President Obama issues memorandum on protecting LGBTs abroad

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Four days in advance of  Human Rights Day on Saturday, Dec. 10,  President Barack Obama today issued a presidential memorandum “to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons,” according to a statement just released by the White House press office.

The statement sent out by the White House includes these comments by the president:

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.  I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting LGBT persons around the world — whether it is passing laws that criminalize LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women, and children for their perceived sexual orientation.  That is why I declared before heads of state gathered at the United Nations, “no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why we must stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians everywhere.”  Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere.  Our deep commitment to advancing the human rights of all people is strengthened when we as the United States bring our tools to bear to vigorously advance this goal.”

The memorandum from Obama directs agencies to combat the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct abroad; protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; leverage foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance nondiscrimination; ensure swift and meaningful U.S. responses to human rights abuses of LGBT persons abroad; engage international organizations in the fight against LGBT discrimination, and report on progress.

I give the president credit for issuing the memorandum at the same time he’s gearing up for what will likely be a tough re-election campaign during which opponents will no doubt use his stance and actions on LGBT issues against him. But I still have to point out that we as LGBT people still face discrimination and inequality right here in the good old U.S.-of-A:

• Our marriages are legally recognized at the federal level and they aren’t recognized in the VAST majority of state and local jurisdictions. We want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed and local and state ordinances and constitutional amendments prohibiting recognition of our relationships need to be overturned.

• There is still no federal protection against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/gender expression and gender identity. Congress needs to pass — the president needs to sign — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

• Even though there is now a federal hate crimes law that includes LGBT people, as well as similar laws at many state and local levels, those laws are not well enforced.

Anti-LGBT bullying remains a deadly problem in our schools and our workplaces and on the Internet. We’ve made progress in combating such bullying, but not nearly enough. Dedicate the resources necessary to address the issue effectively.

So let’s applaud our president for the steps he has — and is — taking. There’s no doubt Obama has been more open than any other president about addressing LGBT issues and we have seen great strides forward toward equality during his administration. But there’s a long way to go yet, and we need to make sure that the president — and all our elected officials — know they can’t just rest on their laurels.

—  admin

UPDATE on Brenda Namigadde: Deportation delayed by temporary injunction

As I noted here earlier, Ugandan lesbian Brenda Namigadde — who fled to the U.K. in 2002 to escape persecution in her home country where homosexuality is outlawed with those who break that law subject to up to 14 years in prison — was scheduled to be sent back to Uganda at 9 p.m. tonight (London time). But word now is that a High Court judge has granted a temporary injunction preventing her deportation, according to reports by BBC.

Namigadde’s earlier pleas for asylum in the U.K. had been denied after a judge said there was no evidence she is a lesbian.

Efforts to halt Namigadde’s deportation took on added urgency on Wednesdays after news broke of the murder of Uganda’s most prominent gay rights activist, David Kato.

—  admin

Fierro, en fuego

Born in El Salvador, Oscar Fierro hopped the border with the intent to become famous. Now the designer and TV fashionista is making his mark — and he’s not shy about saying so

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

OSCAR GOWN | Designer Oscar Fierro, below, finds the perfect marriage between fashion and fundraising when his runway show also acts as a benefit for the Legal Hospice of Texas this weekend. Photo by Jirard.

DAMAS DE BLANCO
Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Dec. 9 at 7 p.m.  $15­–$50.
DDB2010.com

……………………………….

Oscar Fierro admits that modesty is not a value he subscribes to. He’s just not a humble person.

That might lead some to think he’s cocky, but really, he’s just confident … and not just because he’s a gay fashion designer with a sense of entitlement. It’s because he’s been through hell and doesn’t plan on going back.

“My journey to United States was painful and basically a miracle,” he says. “When people try to knock me down, I laugh about it. I crossed three borders [Guatemala, Mexico and Texas] and I have made a name for myself in a short time. It’s gonna take a whole army to bring me down.”

As a boy in El Salvador, he attended school barefoot and ate a meal only when he could. He emigrated to the U.S. illegally, but because El Salvador was in the middle of a civil war, he was granted asylum. He made his way to Dallas in 1990 to live with his “very straight brother and his family,” but Fierro found stability in his work as a waiter at Mercado Juarez.

“When people leave their country they say they’ll make their money [here] and go back,” he says. “But why in hell would I ever go back? Once I experienced the wonderful sense of freedom and flushable toilets, I knew this was for me. Toilets to me were the best things ever. But I also knew here, I could make my dreams come true and even help people in a way.”

On Thursday he’ll demonstrate that mission with the Damas de Blanco runway show, where he will debut his spring and summer collections. All proceeds will benefit the Legal Hospice of Texas, which provides legal services to low-income individuals with terminal illnesses or HIV.

“I think it’s the perfect marriage between fashion and charity,” he says. “When fashion can be attached to a great cause, I think it makes it better.”

Charity is crucial to Fierro. The struggles of his family and those near to him inspired Fierro to start the Oscar Fierro Foundation. In 2004, he returned to El Salvador to find that people still needed help, mostly children. His foundation helps to rebuild schools and provide for kids where it can.

Fierro’s dream has remained pretty basic: He wants to be famous. He knew from childhood that he wanted to be involved in entertainment. He began by helping make dresses for beauty pageants in El Salvador; that’s when his path to fame and to America was starting to reveal itself. But really, fashion wasn’t a passion — it was a vehicle to get to where he wants.

“I have a clear mind for logistics and I knew, whether as fashion designer, singer or whatever, I’d have to embrace myself to not make money doing it,” he says. “So I concentrated on working to pay bills and then ventured into fashion.”

He started designing in 2000, mostly because he had to create his own clothes. At 4-foot-11, finding fashionable clothing that fit him was a challenge. Figuring he’d have a niche market, he began designing for shorter bodies.

“It kept pulling me in and I loved it,” he says.

In 2008, he finally debuted his first collection — to him, a lightning-fast record. Fierro’s dreams were coming true.

“It was like an explosion when it came out. I’m not ashamed to say it, but I believe I have great talent and personality and people can relate to me. That has been the combination for me to go as fast as I can in fashion. Other designers in Dallas have been at it that same amount of time but haven’t been able to reach the level I have yet.”

As much as he loves his adopted home, he says Dallas isn’t as stylish as it pretends to be. Despite some success here, he has to work in New York to really put his designs out there. Dallas has some catching up to do.

“Dallas is not fashion-ready and you can put that in bold print,” he says. “These ladies can tell you all day long how fashion forward they are and how they support local fashion, but fashion forward for them is big hair — that’s it.”

That acerbic wit is enough to get him on television. Gabriela Natale of Telemundo tapped into Fierro’s sassy talk on fashion and celebrities as the fashion police on her Spanish-language show SuperLatina.

“Oscar is a natural,” says Natale. “He is an exquisite designer, an over-the-top diva and the fiercest fashion critic, all in one. He was born for TV.”

So: Television, in print and on the runway. All that’s left is one thing and perhaps his American dream will be fully realized.

“We’ve sent gowns to stylists for the Oscars, but I’m not aware of any red carpet where my gowns have appeared,” he says. “But one celebrity that I wouldn’t like to dress is Paula Abdul. She’s a crime for a fashion designer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Appeals Court: Man Cannot Be Denied Asylum For Simply Not Looking Gay Enough

Mladen Todorovic, the gay Serbian hoping to secure asylum in the U.S., was denied refugee status because the immigration judge overseeing his case did not think he appeared gay enough. Thankfully Todorovic just won his appeal.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright

Gay Saudi Diplomat Seeks Asylum

Saudi (pick up) I Advocate.comA  Saudi Arabian diplomat based in L.A., has asked the U.S. for political asylum because he says Saudi officials have learned he is gay and that they will murder him after forcing him to return home. 
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Saudi diplomat seeks political asylum from Obama administration for being gay and having a Jewish friend

Sounds like a two-fer. The gays and the Jews are involved. The Saudis want the man back, probably so they can hang him or cut off certain body parts. It will be interesting to see if the administration sides with the homophobes and the anti-Semites. From MSNBC:

The diplomat, Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has informed U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials that Saudi officials have refused to renew his diplomatic passport and effectively terminated his job after discovering he was gay and was close friends with a Jewish woman.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

Congressman’s office reaches out to gay couple separated by immigration law

Aurelio Tolentino, left, and his partner, Roi Whaley

On Friday, we posted this blog about Roi Whaley and his partner, Aurelio Tolentino. Just to catch you up Tolentino, a registered nurse from the Philipines, had come to the U.S. on a work visa and met Whaley in a support group for people with HIV. When he applied for his green card, the federal government learned Tolentino had HIV and, under a policy that has since been revoked by President Barack Obama, officials told Aurelio he would have to leave the country.

Tolentino applied for asylum, since he had already faced violence in his home country because of his sexual orientation and would probably face more if he went back. But that was denied. So he went to Canada to stay with his mother and applied for asylum there. That, too, was denied and he now faces the prospect of having to return to the Philipines. And at the same time, Whaley has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is visiting Tolentino in Canada this month, but unless something changes, it will likely be the last time the two partners are able to see each other.

Whaley, with the assistance of Immigration Equality, had asked his congressman, Democrat Gene Taylor of Bay St. Louis, Miss., for help in getting a humanitarian parole that would allow T0lentino back into the U.S. to be with Whaley in his final months. But Taylor’s office had refused.

That seems to have changed now. Steve Ralls with Immigration Equality called me this morning to let me know that after we posted the earlier blog about the couple’s plight, Taylor’s office has reached out to Whaley to try and help.

“We heard from Taylor’s office today (Tuesday, Sept. 7). He has reached out to Roi and said they want to work with him to see how they can best help him,” Ralls said. “We hope that [Taylor] will work with Roi’s attorney here at Immigration Equality on finding a way for Aurelio to be here in this country with Roi. It is a very positive step forward.”

Of course, if Whaley and Tolentino had been able to be legally married, or even if the U.S. had dropped its antiquated rule on allowing HIV-positive immigrants and visitors into the country earlier, this wouldn’t be such a problem. But for now, let’s just hope that Taylor and Immigration Equality can find a way for these two people who love each other to be together when they need each other most.

—  admin