On December 12, the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights First once again joined forces for their second annual reception, in cooperation with the Council for Global Equality, to mark U.N. Human Rights Day.
The event, “Advocates and Allies in the Global Equality Movement,” brought together more than 100 LGBTQ advocates, government officials, scholars and other experts to honor Caleb Orozco, a gay Belizean advocate, and Olena Hloba, a Ukrainian mother who co-founded an LGBTQ allies organization to support her openly gay son and other LGBTQ Ukrainians.
Orozco has become well known in LGBTQ advocacy circles for his lawsuit which brought down the “anti-sodomy” law in his country. He filed suit against his government in 2010, arguing that Belize’s colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality was unconstitutional. This past summer, after nearly six years of litigation, Belize’s Supreme Court agreed, overturning the law and requiring the Criminal Code be amended to allow consensual same-sex activity.
HRC’s JoDee Winterhof, Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs, introduced Caleb and praised him for his bravery and leadership. “He is the kind of advocate who stands up to taunts and threats,” she said. “Even as his name has in some circles become a pejorative for ‘gay.’ He is an advocate who decided he ‘would not be silent anymore.’”
In his acceptance speech, Orozco said “LGBT Belizeans find a way, many times invisible, to resist oppression and violence. We are not only victims, but survivors and we resist. We will not be silenced.”
Hloba is the mother of a gay Ukrainian activist, Bogdan Hloba, and is the executive director of Fulcrum, a Ukrainian LGBTQ advocacy organization. She co-founded Tergo, a support group for parents and friends of LGBTQ Ukrainians. In an interview with the Washington Blade in 2014, Hloba said she spent eight years “suffering” after she discovered that her then-teenage son was gay. “Eight years of suffering and research is just a waste of precious time,” said Globa. She decided to instead use her energy to make a difference for LGBTQ Ukrainians.
“I am deeply thankful for this award,” Hloba said. “It’s great encouragement as I continue this hard work. I’m determined to use it as a key to open the doors that are still closed for our children…as I continue to knock on doors and work for equality for my son and for all LGBTQI people in Ukraine.”
Elisa Massimino, the President and CEO of Human Rights First, closed the event, pledging to “reaffirm our commitment to standing with frontline activists around the world. We will continue to champion equality, and we will demand that our government defend the human rights of LGBT people.” She urged everyone in the room to recommit to that cause as a new president and administration take power in the U.S.
“Together, we can create stronger, more inclusive communities, here at home and around the world,” she concluded.
HRC was honored to co-host this event with Human Rights First and we look forward to continuing to build relationships with advocates and allies to help expand LGBTQ equality around the world. Learn more about HRC Global here.
Photo c/o: Drade Photography & Films