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Same-sex couples in Australia begin to marry

Posted: 09 Jan 2018 08:53 AM PST

Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Australia on Jan. 9, 2018. (Image by Fry1989; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Same-sex couples began to legally marry in Australia on Tuesday.

SBS News reported Diana and Deanne Ribeiro tied the knot shortly after midnight local time in the Melbourne suburb of Balaclava. The Sydney Morning Herald reported Kylie and Lisa Caro — a lesbian couple who began dating in 2014 and are raising a daughter together — are among the other same-sex couples who exchanged vows on Tuesday.

“We’re both still on cloud nine,” Kylie Caro told the Sydney Morning Herald after the wedding.

More than 60 percent of Australians who took part in a non-binding postal plebiscite on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples said “yes.”

The Australian Senate approved a same-sex marriage bill less than three weeks after the country’s Bureau of Statistics announced the results of the plebiscite. The Australian House of Representatives nearly unanimously approved the measure on Dec. 7.

The bill received royal assent from Governor General Peter Cosgrove two days later.

Australian law says couples must wait 30 days to get married once they apply to do so. A handful of same-sex couples were able to exchange vows last month after they received waivers because of health and other specific circumstances.

“Australia said YES, Parliament said YES, and now all LGBTI couples can finally say YES (and I do) in Australia,” wrote Alex Greenwich, co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality who is also a member of the New South Wales Parliament, on his Twitter page.

Sydney City Councilwoman Christine Forster, who is a lesbian, is among those who also celebrated the extension of marriage rights for same-sex couples. Her brother, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is among those who oppose same-sex marriage.

Australia is the 26th country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

“Loving same-sex couples can now marry in Australia,” said the Human Rights Campaign on its Twitter page. “Congratulations to all the newlyweds making history!”

India Supreme Court to reconsider controversial sodomy ruling

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 08:07 PM PST

Supreme Court of India, gay news, Washington Blade

India’s Supreme Court on Jan. 8, 2018, said it would reconsider its controversial 2013 ruling that recriminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts in the country. (Photo by Legaleagle86; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The India Supreme Court on Monday said it would reconsider its controversial 2013 ruling that recriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Hindustan Times reported Chief Justice Dipak Misra and two other judges said the decision on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was based on what it described as "the perception of majority and concept of social morality."

"Concept of consensual sex may have more priority than a group right and may require more protection," said the judges, according to the Hindustan Times. "A section of people or individual who exercise their choice should never live in a state of fear."

The Delhi High Court in 2009 struck down the country's colonial-era sodomy law. The Supreme Court's 2013 ruling overturned it.

Indian lawmakers in late 2015 rejected a bill that would have repealed Section 377.

India is among the more than 70 countries around the world in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The Supreme Court last August issued a landmark privacy ruling that advocates said would have an impact on efforts to repeal Section 377.

A 2014 ruling recognized transgender Indians and hijras and eunuchs — those who do not identify as male or female — as a "third gender." The Supreme Court decision also directed India's federal government and its agencies and state officials to fight discrimination based on gender identity and include trans people in state-run programs.

Salvadoran LGBT activists criticize loss of protected immigrant status

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 03:49 PM PST

Immigrants rights advocates gather in front of the White House on Jan. 8, 2018, to protest President Trump's decision to end the Temporary Protected Status program for Salvadorans. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

LGBT rights advocates in El Salvador have sharply criticized the Trump administration’s announcement that Salvadorans will no longer receive protected immigrant status in the U.S.

Salvadorans have been able to receive temporary residency permits through the Temporary Protected Status program since two earthquakes devastated the Central American country in 2001.

Up to 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. have TPS, which allows people from countries that have suffered war and/or national disasters over the last two decades to receive temporary residency permits. They have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave the U.S. or face potential deportation.

“Following the 2001 earthquake, El Salvador received a significant amount of international aid to assist in its recovery efforts, including millions of dollars dedicated to emergency and long-term assistance,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a press release. “Many reconstruction projects have now been completed. Schools and hospitals damaged by the earthquakes have been reconstructed and repaired, homes have been rebuilt, and money has been provided for water and sanitation and to repair earthquake damaged roads and other infrastructure. The substantial disruption of living conditions caused by the earthquake no longer exist.”

Nielsen said the 18-month delay in ending TPS for Salvadorans will “provide time for individuals with TPS to arrange for their departure or to seek an alternative lawful immigration status in the” U.S. and “provide time for El Salvador to prepare for the return and reintegration of its citizens.”

“Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years,” she added. “The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution.”

Dozens of immigrant rights advocates who gathered outside the White House on Monday sharply criticized the Trump administration’s decision. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement said ending TPS for Salvadorans “will in no way make Americans safer, stronger or more prosperous.”

El Salvador has one of the world’s highest per capita murder rates.

MS-13 — which Salvadoran immigrants who fled their homeland’s civil war in the 1980s formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s — and other violent street gangs operate throughout El Salvador. Violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains pervasive in the country.

“It is important to remember there is a large number of LGBT people who are among the people affected by the cancellation of TPS for El Salvador,” Ámbar Alfaro of ASPIDH Arcoiris Trans, a trans Salvadoran advocacy group, told the Washington Blade after the Trump administration made its announcement. “For LGBT people who return to the country after living in a place with opportunities, it will be like going back 60 years in terms of everything they have achieved.”

“The United States is a country of opportunity, to develop freely,” she added. “There are public policies that regulate and support the LGBT community.”

Nicolás Rodríguez, executive director of El Salvador G, a gay Salvadoran blog and website, agreed with Alfaro.

“The LGBTI community is going to suffer because of the cancellation of TPS,” Rodríguez told the Blade on Monday. “They will return to a country where a different picture is sold, where there is a different reality where being an LGBTI person can cause them to become victims of discrimination.”

Activist: El Salvador must prepare for TPS holders, ‘Dreamers’

Monday’s announcement is the latest in a series of controversial immigration measures the Trump administration has taken since it took office nearly a year ago.

The Trump administration last November announced it would end TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has allowed roughly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits, is set to expire on March 5 unless Congress and President Trump reach an agreement to maintain the Obama-era policy.

Trump has effectively banned the citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries — Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — and North Korea from entering the U.S. The White House has also proposed cutting the number of legal immigrants to the country by half.

Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, a Salvadoran advocacy group known by the acronym ESMULES, last September described the Trump administration’s immigration policy as “dehumanizing.” Ayala on Monday cited statistics from the Human Rights Campaign that indicate more than 45 percent of “Dreamers” who have benefitted from DACA — which includes Salvadorans with TPS — are LGBT or intersex.

“This data is relevant,” she told the Blade. “As a country and state, we must take into account the policies and laws that we must develop to prepare ourselves for their integration into our society. It will be a challenge for everyone since Salvadoran society is one that is used to discrimination.”

ESMULES Executive Director Andrea Ayala in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Sept. 25, 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ernesto Valle reported from San Salvador, El Salvador.