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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Understanding the Racism at University of Missouri: A brief timeline

Darcey Pancoast
If you’ve been on the internet this week, you’ve probably heard something about what’s happening at University of Missouri, and the escalating threats of violence the school has seen. Many people across the country are only just now tuning into a story of racism that has roots not only in the events of the last few months, but also deep in University of Missouri history.

1839: University of Missouri is founded, built using slave labor. Student protestors reference this date with shirts saying “1839 was built on my B(l)ack”

1850-1860: Slaves owned by family members of MU President James Shannon serve as janitors at the University.

1935: Lloyd Gaines petitions the University to be their first black law student. He is denied admission.

1950: Gus T. Rigel becomes the first black student at University of Missouri, inspiring protestors to take up the name Concerned Student 1950

2010: Cotton balls are strewn around the University’s Black Culture Center.

2014: Mike Brown is shot and killed by police in nearby Ferguson, MO—just two hours away from the University. No official statement is made by the University.

September 12: Payton Head, the Missouri Students Association president, takes to social media to recount having the n-word screamed at him by a group of men in a pickup truck the previous evening.  University Chancellor R. Bowen Loften takes a week to respond to the incident.

September 24: Around 100 students gather in protest of the inadequacy of the Chancellor’s response, using the hashtags #RacismLivesHere and #LoftenCANTexplain on Twitter.

October 5: The Legion of Black Collegians are shouted at and called n— by a drunk man. Chancellor Loften responds more quickly, but does not ease campus tensions.

October 7: Post-it notes are left on University of Missouri’s Thomas Jefferson statue, labelling him a “racist,” “murderer,” “rapist,” “hypocrite,” and more.

October 10: Eleven Black student leaders, including Jonathan Butler, who would later go on a hunger strike, interject in the homecoming parade. Missouri President Tim Wolfe sits by, “allowing his driver to hit one of the demonstrators, consenting to the physical violence of bystanders, and lastly refusing to intervene when the Colombia Police Department used excessive force with demonstrators.”

October 20: Concerned Student 1950 present their demands to the University, with a request for a response by October 28. They call for an apology from Tim Wolfe, an admission that he recognizes systematic oppression,  and his removal as president, along with demands to increase the percentage of black faculty, create racial awareness and inclusion curriculum, increase the availability of mental health services, and meet the demands set by the Black Collegians in 1969, among others.

October 24: A swastika is drawn using human feces in a dorm bathroom.

October 26: Concerned Student 1950 meets with Tim Wolfe, who at the time “did not mention any plan of action to address the demands or help us work together to create a more safe and inclusive campus,” according to the students.

November 2: Graduate Student Jonathan Butler begins a hunger strike at 9am. He said, “Starting today … I will be embarking on an indefinite hunger strike in opposition to Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president. During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”

His grievances include not only racial injustice, but also the removal of graduate health insurance,  Planned Parenthood’s effective removal from campus, and issues of sexism, bigotry, & homophobia on campus.

November 3: More than two dozen members of the University of Missouri English Department give the Chancellor a vote of no confidence during a staff meeting. Tim Wolfe offers a statement of concern for Jonathan Butler, expressing interest in communication, but shows no intention of resigning.

November 4: Students rally in solidarity, beginning an occupation of the Carnahan quad.

November 6: Wolfe issues a statement apologizing for the events of the homecoming parade, but later addresses the University of Missouri at Kansas City that “systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.”

November 7: Concerned Student 1950 protests in dining halls and locations around campus. Black football players announce they will not play until Tim Wolfe resigns. “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'” the players said in a statement. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!”

Gary Pinkel, head football coach tweets: “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.”

November 8:  Head coach Gary Pinkel & Missouri athletic director Mack Rhoades release a joint statement, cancelling practice. It is estimated that cancelling this Saturday’s game could cost the school $1 million.

State lawmakers begin to weigh in.  “Poplar Bluff Republican Rep. Steven Cookson said in a statement that Wolfe “can no longer effectively lead” and should leave his post. Joining him in calling for Wolfe’s resignation was Assistant House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, the highest-ranking black member of that chamber.”

The university’s Board of Curators announces a meeting will be held on Monday the 9th.

November 9: #ConcernedStudent1950 protestors rally to explain their demands. The Missouri Students Association formally calls for Wolfe’s removal. By mid-day, Tim Wolfe announces his immediate resignation, Chancellor R. Bowin Loftin announces his year-end resignation, the university’s board of curators announces a new diversity initiative. Planned Parenthood urges Chancellor Loftin to reverse the earlier university decisions threatening to limit their services. Missouria Governor Nixon applauds Wolfe’s resignation: “Tim Wolfe’s resignation was a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus, and I appreciate his decision to do so,” Gov. Jay Nixon (D) said.

Coach Pinkel says “I did the right thing and I would do it again” about his support for his football players’ boycott.

An anonymous caller leaves a threatening message to Mizzou’s Oldham Black Culture center.

November 10: As anonymous threats begin to build on social media sites such as Yik-Yak, campus police state that the threats are being investigated. Student activists criticize administrators for their lack of response. The Mizzou football team resumes preparation for the Nov 14 game. Coach Pinkel distances himself from the #ConcernedStudent1950 activists, saying that the hashtag was inserted by an assistant who helps manage his Twitter account.

November 11: Police arrest Hunter M. Park, a Missouri University of Science and technology student, & Connor B. Stottlemyre of Northwest Missouri State University on allegations of terrorist threats over social media. Park’s Yik-Yak threat quoted a gunman involved in a mass shooting in Oregon in October.

November 12:  Police arrest another man, Tyler Bradenburg, another Missouri University of Science student for threats of violence. Connor Stottlemyre is charged with two counts of making a terrorist threat. Hunter Park, also charged with making a terrorist threat, made his first court appearance but remained silent. The University of Missouri appoints retired senior administrator Michael Middleton, a black man, as interim president. Thousands of students across the country, from Stanford University , to Georgetown, to Southern Mississippi University, stand in solidarity with #ConcernedStudent1950

Live updates can be found on this interactive timeline of events:

http://www.themaneater.com/special-sections/mu-fall-2015/

 

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/06/black-grad-student-on-hunger-strike-in-mo-after-swastika-drawn-with-human-feces/

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/descendant-of-mu-founder-atones-for-family-s-slave-owning/article_bc8748b0-af1b-5bb3-acd0-64607b7b9a01.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tim-wolfe-homecoming-parade_56402cc8e4b0307f2cadea10
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mizzou-students-react-presidents-resignation_56415e42e4b0411d30725838?cps=gravity_5041_-3205409152326674397
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/activism-going-strong-at-mizzou-students-critical-of-top-leadership/article_2c2c38dd-5e2a-56d1-a204-cca9c83c366d.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mizzou-gary-pinkel-football-boycott_56412a8ee4b0307f2caeb178?cps=gravity_5041_-6067225091766762093
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/missouri-football-coach-backs-away-from-student-activists_5642811de4b045bf3decdaaa?cps=gravity_5041_4922211341571466162
http://news.mst.edu/2015/11/student-arrested-for-social-media-threats/
http://www.umsystem.edu/ums/news/leadership_news/110315_statement/
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/mizzou-online-threat-suspect-hunter-park-mimicked-oregon-shooting-posts-n462301
http://abcnews.go.com/US/teen-accused-missouri-threats-influenced-umpqua-shooter-officials/story?id=35159199
http://www.kusi.com/story/30500395/the-latest-man-accused-in-missouri-threat-case-denied-bond
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/06/black-grad-student-on-hunger-strike-in-mo-after-swastika-drawn-with-human-feces/
http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/columbiatribune.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/3/45/345ad844-9f05-5479-9b64-e4b362b4e155/563fd24f5a949.pdf.pdf
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/06/black-grad-student-on-hunger-strike-in-mo-after-swastika-drawn-with-human-feces/
https://twitter.com/_JonathanButler/status/661213299858472962?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

 

 

Going the Distance

By: Camille Fassett

My father jokes that I could run before I could walk.  I am a runner.  I love every piece of it, from the fatigue and side-aches to the calming rhythm that sets in after the second mile.  Running is not always easy, but when I first step off my driveway, there are about ten seconds of free and easy sprint.  It is easy to run for ten, fifteen, twenty seconds, the sprint that feels like flying, but it is difficult to pace myself for a ten or fifteen mile run.  

The LGBT movement gained steam, very suddenly and very quickly.  Precious few social justice movements have seized the spotlight, ballot, and media with the same power, and while that is a catalyst for rapid necessary change, the ten second sprint is over.  17 states have recognized same-sex marriage, celebrities and citizens have found the courage to come out of the closet, and LGBT people are finding more and more representation.  It may seem that our war is won – but although we have won many battles, we have not yet won the war.

Runner’s teaches me that I have worked hard.  Without it, the euphoria and cold water after the run would not feel so good.  Likewise, we must continue to push for change, stretch just another inch, even when it seems impossible.  There will be more elections, more lawsuits, more bills, more backlash.  Just last week, Oklahoma lawmakers suggested that all marriages be outlawed to keep same-sex marriage illegal in response to a judge declaring the current ban unconstitutional.  Many states do not outright protect gay, lesbian, or queer people against discrimination in the workplace, and even more offer no protection of trans* people.

Macklemore performed recently at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.  His value to the LGBT movement is questionable and perhaps an interesting potential blog piece, but he certainly got students at my school talking.  I overheard several classmates voicing frustration about the continual media coverage of same-sex marriage and LGBT representation at media.  I heard one say, “I’m so tired of every news piece being about gay people.  It’s old news and it’s time to move on!”  News about states recognizing laws protecting equality is met with shrugs and sighs in government class.  While I am sure the vast majority of students react with the best intentions, they are woefully incorrect.

For every LGBT person out and proud, there is another one living in fear.  For every child raised by an LGBT couple in a same-sex marriage friendly state, there is another one without a second parent adoption.  There are 33 states in which same-sex marriage is still illegal. This means 33 more battles to win.  Even long after every marriage is state and federally protected, cissexism, transphobia, and homophobia will exist in our country.  Both legal and cultural shifts need to occur, and we are far from reaching our finish line.

Sometimes the simplest actions have the biggest impacts.  Type a quick few sentences about what the LGBT movement means to you or how you have been affected by discrimination.  Volunteer for a nonprofit or LGBT organization even if only occasionally, because in my experience meeting the people at the heart of the movement has inspired me to keep going.  Pay attention to the news, and read between the lines, because hate crimes very much exist.  And most importantly in my opinion, speak up against homophobic and transphobic slurs at all times and among all people.

The first ten seconds are easy.  We are long distance runners now, not the Macklemores or Gagas but the footsoldiers, the fundraisers and voters and bloggers and LGBT persons fighting for our own liberation.  Please do not give up now – view the path in front of you with renewed fervor.  May your footsteps may be confident, kind, and strong.  May you keep running.