5 LGBT Victories That Were Not Marriage in 2015

Darcey Pancoast

This was a monumental year for LGBT rights because OMG THE SUPREME COURT LEGALIZED GAY MARRIAGE, LET’S ALL TURN OUR PROFILE PICTURES RAINBOW COLORS.

Despite (many, many straight allies’) excitement, the victory was just a small step – more symbolic of the U.S.’s changing attitudes than anything else. LGBT people in the U.S. still face disproportionate amounts of things such as violence, poverty, and homelessness. With that in mind, here are some other victories for the LGBT community this year.

Decriminalization

On June 29th, Mozambique officially decriminalized homosexuality, revising an existing law which carried heavy colonial language, which had used the phrase “vices against nature” instead of mentioning homosexuality outright. This makes Mozambique the 21st African country to decriminalize homosexual behavior, but 35 countries still carry legal consequences for queerness, including the death penalty in Sudan and Mauritania.

Blood Donation

This year, several countries made progress to allow males who have had sexual contact with males to donate blood, recognizing that existing bans discriminate against healthy blood donors solely based on their sexual orientation. In the Netherlands in late October, the Dutch Health Minister announced it would be replacing its lifetime ban with a 12-month deferral period. Less than a week later, the French Health Minister announced that a similar policy would go into effect in spring 2016. Late to the party, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a proposal for a 1 year deferral on blood donation by gay and bisexual men less than two weeks ago.

But the biggest victory of the year happened quietly over a month before the Dutch’s announcement, when Argentina completely abolished their ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood on September 16. While the U.S.’s current approach “places married, monogamous gay men in the same category as IV-drug users and straight people who have unprotected sex with prostitutes,” and makes no provisions against “straight people who have frequent, anonymous, high-risk, unprotected sex…Argentina’s new policy abolishes this bizarre approach and replaces it with individualized risk-assessment screening.”

Adoption

The fight for adoption is mostly won in the U.S., where all states but Mississippi allow same-sex couples to jointly petition to adopt, and allow same-sex partners to petition to adopt their partner’s child. Mississippi is still technically compliant with the 2013 Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which prevents federally funded adoption organizations from discriminating against adoptive parents solely on their sexual orientation because they do allow LGBT individuals to petition to adopt. Private organizations across the U.S. which do not receive federal funding are not held to these standards.

Meanwhile, abroad, three countries made adoption strides: Mexico, Colombia, and Portugal. In mid-August, the Mexican Supreme Court declared one state’s ban on same-sex adoption as unconstitutional, the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled in favor of full adoption rights for same-sex couples in November, and the Portuguese Parliament approved a bill doing the same, two weeks ago.

Anti-Discrimination

In the U.S. the fight against gender and sexual orientation discrimination rages on. Eighteen states still have no employment protection for LGBT people at all. And the states that have protections are not perfect: five states have gender and sexual orientation protections, but only for state jobs. Another two states protect just sexual orientation for all employment, and another five only offer protections for sexual orientation to their public servants. In March, Utah joined the 18 other states which offer full gender and sexual orientation employment protection for all jobs, by amending their existing anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment. Days apart in May, voters in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and Laramie, Wyoming, also chose to protect both sexual orientation and gender identity for their citizens, despite both Arkansas’ and Wyoming’s lack of state legislation.

In international news, last month the Ukranian parliament approved an anti-discrimination law which bans discrimination in the workplace on the basis of either gender or sexual orientation.

Trans Rights Abroad

Even bigger than the victories in the U.S., this year was an incredibly important one for trans rights abroad. In August, Nepal started issuing passports to trans people featuring the category “O” for other instead of just the traditional M/F. The third gender category was introduced in Nepal in 2013 for trans people applying for citizenship documents. One month later Nepal became the third country in the world – behind South Africa and Fiji – to extend protections to its LGBTI citizens in its constitution.

While it hasn’t added LGBT protections to its constitution specifically, this year Malta became a leader in gender protection on April 1st, when the parliament accepted the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics (GIGESC) Bill. The bill acknowledges that “gender identity is considered to be an inherent part of a person which may or may not need surgical or hormonal treatment or therapy,” and that “sex characteristics of a person vary in nature and all persons must be empowered to make their decisions affecting their own bodily integrity and physical autonomy.” The bill not only incredibly simplifies the process of getting legal documentation changed to reflect a person’s gender identity, it also protects trans and intersex children by making it “unlawful for medical practitioners or other professionals to conduct any sex assignment treatment and/or surgical intervention on the sex characteristics of a minor which treatment and/or intervention can be deferred until the person to be treated can provide informed consent.” It leaves room for exception in extreme cases where the minor cannot give informed consent, but explicitly states “medical intervention which is driven by social factors without the consent of the minor, will be in violation of this Act.”

 

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