May 17th, 2012
Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (Warning: the web site plays music on autoplay. Why do they insist on doing that?!?). The day is observed with conferences and workshops around the world to devise strategies to improve the legal and cultural standing of LGBT people. Other activities are aimed at drawing media attention to homophobia and transphobia, and lobbying for equal rights. May 17 was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders (see below).
Pride Celebration: Tirana, Albania. This Pride celebration, Albania’s first, deserves a special mention. It takes place today in a majority Muslim nation — about 70% of the country is Muslim. Albania had been a hermit Stalinist state until 1991 when the Republic of Albania was declared following the collapse of communism. Since then, Albanians have rushed to make up for lost time in catching up with the rest of Europe. And what a rush it has been. Homosexuality remained illegal there until 1995, but in 2009 Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced his support for same-sex marriage. Parliament didn’t take up Berisha’s proposal, opting instead in 2010 to unanimously adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that covered both sexual orientation and gender identity, making Albania one of a very few European countries to provide protections for transgender people.
Albania’s embrace of LGBT rights has been far from uniform. In 2010, Deputy Commission for Labor, Social Affairs and Health, Tritan Sheh said that “homosexuality should be treated by medical staff as hormonal disorder, as well as psychological.” He was reprimanded by the Albania’s Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination. When Albanian LGBT advocates announced today’s march, Deputy Defense Minister Ekrem Spahiu told a local newspaper, “What remains to be done is to beat them up with a stick. If you don’t understand this, I can explain it: to beat them with a rubber stick.” Prime Minster Berisha called his remarks unacceptable. “Different sexual orientation is as ancient as antiquity itself, and they exist regardless of religious belief,” said Berisha. “Tirana is a city of tolerance, Albania is a country of freedom. This is our goal.”
And so today the march is on, organized by the Albanian LGBT advocacy group Pink Embassy. “May 17 will be a special day,” said Altim Hazizaj. “the LGBT flag will be raised for the first time in Tirana.”
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Gays Cured Worldwide: 1990. It’s amazing that it took so long, but the World Health Organization finally removed homosexuality from the tenth edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (also known as ICD-10). It took the WHO nearly seventeen years to catch up with the American Psychiatric Association, and when they did they followed the APA’s same cautious approach by including the diagnosis of “Ego-Dystonic Sexual Orientation,” for those who were troubled by their homosexuality. That diagnosis served as a loop-hole allowing therapists to continue to try to “cure” gay people of a mental disorder that no longer existed. The APA removed that diagnosis from its list of mental disorders in 1987. It is still in the WHO’s list of disorders.
Massachusetts Begins Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses: 2004. Six months earlier, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a 4-3 ruling, found that the state could not bar same-sex couples from marrying and gave the legislature 180 days to “take such action as it may deem appropriate” before issuing licenses to gay couples (See Nov 18). The state Senate responded by asking whether civil unions would suffice, but the four justice who made up the majority of the original decision wrote, “”The dissimilitude between the terms ‘civil marriage’ and ‘civil union’ is not innocuous; it is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status.”
Republican Gov. Mitt Romney issued a statement supporting an amendment to the state constitution which would have banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions (reversing a 2002 campaign promise that he had made to gain the endorsement of the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts) but the legislature narrowly defeated it. The second proposal, a compromise amendment which would have banned marriage equality only,” mustered enough support, with Romney’s reluctant support (he still preferred the first proposal) to be held for a second vote a year later (proposed constitutional amendments require 25% support in two consecutive years before being passed on to voters). Meanwhile, the legislature took no action to implement the court’s decision.
On May 17, the day the court’s decision was due to go into effect, Gov. Romney cited a 1913 law prohibiting non-residents from marrying in Massachusetts if the marriage would not be valid in their home state, and instructed town clerks to deny marriage licenses to out-of-state gay couples. The 1913 law, which had been enacted to block interracial marriages for out-of-state couples subject to Jim Crow laws in their home states, hadn’t been enforced in decades.
When the compromise proposed constitutional amendment came up for a second vote in 2005, Gov. Romney withdrew his support, saying that it confused voters who wanted to ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The measure lost the necessary support in the legislature. Romney then backed a revival of the first proposed amendment which would have banned marriage and civil unions both, but that proposal failed to gain the necessary 25% support in the state legislature in 2006. Romney left office in 2007, and the so-called “1913 law” was repealed in 2008.
IOC Allows Trans People To Compete In Assigned Gender: 2004. The International Olympic Committee ruled that post-operative transgender people will be able to compete in events in Athens according to their self-identified gender, provided the new gender is legally recognized and the athlete is two years into post-operative hormonal therapy. IOC Medical Commission Chairman Arne Ljungqvist announced the rule change in response to the increasing numbers of transgender athletes attempting to qualify for Olympic competition. “Although individuals who undergo sex reassignment usually have personal problems that make sports competition an unlikely activity for them, there are some for whom participation in sport is important,” he said. The IOC’s rule change came about after it become apparent that case-by-case evaluations were insufficient. Transgender advocates criticized the post-operative requirements, noting that many athletes cannot afford the surgeries where national or private health insurance doesn’t cover it.
Howard Ashman: 1950. Playwright and lyricists, Ashman first achieved acclaim for his collaboration with Alan Menken on Little Shop of Horrors. That collaboration put the songwriting duo on a course for greater hits to come. In 1986, Ashman wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation and wrote the lyrics for two new songs, “Some Fun Now” and “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space.” The latter of two received an Academy Award nomination. In 1989, he was co-producer, lyricist and occasional writer for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. It was his idea to give Sebastian the Crab a Jamaican accent, and the calypso song, “Under the Sea,” earned Ashman and Menkin the 1989 Oscar for Best Original Song. Asman died in 1991 of complications from AIDS shortly after completing work on the Disney films Beauty and the Beast and before he could complete Aladdin. Ashman was posthumously named a Disney Legend in 2001, and Beauty and the Beast is dedicated to him. Ashman was survived by his partner, architect William Lauch.
Annise Parker: 1956. The Houston native had worked for over 20 years in the oil and gas industry as a software analyst, but she was never far from public service. In 1986, she was president of the Houston GLBT Political Causcus, which is the South’s oldest LGBT organization. Taking the position at the height of the AIDS scare was daunting “It was a scary, very different time,” she said. “The two most visible lesbian activists in Houston were myself and Sue Lovell (who later became a City Council member). We had regular death threats, our tires slashed, vandalism.”
But the narrow focus of LGBT politics wasn’t a good fit for her. “I was bored with gay stuff,” she said. “I threw myself just as hard into 10 years of neighborhood activism.” That neighborhood activism led to her becoming president of the Neartown Association in 1995, and in 1997 she won an at-large seat on Houston’s City council, making her the first openly gay individual elected to citywide office in Houston. In 2003, she won her bid to become city controller, the second highest office in city government. But her greatest triumph came in 2009, when she overcame blistering attacks from anti-gay groups to win the race to become Houston’s mayor on December 12, 2009. When she assumed office on January 2, 2010, Houston became the largest U.S. city ever to have an openly gay mayor. She won a second term in 2011.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?
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