This is a story of compassion turning into action. Rev. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, PA has advocated for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people and their families in her church and local community for more than three decades. Upon becoming aware of the challenges faced by LGBT people around the world, particularly the criminalization of homosexuality and the rising violence and persecution of LGBT persons, her concern and advocacy moved beyond the borders of her city and country.
Rev. Edwards was selected by Pittsburgh Presbytery to serve as a Commissioner to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in June, 2014. She knew she had a unique opportunity to bring a Commissioner’s Resolution for consideration by this assembly in Detroit. She wanted this General Assembly to learn about the global crisis for LGBT people and their families and to call the Presbyterian Church (USA) to faithful, compassionate action. So, she called Bear Ride, a Presbyterian minister and me to work with her on this resolution.
In a historic first for the Presbyterian Church (USA) after three decades of dialogue on ordination and marriage equality for LGBT people, Rev. Edwards’ resolution was unanimously approved by committee and therefore adopted by the assembly. The resolution said: Read more
“Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of discrimination and violence against LGBT persons and their families, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles, a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards and moral imperatives with which all States should recognize.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 and the Yogykarta Principles from 2006, help us imagine a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfil that precious birthright.
The United Nations Free and Equal campaign created this wonderful Bollywood video featuring Celina Jaitly, Equality Champion, The Welcome. This film captures the heart and spirit of human dignity and these human rights principles we remember on this day. Our hope, prayer and work is that this story will be the reality for every LGBT person and their family some day soon. We are all children of God and one human family.
Photo: LGBT rights march in El Salvador. Courtesy of Amnesty International.
December 1 is World AIDS Day. This is a day to raise awareness about HIV, to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV, to remember loved ones we have lost to HIV, and to work together to end HIV around the world.
We commemorate World AIDS Day 2016 by standing in solidarity with the 78 million people who have become infected with HIV. And, we remember the 35 million who have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases of HIV were reported in the early 1980’s.
In spite of the progress that has been made against HIV over the past 15 years with the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010. Moreover, there has been resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world.
2.79 billion people live in countries that criminalize homosexuality. Criminalization of one’s personhood, sexuality or gender expression makes one more vulnerable to HIV infection and less likely to receive adequate, even life-saving healthcare. The criminalization of homosexuality is a concern for civil society, a violation of both human dignity and human rights, and a public health concern.
Around the world, conservative political and religious ideology creates a climate of fear, stigmatization and persecution of LGBT persons and their families. This climate hinders public health initiatives and places LGBT persons in harm’s way with regard to HIV, joblessness and poverty.
Prevention is the international focus for World AIDS Day 2016 for UNAIDS. We have proven methods of prevention of infection. Significant barriers to prevention are criminalization of homosexuality and stigma. Faith voices and faith communities can and should make a difference by speaking out against criminalization and addressing stigma. Compassion is the way forward. We are all children of God and one human family.
One night everything changed. On June 28, 1969 when the police raided the Stonewall Bar in New York City something unexpected happened. It was a tipping point, the LGBT people fought back in what would later be called the Stonewall Riots.
The denial of respect, safety, equality and human dignity had run into a wall, a human wall of LGBT persons who drew a line in the sand and stood up for themselves en masse for the first time. A social movement for LGBT equality in the United States was born that night.
The early LGBT leaders decided to commemorate the Stonewall Riots with the Christopher Street Liberation Day march in New York City on June 28, 1970. This march is understood as the first Gay Pride March in the United States. Similar marches challenging anti-gay discrimination and to celebrate LGBT life and culture were held in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Artist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow gay flag in 1978 which is now the universal sign of LGBT pride and diversity.
We owe much to those early LGBT and ally pioneers who stood up, spoke out and courageously blazed a trail for us. Surely in every LGBT community and in every country around the world, the stories can be told of the first ones. Each generation gives rise to new LGBT and ally leaders all around the world. Let us remember the pioneers and celebrate the new leaders. Read more
2.8 billion people live in countries that criminalize same-sex relationships. This reality raises many important questions. How can this be in light of human dignity and human rights for all persons? How can this be in democratic countries claiming the equality of citizens and the responsibility of majorities to protect minorities? For persons of faith who believe in a God who creates and loves all persons, how can we not speak out as sexual minorities are placed in harm’s way by these laws?
“We need to honor our traditional values and our culture,” and “We must oppose homosexuality because it is a Western influence” are the common arguments for maintaining or strengthening anti-homosexuality laws in many of the 76 countries where homosexuality is criminalized. Nothing could be further from the truth when one looks closely at their own indigenous cultures and the influence of colonial history.
Same-sex love is, and has been, a part of human life and history in all cultures across time. While some may describe homosexuality or same-sex love as a Western creation or a modern phenomenon, the witness of ancient art, literature, culture and history tells us the truth and the stories of the variety of human sexualities and relationships. Read more
This is the irrational season, when love blooms bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason, there’d have been no room for the child. ~ Madeleine L’Engle
I am a human rights activist. As someone who works for the recognition of human dignity and the achievement of equality for LGBT persons and their families across the world, I have come to understand myself as an irrational optimist.
Remarkable gains for LGBT equality have been made in 2015 such as the U.S. Supreme Court ruling for federal marriage equality; Mozambique removing its colonial penal code which had criminalized homosexuality and same-sex love; Ireland’s national vote for marriage equality with thousands of Irish people coming home to vote; Botswana’s ruling to give space to a LGBT organization; and this week, Greece’s Parliament approving civil unions for same-sex couples. Read more
Since 1988, December 1st has been World AIDS Day. This is a day to raise awareness about HIV, to stand in solidarity with those living with HIV, to remember loved ones we have lost to HIV, and to work together to end HIV around the world. The international theme for World AIDS Day 2015 is “Getting to Zero” which means working toward the dream of an AIDS-free generation.
Stigma and discrimination must be eliminated in the work to reduce infections, to improve access to healthcare and to open paths for advocacy. Populations at risk to HIV include LGBT persons, men who have sex with men, women living in poverty and sex workers.
2.79 billion people live in countries that criminalize homosexuality. Criminalization of one’s personhood, sexuality or gender expression makes one more vulnerable to HIV infection and less likely to receive adequate, even life-saving healthcare. Read more
History was made this week at the United Nations as same-sex love and relationships were recognized and celebrated. Daniela Mercury and her wife Malu Verçosa Mercury spoke to media at the United Nations in New York City and at this forum: Protecting the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) People in Latin America: A Decade of Progress. Daniela Mercury is a Brazilian musician who has sold over 20 million albums and Malu Verçosa Mercury is a journalist. Daniela Mercury is a UN Equality Champion and a UNICEF Ambassador for Brazil. Daniela and Malu were married in 2014 in the company of family and friends.
The video Celebrate Love! is the new resource from the United Nation’s Free and Equal Campaign. It features a new song by Daniela Mercury and footage from Daniela and Malu’s wedding ceremony and celebration.
On the evening of September 2nd, over 250 people poured into The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta for the premiere of a new exhibit. The LGBT Institute at the Center was launched during the premiere of this exhibit, “Forward Together: A Look at Atlanta’s LGBT History Since Stonewall.”
The mission of The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is “to empower people to take the protection of every human’s rights personally. Through sharing stories of courage and struggle around the world. The Center encourages visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the role they play in helping to protect the rights of all people.” The Center seeks to harness Atlanta’s legacy of civil rights to strengthen the worldwide movement for human rights.
The LGBT Institute is an essential part of The Center’s global civil and human rights platform and programming. The Global Faith and Justice Project is one of the LGBT Institute Partners. Michael J. Adee, Director of the Global Faith and Justice Project, serves on the LGBT Institute’s Programming Board. Read more
Two gay men who escaped Syria and Iraq with their lives shared their experiences of discrimination and violence against LGBT people at a historic session of the UN Security Council in New York City on August 24. Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee living in the United States, addressed the council in person. Out of concern for his family’s safety back in Iraq, “Adan” spoke to the council by cell phone using a pseudonym.
“It’s about time, 70 years after the creation of the UN, that the fate of LGBT persons who fear for their lives around the world is taking center stage. This represents a small but historic step,” said Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Chile’s Ambassador to the UN, Cristian Barros Melet joined the US Ambassador Samantha Power in organizing this special meeting of the UN Security Council. While LGBT rights have been the subject of several meetings of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, this was the first time LGBT persons and rights were the focus of a meeting of the UN Security Council. Read more