.

LGBT refugees face insurmountable barriers accessing protection, as self-disclosure puts them in mortal danger. We’ve all heard the countless horrifying stories of innocent people being thrown from buildings simply because they are accused of being gay. Yet receiving protection requires revealing their identity.

To begin creating access routes, the State Department must work much more closely with LGBT organizations already in the field. To create a sliver of trust and safety in such treacherous territory, refugee professionals must not only have extraordinary expertise and sensitivity, they must also embody the message they utter.

The humanitarian community understands that a female survivor of rape should not be expected to tell her true story to anyone but another woman. Yet LGBT refugees are expected to blithely allow ostensibly heterosexual adjudicators into the most difficult vaults of their personal lives.

A rainbow flag and a concerned look are a good start. But for an LGBT refugee escaping certain death after being hounded by decades of external and internal homophobia, these gestures are not nearly enough. To collect the courage to come out — even in order to save their own lives — most refugees need to derive strength and solace from other LGBT people. Yet in most places, this essential touchstone is nowhere to be seen.

In a recent informal survey of Gaziantep, Turkey, the ground zero refugee city housing 220,000 Syrians, I found not a single “out” LGBT refugee. Not surprisingly, of the thousands of nongovernmental organization workers in that border city, not one refugee worker is “out.” If well-protected refugee agency staff will not dare come out of their comfort zone to colleagues, how can we possibly expect a powerless LGBT refugee to expose this most private and lethal vulnerability to a stranger?

Many refugees have paid with their lives to safeguard their secret sexual orientation or gender identity. We cannot bring them back. But we can spare those now clamoring for dear life in hundreds of places like Gaziantep.

The president’s bold call for increasing the Syrian refugee quota by 10,000 slots is commendable. Employing and protecting openly LGBT staff and partnering closely with openly LGBT groups is the key to creating system access for LGBT refugees. We ask that the Obama administration take these essential steps to fulfill the wise objectives originally set out by the president in 2011.

NEIL GUNGRAS

NEIL GRUNGRAS is the founder and executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum, and Migration, an international nonprofit devoted to advocating on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum-seekers, including those fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Justice?

Human Rights

Editorial:

The definition of justice varies from individual, to individual, depending upon what has happened, how it has affected that individual, and also on how it has affected the societal group that he or she belongs to.

The Law Dictionary defines justice as: 

“Protecting rights and punishing wrongs using fairness. It is possible to have unjust laws, even with fair and proper administration of the law of the land as a way for all legal systems to uphold this ideal.”

Law Dictionary: What is JUSTICE? definition of JUSTICE (Black’s Law Dictionary)

So you are probably asking why I am discussing this topic, and as you can probably guess it is because of an article written in one of our daily newspapers, in this case The Telegraph:  ‘The Church, the police and the unholy destruction of Bishop Bell’

I have to state that I have no knowledge of Bishop Bell, or of the case that is outlined in the news article, indeed in terms of religion I am an atheist – but open to discussion.  My problem with religion is that man is involved, and to often man has used religion as a means to elevate themselves above the ordinary being.

So to get back to the article; Charles Moore, the writer of the article writes critically on how it appears that church in an attempt of heading off bad publicity, has decided that Bishop Bell is ‘guilty’ of a sexual crime without there having been a court case to assess the evidence. Indeed the Church has gone even further, in that it has demoted Bishop Bell, flowers placed on his memorial in the cathedral are removed, and what was the ‘George Bell house’ (a centre for vocation, education and reconciliation) is to be renamed shortly.

The fact that the church has jumped in with both feet, instead of following the due process of law, is why I have an argument with the Church.

The key legal principle – the presumption of innocence – is being set aside’

I would urge you to read the article, to then to read the article ‘Police State UK: The Rights You Didn’t Know You’d Lost’ written by  /

 

I believe in justice, but justice must be seen to be done fairly and without favour to one side or the other.  I will leave you with the last paragraph from Charles Moore’s article…

 Justice is not guaranteed by passionate feeling against a particular, horrible crime such as child abuse. It depends absolutely on proper process. When public bodies set that process aside, what trust or “transparency” is left? If Bishop Bell had been a Nazi war criminal, the charges against him would have had to reach a far higher standard of proof than those by which the Church of England has destroyed him. The restoration of justice should be its New Year resolution.