From the September-October 2014 issue of News & Letters
by Dee Perkins
With the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, going nowhere, President Obama signed an executive order July 21 prohibiting such discrimination by federal contractors, which employ some 28 million workers, and, further, protecting federal employees from discrimination based on gender identity. Importantly, the order does not include new religious exemptions, which are a cover for overt discrimination; however, it retains 2002 Bush-era religious exemptions for hiring. Executive orders can be revoked by future administrations, so without Congress enacting these provisions into law, this step forward is precarious.
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Dubbed Tehranto, Toronto has emerged as a haven for Iranian LGBT people. Home to the second-largest Iranian population outside of Iran, the Canadian city boasts that one of the top 10 reasons to love this city is “Because We’re a Beacon for Gay Refugees.” In a 2013 Pew report, Canada tied the Czech Republic for third place as most accepting of LGBT people (Spain and Germany placed first and second, while the U.S. came in with Brazil at 13th, behind Mexico). The U.S. takes in more refugees than Canada, but many LGBT Iranians choose north over south because of the comparative lack of rights and protections in the U.S., as well as social services. Too, LGBT Muslims have found a spiritual home in Toronto’s El-Tawhid Juma Circle, where congregants sit intermingled and leading prayer is not exclusive to men.
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The Anti-LGBT American Evangelical Right are expanding their exportation of hate, intensifying their efforts now in Latin America. Hoping to replicate inroads in Africa such as with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, infamously christened the “Kill the Gays” bill, Americans Mat Staver, close ally of Scott Lively, and Samuel Rodriguez have joined forces to form a merger of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference with the Latin-American based organization, Conela. The new group launched its political campaigns in Peru, where its influence is already in evidence, but their success is far from a foregone conclusion. Marriage equality is already a reality in Mexico City, Argentina and Uruguay. In June Uruguay and Chile, along with Ireland and France, supported an amendment to the UN “Protection of the Family” resolution to define family more broadly and acknowledge the diversity of family, including those headed by single parents, grandparents and LGBT parents. That stand was unsuccessful, but “La lucha continúa/The struggle continues.”