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Congressional Committee Passes Resolution Condemning Anti-LGBTQ Violence in Chechnya

Earlier today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee debated and passed a bipartisan resolution, House Resolution 351, condemning the violence and persecution of LGBTQ people in Chechnya.

The resolution, which was introduced two days earlier by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and now has over fifty bipartisan cosponsors, “calls on Chechen officials to immediately cease the abduction, detention, and torture of individuals on the basis of their actual or suspected sexual orientation, and hold accountable all those involved in perpetrating such abuses.”

Since early this year, Chechen authorities have rounded up and detained over 100 men in secret prisons, under suspicion that they are gay or bisexual. British reports have suggested that Chechen officials have set a target to “eliminate” all LGBTQ people from Chechnya by the start of Ramadan, which begins at the end of May this year.

Chechen leaders have denied these accusations, going so far as to deny the very existence of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. Nonetheless, there have been numerous verified reports of torture and at least three men have been killed, and possibly as many as 20. Chechen officials have also reportedly encouraged families to murder relatives they suspect might be gay, something that at least one family seems to have taken quite seriously.

In presenting the resolution to the committee, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) called for “a serious investigation and a stop to this medieval violence,” saying that the Russian government “cannot tolerate such intolerable brutality and also purport to be worthy of participating on the global stage.”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), one of Ros-Lehtinen’s chief co-authors of the resolution, hoped that the language in the resolution would “send a strong message to Chechen officials” and that the atrocities “must be condemned by the international community.”

Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) offered an amendment to the resolution, which was accepted by the committee. Keating’s amendment calls on the U.S. government to identify those involved in the attacks and determine if they ought to be sanctioned under two U.S. sanction laws that are named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died under mysterious circumstances in 2009 while in detention in a Russian prison.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) also raised the idea of the committee holding a separate hearing devoted exclusively to the Chechen atrocities, and Chairman Royce agreed.

A number of other committee members from both sides of the aisle also condemned the atrocities, calling them “brutal,” “outrageous,” “shocking,” “inhumane,” “barbaric” and “unthinkable.”

The text of the resolution, which was passed by the committee in a unanimous voice vote, can be found here. HRC calls on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) to urgently schedule the resolution for a vote in the full House of Representatives.

HRC is continuing to take action to stop the atrocities and help the victims. Click here for HRC’s #EyesOnChechnya website, which contains background information and actions that individuals can take to help end the violence.

Unite. Resist. Enlist.: 5 Ways You Can Join HRC’s Summer of Action

HRC staff and thousands of volunteers will be deployed across the country to lead more than 250 local events in more than 45 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. for our Summer of Action pride events. The theme is simple: Unite, resist and enlist against attacks that undermine the LGBTQ community. During the weekend of June 10 and 11, which coincides with the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., and the #ResistMarch in Los Angeles, HRC will hold a Weekend of Action at events coast to coast. However, if you’re unable to attend any of these events in person, here are five things you can do to help spread the word and join the resistance.

  1. Text UNITE to 30644 to join HRC’s Mobile Action Network. By joining, you’ll be up to date on the latest LGBTQ news, actions and resources available.
  1. Join the Equality March in Washington, D.C., and the Resist March in Los Angeles on June 11. If you’re not able to attend either march, then click here to find other sister marches across the country.
  1. Be a part of the change, be engaged, get involved! Find more than a dozen ways to make a difference at hrc.org/help.
  1. Contact your member of congress by texting MY CONGRESS to 30644. Tell them to support commonsense gun safety laws and the Equality Act.
  1. Join our vast legion of supporters to help mobilize your community to change hearts and minds across the country by becoming an HRC volunteer.

HRC is ramping up our historic efforts to resist the Trump administration’s rollback of LGBTQ equality and the consistent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ state legislation across the nation. This year alone, HRC and major state partners have battled more than 130 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 30 states. To date, seven of those bills have been signed into law. The Summer of Action will also help lay groundwork for us to go on the offense in key states ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Your efforts will help us send a clear message to President Trump and lawmakers everywhere that we will not let our basic human rights be trampled on or rolled back.   

HRC Mississippi Joins Second Annual Pride in Oxford

Post submitted by HRC Faith Organizer Daniel Ball

Recently, HRC Mississippi joined the city of Oxford, the University of Mississippi, and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies to celebrate the second annual Oxford Pride. 

The weekend celebration consisted of several activities intended for fellowship and to bring awareness and engagement around issues facing the LGBTQ community in Mississippi. The weekend culminated in a pride parade, which attracted more than 500 people from around north Mississippi.

The Friday activities included the University of Mississippi’s Lavender Graduation, which is a celebration to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of its LGBTQ students and allies who are working to create a safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ students on campus. HRC Mississippi Faith and Outreach Organizer, Daniel Ball, an alumnus of the university, was the featured speaker at the event.

Ball spoke about the importance of staying engaged after graduation and how advocacy on and off campus can help the most vulnerable communities in Mississippi. The Dean of the University, the Vice Chancellor of Diversity Affairs, and the Vice Chancellor of Racial Reconciliation also spoke. All speakers had a common message aimed at promoting unity and encouraging action: “Collective power provides collective solutions”.

Interested in volunteering with HRC at your local pride event? Sign up hrc.org/pride today. Learn more about HRC’s work in Mississippi at hrc.org/Mississippi

Civil Rights Organizations Urge President Trump Not To Appoint David Clarke to Key DHS Position

Today, HRC released a letter from the nation’s leading civil rights organizations calling on President Donald Trump and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John F. Kelly not to appoint controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke as an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement at the DHS.

The letter is signed by executives from the Anti-Defamation League, Human Rights Campaign, The Leadership Conference, Muslim Advocates, National Council of La Raza, and National Urban League, who make clear that “Clarke’s record as Milwaukee County Sheriff and his history of incendiary and hateful statements make him unfit to serve in this role, as does his connection with antigovernment extremist groups.”

Clarke has a long and expansive anti-LGBTQ record. He said that the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize marriage equality nationwide would result in a conservative revolt against President Obama’s “socialist agenda.” He condemned Democrats and advocates for calling on sensible gun safety measures; following the tragic shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub that took lives of 49 people. He said on his right-wing podcast that transgender people “suffer from mental disorders” and “live freakish lifestyles”  and said a supportive mother of a transgender elementary school student was guilty of “child abuse.”

See the full letter and list of signatures here.

 

#AM_Equality Tipsheet: May 25, 2017

HRC LAUNCHES SUMMER OF ACTION TO SPUR MILLIONS OF SUPPORTERS TO ‘UNITE. RESIST. ENLIST.’ Today, HRC launched a nationwide summer of action anchored by more than 250 grassroots events from coast to coast. The theme of these events — “Unite. Resist. Enlist.” — reflects the goal of HRC’s summer of action: to empower and mobilize millions of equality voters to fight back against attacks that undermine the LGBTQ community. As part of the summer of action, HRC staff and thousands of volunteers will be fanning out to lead more than 250 local events in more than 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. They will register thousands of new voters, host grassroots advocacy trainings, and step up visibility and outreach at LGBTQ Pride parades, equality marches, festivals and other events. More from HRC.

“Through his hateful rhetoric and dangerous policies, Donald Trump has awakened a sleeping giant. Never before have Americans been more eager to participate, to advocate and to fight back. Instead of dividing us, he has unified us. And it is our responsibility as advocates to keep that momentum alive, and keep the pressure on,” said HRC President Chad Griffin (@ChadHGriffin). “During this historic Summer of Action, HRC’s grassroots army will help harness the full power of our democracy to unite, enlist and resist.”

  • HRC has also joined a broad coalition of progressive organizations in Equality Florida’s #HonorThemWithAction campaign to pay tribute to the 49 people — most of them LGBTQ and Latinx — whose lives were taken at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and is supporting related community events. More from HRC.

MONTANA GOP HOUSE CANDIDATE CHARGED WITH ASSAULT ON REPORTER: On the eve of today’s tight special election in Montana, anti-LGBTQ Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged with assault for allegedly attacking a reporter, and quickly lost endorsements from three state newspapers. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs (@BenCJacobs) said Gianforte body-slammed him at the candidate’s Bozeman headquarters when questioned about the Republicans’ health care bill. A Fox News crew that witnessed the violent incident confirmed Jacobs’ account after a Gianforte spokesperson provided an inaccurate account of what happened. “It was an extraordinary development in a race that was already being closely watched for clues about the national political environment in the tumultuous first months of the Trump presidency,” reporter Jonathan Martin (@JMartNYT) writes today in The New York Times.  Vice President Mike Pence has campaigned in the state for Gianforte, who, like Pence, has a long history of opposing LGBTQ equality. He is scheduled to appear in court June 7. Read more at The Billings Gazette.

NBA RETURNS 2019 ALL-STAR GAME TO CHARLOTTE: Yesterday, HRC responded to the NBA’s decision to bring back the All-Star Game to Charlotte in 2019.  “North Carolina’s discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” said HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof. “It’s critically important that people understand the gravity of this situation, which has had the effect of extending discrimination and endangering LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina.” The NBA had previously moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte in response to HB2, the deeply discriminatory law that has since been replaced by another law — HB142 — that continues the same anti-LGBTQ scheme put forward by the original measure. More from HRC, ThinkProgress and Deadspin.

TRUMP’S PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS CRITICAL PROGRAMS IMPACTING LGBTQ PEOPLE: If enacted, the budget Trump released this week for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 would devastate federal safety net programs, eliminate health care for millions of Americans and undercut civil rights protections in the U.S. and human rights protections abroad. Although HRC is hopeful that Congress will reject many of these draconian cuts, this budget could trigger unimaginable cuts to safety net programs — including programs that focus on preventing, fighting, and finding cures for diseases, and on programs that provide health services to people living with HIV, low-income women, children, the disabled and elderly. More from HRC and The New York Times.

  • In a Twitter must-read, HRC breaks down the ways Trump’s proposed budget hurts the LGBTQ community. Read the thread here.

BETSY DEVOS REFUSES TO RULE OUT GIVING FEDERAL MONEY TO ANTI-LGBTQ PRIVATE SCHOOLS: During a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos astoundingly refused to say whether she would deny federal funds to private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ people, racial minorities or those with special needs. After a heated back-and-forth with Devos over the issue, Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA), said, “I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.”  Said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy: “Taxpayer funds should never be used to discriminate against LGBTQ students, and it is shocking and disappointing that Secretary DeVos won’t make this basic commitment. Secretary DeVos has failed again to stand up for all students and ensure every child is able to receive an education free from harassment and discrimination.” More from HRC and CNN.

THROWBACK THURSDAY — NORTH CAROLINA WRACKED UP $700K IN LEGAL FEES FIGHTING ANTI-LGBTQ LAW: BuzzFeed’s Dominic Holden (@DominicHolden) uncovered nearly $700,000 in legal fees spent by the state to defend the anti-LGBTQ HB2. The documents did not note when the payments were made, or if any were made during current Governor Roy Cooper’s tenure. This brings the total estimated cost of North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ legislation, HB142 and it’s predecessor HB2, to nearly one billion dollars. (Did you read that in Dr. Evil’s voice? Because you should have.) More from BuzzFeed.

CIVIL RIGHTS ORGS URGE TRUMP NOT TO APPOINT DAVID CLARKE TO KEY DHS POSITION: Yesterday, HRC joined a broad coalition in releasing a letter calling on President Donald Trump and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John F. Kelly not to appoint controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke as an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Partnership and Engagement at the DHS. The letter is signed by executives from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Human Rights Campaign (HRC), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Muslim Advocates, National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the National Urban League (NUL). More in today’s Politico Playbook.

VP PENCE — TRUMP’S PUPPETMASTER ATTACKING LGBTQ COMMUNITY: The Washington Blade imagines a world where Trump is impeached and Vice President Mike Pence becomes president… and it’s not good. “Vice President Pence bears full responsibility for the Trump administration’s anti-equality, anti-immigrant, and anti-science cabinet and the hateful policies they’ve begun implementing,” HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride (@SarahEMcBride) tells The Blade’s Chris Johnson (@ChrisJohnson82). “Time and time again, reports surface that Vice President Pence and his allies are continuing to push the administration to take additional steps allowing a license to discriminate against LGBTQ families. From undermining protections for transgender kids to the attempted Muslim ban that would have prevented LGBTQ refugees fleeing violence from settling in America, Mike Pence is the man behind the curtain pulling Donald Trump’s puppet strings.” More from The Washington Blade.

HRC MOURNS THE LOSS OF MARTYN HETT — LGBTQ BLOGGER KILLED IN MANCHESTER TERROR ATTACKS: Twenty-two people were killed following a terrorist attack that took place at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, on Monday night. Among the victims is 29-year-old blogger Martyn Hett. BuzzFeed once featured Hett endearingly trying to help his mom’s flailing knitting career by advertising her work on Twitter. His persistence paid off and made his mom — and her crochet creations — a viral sensation. More from HRC.

READING RAINBOW

The New York Times previews an upcoming ‘Transparent’-themed cabaret performance; Healthline reports that HRC was named one of the best LGBTQ parenting blogs of the year;

Have news? Send us your news and tips at AMEquality@hrc.org. Click here to subscribe to #AM_Equality and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!

HRC Marks the Start of Ramadan

This year for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, HRC Foundation is launching an online campaign to tell the stories of LGBTQ Muslims and their allies. Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar when God revealed the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad.

During this time, Muslims, including LGBTQ Muslims, fast from dawn until dusk and are encouraged to pray, read the Qur’an and give to charity.

“By acknowledging our differences and fully accepting our humanity, we can create the opportunity to support each other in defending our human and civil rights protected under U.S. law,” said Imam Dayiee Abdullah, member of HRC’s Religion Council and Executive Director of MECCA Institute. “May our prayers for greater inner peace and help for our neighbors manifest in our world today.”

We hope the reflections offered every week starting May 27 until Ramadan culminates in Eid al-Fitr on June 25, will bless souls, revive spirits, renew minds and strengthen bodies. These stories will be hosted on the HRC website and on Twitter and Facebook.

Our first post comes from Imam Daayiee Abdullah, Executive Director of MECCA Institute, an inclusive and progressive online Islamic seminary, and a member of HRC Foundation’s Religion Council. He is the first – and only – openly gay imam in the Americas.

The Ramadan Reflections is a faith-filled resource that compiles reflections written by LGBTQ Muslims and allies from across the United States.

RAMADAN MUBARAK

As-salaamu Alaykum (Peace be upon you) and Ramadan Mubarak (Success in your Ramadan celebration).  I am sure I speak for the ever-growing number of LGBTQ Muslim imams worldwide when I say well wishes to one and all – LGBTQ members and our allies of the Abrahamic and other faiths.

Ramadan is a very special time of year for Muslims, as it is a religious celebration similar in ways to the fasting of Lent and the family get-togethers associated with the feasting that occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is our festival to promote charity and harmony within the Muslim world.  Ramadan also calls for Muslims – whether conservative on one end, moderate to progressive in the middle, or secular and nonreligious– to reflect upon the past year and be thankful for our personal and community-wide blessings, as well as offer prayers and statements of forgiveness to the wider, non-Muslim communities worldwide.

As a person with more than 45 years of LGBTQ advocacy and a progressive Muslim, the struggle for recognition in both communities has not been an easy one. I can say with confidence that the LGBTQ community has made strides in fighting against Islamophobia, and acknowledge that progressive Muslims continue to build inclusion and confront the homophobia within Muslim communities.  

Seeing LGBTQ Muslims and their allies continue the sometimes-arduous work to eliminate Islamophobia within the queer communities, there is a reciprocal recognition by LGBTQ people and Muslims alike that anti-LGBTQ bigotry and anti-Muslim bigotry are two sides of the same coin – both promote unwarranted discrimination against integral parts of their humanness.  By acknowledging our differences and fully accepting our humanity, we can create the opportunity to support each other in defending our human and civil rights protected under U.S. law.

After the atrocity in Orlando last year, I saw the LGBTQ community and Muslim community come together in peace and harmony to assist the victims and the survivors. I am proud, both as a Muslim and an LGBTQ person, to have participated on a national and local level to highlight the importance of working together to ease the tensions between Islamophobia and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia within LGBTQ and Muslim communities.

I encourage those who are reading this article to consider learning more about MECCA Institute and furthering our quest and mission to educate a new generation of diverse Muslim clerics in a progressive Islamic theology that will have a significant impact on our contemporary society.  It is through reeducation that the building of progressive Islamic communities for contemporary Muslims can become a reality today and into the future.

May our prayers for greater inner peace and help for our neighbors manifest in our world today.