NRA Spokesperson Launches Transphobic Attack On Chelsea Manning: ‘Boobs… Don’t Make You A Chick’

A spokesperson for the National Rifle Association dismissed Chelsea Manning’s gender identity in an interview broadcasted on the lobby group’s media network.

Political commentator and spokesperson Dana Loesch told NRA TV’s Grant Stinchfield on Tuesday that she refused to “suddenly pretend that this individual who is pretending to be a woman is a part of my sisterhood.”

She further accused Manning, who recently announced her intention to run for Congress, of “appropriating” femaleness.

“He went through maturity and puberty as a male,” Loesch claimed on Stinchfield’s eponymous program. “Just because you get some boobs, and you put some red lipstick on, poorly applied, and a very poor smoky eye bad dye job, that don’t make you a chick.”

Throughout the interview, the conservative talking head refused to refer to Manning by female pronounseven interrupting Stinchfield to use the former Army soldier’s birth name.

The NRA host also appeared to be confused about which names and pronouns to use when referring to Manning. When Loesch cut in, Stinchfield said, “Whatever he/she wants to call herself himself.” He noted that because of her felony record, Manning “can’t even vote for him or herself” in the November 2018 elections.

When Media Matters drew attention to the interview, Loesch quickly hit back at the left-leaning outlet, refusing to apologize.

“Oh no I’m being mansplained to by a mostly male Soros outlet mad that they can’t force me to accept a patriarchal appropriation of my female gender,” she claimed in a 10:33am post reiterating the same points made in the earlier conversation. “I simply said having breasts and red lips doesn’t make you a woman.”

Loesch, a former Blaze TV host and author of Hands Off My Gun, previously got into a public spat with BuzzFeed reporter Chris Geidner for refusing to use Manning’s correct name and pronouns.

She claimed in a Sept. 2016 tweet that the military was giving “preferential treatment” to Manning by allowing her to transition in federal prison. The one-time private was sentenced to serve between 21 and 35 years for violating the Espionage Act after leaking classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010.

When Geidner called out her comments as transphobic, Loesch claimed in a series of posts that he was merely “triggered” and “castration isn’t necessary.”

She has continued to be employed as a representative of the NRA.

Photos via Facebook

Nine Gay Men Have Been Arrested in Egypt for Allegedly Hosting ‘Group Sex Parties’

Nine gay men have been arrested in Egypt after being accused of engaging in “debauchery” by authorities, who claimed their behavior threatened public safety.

The Dekheila Prosecution in Alexandria apprehended the individuals in a Monday raid, which was originally reported by the Egypt Independent. Police claim the detainees had rented an apartment which was being used to “host group sex parties.”

Local informants in Alexandria gave law enforcement information which led them to the residence, which was allegedly located in the neighborhood of Hanoville.

Sources claimed several “weird” men had been frequenting the location.

The Independent reports the men undertook strict security measures to ensure their safety, “fearing police repercussions” in a nation where LGBTQ people have been under strict scrutiny in recent months. Arrestees would not allow strangers on the property and used a code word to gain entry into the apartment.

Initial reports claimed the hookup spot had been receiving “customers,” so it’s unclear if the property was being used as a brothel.

This week’s sting operation, which was confirmed by the Head of the Alexandria Security Directorate Mustafa al-Nimr, is the most recent attack on Egypt’s LGBTQ community since the wave of arrests following a Mashrou’ Leila concert in September. More than 70 people were apprehended in the anti-gay crackdown.

Although there’s no explicit prohibition of homosexuality in the country’s civil codes, those individuals were detained under the same outdated 1961 law on “debauchery” cited in the Alexandria arrests.

That law is vague enough to be applied to any behavior the Egyptian government doesn’t like but is often used to criminalize same-sex activity.

INTO previously reported in November that at least 60 legislatorshad signed onto a bill which would strengthen that law by targeting virtually any form of pro-gay advocacy. It mandates strict punishments for any venue caught hosting LGBTQ events or media outlets viewed as “promoting” homosexuality through positive coverage of the community.

Yeah, Sorry, No—Coming Out As A Gay Republican Is Not ‘Harder’ Than Coming Out As Queer

You’ve likely seen The Federalist headline by now: “Coming Out As A Republican To My Democrat Family Went Worse Than Coming Out Gay,” written by self-professed small business owner Adam Levine.

Reading these 15 words morphed me into an eye-twitch emoji, hell-bent on crafting the perfect tweet to convey my confusion (tastefully). (This was the best I could come up with.)

The day wore on and I couldn’t erase the headline from my brain. I reluctantly read the whole piece, fully aware I would cringe. It includes stanzas like:

From Chadwick [Moore] and the dozens of other Log Cabin attendees that night, I learned I am not the only gay person to question Democrats or to be ostracized for doing soby a longshot. The political climate has made it prohibitive for most of us to have a voice and find each other. Seeing virtue (or perhaps just a lack of evil) in my compatriots finally allowed me to see it in myself. I am now certain that I can be a gay, Jewish Republican and still be a good person and a useful citizen.

It took 36 years for me to see through the Democratic mystique of what the Republican Party is. Having done so has enabled me to affirm a deep part of who I am, which runs deeper than religion or sexual orientation, because it is part of what forms me. Sadly, it was a part that I should not ever have had to question in the first place.

I started to wonder: For certain individuals, could this phenomenon really resonate? Hadn’t I read something like this before? What does everyone else think beyond the endless echo chambers of Twitter? So, with open eyes and ears–and a stoic grimace, I decided to investigate.

What I determined is that coming out as gay and coming out as a member of a political party are different animals–beyond the obvious fact that one is a sexual orientation and the other is an ideology. But it’s some of the rationalizations and half-truths people are using to conflate the two that prove the most dangerous.

The LGBTQ community didn’t create the term “coming out.” It derived from a different narrative itself: Debutante balls and young women coming out into society. Around the 1930s or so, men began borrowing the motif for drag balls. People would come out as gay or otherwise veering from traditional sex and gender norms.

In this vein, “coming out as Republican” then could make sense. “That’s all part of the coming out narrative right? This idea of the greater acceptance of the alternative identity and the political force that that might have behind it,” says Susan Burgess, an Ohio University political science professor.

But Preston Mitchum, an international policy analyst at Advocates for Youth, calls this a farce.

“For someone like me–and I imagine for many other progressives who also identify publicly as gay or queer–I am not going to give someone sympathy for saying that they experience some harm for coming out ‘as Republican,’” he says. Mitchum is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches LGBT health law and policy.

He adds that “those same Republicans and conservatives on many levels, including state, federal and domestic writ large harm LGBTQ people and queer and trans people generally.” He finds the fact that these people are now identifying as like-minded to this group and that they are expecting support from the LGBTQ community “is preposterous and offensive.”

False equivalencies–in this case, where conservatives are claiming persecution despite the ongoing systemic maltreatment LGBTQ people of color face–ultimately ring hollow for activists like Mitchum.

Burgess’ issue with the Republicans “coming out” is that in the classic gay coming out narrative, the identity in question is the oppressed group. Republicans are currently quite dominant politically, so she says that makes it somewhat different. Republican political consultant Albert Eisenberg disputes this, saying that though politically Republicans are in control, culturally they are not. What’s lost here is that while culture informs politics and vice-versa, it’s policies that have stronger power to implement tangible change.

Levine, for his part, doesn’t want to defend the Republican party’s historic stance on LGBT rights and AIDS. He tells me he didn’t intend to trivialize coming out in his piece and is aware how easy coming out as gay was for him, and how difficult it can be for other people. He–perhaps ironically–says that wherever there is intolerance, when it comes to “coming out” as gay or conservative, it’s absolutely unacceptable.

He further laid out an argument laden with half-truths. He says that in American politics, we have a tendency to over-simplify any issue: To be supportive of religious freedom doesn’t suggest being anti-gay rights (yes it does, if it involves barring an LGBT person from their civil rights). To be supportive of marriage as between a man and woman doesn’t mean that gays can’t get married in their own specific forms (yes it does, by nature of referring to it as “in their own specific forms”). Levine gets that these policies can negatively affect the LGBT community, but also says the Democratic party has become as intolerant–if not more intolerant–than they claim the Republicans are regarding dissent of thought.

Mitchum reiterates Republicans and conservative decisions are exactly why oppression continues to happen for LGBTQ people, in particular for the black and brown members of community, transgender women of color. In other words? They can’t have it both ways.

But try and have it both ways they will.

Matthew Craffey, chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of California, says we wouldn’t have LGBT equality we have today if it weren’t for Republicans. One example he gave was that the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage came from President Ronald Reagan-appointed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Rationalizations like these erase the discrimination still facing LGBTQ people–and are even more confusing in the age of Donald Trump, whose policies and tenor have continued to rattle the community.

None of this is to say that gay conservatives can’t use their voicethere’s just an impenetrable irony for progressive members of the community to get past, let alone tolerate, in current political climate.

Burgess suggests that LGBTQ advocates might be missing an opportunity if they’re writing off all Republicans as being anti-LGBT rights or not being able to engage those populations.

Still, Mitchum warns that “we’re completely fooling ourselves if we believe that Republicans and conservatives are ever going to be progressive when it comes to LGBTQ people.”

And now I can’t help but think of that iconic line from William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Cranberries Singer Dolores O’Riordan Was A Queer Ally and Icon

In the early ’90s, there were few out queer women in the public eye.

It was before Melissa Etheridge, Ellen DeGeneres, or k.d. lang would come out, and much of what lesbians had to look to were eccentric women with close-cut cropped hair or beautiful bald heads like that of Dolores O’Riordan.

The Cranberries frontwoman not only had a queer aesthetic in her tomboyish presentation, but her genderless lyrical storytelling was something so easy for LGBTQs to connect with. The black and white noir-ish video for “Linger” had her wandering around the darkly-lit hallways of a building where a room projected videos of burlesque performers; meanwhile, another woman notices her as she passes bya shadowy androgynous figure whose appearance is both noticeable but never fully present. Her lyrics, too, were easily adaptable to same-sex relationships: “Were you lying all the time?/Was it just a game to you?/But I’m in so deep/You know I’m such a fool for you.”

O’Riordan was not queer, but she loved her queer fans. In 1994, she told Hot Press she’d found a group of lesbians at her show. Instead of making fun or acting grossed out, she explained how she’d learned more about this subset of her fans and appreciated their fervor.

“My first major lesbian encounter took place in London, before we left to tour Europe,” O’Riordan said. “At the last gig we did in London, in The Underworld, a lesbian group came in to see us play after some meeting they’d had. And they just stood there bawling their eyes out, calling my name, saying ‘Please, touch me’ as if I was some kind of saviour! And I couldn’t handle it at all! I was saying to the band ‘What’s wrong with them?’ But then I realised maybe it was the way I look or, more so, the nature of the songs, which deal with intimacy and anger and emotions that, to me, are about men, but for them could just as much be about women. It’s much the same thing, isn’t it?”

O’Riordan told Hot Press she’d initially been a little scared by the attention (“because I didn’t know too much about lesbianism!”) but followed it up with, “since then I’ve met lots of lesbians and most of them are lovely girls and I’m not afraid of them anymore. They live their life and I live mine.”

Two decades later, O’Riordan would speak with Chicago Pride about her homeland of Ireland’s achieving equal marriage, saying, “People should be able to be able to do whatever they want with their lives. A person’s sexual preference is their own business. I love the gay community. I mean, some of the greatest geniusespeople like Freddie Mercury, for examplehave been gay.”

In the same interview, she praised individuality (“I’ve learned that it’s very important to be yourself and very important to accept others for who they are.”), which has always been what LGBTQs have seen in a figure like O’Riordan. In her work with the Cranberries as well as her solo artistry, she offered an odd-person out camaraderie; an antithetical pop option that was was as political as it was relatable, as fury-filled as it was singable.

In “Ode To My Family,” O’Riordan’s crooning to be seen had anyone who felt like an outcast raising a lighter in the air: “Understand the things I say/Don’t turn away from me/’Cause I spent half my life out there/You wouldn’t disagree/D’you see me, d’you see/Do you like me, do you like me standing there/D’you notice, d’you know/Do you see me, do you see me/Does anyone care?”

When news came out today that O’Riordan had died at the age of 46, LGBTQs were among those in mourning. While no cause of death has been released of yet, fans were aware of her having struggled with both mental and physical health issues in the past. Still, it’s a huge shock and loss for anyone who knew O’Riordan and her work, which has inspired many artists today.

O’Riordan was a feminist and an artist whose work was infused with activism. She was a survivor of sexual abuse and a mother of three. She touched so many with her music and public persona, including Nathan Hotchkiss who, in 2012, talked with All Things Considered about how important The Cranberries were to his self-acceptance and coming out to himself.

“My preference seemed to always lean towards boys,” he said. “As I got older, I, you know, realized that it was part of who I was. Many of [The Cranberries’] songs’ lyrics that I listened to would talk to me and tell me that I wasn’t the only one out there going through feelings like this, and being treated the way I was.”

O’Riordan joined Hotchkiss on the podcast, telling him how she could relate to his story, too.

“You know, I appreciate you appreciating me because, you know what? It’s lovely to hear stories like that,” she said. “You know, to kind of think that your music touches people to that level – it’s really great, you know? And, you know, I think everybody in life, you know, we go through struggles. And the reason we go through those struggles is because later, we become stronger people.”

Rest in power, Delores. Thank you.

This Lawmaker Wants to Redefine Marriages Not Performed In Churches As ‘Domestic Unions’

A Republican lawmaker in Missouri wants to redefine marriage.

State Rep. T.J. Berry (R-Kearney) is sponsoring a bill that would limit the state’s definition of marriage to couples who are married in a church, instead classifying ceremonies performed at city hall or other venues as “domestic unions.”

House Bill 1434 was pre-filed prior to the 2018 legislative session, which convened earlier this month. This is the third consecutive year he has put forward the proposal.

Berry claims the legislation is intended to resolve religious conflicts over the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to legalize marriage equality. An ordained deacon in the Southern Baptist church, he says churches feel “threatened” by the idea that the government could compel them to perform same-sex marriages.

“I don’t necessarily believe that, but they fear it,” Berry told the Springfield News-Leader.

The self-described “very religious” conservative says reasonable compromise is necessary to ensure the rights of people of faith are protected following the Obergefell ruling. Berry believes HB 1434 settles the issue by taking marriage out of the government’s hands entirelydismissing the suggestion that doing so would be discriminatory.

“I’m treating everybody the exact same way and leaving space for people to believe what they believe outside of government,” he added in an interview with the Associated Press.

But as Berry himself noted, almost no one seems to think this proposal is a good idea.

Dion Wisniewski, executive director of the Missouri advocacy group The Center Project, says he is “irritated and frustrated” by the bill, but not surprised.

“This has already been covered in the courts, so you’re taking time and spending taxpayer money on something that is likely being done just to say they tried,” Wisniewski claims in an email to INTO. “Bills like this one have been filed in the past without success, so I don’t know what they think is going to happen this time.”

“If it does pass, I don’t know why they think it will stand up in the Supreme Court,” he adds.

This is the third consecutive year Berry has put forward HB 1434. The massive bill, which clocks in at 377 pages, has yet to receive a hearing in the Missouri Legislature.

Should the legislation be greeted with a warmer reception this time around, Human Rights Campaign Legal Director Sarah Warbelow says it could trigger a complicated legal situation for LGBTQ married couples in the state.

Because HB 1434 doesn’t entirely void marriages performed outside of a church, Missouri would continue to recognize that, say, a gay couple who tied the knot in their backyard is entitled to benefits at the state level. But married same-sex partners receive additional federal benefitsin the form of social security and reduced taxeswhich would thusly be jeopardized if their relationship were reclassified as a “domestic union.”

“The federal government has not historically recognized alternatives to marriage for those rights, benefits, and obligations,” Warbelow tells INTO in a phone interview.

What’s most confusing about the bill, advocates say, is that the LGBTQ community wouldn’t be the only population harmed by Berry’s proposal. It also would redefine the marriages of opposite-sex couples under the same category if they weren’t conducted on religious grounds.

Warbelow says HB 1434 would “call into question all couples’ rights.”

“It’s hard to believe [this legislation is] something most conservatives would support,” she claims. “Most Americans think that marriage is an important institution, and they don’t want to get rid of it.”

Even though such a law being enacted would impact every married couple in Missouri, it stands to have a disproportionate effect on the local LGBTQ population. Many same-sex couples in the state decide not to get married in a house of worship because they fear they will be discriminated against, Wisniewski says.

Should a lesbian couple, for instance, not be able to find a pastor or church willing to perform the ceremony, HB 1434 would essentially be punishing them twice.

“No matter how much progress we make, there is always going to be a push from conservative groups to roll back protections for individuals or enact new laws to make it more difficult to live normal lives,” Wisniewski claims. “Conservative groups are putting pressure on the legislature to protect the ‘biblical definition’ of marriage, even though they aren’t being forced to perform these services in most cases.”

Because the fallout from Berry’s draft bill is so extreme, it might be tempting to write off the proposal as yet another lost causean empty gesture designed to appease a conservative lawmaker’s base. It has already failed twice, after all.

But Warbelow suggests that would be a mistake in the current political environment.

“Bills that in prior years saw no movement or people were dismissive of them need to be taken even more seriously under an administration that’s made clear they don’t support the view that LGBTQ people are covered under current federal laws,” she says, pointing to President Trump’s continued rollback of protections for queer and trans people.

Last year saw the passage of a Tennessee law, State Bill 1085, which mandated that words like “mother” and “father” be regarded with “their natural and ordinary meaning” based upon “biological distinctions between women and men.”

The universally derided proposal was a source of national mockery until Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into effect last May.

HB 1434 is one of four anti-LGBTQ bills that have already been introduced in the Missouri Legislature this year. In the vein of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, two proposed bathroom billsSenate Bill 690 and House Bill 1755would force trans people to use public facilities which do not correspond with their gender identity.

The “Missouri Marriage Solemnization Refusal Bill,” known as House Bill 1763, allows members of the clergy to refuse marriage services to same-sex couples if doing so would conflict with their “religious beliefs or sincerely held moral convictions.”

Wisniewski claims LGBTQ groups in the state will continue to combat these discriminatory proposals.

“There is no indication that conservatives are going to let up any time soonso we must keep up the fight,” he says. “If we stop, they will just jam through useless and discriminatory legislation that has the sole purpose of making us less than opposite-sex couples under the guise of religious freedom.”

Last year, nine bills targeting the queer and trans community were defeated in the legislature.

Chelsea Manning Has Filed To Run For The U.S. Senate

Chelsea Manning has filed to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

The out trans woman and former Army specialist and private will be challenging the current Democratic senator, Ben Cardin, who has served two terms and is up for re-election in November.

Manning moved to Maryland after President Obama commuted her prison sentence in 2016. (She’d been sentenced to 35 years after being convicted of leaking classified documents in 2013.) A documentary about her experience inside a men’s prison and her life after release is set to premiere on Showtime later this year.

Manning has yet to make an official statement but last year she spoke with Vogue about the possibility of running for office.

“I’m certainly not going to say no, and I’m certainly not going to say yes,” she said. “My goal is to use these next six months to figure out where I want to go.”

INTO was able to acquire her filing paperwork and has reached out for comment

LGBTQ Women Join The Women’s March Line-Up

One year ago, women took to the streets to protest the misogyny of Donald Trump and the threat his administration poses to women’s rights and bodies. This year, the organizers behind the Women’s March planned a sequential event, which will take place January 20th in Los Angeles. Amongs the star-studded lineup are some of our favorite LGBTQ luminaries, like Laverne Cox, Lea DeLaria, Rowan Blanchard,Paris Jackson, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and the Queen of Lesbians herself, Melissa Etheridge. Plus, allies like Scarlett Johansson, Chloe Bennet, Olivia Wilde, andSophia Bush will join, too.

Last year, over 750,000 people gathered in Los Angeles alone as a show of support for women’s rights. The march, which caustically fell the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew 3 to 4 million Americans, and was likely the largest single-day demonstration in history.

Queer women were also at the forefront of last year’s march. Lea DeLaria attended with her fellow Orange is the New Black castmates. Ellen Page also marched along with Halsey, Carrie Brownstein, and Evan Rachel Wood. And Gillian Anderson marched in solidarity all the way in London.

As targets of the radically conservative Trump administration, LGBTQ people are and always have been an integral part of the Resistance, so it’s no surprise that both queer women and men are showing up this year to support the cause again.

The Los Angeles march begins at 8:30am in Pershing Square. The march will start at 10:00am and conclude in Grand Park. You can watch it on Facebook Live or join the Women’s March organizers’ Power to the Polls event in Las Vegas the following day. One year later, I think we definitely need to show up in numbers and reenergize for the tireless, seemingly never-ending fight against the Trump administration’s sexism, racism, and overall suppression of marginalized voices.

Three States Just Introduced Bills to Ban Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ Youth

Three states introduced legislation this week banning any attempt to “change” the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth.

Arizona, Virginia, and Washington all put forward bills to prohibit the discredited practice often referred to as conversion therapy from being offered within state lines. Condemned by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Psychological Association (APA), the treatment has already been outlawed in nine states, including California and Vermont.

Two proposals were filed in Virginia this week as the General Assembly convened for the 2018 legislative term. Known as Senate Bill 245 and House Bill 363, the bills were authored, respectively, by Democrats Sen. Scott Surovell and Del. Patrick Hope.

Del. Hope, who has introduced similar legislation for several years, claims it’s the government’s duty to protect “children from the dangers of conversion therapy.”

“Conversion therapy is based on the false assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder or a sin,” he said in a press release. “It clearly is neither. What is clear is that organized medicine maintains that sexual orientation is not changeable, that conversion therapies do irreparable harm, and that conversion therapies should not be practiced in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Sen. Surovell added that conversion therapy is both morally and medically “wrong.”

“Numerous studies show that LGBTQ children who are exposed to this practice have a significantly higher incidence of substance abuse, depression, homelessness and suicide,” he claimed in a statement. “Just as we no longer allow doctors to use leeches and bleeding to cure fevers, Virginia needs to ban this dangerous practice and protect our children.”

Washington Sen. Marko Liias, who put forward a bill banning conversion therapy in the Evergreen State on Thursday, testified about a 14-year-old in his district, Danni, who had been sent to reparative counseling by his parents.

Danni’s therapists forced him to flick “rubber bands on his wrist” and put “rocks in his shoes to teach him that who he was and who he was becoming was wrong,” he said.

Calling conversion therapy “torture,” Lias claimed it “should not take place in Washington.”

His legislation, known as Senate Bill 5722, would update the state’s Uniform Disciplinary Act to define the practice as “unprofessional conduct.” It received a hearing in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee on Thursday.

Arizona’s Sen. Sean Bowie put forward Senate Bill 1160 on Friday, which would block conversion therapy from being practiced on LGBTQ minors. The Grand Canyon State has attempted to outlaw any attempt to “cure” the orientation of queer or trans youth in previous legislative terms, but prior efforts have stalled.

The first-term Democrat was unavailable for comment prior to press time, but The Trevor Project championed the move in a statement.

“With 2018 comes an incredible opportunity to protect thousands of LGBTQ youth from the horrors of conversion therapy,” said Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the advocacy organization. “We look forward to building a strong coalition with Senator Bowie to once and for all remind LGBTQ youth in Arizona that they are worthy of love just as they are.”

Last year, Connecticut, Nevada, and New Mexico all moved to ban conversion therapy, although two bills in New Hampshire were voted down earlier this week.

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.

Image via Getty