16 Mar 2017 - NPWJ News Digest on on LGBTI rights


Two Tunisian men to be imprisoned for 8 months for ‘looking gay’
by Pink News, 14 Mar 2017

Two men have been sent to prison in Tunisia because they were perceived to be gay. The men, Achref, 20 and Sabri, 21, were sentenced on Friday to eight months in prison. This comes after they were arrested on 7 December in the city of Sousse. L’Express, a French newspaper, reports that the men were told by the police officer that he suspected they were gay. According to the report, the police officer called gay people a “curse” on the country. “Were you doing something with your boyfriend?” one of the police officers asked, according to the report. Speaking to L’Express, Achref says the men were slapped around and made to sign a written confession of the allegations. He also says they were anally probed. Despite a result of “negative” from the test, the practice of which is widely discredited, a judge still sentenced the men. The written statement claimed that the men had been engaged in “sodomy” in the street. Despite the guilty verdict, the ruling still needs to be confirmed next month, and the men are currently on bail.

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Texas Senate Gives OK to Bill Curbing Transgender Bathroom Access
by The New York Times, 14 Mar 2017

The Texas Senate on Tuesday preliminarily approved a Republican-backed bill that would restrict access to public bathrooms by transgender people over criticism from Democrats who said it was unnecessary, discriminatory and economically destructive. In a 21-10 vote almost along party lines, the Republican-dominated Senate gave preliminary approval to the Texas Privacy Act. The bill would require people to use restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate, not the gender with which they identify. Its backers said it is a common-sense approach to provide safety and keep sexual predators out of bathrooms. After final approval, seen as a formality and expected on Wednesday, the bill goes to the Republican-controlled House, where analysts say its chances of passage are slim due to concern about the legislation's potential economic impact. Allowing transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity rather than their birth gender has become the latest flashpoint in the long U.S. battle over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. "It is about a privacy issue for us women, for boys, for girls," the bill's sponsor, Republican Senator Lois Kolkhorst, told the body.

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Trump’s Muslim Ban Could Be a Death Sentence for Many LGBTs
by Advocate, 13 Mar 2017

Last Monday, President Trump again turned his back on thousands of people facing war, violence, and persecution. In an attempt to veil prejudiced policies under threats of terrorism, he institutionalized xenophobic, anti-Muslim, antirefugee, and anti-immigrant sentiments so frequently expressed during his campaign and after the inauguration. Of course, these policies will also be harmful to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer people since we belong to each of these groups. The governments of Libya, Syria, and Somalia punish homosexuality with prison, even up to 10 years.  Sudan, Iran, and Yemen officially punish homosexuality with death. OutRight has documented more than 39 people killed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria for alleged homosexuality from 2014 to 2016 alone. By closing the doors to LGBTIQ asylum seekers and refugees, President Trump is effectively accepting the persecution and violence targeting this community and allowing some LGBTIQ people to die. He has joined the ranks of those who believe imprisoning and killing people for being LGBTIQ is permissible. What President Trump fails to understand is the sheer desperation of LGBTIQ and other refugees and migrants who flee their countries not because they want to but because they have no other choice. They do so simply to survive. However, this executive order, just like the previous “travel ban,” will force people who are most at risk of danger to languish in unsafe environments or overcrowded refugee camps. They will continue to endure extreme violence and their only road to safety and freedom may have been denied. This ban could also have life-changing impact on LGBTIQ activists who have turned to the United Nations as a port of last call when their own government fails them. This week the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women will take place. The commission convenes in New York for two weeks each year and is the largest annual gathering of governments, civil society, and the U.N. system to develop the global agenda concerning progress for women and girls. It is a space where individuals exercise their rights to political participation, bring their experiences of persecution, violence, and discrimination to the table to ensure that we move forward as a global community putting human rights and dignity first. President Trump’s executive order risks excluding countless women and LGBTIQ people who need access to this space to hold their countries and the international system to account. 

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Court: Discrimination against gay workers not prohibited
by The Washington Post, 13 Mar 2017

In a setback for gay rights advocates hoping for an expansion of workplace discrimination protections, a federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled that employers aren’t prohibited from discriminating against employees because of sexual orientation. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled 2-1 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on a variety of factors, doesn’t protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The case was one of two that Lambda Legal had pending before federal appeals courts — along with an Indiana case at the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago — that the LGBT rights group had hoped would mark a significant step forward for gay rights. Jameka Evans in April 2015 sued her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah, alleging that she was discriminated against and effectively forced from her job as a security guard because she is a lesbian and didn’t conform to gender norms. Visiting Judge Jose E. Martinez wrote in the majority opinion that the court was bound by precedent set by a 1979 case that said Title VII doesn’t prohibit “discharge for homosexuality.” Other circuits have also found that sexual orientation is not a protected class under that law, Martinez wrote. An 11th Circuit decision from 2011 said discrimination against a transgender employee because of gender non-conformity amounted to sex discrimination and was not allowed, and Evans’ attorneys argued it should also protect gays and lesbians who claimed discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

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