What Marriage Equality Means to Me

The Marriage Equality Bill, proposed by Labour MP Louisa Wall, passed the vote by 77 votes to 44 meaning same-sex marriage will now be legal in New Zealand (Photo Credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images).

The Marriage Equality Bill, proposed by Labor MP Louisa Wall, passed the vote by 77 votes to 44 meaning same-sex marriage will now be legal in New Zealand (Photo Credit: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images).

By Lexie Matheson, Academic and Program Leader for Amnesty International New Zealand at AUT University

On Tuesday April 17, New Zealand became the 13th country to legalize same-sex marriage as the Marriage Amendment Bill passed its third reading 77-44. The law will take effect in August 2013 and will allow same-sex and transgender couples to marry.

Marriage means an awful lot to me.

It hasn’t always, but when I met my spouse, I knew that this was the path I hoped we’d walk together. Things worked out, and despite a 30-year age difference and the odd gender peculiarity, we married in Te Whare Karakia o Hato Pateriki raua o Hato Hohepa – otherwise known as St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral – in central Auckland.

We were able to marry because my spouse Cushla is a natal female and I was born biologically a male, even though I identify as female and had, by that time, already begun my gender transition.

We were legally able to marry because my birth certificate said I was male even though I’m not and the church treated us as they would any other heterosexual couple, despite knowing from day one of my intention to transition. This was in 2001 and Marriage Equality was no more than a twinkle in the eye of New Zealand society – and possibly not even that.

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Five Reasons That the LGBT Community in Turkey Needs Heroes Like Ali Erol… and How You can Help!

Turkish homosexuals and human rights activists chant slogans as they hold a giant rainbow flag during the Gay Pride Parade march on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, on June 27, 2010. Photo credit MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images

Subject to state harassment and widespread discrimination, the Turkish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community faces dangers on all sides.

Amnesty has long campaigned on LGBT issues in Turkey.  However, we can’t forget the heroic work of Turkish activists, who have – despite grave personal risk – worked to protect the human rights of LGBT individuals in Turkey.  Last month, one of these activists, Ali Erol, received the 2013 David Kato Vision & Voice Award in recognition of his work with KAOS-GL, one of the first and most important examples of an increasingly outspoken LGBT activism in Turkey.

Ali Erol’s work is important, because, as Amnesty has reported, the LGBT community in Turkey faces powerful threats:

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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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Relief Tempered By Sadness: The World Is Still A Dangerous Place To Be LGBT

© Getty Images

It’s been a week of incredible ups and downs for LGBT people around the world. We hardly had time to feel joy for the legalization of same-sex civil unions in Brazil, when we learned that the Ugandan parliament was getting ready to vote on a law that would have outlawed homosexuality and imposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts.

Amnesty International and many others called on the Ugandan parliament to reject the bill, and we all felt great relief today when the parliament dissolved without debating or voting on the bill. It’s entirely possible that the bill could be reintroduced when new members of parliament are sworn in next week, but at least it wasn’t passed today, as had been feared.

But the feeling of relief is mixed with sadness, because LGBT people continue to be killed because of who they are in many countries, regardless of what the laws say. On May 4th, Quetzalcoatl Leija Herrera, an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights in Mexico, was attacked and killed when he was walking home in the evening, in what appears to have been a homophobic attack. Police are investigating, but as so often happens in these kinds of cases, their inquiries are strangely focused almost exclusively on Herrera’s friends in the LGBT community.

This isn’t the first instance of police being less than sympathetic toward LGBT people that Amnesty International has documented: in 2009 we issued an Urgent Action on three transgender women in Honduras, two of whom were killed, and one of whom was beaten by police.

So while it’s great that we can celebrate progress like the legalization of same-sex unions in Brazil, it’s clear there’s a long way to go, and a lot more action needed, before the world will truly be a safe place to be LGBT.

Anti-Homosexuality Bill could mean a death sentence for LGBT People in Uganda

Uganda is a country where the human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community have been stripped away by anti-gay legislation already on the books. The country’s LGBT community has a history of being harassed and silenced by the government and the Ugandan police. A new bill is now being proposed that goes even further by imposing sentences ranging from seven years in prison to death for either being gay or supporting anyone who is. The new Anti-Homosexuality Bill being considered by Uganda’s Parliament proposes a life sentence for engaging in “homosexual activity” and the death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality”.  The bill also imposes a sentence of seven years in prison for anyone providing protection or assistance to LGBT individuals, threatening the valuable work of human rights activists and organizations operating in Uganda.

If this bill is allowed to pass it could have global ripple effects for LGBT activists all over the world. Even Ugandans living abroad, under the proposed bill, could face extradition and imprisonment if charged with being homosexual or in aiding homosexuals in Uganda. If past harassment of the Ugandan LGBT community is any indicator, the proposed bill would likely lead to witch hunts, more harassments, violence, and even extrajudicial executions. The bill’s “nullification” of international treaties that would offer a form of protection or recourse for Uganda’s LGBT people and LGBT activists further limits the role of international bodies and governments.

The proposed bill has garnered attention in the U.S. due to a recent New York Times article citing a link between recent visits by anti-gay American evangelicals and the introduction of the bill. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Honduras: Two Transgender Women Killed, Another Threatened

Tegucigalpa is quite a dangerous place these days for transgender people. As if being marginalized by the larger society and frequently harrassed by police weren’t enough, the transgender community in the Honduran capital now faces a much graver threat. With two transgender women killed in the area in the last three months, and another who is an HIV/AIDS activist severely beaten by police (who had initially tried to rob her), fear is surely in the air. The HIV/AIDS activist, who was beaten in late December, was so afraid that she specifically asked Amnesty not to make her name public. It’s high time the Honduran government fulfills its obligation to protect all its citizens. You can take action online, or write your own letter.

Has anyone ever faced violence or harrassment because of sexual orientation or gender identity? What did you do about it? Did anyone help you?