Marriage Equality Is Coming to 20 Countries in Latin and South America After Landmark Ruling

A top court paved the way for marriage equality in more than 20 countries after ruling Latin and South American nations have no right to prevent same-sex unions.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) claimed in a Wednesday verdict that signatories must treat LGBTQ couples “without discrimination.” Based in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, the court claimed that same-sex partners are entitled to the same property, financial, and financial benefits as opposite-sex couples.

Judges claimed that countries under its purview “must recognise and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.”

The IACHR, which was established by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1969, added that all member nations must “guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems… in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination.”

Costa Rica’s federal government, which asked the court to deliberate on the subject of LGBTQ rights two years ago, welcomed the ruling. The country’s vice president, Ana Helena Chachón, pledged the decision would be implemented “in its totality.”

“The court… reminds all states on the continent, including ours, of their obligation and historical debt toward this population,” she said at a press conference.

Little will change in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay, which already recognize same-sex unions. Thirteen out of Mexico’s 31 states, includingCampeche, Coahuila, and Nayarit, have moved to legalize marriage equality, although a nationwide movement for equal marriage has stalled.

But at least 15 countries in Latin and South America have no relationship recognition for LGBTQ couples at the time of writing.

In addition to Costa Rica, these countries include Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname. Bolivia and Paraguay have explicitly prohibited same-sex couples from marrying.

This week’s ruling from the IACHR is binding on most countries which adopted the American Convention on Human Rights nearly five decades ago. The multilateral agreement was intended to “consolidate within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.”

Despite Costa Rica’s vow to comply with the decision, its likely to meet opposition from the Catholic Church, which wields enormous power in Latin and South America.

When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called for the passage of a same-sex marriage bill in the country’s legislature two years ago, it triggered a wave of protests in cities across the country in September 2016. Led by the Catholic Church, the number of marchers who came out to demonstrate against marriage equality reportedly numbered in the tens of thousands.

Bishops even joined the picket line themselves.

The IACHR recommended that signatories unprepared to pass marriage equality in their countries comply with the verdict by passing “temporary decrees” protecting the rights of same-sex couples until further legislation can be enacted.

 

Romania Must Grant Residency Rights to Same-Sex Couples, Says Top EU Advisor

The European Union is on the precipice of taking a major step forward for LGBTQ rights.

Advocate General Melchior Wathelet, a top advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), said in a Thursday opinion that EU member countries must grant residency rights to same-sex couples. This includes the six states which offer no partner benefits or legal recognition of LGBTQ relationships: Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

His legal advice was offered in regards to a case brought forward by Adrian Coman, a Romanian national who has been lobbying for permanent residence rights for his husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton.

The two were wed in Belgium eight years ago, but Romania does not recognize their relationship as valid.

Wathelet stated that such countries are “are free to provide or not for marriage for persons of the same sex.” But in a written opinion to the court, he claimed the 28 states which currently claim membership in the European Union cannot limit “the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.”

The advocate general added that the country’s top court regards the term “spouse” as “neutral” in regards to gender and nonspecific “to the place where that marriage was contracted.”

Thus, a same-sex marriage conducted in Belgium would confer residence rights in Romania.

Although Wathelet’s input as an advisor to the court is nonbinding, LGBTQ advocates hailed one passage in particular as signaling further movement from the EU’s top court. He claimed that the term “marriage” had undergone an “evolution [in] societies of the member states in the last decade” and could no longer be understood to denote “a union between two persons of the opposite sex.”

The ECJ is set to further deliberate on the case and may choose to ignore his advice in its eventual findings. But as the BBC notes, judges presiding at the Luxembourg-based bench “have generally followed the advocate’s lead” in their past decision-making.

Whatever conclusion the court reaches will be sent back to Romania’s national court, which will make its final decision. It previously lobbied for the EU’s input on the issue.

The gay couple at the center of the ongoing legal battle celebrated Thursday’s written opinion as a significant step toward the full recognition of their residency rights as a same-sex couple. Hamilton claimed the two are “overjoyed.”

“It shows the Romanian authorities were wrong to refuse to treat us as a family,” he said in a written statement provided to the media. “Romanian citizens can’t be divided into good and gay. We can’t be treated as inferior citizens, lacking equal rights, based on prejudices that some have about homosexuality.”

Romania is currently considering a referendum which would add an amendment to its constitution banning same-sex marriages. Controversial Rowan County, Ky. clerk Kim Davis traveled to the country last year in support of the measure.

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More Than 80 Percent of Russians Believe Gay Sex Is ‘Reprehensible’

A new poll is yet another reminder that LGBTQ activists have a long way to go in Russia. Five out of six respondents (or 83 percent) claimed homosexuality is “always” or “almost always” reprehensible in a new poll conducted by the Independent Levada Center (ILC).

The non-governmental polling agency spoke with 1,600 people from 48 different regions of the Eurasian country for its survey, the result of which were released Thursday.

A very small number of respondents to the ILC survey expressed support for LGBTQ rights, as originally reported in The Moscow Times. Less than one in 10or eight percentof those polled claimed there’s nothing wrong with same-sex relationships.

The Moscow-based research group, which conducted the poll between Dec. 15 and 20, has indicated a pronounced surge in anti-LGBTQ animus in the past decade. When the ILC undertook the same survey in 2008, around three-quarters of Russians (74 percent) objected to homosexuality. That’s a 12 percent increase in 10 years time.

Russia’s uptick in homophobic sentiment is not a accident: It correlates with the passage of the country’s anti-LGBTQ “propaganda” law, signed into effect in 2013.

The harsh law forbids the spread of information on “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors, as well as portraying same-sex relationships in a positive light. In effect, the directive has served to stamp out queer life in Russia: An HIV/AIDS activist, Evdokia Romanova, was fined $789 in October for posting news articles about LGBTQ issues on Facebook.

Russia’s “propaganda” law, which was unanimously approved by the State Duma, has also caused anti-LGBTQ hate crimes to double in the four years since its passage.

Although LGBTQ people have never enjoyed widespread acceptance in Russia, the ILC data shows that the situation for queer and trans people was drastically different 20 years ago. At the time, nearly a third of Russians (32 percent) felt same-sex relationships were morally permissible.

The polling agency found there was a generation gap in LGBTQ acceptance two decades ago. Those under 31 were more likely to have no issue with homosexuality than Russians over that dividing line.

Today, there is no difference in support for LGBTQ equality among age groups.

D.C. Police Are Not Pursuing The Murder Of Black Lesbian Kerrice Lewis As a Hate Crime

Police say they don’t believe the gruesome murder of a Washington, D.C.-area lesbian was motivated by anti-gay bias.

“I don’t know that that’s been ruled out at this point, but it has not been classified as a hate crime,” Police Spokesperson Rachel Reid told INTO. “We’re looking into the possibility that it may be related to two other homicides.”

Neighbors reported hearing gunshots and screams before police found 23-year-old Kerrice Lewis in the trunk of her burning Lexus on Dec. 28. Lewis had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and police have already made an arrest in connection with another murder. At 6:20 pm, an hour before police responded to calls about Lewis, the Prince George’s County Police Department responded to a report of a man lying at the intersection of Kenilworth Avenue and Eastern Avenue in Capitol Heights, less than three miles away.

“When the officers arrived, they found the victim suffering from gunshot wounds to his body,” says a statement from Prince George’s County Police. “He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.”

Police identified the victim as 27-year-old Armani Coles.

“Preliminarily, it’s believed the victim was pushed out of a vehicle after being shot,” the statement says. “Detectives are working to determine where the shooting occurred.”

Four hours after police found Lewis, 23-year-old Ronzay Green of Northeast, D.C. suffered fatal gunshot wounds at the 900 block of Eastern Avenue, again, less than three miles away.

Reid says friends and family reported that three knew each other, which was confirmed by Lewis’s grandfather, William Sharp, who said he found his granddaughter’s connections to the other victims via Lewis’s social media.

On Dec. 31, police arrested 23-year-old Dennis Whitaker in connection with Green’s murder. He was charged with First Degree Murder while armed. No one has been arrested in connected with Lewis’ murder, whose death marks the third slaying of a black lesbian to make headlines since Christmas. Neither of those cases have been referred to as hate crimes.

Lewis lived in Hyattsville, Md. At age 11, her mother died of a brain aneurysm, and she was raised by her grandparents. Sharp tells Fox 5 he is devastated by the loss. He said Lewis was working to turn her life around after serving time behind bars for possession of an illegal gun and a burglary.

“Anytime you lose a family member, especially like this, it just rips your heart out,” Sharp says. He told The Washington Post his granddaughter “was very excited because she had just finished taking some classes and was looking forward to taking some more.”

“She made a few bad mistakes,” Sharp continued. “She was free-spirited and a lot of fun. . . . She would light up a room, just talking and laughing.”

Mercedes Rouhlac, Lewis’ ex-girlfriend and best friend, said the two spoke every day.

“No matter what, she still loved me and my son,” Rouhlac told ABC 7.

The National Center for Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) mourned Lewis’s death on its website.

“All too often, the deaths of lesbian women, especially lesbian women of color and butch lesbians, are not spoken about or ignored,” the organization says in a statement. “We seek to honor Kerrice’s identity as a Black, butch lesbian woman, and uplift her memory.”

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This Mother Is Running for Office to Make Texas a Better Place for Her Transgender Daughter

Valerie Hefner’s daughter was told it was illegal for her to use the girls’ bathroom at school.

Arrianna is a fifth grade student at an intermediate school in Sherman, Tex., a conservative town located along the northern border with Oklahoma. She initially came out to her mother in 2014 while they were watching an episode of the docuseries I Am Jazz together. Hefner always knew Arrianna was different, but she thought her youngest child would grow up to be an “effeminate gay man.”

“When she was little, Ari would put shirts on her head for hair,” Hefner tells INTO. “She had always worn my clothes. She had always played in my makeup.”

Arrianna began transitioning at school a year after coming out. Because transgender students aren’t protected in Texas by statewide non-discrimination policies, local districts are left to decide what facilities and locker rooms they are permitted to use. At first, she was forced to use the nurse’s restroom, which opened her up to invasive questions from her peers (e.g., “What do you have between your legs?”).

But this school year, she was finally allowed to go to the bathroom with her female classmates.

The 12-year-old went to the restroom for weeks with no incident until a faculty member tried to send her back to the gender-neutral stall, which would again single her out for scrutiny. Texas lawmakers attempted numerous times during the 2017 legislative session to pass laws targeting girls like Arrianna, but those efforts failed. The staffer was under the impression, however, that the bill passed.

“I had to go up there and I had to have that conversation with [the school],” Hefner says over the phone. “I just went in and told them, ‘There are no laws on the books right now. There are none.’”

“I’m running for state representative because I am planning on doing something about this,” she adds.

In October, Hefner officially threw her hat in the ring as a candidate for District 62 in Texas’ House of Representativesmaking her the only Democrat who has, thus far, declared their intention to run in the 2018 race.

As a political nonentity in a conservative district, she admits she has her work cut out for her. The district, which encompasses Grayson and Fannin Counties in Northern Texas, has never gone blue in its history. It hasn’t even had a Democratic candidate in the race since 2012, when Eristeo Perez was walloped by a 50-point margin. Republican Larry Phillips has run unopposed the past two elections and will again be entering this year’s race.

“There are no democratic nominees in this area, and there haven’t been in a very, very, very long time. So we didn’t really have a choice,” Hefner says. “I thought, ‘You know what? Someone has got to step up and do it.’”

In defying the odds, the upstart politician hopes to bring change to her state following a year where families like hers have constantly been under attack. Texas introduced more than 20 proposed bills targeting its LGBTQ community in 2017, including several pieces of legislation allowing people of faith to discriminate against queer and trans people based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Many of those bills failed, but a law allowing adoption and foster care centers to turn away same-sex couples passed in June.

Hefner’s daughter lives this bigotry every day. Arrianna had to be pulled off her bus route because the driver wouldn’t stop calling her by the wrong name, even though the information is listed correctly on paperwork provided to every staff member in the school. Thus, the driver had to go out of her way to use Arrianna’s birth name.

Instead of speaking up about it, the youngster tried to clench her fists and hold her feelings in.

“I didn’t want to become a bad kid,” she tells INTO over the phone, her first-ever interview with the media. “I wanted the teachers to see me as the good kid. A lot of people, they assume if one transgender person is like this, they’re all like this. So I try to stay good.”

“She felt like she had to be a step ahead of everybody else,” her mother adds.

As a parent, she believes she wants the same things for Arrianna that everyone wants for their children: a life free of fear and victimization.

“I want Ari to grow up, have the same opportunities, and be just as successful as any of my other kids,” she says. “I don’t want her to have problems finding housing, finding a job, or being so relentlessly picked on at school that she leaves school and doesn’t get a degree. My goal is to get her to a place in life where she can be happy, healthy, and self-sufficient.”

By running for the House of Representatives, Hefner hopes to start a dialogue with lawmakers who have devoted extraordinary time and effort to denying her daughter’s right to exist.

Being a member of the General Assembly, she says, would give her the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Republican leaders like Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who have made anti-LGBTQ discrimination a top priority in their administration. Patrick, one of the nation’s leading opponents of equality, vowed to fight for the passage of an HB 2-style bathroom bill even if it “cost him the election.”

The conservative even compared his crusade against the trans community to the Battle of the Alamo. “[P]eople sacrificed their lives at the Alamo because they believed in something,” he said in a March 2017 speech.

But Hefner believes having someone in the legislature who is personally affected by the issue can help humanize an often invisible population.

“I’ve seen it over and over and over again,” she claims. “When people meet Ari, when they sit down and talk with her, it completely opens and changes their heart. They realize, ‘Oh, this is just a little kid. She is just a little girl.’”

The 35-year-old realizes that she doesn’t look like a typical politician. A high-school dropout who had her first son when she was 16, Hefner’s arms are covered in tattoos. She has a septum piercing and gaged ears. Whereas her Republican opponents are attorneys and former city councilmen, she’s spent the last 18 years raising children.

What she lacks in convention, though, the mother of four makes up for in being a living example of the most American of narratives: dogged perseverance. After getting her G.E.D., Hefner took business courses when she wasn’t juggling the daily responsibilities of motherhood and slowly worked her way up the corporate ladder. She now works as an assistant manager for a medical supply company in town.

But Hefner believes her unorthodox road to public office is what makes her qualified to represent her constituents. Whereas the legislature has spent the past year laboring to discriminate, she knows the actual struggles families in Texas faceshe has lived them.

“I have worked alongside families and women, and their concerns are always the same,” she tells INTO. “There becomes a point within your career where you don’t qualify for help with medical care for your kids, but you don’t quite make enough either to buy [the insurance] your job is offering because the premiums are so high.”

“So there’s this whole population of working parents, their everyday struggle is healthcare for their kids,” Hefner continues. “We have got to do something for this group of people in the middle who are trying their hardest.”

Before last November, the Democratic candidate admits she didn’t think she had much of a shot in a race that didn’t appear to have room for someone with her unique life experience. Sherman is the kind of place, Hefner says, where Democrat is a “bad word.” When she goes out to meet with voters and tell them about her daughter’s story, closet liberals whisper in her ear that they’re “on her side,” as if they’re afraid of being overheard.

While this is partially due to the fear of being a political castaway in a deep red sea, Hefner argues that these voters learn to stay quiet because they’re never had someone to represent their interests in the legislature. The absence of hope becomes silence.

But Danica Roem’s decisive win in the 2017 special elections changed that, she says.

The 33-year-old Virginian became the nation’s first-ever openly transgender state legislator after defeating Republican incumbent Bob Marshall by nine points, a self-described “chief homophobe” who refused to refer to her by the correct pronouns throughout the race.

Like Hefner, Roem isn’t your run-of-the-mill candidate. A former journalist for the Gainesville Times and Prince William Times, she doesn’t have a background in politics. Prior to getting elected to the House of Delegates, Roem was the lead singer in a “drunken thrash metal” band called Cab Ride Home. She ran for office because she wanted to fix up the dilapidated road in her hometown.

Hefner says that she cried on election night because Roem’s landslide win was a sign things could change, both for her and her daughter.

When Arrianna first came out, Hefner immediately started to get connected with members of the trans community to ask for advice and build a support network. What she noticed is that many of the people she was meeting didn’t have high school or college diplomas because they were forced out of school. They had a difficult time finding work or keeping a job, Hefner says, because “people are so ugly to them.”

“This is all stuff that was happening to people that I know personally,” she claims.

“Transgender people have a place in this world, just like everybody else,” Hefner continues. “So seeing Danica win, that’s one of the ultimate things. To get people to actually get up and go to the polls and vote for someone who is different than what they are used to is an amazing feat. That’s all I ever wanted for my child.”

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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to America’s Most Dangerous Anti-LGBTQ Law

The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal to a Mississippi law advocates say permits broad discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

The nation’s highest bench announced on Monday which cases it would be accepting for the upcoming term, and absent from the list was Barber v. Bryant, a federal challenge to the state’s controversial “religious freedom” law, House Bill 1523. That decision leaves intact a lower court ruling which allowed the controversial policy to go into effect in October.

Opponents of HB 1523 say it’s one of the nation’s most extreme and dangerous anti-LGBTQ laws. It prevents the state from taking action in the form of fines and penalties against anyone who discriminates against queer and trans people due to “sincerely held religious belief.”

Advocates argue that the law could, for instance, permit landlords to deny housing to same-sex couples, allow gay workers to be fired for having pictures of their legally wedded spouses on their desks, or give license to transgender people being turned away from hospitals because doctors don’t approve of their gender identity.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis added in a statement that HB 1523 “allows hotels, ER doctors, business owners, and even pediatricians to legally deny services to hardworking LGBTQ families in Mississippi.”

Ellis claimed the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear a challenge to the ruling “promotes state-stationed discrimination.”

“While freedom of religion is a fundamental right, it should never give people the right to impose their belief on others and openly discriminate against others in the name of religious exemptions,” she continued.

Although the law was blocked through an injunction after it was initially passed in March 2016, that order was lifted following a June 2017 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Judges with the New Orleans-based federal court felt the plaintiffs had not demonstrated “stigmatic injury,” as the law had yet to go into effect.

Without a clear illustration of the harms it would cause, opponents did not have the standing to challenge the proposed policybut left the door open for later challenges.

“Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality,” the court claimed. “We do not foreclose the possibility that a future plaintiff may be able to show clear injury-in-fact that satisfies the ‘irreducible constitutional minimum of standing,’ but the federal courts must withhold judgment unless and until that plaintiff comes forward.”

After the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear further appeal was made public, LGBTQ advocates vowed to continue combatting the law.

“The Supreme Court’s decision not to review this case is not an endorsement of HB 1523 or the wave of similar discriminatory laws across the country,” said Lambda Legal Attorney Beth Littrell in a press release, “and it does not change what the Court clearly ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges […] that same-sex couples and their families should be treated like other families in this country and not to do so is harmful and unconstitutional.”

“We will keep fighting in Mississippi until we overturn this harmful law, and in any state where anti-gay legislators pass laws to roll back LGBTQ civil rights,” she continued. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision today leaves LGBTQ people in Mississippi in the crosshairs of hate and humiliation, delaying justice and equality.”

Later this year the Supreme Court is set to issue its decision on Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a Christian baker is lobbying for his right to refuse service to a gay couple based on his religious beliefs.

SCOTUS heard oral arguments in the case in December and a verdict is expected by June.

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Miss Trans America Pageant Producer Found Dead, Her Husband Charged With Her Murder

Police found 42-year-old Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, founder of the Miss Trans America and the Miss Trans New England pageants, dead in her North Adams, Mass. home Friday night. A medical examiner has ruled her death a homicide, The Springfield Republican reports.

Christa Leigh’s husband, 47-year-old Mark Steele-Knudslien, has been charged with her murder. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Monday morning, despite having confessed to killing his wife on Friday night.

Steele-Knudslien was “well loved and known by many in the New England and national trans community,” notes Monica Roberts of TransGriot. Kelli Busey, an online friend of Steele-Knudslien’s who serves as Planet Transgender’s Editor-in-chief, describes Christa Leigh as “an exuberant soul.”

In a phone call with INTO, the New York City Anti-Violence Project confirmed that Steele-Knudslien is the first trans victim of deadly violence in 2018. Her murder at the hands of her husband underscores just how vulnerable trans women are to intimate partner violence (IPV).

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs defines IPV as “a pattern of behavior where one intimate partner coerces, dominates, or isolates another intimate partner to maintain power and control over the partner and the relationship.” For example, a cis person might exploit a trans partner’s marginalization and social vulnerabilities to get their way. This behavior can be psychological, emotional, physical, verbal, sexual, and economic. It can also take the form of intimidation or isolation.

Trans people, particularly trans people of color, are disproportionately victimized by IPV, according to the National Transgender Center for Equality’s 2015 survey on trans Americans. More than half of the survey’s 28,000 participants reported experiencing IPV, and nearly a quarter reported experiencing severe physical harm by an intimate partner.

Trans people are also unlikely to seek help when faced with IPV, per the NCAVP’s 2016 report on the subject. Those who do are often turned away due to exclusionary practices. Only 30% of shelters surveyed by the Center for American Progress in 2016 said that they would house trans women with other women, and 21% said that they’d refuse to shelter trans women, period.

There are organizations that care about queer and trans survivors. If you think you might be experiencing intimate partner violenceor just want to talkyou can look up your local NCAVP affiliate at avp.org.

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Gay Connecticut Judge Could Be US’s First Openly Gay State Chief Justice

Justice will be served.

On Monday, Connecticut governor Dannel P. Malloy nominated Andrew J. McDonald, a current supreme court associate justice and former state representative from Stamford, Conn., to serve as the state’s chief justice, the Connecticut Post reports. If elected, McDonald will be the first openly gay state leader of a supreme court. McDonald has served on the court since 2013.

“Justice McDonald has proven himself to be a consummate, revered jurist who has an exceptional ability to understand, analyze, research, and evaluate legal issues,” Malloy told the Post. “He has a deep understanding of the role and the impact that the justice system has on the everyday lives of Connecticut residents, and the value of ensuring equality and fairness through the court’s many responsibilities.”

Though McDonald would be the first openly gay chief justice of a state in the United States, he would not be the first openly gay US chief justice. That distinction belongs to Maite Oronoz Rodriguez, the lesbian chief justice of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.

McDonald’s ascension to Connecticut’s Supreme Court comes at a time when more and more LGBTQ people are entering the political sphere, including Virginia’s Danica Roem, the first out transgender state representative.

Lesbian Feminist Staple Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant Is Accused of Transphobia

Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant has been a beloved staple of Bridgeport, Conn. for more than 40 years, serving up feminist-influenced plant-based fare to the likes of Audre Lordre and Adrienne Rich, as well as dedicated locals. But a recent review alleging that owners Selma Miriam and Noel Furie reject transgender customers has set off a firestorm online.

For many, the fallout has echoes of the Michfest debate, which divided LGBTQ women for more than two decades. And while the review has since been removed, it appears in screenshots on Facebook, and Bloodroot’s own statement in response has kept the conversation going.

In the review from late December, a customer writes that upon a visit to Bloodroot, she was having lunch with a friend when she began speaking with Miriam and Furie about up Lorde having been a friend of the restaurant. The conversation turned to the customer’s own dream of having a “queer and trans intentional community and sanctuary.”

“Immediately Selma and Noel looked at one another and Selma said, ‘[W]e strongly believe in supporting only women born women here,” the customer alleges. “‘[W]e are disgusted by men who think they can put on dresses and nail polish and pump themselves up with nail polish and pump themselves with chemicals and say they are women. [T]hey just aren’t. and we will never support them.'”

The customer then she she felt uncomfortable and afraid, and is now advocating that others “refuse to support them and encourage others to do the same.”

Both Miriam and Furie declined to be interviewed for this piece, but in a Dec. 31 statement posted to their Facebook page, Bloodroot says the controversy stemmed from a conversation with a new customer who asked if they knew of an establishment that catered to trans people.

“We didn’t,” the statement reads, “but since we are not trans, it wasn’t all that interesting to us personally and stated that for us, we prefer women only spaces. This comes from our history. When Bloodroot first started in the 70’s [sic] we were trying to create a space specifically safe for women, since there were so few places like that at the time. Of course even back then we were open and welcoming to everyone, not just women.”

The post goes on to say that customer misunderstood that reply and wrote a post online slamming Bloodroot.

“We understand this is a subject matter that many people are passionate about, but we feel this anger is misguided and misplaced,” Bloodroot says in the statement. “Regardless of how you feel about Bloodroot’s stand on this, we will continue to be a welcoming space for all types of people, including those that are transgender, and treat everyone with respect.”

The restaurant’s post has more than 1,200 likes and 300 comments. It notes the controversy has spurred violent threats and trolling against the restaurant.

Rachel Young, a trans woman who has been following the fallout, says Miriam and Furie have silenced trans women and their supporters who tried to engaged with them.

“I saw that the [Bloodroot] post asserted strongly that the owners are not transphobic while simultaneously separating trans women from ‘women,’ or at the very least failing to make any statement to the contrary.” she tells INTO. “People began responding very actively, and at first, there were more non-confrontational trans supportive comment than not. All of them were immediately deleted and their posters were blocked from commenting further.”

Young has set up her own Facebook page, Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant Open Discussion, for trans people and allies whose comments have been deleted.

Many of the comments that remain on the restaurant’s post are explicitly transphobic, denying the womanhood of transgender women and going as far as to suggest they are entitled men.

“Lol so these people force sane people to call them women?” one commenter asks.

“…[A]ttacking old lesbians is sooo progressive of you idiots amirite!! smdh go worship emotionally unstable penis-havers somewhere else and leave lesbians alone,” another writes.

“Dear Bloodroot, this was not an accidental misconstruing,” comments a third. “This is the new wave of trans activism now, and the reason that women’s-only space and lesbian space has been disappearing as of late. (You’ll notice the same doesn’t happen to men’s only or gay, which are alive and well.) It is a calculated move that pretends to be about freedom and love but is patriarchal and woman-hating to the core.”

Bloodroot is not just a restaurant, but a bookstore and community space that offers cooking classes, art shows, and a place for women to hold meetings and other communal conversations. (The original collective also included Pat Shea, Betsy Bevan, and Samm Stockwell ). Miriam, a writer, and Furie, a photographer, have published several Bloodroot cookbooks over the years (as well as other texts under Sanguinaria Press), and on their 40th anniversary last spring, Emily Larned published a book about their history. (There was a New York Times profile, too.)

“Here were women who framed their lives by their beliefsthrough reading, writing, cooking, gardening, handcrafts, publishing, and nourishing their community, literally,” writes Learned in her publisher’s introduction for 40 Years of Bloodroot. “Regardless of the specifics of our politics (which may or may not differ from those outlined in this book), many of us are starved for examples of how to live, everyday, in accordance with our values.”

In 2010, Miriam and Furie donated their archives to Yale Library. The collection includes letters, documents, and photos from fans of Bloodroot including Rich, Lorde, Rita Mae Brown, Alix Dobkin, Dorothy Allison, Sarah Schulman and other famous writers and lesbian feminists.

“We’re really very, very proud to be part of the Yale Library and the archives there,” Furie told the Stanford Advocate. “I think the whole notion of saving (materials about) feminism and art is a wonderful thing. We need that.”

Currently, Bloodroot’s Yelp page bears a top-of-the-page notation reading “This business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports.”

Young says she doesn’t want the businesses to go away; she just wants to start a conversation about accountability.

“It reinforces the idea that LGBT folks are connected, for better or worse,” she says, “and it might make others think twice before excluding others.”

Additional reporting by Trish Bendix

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Washington State Will Start Recognizing Nonbinary People on Birth Certificates With Neutral ‘X’

Washington is set to become the second state in the U.S. to allow a third gender option on birth certificates.

Starting on January 27, residents will be allow to change their documents to specify a neutral “X,” giving those who identify outside the binary an affirming alternative. Oregon already has such policies in place for transgender and gender nonconforming people, while California is expected to roll out additional gender choices in September 2018.

The Department of Health claimed the update is meant to represent a variety of people who don’t fit neatly into the “M” and “F” boxes.

“The most important thing is that we are trying to reflect that norms are changing and provide people with options that match their living experience,” Christie Spice, state registrar for the Center for Health Statistics, told the Seattle Times. “This is an opportunity to reduce risk of harassment and promote health equity.”

The department claimed in a statement it would define “X” to include such gender categories as “agender,” “bigender,” “genderqueer,” “intersex,” “neutrois,” “nonbinary,” “pangender,” “transgender, “transsexual,” and “Two Spirit.”

Washington’s new policies also remove some of the medical requirements necessary to apply for a gender change, which can be a costly administrative hurdle for residents. It also expands the number of options for minors to receive approval from a healthcare provider. People under the age of 18 will also need the permission of a parent or guardian to do so.

Newborn children will be ineligible to receive an “X” birth certificate.

Advocates celebrated the historic decision. GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis claimed in a statement that “it is vital that states catch up and acknowledge the reality of the non-binary community” during a time when LGBTQ rights are frequently under attack.

“With LGBTQ people and especially trans and non-binary Americans under attack daily by the Trump Administration, as evidenced by Trump’s efforts to block trans Americans from serving in the military and rescinding of Title IX protections for trans students,” Ellis told CNN on Thursday, “designation ‘X’ is a powerful and reaffirming sign that our identities cannot and will not be erased.”

Gender Justice League Direct Danni Askini added that the decision is “a critical step to eliminate social and legal barriers for nonbinary people that undermine the health, safety and equality of people because of their gender,” as the Times reported.

Activists say trans people frequently face harassment when their documents don’t match up with their physical presentation, a problem these policies hope to address.

More than 40 percent of respondents to a 2012 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality claimed they had experienced discrimination, verbal abuse, and even physical violence for having an ID or a birth certificate different from their lived gender identity.