Federal Court’s Marriage Equality Ruling: A Victory for LGBT Rights

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On Thursday a U.S. federal appeals court in Boston struck down the provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, in a ruling that is a victory for both marriage equality and for human rights.

The court’s decision, which will not go into effect immediately, paves the way for the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of DOMA as early as next year.

“Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest,” wrote Judge Michael Boudin in the ruling. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Homophobia Olympics in the Former Soviet Union

LGBT Rights in Russia

Russian police detain a gay rights activists during an attempt to hold an unauthorized rally in central Moscow. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

In the sporting world, countries from the former Soviet Union are used to winning medals. But in terms of gay rights, the only accolades these countries are winning are the wrong ones.

olympic medalsShort of outright criminalizing homosexuality as was the norm during Soviet times, Russia and most of its former satellite states are increasingly violating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. If a 2012 Eurasia Homophobia Olympics were held today, the “winning” countries trampling on the human rights of LGBTI people would be as follows:

Gold Medal: Armenia, for officially (and utterly shockingly) justifying and defending the firebombing of a gay-friendly bar by self-described young “fascists.”

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Marriage Equality: It’s About Human Rights, Not States’ Rights

Maria Vargas and Maira Garcia wait on line to get married at the City Clerk's office in Brooklyn, New York, on July 24, 2011, the first day gay couples were allowed to legally marry in New York state. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

President Obama’s courageous statement today in support of marriage equality was a boon to the human rights movement. The president’s announcement was especially heartening following the news yesterday that North Carolina passed a ban on marriage for same-sex couples and other partnership agreements and that Republican state legislators effectively blocked the Colorado Civil Union Act from going to a vote.

The president’s statement is also an important act of global human rights leadership that will no doubt lend hope to lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in countries like Saudi Arabia, Uganda and Cameroon who face threats of execution, torture, imprisonment and persecution for their sexual orientation.

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Hope for Victim of Cameroon's Draconian Anti-Gay Law?

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede

After all the solidarity actions and appeals you sent on behalf of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede and others imprisoned in Cameroon under the discriminatory Section 347a of the penal code, which criminalizes homosexuality, Jean-Claude Roger Mbede and other men serving similar sentences in the same prison sent us a letter saying:

“…your support represents hope, for LGBT people in Cameroon in general, and for us in prison in particular.

The hope to one day leave this prison that we’ve been thrown in, but also the hope that one day LGBT people will be able to walk fully free in Cameroon, holding their heads high, without any humiliation.”

Since we last asked you to take action on his case, we’ve learned that Jean-Claude’s next appeal hearing, which has been pushed back several times over the last few months, is now planned for April 16th. Unfortunately, his request for provisional release (while awaiting appeal) was rejected on March 19th by the Court of Appeal.

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Belarusian President: "Better to Be a Dictator Than Gay"

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko © STR/AFP/Getty Images

It sounds like a line from Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming comedy The Dictator, but it actually came from a real dictator.

Alexander Lukashenko, the president of ex-Soviet Belarus, said “better to be a dictator than gay” when responding to European criticism of the country’s democratic record. He was alluding to the sexual orientation of some European Foreign Ministers.

President Alexander Lukashenko has been ruling Belarus with an iron fist for almost 18 years. The country’s population is under 10 million and has faced sanctions. Belarus is one of the least democratic in Europe, and is Europe’s only country to have the death penalty. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

For So Many Reasons, Eyes on Russia

Russia Protest

An opposition activist holds a one man protest in front of the Russian Central Election Commission headquarters in Moscow, on March 1, 2012. The sign reads: "stop the dictatorship!" (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Federation has had an unenviable place in the news of late. With the outrage over the government’s disastrous and unconscionable opposition to meaningful UN Security Council action on Syria, to Amnesty’s recent findings that Russian weapons continue to supply the machine of misery unleashed on the people of Darfur and Sudan, it would be easy to be blinded to the risks to rights protection in Sunday’s Presidential election.

Last Saturday, thousands rallied in St. Petersburg in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for a third presidential term, chanting “Russia without Putin.” On Sunday, over 30,000 people organized together to create a human chain spanning 15.6 kilometers in length throughout Moscow in solidarity over growing discontent over the election.

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Cameroon: Stop Discriminating Against LGBT People

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede sentenced to 3 years in prison for “homosexuality.”

Back in December, we told you about several countries where LGBT people are at risk, and Cameroon was one of the countries we listed, and we highlighted the case of Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “homosexuality” under Section 347a of Cameroon’s penal code.

The situation in Cameroon continues to be dangerous for LGBT people, or those perceived as such. Since Amnesty began working on Jean-Claude’s case, at least two more men have been sentenced to prison terms for “homosexual acts” in Cameroon. We can’t let this discrimination continue.

Jean-Claude is scheduled to have an appeal hearing on Monday, March 5th, and we’re taking action—delivering petitions and reminding the president about all the appeals he’s already received—to make sure he hears these three things loud and clear:
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London Olympics Faces Public Meltdown For Dow Chemical Sponsorship

india bhopal

Indians protest the Bhopal disaster

A commissioner for a body monitoring the sustainability and ethics of the London 2012 Olympics has resigned over its links with Dow Chemical, the company mixed up in one of the worst corporate related human rights disasters of the 20th century.

Meredith Alexander is quitting the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012. It describes itself as an independent body which “monitors and assures the sustainability of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Ms. Alexander, who is Head of Policy for the charity ActionAid, told BBC’s Newsnight why she was resigning:

“I feel I was part of a lobby which legitimized Dow’s claims that it had no responsibility for Bhopal…This is an iconic case. It’s one of the worst abuses of human rights in my generation and I just could not stand idly by.”

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Clinton to United Nations: "Gay Rights Are Human Rights"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses the assembly at the United Nations in Geneva on December 6, 2011. ©J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE/AFP/Getty Images

The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights took not one but two critical steps forward this week with President Obama’s release of a Presidential Directive on LGBT rights followed closely by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s international human rights day speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

As we’ve pointed out, in too many countries being gay, or being suspected of being gay, can get you thrown into jail, tortured, raped or killed.  From the so-called corrective rape of lesbians to proposed legislation to institute the death penalty for homosexuality, LGBT people around the world face the daily threat of violence simply for who they are.

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7 Discriminatory (or Deadly) Countries for LGBT People

A quick glance at Wikipedia or this ILGA report is enough to tell you that there are a LOT of countries where it’s dangerous or deadly to be (or even to be perceived as) lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

There are still more than 80 countries with sodomy laws, and punishment can include flogging, imprisonment, and in about a dozen jurisdictions, the death penalty. Those suspected of being LGBT are also routinely the victims of harassment, discrimination and violence. Many of those who speak up for LGBT rights – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – are themselves persecuted with impunity.

Here are 7 countries Amnesty International has recently had particular concerns about:

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