By THEO FRYE-YANOS, age 11, SADIE PARKER, age 11, DAPHNE KNOUSE-FRENZER, age 12, and IndyKids Staff
Illustrations by KIT MILLS
In 2013, six new states legalized same-sex marriage. A further victory for the LGBTQ rights movement in the same year was the Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor which overturned section three of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The law stated that the federal government would not recognize same-sex marriages, meaning that they would not provide marriage benefits or privileges to same-sex couples. Furthermore, Delaware passed a law in 2013 that prohibits discrimination based on sexual identity, which aims to protect transgender and gender-queer people from discrimination in the workplace.
However, there is still a long way to go to overcome bullying, discrimination, violence against and homelessness among LGBTQ youth and adults. Many states still have not repealed discriminatory laws or passed adequate protections against discriminatory practices:
- Same-sex marriage is still not legal in 33 states. This means that a couple can get married in one state, but then not have their marriage recognized with they travel or move to most other states.
- Job discrimination based on sexual orientation is still LEGAL in 29 states, meaning an employer can technically fire or refuse to hire someone for being part of the LGBTQ community.
- Job discrimination based on gender identity is still LEGAL in 33 states, meaning an employer can fire or refuse to hire someone for being transgender or gender non-conforming.
According to ColorLines, violence against LGBTQ individuals is on the rise in the United States. A 2013 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that 25 anti-LGBTQ homicides were committed in 2012. This the fourth highest yearly total ever recorded by the coalition.
Twelve out of 13 South American countries have legalized homosexuality. Legally, the most LGBTQ-friendly South American countries are Argentina, Brazil, French Guiana and Uruguay. In those countries homosexuality is legal, same sex marriages or civil unions are protected, same-sex couples are allowed to adopt and they have some form of anti-discrimination laws concerning not just sexual orientation, but also gender identity. Yet violence against the LGBTQ community seems to have no relationship to progressive laws in place. According to Grupo Gay da Bahia, 44 percent of the world’s anti-LGBTQ violence occurs in Brazil.
There are also countries where homosexuality may be legal, but are less LGBTQ friendly. For example, Guatemala and Peru have few LGBTQ protections in place. Guyana is the sole South American country that has outlawed homosexuality. Though the laws are largely unenforced, homosexual activity is punishable by sentences of up to life in prison.
On February 24, 2014, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda signed a law that criminalizes homosexuality, making it punishable by 14 years to life in prison. The law also extends to allies of LGBTQ individuals.
Even though Uganda has received a lot of press lately for pursuing this law, other African countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have similar laws. In fact, homosexuality is illegal in 38 out of 54 African countries.
Frank Mugisha, the Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, blames the U.S. evangelical movement for stoking the fire against homosexuality in Africa. “There is no question that the well-funded U.S. evangelical movement has aided economic development in Uganda,” he wrote in the Guardian. “But there is also no doubt … that they have relentlessly stoked a loathing and disgust of sexual minorities.”
Funeka Soldaat, founder of the LGBT rights organization Free Gender, described the LGBT experience of South Africa’s progressive LGBT laws in a January 4 interview with The Independent, a British newspaper: “Even if you know how the constitution works, you don’t know how to use it to protect yourself. If you don’t have money you don’t have access to the justice system. Violence [against LGBTQ people] in the townships is normal. Homosexuality is [seen as] un-African.”
Grassroots organizations like Free Gender, the Coalition of African Lesbians, Freedom and Roam Uganda and many others have been working tirelessly to advocate for human rights for the LGBTQ populations throughout the continent. They strive to change laws and provide safe havens for their communities.
In general, European countries have proven to be progressive on LGBTQ issues. In 2010, Iceland became the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Nine other countries out of 16 have legalized it since, and Austria, Finland, Germany, Greenland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland are currently considering marriage equality legislation. In Ireland, a 2008 poll demonstrated that 73 percent of the population was in favor of its passage. However, violence against LGBTQ individuals occurs throughout the continent, in some eastern countries, like Poland and Ukraine, there is still resistance to LGBTQ rights.
Russia has been in the global spotlight for its ongoing crackdown on the LGBTQ community. In summer 2013, the Russian government passed a law fining any individual or organization involved in “propaganda of non-traditional relationships to minors,” effectively making speech or action around LGBTQ rights illegal. Another law was passed soon after, preventing couples from countries that allow same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children. Russian activists who spoke out against these laws took to the streets, organizing public demonstrations.
In Asia, no country has legalized same-sex marriage, but China, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and others are becoming increasingly tolerant of LGBTQ couples. Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India all outlaw homosexuality. Indian activists continue to protest the decision to re-criminalize homosexuality. However, as of April 2014, India officially recognizes a third gender, a historic ruling for their transgender population. Malaysia is particularly harsh for LGBTQ individuals with prison sentences up to 20 years for homosexuality.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Ally – a person who supports and fights for the rights of a community other than their own
Civil union – a legally recognized partnership similar to marriage, but usually lacking some of the legal benefits that marriage provides
Evangelicalism – a worldwide Protestant Christian movement that strives to spread its interpretation of Biblical and gospel teachings
Gender non-conforming – a person who does not follow the way society expects them to express their gender
LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning
Transgender person – Someone who was assigned one sex at birth but identifies as a different gender; for example, a baby said to be female at birth may grow up to identify as male, vice versa or otherwise.