lgbt rights
April 25, 2018

Users of gay dating apps like Grindr and Hornet are at risk of entrapment in countries like Egypt where police seek to crack down on LGBT citizens, The Verge reports.

Undercover police officers will chat with Egyptians on a dating app, The Verge explains, and then arrange for their arrest once they agree to meet in person. While homosexuality isn't illegal in Egypt, government officials often target LGBT individuals with debauchery charges and use arrests and raids as a way to create a public statement, The Verge reports.

App developers have taken steps to help protect users from falling prey to these traps, sending out alerts and encouraging users to keep their profiles anonymous. Grindr, which usually displays how far users are from one another, keeps distances private in the Egyptian version of the app. It has also made options to password-protect the app and make it look more inconspicuous on a phone's home screen.

But more extensive safety features would take major engineering work, The Verge notes, and wouldn't necessarily prevent users from being targeted by law enforcement anyway. LGBT advocacy groups in the region are encouraging users to know the risks, and are additionally providing attorneys for meet-ups in case things go wrong.

The cultural differences between app developers in California and users in Egypt make it difficult to overcome the regional challenges, a digital rights group worker, Dia Kayyali, told The Verge. "You have to address the fact that governments have people who are specifically manipulating the platform to hurt people," Kayyali said. Read more at The Verge. Summer Meza

October 5, 2016

Many viewers were fuming after Tuesday night's vice presidential debate as neither moderator Elaine Quijano nor Sen. Tim Kaine brought up LGBT rights as a challenge to Gov. Mike Pence — a glaring oversight, according to The New York Times.

LGBT rights have been a quieter topic this election season, perhaps in part because last year the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. But as of July, 40 percent of registered voters still called the treatment of LGBT people a "very important" issue, a Pew poll found, and transgender rights, such as the North Carolina bathroom law, continue to cause controversy and headlines. That's not to mention the mass murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub last June, an attack that almost certainly targeted the LGBT community.

Pence has spent much of his political career in opposition to LGBT rights, including the promotion of conversion therapy. And that's not to mention the biggest elephant in the room:

Mr. Pence's most controversial moment as a national figure — and the biggest stumble of his political career — came after he signed a law in Indiana that critics had warned would allow businesses to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Facing an enormous backlash, Mr. Pence first defended the law and then walked it back. The episode seemed likely to tarnish him as a national figure in a lasting way.

... [But the] lone mention of gay rights came when Mr. Kaine noted that Mr. Putin "persecutes L.G.B.T. folks and journalists." Mr. Pence now appears likely to escape the 2016 election without any extensive airing of this formative moment in his career. [The New York Times]

"Honestly, I feel a little insulted that as my community faces a wave of discrimination, we were ignored," Lucas Grindley responded in The Advocate. "Sometimes it feels like the world read about the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality and just checked a box; the gays are fine now ... The vice-presidential debate is a reminder that if we get complacent, if we don't speak up for ourselves, we will easily be ignored." Jeva Lange

June 30, 2016

The United Nations Human Rights Council voted Thursday to create a role for a global LGBT rights monitor, the first position of its kind in the U.N. The person will be an "independent expert" who works as a watchdog for "violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." The resolution passed in a vote of 23 to 18, with six nations abstaining, and it marks a major step toward the international community recognizing LGBT rights as legal, universal rights.

Pakistan led the opposition to the resolution on the behalf of the majority of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, with Albania being the only OIC member to support the resolution. The IOC managed to pass amendments highlighting the respect for local values, "religious sensitivities," and domestic policies, BuzzFeed reports. The bloc also managed to add an amendment disapproving of countries that take up "coercive measures" in order to influence local policies, such as when the U.S. changed its aid to Uganda following an anti-LGBT law that was passed there in 2014. Jeva Lange

May 9, 2016

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) called on other states Monday to join his lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department over his state's anti-LGBT law.

"I anticipate our own legislature, other private sector entities from throughout the United States, and possibly other states to join us in seeking this clarification because this is not just a North Carolina issue, this is a national issue," McCrory said in a news conference.

The law limits transgender people to using public bathrooms associated with their biological sex. It also prevents local governments from enacting polices against anti-LGBT discrimination in public places.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to announce a counter suit against North Carolina on Monday afternoon. Julie Kliegman

April 24, 2016

First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a politically charged commencement speech Saturday at Jackson State University. She criticized the anti-LGBT law recently passed in Mississippi, which purports to protect religious freedom by allowing businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples.

"We see it right here in Mississippi — just two weeks ago — how swiftly progress can hurtle backward," ABC News reports Obama said. "How easy it is to single out a small group and marginalize them because of who they are or who they love."

President Obama also recently spoke out against the anti-LGBT law, as well as a similar one passed in North Carolina. Julie Kliegman

April 13, 2016

In the first case of its kind in China, a judge has ruled against a same-sex couple seeking to get married, claiming that the right is specific to between men and women, The Los Angeles Times reports. The plaintiff, Sun Wenlin, 27, sued a civil affairs bureau in Changsha last June for refusing to let him marry his boyfriend, Hu Mingliang, 37.

"The relevant regulations and law clearly stated the subject of marriage refers to a man and a woman who meet the legal conditions of marriage. Sun Wenlin and Hu Mingliang are both men, therefore their application doesn't comply with the marriage regulations and law," a court statement posted online said.

Sun resisted the ruling, telling The New York Times, "The fact that marriage between a man and a woman is legal does not suggest that marriage between two men is illegal. This is illogical. I asked them to name one article that explicitly bans marriage between two men, but they never answered my question directly."

The ruling came as a surprise to almost no one, yet marked a major step forward as it was the first time a Chinese court had agreed to hear such a lawsuit and both Sun and Hu received an outpouring of support outside the courthouse and online.

China stopped classifying homosexuality as a mental illness in 2001, but there is still a significant stigma and openly gay couples are rare. Police pressured Sun to drop the case in December, telling him "marriage is for reproduction."

"Inside China, we still live a life like this. We can't get married, and we suffer discrimination," Sun said. Jeva Lange

April 11, 2016

A group of 95 Mississippi writers — including John Grisham, Ralph Eubanks, and Donna Tartt — signed a letter Monday calling for the repeal of Mississippi's newly enacted anti-LGBT law. Under the law, businesses can refuse services to same-sex couples, citing religious freedom.

The writers argued:

Mississippi authors have written through pain, and they have written out of disappointment, but they have also written from wonder, and pride, and a fierce desire to see the politics of this state live up to its citizens. It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse. But Gov. Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state. There have always been people here battling injustice. That's the version of Mississippi we believe in, and that's the Mississippi we won't stop fighting for. [Jackson Free Press]

On Sunday, musician Bryan Adams canceled an upcoming show in the state due his opposition to the law. Julie Kliegman

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