Posts Tagged 'same-sex couples'

International Law and the Uncertainty of Rights for LGBT People

Human Rights WatchRepost from Human Rights Watch
Written by Graeme Reid

For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)people the law is a paradox. The law can operate as an instrument of repression and control, but also as a tool for resistance and liberation. We find fragments of our collective histories in court records. Here we find a sorry history of people in countries across the world convicted of loitering, sodomy, cross-dressing or so-called “crimes against nature.”

For a vulnerable minority, and an unpopular one, domestic and international law has proven to be an indispensable tool, sometimes the only tool, for LGBT people to claim a space in the world. Two decades ago in a 1994 case, the UN Human Rights Committee in Toonen v. Australia asserted the right to privacy for same-sex consenting adults under international law. In 1998, South African courts repealed the Immorality Act and five years later, in 2003, Lawrence v. Texas saw the remaining sodomy laws in the US declared unconstitutional.

Yet some 76 countries around the world maintain discriminatory LGBT laws. Britain exported its sodomy laws to the empire, where many remain in force. These laws not only hold the threat of arrest and prosecution, but have other profound implications for LGBT people as well. Even in the many countries where sodomy laws are seldom enforced, such as India and Uganda, they still symbolize national discrimination against LGBT people.

Human Rights Watch has reported these laws are routinely used for blackmail and extortion, in settings as diverse as KyrgyzstanJamaica and Uganda. Such laws contribute to a climate of prejudice and hostility in which violence occurs with impunity. The passage of the anti-propaganda laws in Russia led to a peak in violence against LGBT people. In Nigeria, the immediate effect following the enactment of draconian legislation was mob violence against gay men. The law in these places means that LGBT people must live a shadow existence under the threat of violence. Continue Reading

U.S. Says Visas From Gay Spouses Will Get Equal Treatment

Secretary of State John F. Kerry

Photo: Jason Reed, Reuters

Repost from Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – The United States will immediately begin considering visa applications of gay and lesbian spouses in the same manner as heterosexual couples, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday.

Kerry made the announcement at the U.S. Embassy in London.

“When same-sex couples apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner that it considers the application of opposite sex spouses,” Kerry said shortly after his arrival in London.

“If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are the spouse of a non-citizen, your visa application will be treated equally. If you are in a country that doesn’t recognize your same-sex marriage, then your visa application will still be treated equally at every single one of our 222 visa processing centers around the world,” he added.

The move comes after the Obama administration urged all U.S. agencies to review their polices after the U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a key part of the federal law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security said its U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would begin reviewing petitions filed on behalf of same-sex spouses the same way as those for spouses in heterosexual marriages.

Nigerian Human Rights Defenders, Groups, Individuals, and CSO’s Condemn the Passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill

Nigeria House of Representatives

Nigerian human rights defenders, individuals, and Civil society organizations have condemned the passage of the “Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill” passed in the Nigerian House of Representatives on May 30, 2013. The bill, if approved, proposes a 14 year jail sentence for people who enter into a same-sex “marriage” or “civil union”. This bill also punishes any person who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organizations, or directly or indirectly makes a public show of same sex amorous relationship with a term of 10 years imprisonment. The bill also seeks to punish any person or group of persons that witness, screens, shields, aids and abets the solemnization of same sex marriage contract or civil union or supports the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, processions or meetings in Nigeria with 10 years in prison. Watch a video on the passage of the bill.

In opposition to the bill, Nigerian civil society has issued a letter condemning the bill. Continue reading ‘Nigerian Human Rights Defenders, Groups, Individuals, and CSO’s Condemn the Passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill’

Peace Corps Announces New Service Opportunity for Same-Sex Couples

Peace Corps Press Statement

Washington, D.C., May 21, 2013 – Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced that the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas. Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting Monday, June 3.

“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”

Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners who want to volunteer together further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture. Married heterosexual couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps assignments are filled by married volunteers serving together.

The Peace Corps requires formal documentation for all couples who want to serve, and same-sex domestic partners will be required to sign an affidavit before leaving for service that will act as verification of their relationship. The Peace Corps continually works with staff in host countries to identify placements that allow for safe and productive assignments.

Couples who serve together gain a unique perspective of host country customs and culture, but opportunities for couples are limited, as both applicants must apply at the same time and qualify for assignments at the same post. Many factors affect placements, including an applicant’s overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and safety and medical accommodations. For any applicant, the number one factor in determining an assignment is the demand from host countries for skilled volunteers.

To learn more about serving in the Peace Corps as a same-sex couple, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/howvol/couplesfaqs/.

An LGBT Response to the State Department’s UPR Report

By Julie Dorf, Senior Advisor

The best part of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s livid reaction to the U.S. report to the United Nations on our country’s human rights record was that it put this relatively obscure international human rights instrument–known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)–into the mainstream news this week. CNN and the New York Times would otherwise never have covered the UPR submission of the United States at the UN’s Human Rights Council without a scandal to report. Brewer was furious at the inclusion of a very brief mention of the pending federal court case reviewing Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law on immigration, through which the federal government argues that they, not the states, are responsible for immigration law.

Both the left and the right had predictable reactions to the 25-page U.S. report released last week. The left made long lists of issues not covered adequately in the report, which is limited in length by the UN process itself. The US Human Rights Network, Human Rights Watch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and many other important groups raised important issues that got short shrift in the official U.S. government report. The right predictably questioned the U.S. engaging in the UN process at all. The Heritage Foundation uses the report to criticize the Obama administration for joining the newly formed Human Rights Council in the first place, calling it “a mutual praise society for repressive regimes.” And the gay community’s The Advocate published a piece criticizing the Council for Global Equality for our participation in the UN process when weeks prior we submitted our own report of the U.S. record on the human rights of LGBT people. The Advocate’s James Kirchick claimed that when the American LGBT community uses this global human rights mechanism for advocacy, it “effectively minimizes the appalling way in which the world’s genuine human rights abusers treat their gay citizens.” (See the criticism here, and our rebuttal here.)

In fact, the U.S. report is more honest and self-reflective than anything we would have gotten from prior administrations, even if it does attempt to position the Obama administration as doing everything it possibly can on the many unresolved human rights problems in this country. We know that further leadership is required of our government, and it is our role as advocates to keep the pressure on.

For the LGBT community, the report includes a relatively extensive paragraph (page 9, paragraph 34) outlying the administration’s support for most of the legislation still pending in Congress that would move us toward the goal of equality for LGBT Americans. It contextualizes the LGBT community’s struggle by writing, “In each era of our history there tends to be a group whose experience of discrimination illustrates the continuing debate among citizens about how we can build a more fair society. In this era, one such group is LGBT Americans.”

The State Department report says: “Debate continues over equal rights to marriage for LGBT Americans at the federal and state levels, and several states have reformed their laws to provide for same-sex marriages, civil unions, or domestic partnerships. At the federal level, the President supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.” It is here that we must register our disappointment. Although we understand the real political constraints facing the administration, we want our President to support full marriage equality for all LGBT Americans, as well as the Respect for Marriage Act. Unfortunately, Obama has felt compelled to articulate and re-articulate his opposition to marriage equality and his support for civil unions. LGBT Americans deserve a government that stands up on “controversial issues” not only to the Governor Brewers of the United States, but to state laws and ballot measures that restrict the human rights of LGBT Americans—including our right to form family.

Our nation has a long history of intense power struggles between the states and the federal government. On immigration, the federal government has voiced its opposition to the Arizona law. The Council would have liked to see a similar call-out about California or Arkansas–states that also overstepped their authority by taking away rights from same-sex couples of existing relationship and family protections through their ballot measure process. The Arkansas adoption ban was overturned in the courts, and a case is currently pending challenging California’s Proposition 8 in federal courts, which was not mentioned in the report.

Thank you Governor Brewer for helping to bring the public’s attention to the UPR report this week, and to the continued need for us to stay vigilant about the proper role of the state and the federal government in the implementation of our human rights values and obligations, as we continue to perfect our nation’s union.


Stay Informed

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 220 other followers

Follow us on Twitter

Categories