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Top Ten LGBT News Stories of 2015

Tue 8 Dec 2015 In: Politics and Religion View at NDHA

As 2015 draws to a close, it's time to briefly review the leading LGBTI news items from this year. And this certainly has been an eventful year! 1.Ireland: This was a year of substantial progress on the marriage equality front. On May 15, the Republic of Ireland held its national marriage equality referendum, which was constitutionally necessary as Ireland's national constitution previously reserved marriage for heterosexuals only. However, the result was one-sided...and in contrast with earlier referenda on the availability of contraception and divorce, voters heavily sided with proponents of same-sex marriage equality. The current Irish coalition government had presided over a Constitutional Convention in 2011 and one of its mandates was pressing for marriage equality. The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and legislature agreed and one was duly held. Sixty two percent of eligible Irish voters (1, 201, 606) voted for equality, while thirty eight percent (738,000) voted against it. After a slight civil service hitch, Irish LGBT couples have recently begun getting married. The Irish Catholic Church is shell-shocked and some observers think that the ongoing international Catholic clergy pedophilia scandal may be to blame. 2.United States:Obergefell v Hodges: June 25, 2015: After accelerating successes across individual US states which allowed marriage equality after challenges to discriminatory legislation and state constitutions, the battle for US marriage equality reached the US Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down remaining state prohibitions against marriage equality. While retrograde fundamentalist Christian judges and registrars (ie Kentucky's infamous Kim Davis) have fought rearguard actions, and Republican Party presidential aspirations have said they'll appoint anti-equality judges to the US Supreme Court if elected. By contrast, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the other Democrat contenders all back marriage equality and would also pass an antidiscrimination Equality Act if they win the 2016 US Presidential election. In other US news, Mississippi lesbians are fighting for inclusive adoption reform in that state, the last bastion of that form of parenting discrimination, and Houston's fledgeling trans-inclusive antidiscrimination civic ordinance was defeated in a referendum- although Dallas now has a similar civic ordinance. 3.Canadian election: In October 2015, two long-standing anti-LGBT political leaders within the British Commonwealth were toppled within weeks of one another. In the case of Canada's Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, mainstream Canada reasserted itself and strategically voted for a Liberal majority government, led by Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who presided over the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Canada in 1969. LGBT Canadians celebrated Harper's downfall, given Conservative refusal to pass trans-inclusive antidiscrimination laws, recriminalisation of sex work after a liberal Canadian Supreme Court verdict struck down prior prohibitionist laws, and repressive surveillance legislation, tempered by sorrow that the leftist New Democrat Party had fared poorly as a result of the Liberal revival of fortunes. The Trudeau administration has indicated that it will strive to add gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Act as an active ground, although the Conservatives still dominate the Senate/Upper House compared to the House of Commons. The Canadian Christian Right was left mourning the loss of half of the hardline Conservative caucus when it came to antiabortion and antigay initiatives, although Harper had more sense than to indulge them. 4.Abbott versus Turnbull: As a result of the aforementioned events in Ireland and the United States, Northern Ireland and Australia are now the last major English-speaking members of the British Commonwealth that still retain discriminatory civil marriage legislation. Coupled with former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's croneyism and ineptitude in economic management, there were two attempts at a leadership coup this year- one in February 2015, and the second, successful initiative in October 2015. Conservative Catholic marriage equality opponent Abbott was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal MP for Worth in New South Wales, former Coalition Environmental and Communication minister, corporate highflyer, former journalist, lawyer, republican and social liberal. However, due to the stacking of the Liberal caucus under John Howard and Tony Abbott, he has had to tread lightly, maintaining repressive and authoritarian detention camps for refugees and asylum seekers and mandating a referendum on marriage equality, to cost $A 48 million and to be held after the next Australian federal election in 2016. Under Turnbull, the formerly ailing Liberal-National Coalition administration fortunes have revived- but will Abbott keep a promise not to undermine Turnbull's premiership?   No Pride in Prisons' recent hunger strike for a trans prisoner in Wellington. Image: Kiran Foster. 5.Transgender Prisoners Rights: In late September 2015, there was another incident that involved a transgender woman who had been misallocated to a gender-inappropriate facility, Auckland South Corrections, run by British-based multinational Serco. In July 2015, the disclosure of fight clubs and drug dealing at the former Serco-run Mount Eden Remand Prison had led to the cancellation of its contract with the Key administration, despite the fact that Serco had also been involved in mismanagement and compromised care for refugees and asylum seekers at Britain's Yarl Wood Detention Centre and Australia's controversial Christmas Island refugee detention facility, also managed by Serco. The event occurred despite assurances from Anne Tolley, the former Key administration Corrections Minister, that following a Department of Corrections policy review, transitioning transwoman prisoners would be reallocated to female correctional facilities. However, this appears to have been a formal policy decision and No Pride in Prisons, a queer anarchist and prison abolitionist group has repeatedly found instances that lead one to conclude that there have been no formal training protocols for Corrections staff or for defence lawyers in terms of the reallocation process. No Pride in Prisons succeeded in getting another transwoman prisoner, Jade Follett, reallocated before any serious harm occurred at her prior mens prison. There have been similar incidents within the United Kingdom. 6.Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Signed between New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, the United States, Peru, Chile, Japan and Brunei, the TPPA was the subject of a decade-long series of free trade negotiations since 2004 which culminated in multiple tentative assent. The deal did not rid New Zealand of discriminatory trade and tariff barriers as had been hoped, and may have provided only incremental improvements in access to agricultural and other markets. However, Labour Health spokesperson Annette King has raised questions about how TPPA intellectual property clauses might affect Pharmac access to discounted medication options- including new rounds of protease inhibitors and other anti-retroviral drugs. 7.Colin Craig: The bungling former head of the Conservative Party of New Zealand might have somehow just narrowly avoided getting into Parliament, but his alleged mismanagment of his party led to ructions and resignations within the former Conservative Party Board of Directors as well as the resignation ofCraighimself as the party leader. There have been mutual recriminations and defamation law suits between ColinCraigand several alleged detractors, such as former Conservative Board member John Stringer, Whaleoil blogger Cam Slater and centre-right lobbyist Jordan Williams. Under these circumstances, ColinCraighas chosen not to undertake reappointment. The Conservative Party has plummeted in the polls as a result of these shenanigans. 8.ISIS: Even before the terrorist attack in Paris in mid-November 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had aroused considerable controversy within the LGBTI community due to its alleged executions of Syrian and Iraqi gay/bisexual/MSM men, who are routinely thrown off buildings if apprehended. As 2015 progressed, there was a growing influx of Syrian refugees and resultant humanitarian crisis in Southeastern Europe, leading to resurgent neofascist and racist anti-immigrant activism. Given the existence of severe homophobia and transphobia in Iraq and Syria, there are specific concerns about the safety of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers and the specific risks of concealment and disclosure in their context. New Zealand's meagre response to the crisis has been criticised by civil liberties and human rights groups. 9.British election: Unexpectedly, and due to excellent micro-polling, the British Conservative Party under David Cameron's leadership won a second term of office in May 2015. This may have silenced Cameron's Tory critics, as well as boosters for the Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party, which only won a single House of Commons seat. The British Liberal Democrats and Labour were decimated, and the Scottish Nationalist Party was the other chief beneficiary, with worrying implications for the long-term survival of the United Kingdom. Under the prior Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition (2010-2015), the Cameron administration presided over the introduction of marriage equality within the United Kingdom, as well as progress with anti-bullying initiatives. The British LGBT community are somewhat concerned at possible abolition of access to the European Court of Human Rights. 10.Northern Ireland: The six British-held Northern Ireland provinces are governed by a consensus arrangement, and the largest Ulster political party is the fundamentalist Democratic Unionist Party under First Minister Peter Robinson. While a majority of non-DUP MPs voted for marriage equality, the DUP has obstructed progress with a 'petition of concern', arguing that it would 'upset' Northern Ireland's fundamentalist Protestant community. Other major issues are total prohibition of gay blood donation even if celibate for a prolonged period, although there is increasing judicial resistance to Northern Ireland's discriminatory marriage ban- now the only such prohibition west of the Franco-German border within Western Europe. Craig Young - 8th December 2015    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Tuesday, 8th December 2015 - 12:36pm

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