Banning coerced conversions of LGBT citizens


 While a great deal of international effort still has to go into removing explicitly anti-LGBT laws — think sodomy laws such as the various Section 377s in Asian countries, or Russia’s anti-gay speech law — it’s also important to press positive legislation that promotes LGBT visibility and inclusion.  Equal marriage is  one such type of legislation. Another, which hasn’t gained as much attention but is building, would be  laws that put an end to coerced therapies designed to “convert” LGBT citizens to “more acceptable” forms of heterosexuality.

California was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law banning so-called “gay cure” therapy — which immediately set off a controversy over whether that was an interference with freedom of speech if such therapies and therapists  use only counseling techniques. Could the state put an end to a therapist’s speech aimed at converting  LGBT individuals?

(The previous barbaric tactics of electro-shock and lobotomies have usually receded in most civil societies. You can read an excerpt from Gay Seattle about Washington state’s most famous case involving the actress Frances Farmer by clicking here.)

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered its decision last August. Yes, by all means, it said, governments have a right to regulate therapists and therapies. If approaches are considered harmful, useless or forms of consumer fraud — as conversion therapy is by scientific and medical groups — then the government can ban them.

In the U.S., New Jersey became the second state to pass legislation ending such “cure” therapy. Now Washington state is considering it too. (Click here for today’s Seattle Times story.)

For anyone young or suffering from social or religious pressure to become more gender- or sexual-conforming, these laws are an absolutely critical and much needed advance in how we all live together civilly.


Click here for more from Truth Wins Out on the “ex-gay lie.”

The new Catholic response to marriage equality

Now that more and more states are adopting equal marriage laws — or having their discriminatory laws struck down by federal judges — Catholic archdioceses have begun responding by firing any employees who exercise their right to same-sex marriage. The Seattle Times today carries a good overview of what’s happening. Click here to read the story. (To read a subsequent New York Times update, click here.)

For Seattle, most of the focus has been on the dismissal of a popular vice principal at Eastside Catholic High School, Mark Zmuda. He was fired shortly before Christmas, prompting a student uproar and the collection of more than 20,000 petition signatures online urging the Archdiocese of Seattle to reinstate him.  Presented with those signatures yesterday, an Archdiocese spokesman said that although Continue reading The new Catholic response to marriage equality

Seattle’s new gay mayor inaugurated

 Ed Murray was inaugurated as Seattle’s mayor yesterday, the first LGBT person to claim such a high political post in Washington state.  As a previous state representative and then state senator, Murray has worked for LGBT rights for decades, successfully coordinating the passage of an anti-discrimination law in employment as well as the  passage in 2012 of an equal marriage law. He and his partner Michael Shiosaki, who have been together for 22 years, were just married five months ago.

Ed Murray, left, Seattle's new gay mayor, and his husband Michael Shiosaki. Photo from Wikicommons
Ed Murray, left, Seattle’s new gay mayor, and his husband Michael Shiosaki. Photo from Wikicommons

Ed is a classic example of a social justice advocate who knows how to pragmatically work in the legislative trenches and build coalitions, finding ways to position himself so that others need his help and then coaxing them along to also help LGBT causes.  His early work, under his legislative mentor Cal Anderson, was documented in the closing chapter of the original 2003 version of Gay Seattle; his latest work was detailed in the introduction to the 2013 paperback edition.

In an inaugural day filled with symbolic events — including a breakfast with homeless women and children and a racism workshop with his staff — the one that particularly caught my eye Continue reading Seattle’s new gay mayor inaugurated

Untying the hangman’s noose

IranNooseDecember 27, 2013 — In Iran,  homosexuality carries the death penalty and  the penalty is carried out by hanging.  (Click here for a Huffington Post 2012 report.) No surprise then that one of the most moving scenes in a new visual poem, “I,”  by Iranian author J.D. Kamran occurs when Iranian gay men and Iranian lesbian women take a hangman’s noose into their hands and untie it.  Then they play jump rope, visually asserting what we all know to be true: gender knows no boundaries of play, just as love knows no boundaries of outdated law.

(Click here for the Persian You-Tube video.  Or click here for the English version.)

Kamran writes:

I have always been here,
Not on the gallows! Not in death! I have always been here, in life.

Thanks to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission for supporting the work of LGBT activists in Iran. The IGLHRC will soon be publishing manuals in Persian to be used by media, activists, and human rights attorneys. Meanwhile, LGBT folks in Iran rely on mobile devices and the Internet — not only to get their stories out but to know that they are not alone. I have to admit that when I stumble across folks like these on the new international social media available — yes, even those “who’s nearby” or not  apps — I’m stunned at their courage.


The pent-up demand for marriage

December 17,2013:  A little more than a year ago, lesbians and gays in Washington state, where I live, began to be able to marry. Now word comes that roughly one out of every six Washington marriages since that time are between men or women of the same sex.  The most recent info from the state Health Department actually only covers ten months from last December until this past September. In  that time 7,071 same-sex couples legally married.

One of the first same-sex couples married in Seattle, leaving City Hall. Wikicommons photo

Compare that to the 2010 census, in which final estimates were that 19,000 same-sex households existed in Washington state, with about 3,000 of the folks in those households already married (presumably in states where it had already been legalized, or in Canada). The figures on new Washington state marriages means that about half of same-sex couples here have now legally married.

Wow! That was fast.

A health department spokesman told local radio station KPLU that Continue reading The pent-up demand for marriage

India heads backward

India has disappointingly returned to the ranks of nations that not only criminalize gay sex, but do so using an antiquated, vague legal definition of “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” imposed by the colonial British in 1861.

Flag_of_IndiaThe section of the penal code involved, Section 377, is the same that has been at recent issue in other former British colonies in Asia including Singapore, Malaysia, and Myanmar/Burma. In fact, Section 377’s wording and numbering was either adopted directly or served as the model for criminalizing homosexuality in more than 30 of the roughly 70 nations that still do so.  In India, as in Burma, the section makes sex “against the order of nature” punishable with 10 years in prison. Other nations add even more extreme punishment. Malaysia’s Section 377 specifies up to 20 years imprisonment along with whipping.

The Delhi High Court had struck Section 377 down in 2009 in the case of Naz Foundation v Govt of NCT of Delhi. The Delhi decision decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults, saying

Continue reading India heads backward

Advocating LGBT justice and equality