Egypt and Russia Must Not Be Allowed To Remove Inclusive Language from UN’s Olympics Resolution

In advance of each Olympics, the United Nations General Assembly passes an “Olympic Truce Resolution” to pledge support for the Olympic spirit, for the athletes and for the host country. The resolution includes a reference to “Principle 6” of the Olympic Charter, which commits the Olympics to not discriminate on the basis of a number of factors, including sexual orientation. This year, however, Egypt and Russia are working to remove all references to Principle 6 from the resolution, because of the language on sexual orientation.   

“Russia and Egypt – two of the world’s worst violators of LGBTQ human rights – are trying to spread their hatred and intolerance and undermine the Olympic spirit,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb. “This is not just a fight over words on a piece of paper, this is an attempt to spread their anti-LGBTQ views all around the world, and even into the Olympics, which are supposed to be about equality and inclusion. The UN must stop this and stand for inclusion and tolerance.”

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities arrested at least six men for “promoting sexual deviancy” after waving a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo. These arrests have led to a crackdown on LGBTQ people in Egypt, with a group of Egyptian lawmakers proposing a broad anti-LGBTQ law last week which criminalizes LGBTQ people and even speech about LGBTQ issues.

In the Russian republic of Chechnya, authorities have rounded up and detained more than 100 men in secret prisons, under suspicion that they are gay or bisexual. Chechen leaders have denied these accusations, going so far as to deny the very existence of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. It is not clear that the Russian government has done anything to stop the violence,  while there have been numerous verified reports of torture and at least three and possibly as many as 20 men have been killed.

The 2016 Games in Rio were noted for being the most LGBTQ-inclusive Olympics in history, with a record number of openly lesbian, gay and bisexual competitors taking part. This was in stark contrast to the 2014 Sochi Olympics held in Russia, where a hateful “anti-propaganda” law targeted Russia’s LGBTQ community and prohibited public support for equality in the country.  

While Egypt rounds up LGBTQ people for flying rainbow flags and Russia turns a blind eye toward Chechnya’s LGBTQ ‘purge,’ they are attempting to bully the UN into supporting their discriminatory actions. The world community must denounce Egypt and Russia for their actions, and not acquiesce to this hatred.

The United Nations is set to vote on the Olympic Truce Resolution in the coming weeks.

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Reformation Day: Protestant Christians Embrace LGBTQ Diversity 500 Years after Martin Luther

Protestant Christians — and especially Lutherans — have come a long way on LGBTQ issues since their founder and namesake, Martin Luther, is said to have nailed his 95 theses (“On the Power of Indulgences”) on the door of a Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany, 500 years ago. His theses publicly challenged the Catholic Church, spawning protest movements that formed the Lutheran, Baptist, and Calvinist traditions that nearly half of Americans affiliate with today.

While Luther’s Reformation questioned the repressive and ecclesiastical policies of the Catholic Church that lead to the flowering of Protestantism, his denunciation of LGB people remained embedded in the teachings of the church.

But today, there are more than 5,000 Protestant churches in the U.S. that are welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran church body in the U.S. that traces its theological foundation to Luther himself, consecrated an openly gay bishop in 2013 and allows clergy to perform same-sex marriages. Other major mainline protestant denominations, including the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA), have also opened their doors to LGBTQ people and advocate for LGBTQ equality.

These reforms have been driven because the LGBTQ faithful are Coming Home to Faith, to Spirit and to Self. They are the fruits of the prophetic work being done by faith-based LGBTQ organizations and their allies, including DignityUSA, the Reformation Project, Gay Christian Network, Soulforce, the Metropolitical Community Churches and and HRC’s Religion and Faith Program. LGBTQ people are engaging the church in the same spirit of Luther — the original Protestant — whose intention was not to break away from the church, but rather reform it for the better from within.

The New Testament calls on Christians to be as one. Toward that goal, years of dialogue led to Pope Francis last year to formally apologize for Catholic slaughters of Protestants, and the Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations have signed agreements recognizing each other’s baptisms.

One lesson we can learn from Catholic-Protestant rapprochement during this time of shifting understanding on faith and LGBTQ issues, is that it has never been more important to engage in dialogue with respect and love, and with the goal of deepening the understanding between the faith and LGBTQ communities so we can truly be as one, as God’s children. It is not always easy but critical to the LGBTQ movement’s goal — to save lives.

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Betsy DeVos’ Actions on Title IX are Part of a Broader Attack on LGBTQ Students

Last Friday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama-era Title IX guidance related to schools’ obligations to address sexual harassment, including sexual violence–a move that will disproportionately impact LGBTQ people. Studies suggest that nearly half of bisexual women have been raped and half of transgender people will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey of high school students, lesbian and bisexual women and gay and bisexual men experienced higher rates of sexual assault than their straight counterparts.

On Friday, the Department of Education also released a new Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct, which replaced the 2014 Obama-era Q&A on Title IX and sexual violence that was rescinded. Unlike the Obama-era Q&A, which explicitly mentioned LGBTQ students and that the “actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity of the parties [involved in an incident of sexual misconduct] does not change a school’s obligations,” the new Q&A erases all mentions of LGBTQ students and schools’ obligations to students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Unfortunately, these actions are part of a wider pattern by the Department of Education to undermine the rights of LGBTQ students. In February, DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions withdrew important guidance that clarified schools’ obligations to protect transgender students from discrimination under Title IX.  While students are still entitled to the legal protections guaranteed by Title IX, this action obfuscated schools’ obligations to transgender youth and sent a dangerous message that the current administration will not enforce inclusive policies or stand up for them at school. This was borne out when in hearings in both May and June, DeVos refused to commit to LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in in a potential federal voucher program.

When DeVos was being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, HRC opposed her nomination.

“LGBTQ students need a leader at the Department of Education who will defend their right to a safe environment where they can learn without compromising who they are,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “Mrs. DeVos has not shown that she is able or willing to truly rise to this challenge and ensure all LGBTQ students — especially transgender students whose rights are being targeted by our opponents in Washington and across the country.”

Unfortunately, Winterhof’s prediction has proven true over the past half a year. DeVos’ action on Friday is only the latest example that she is both unable and unwilling to defend the rights of LGBTQ students and ensure their right to learning in a safe environment.

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Equality Act Reaches 100 Corporate Cosponsors

Today, HRC announced it had recruited 104 top businesses — employing more than 5.8 million people — as corporate cosponsors on the Equality Act. By joining HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, these companies have stepped up to support full federal equality for LGBTQ people through the Equality Act, landmark federal legislation that would provide the same basic nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ people as other protected groups under federal law.

“The more than 100 businesses that have joined HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act are sending a loud and clear message that the time has come for full federal equality,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This is a milestone in corporate support for the Equality Act, and we urge Congress to listen to this growing chorus of American businesses and protect all LGBTQ people from discrimination.”

“At Cargill, one of our guiding principles is that we treat people with dignity and respect.  Everyday around the world our employees go to work to deliver on our noble purpose of being the  leader in nourishing the world in a safe, responsible, and sustainable way,” said Cargill Chief Diversity Officer Willard McCloud. “To do so, we believe it’s critically important that those very same employees and their families feel safe and affirmed, not only at work, but in the communities in which they live, shop, and send their children to school.  Cargill’s support of the Equality Act is fundamental to ensuring that all of our employees feel as safe in their communities as they do in our offices, and are not discriminated against in housing, access to credit, employment or other opportunities.”

“As the first company to publicly support passage of the federal Equality Act in the United States, we recognize the fight for equality is far from over,” said Cory Valente Global Leader for the LGBTQ and allies Employee Resource Group at Dow Chemical. “No one should be fired, evicted from their home, or denied services because of who they are. Supporting inclusion and equality is the right thing to do – for business and for society.”

Launched in March 2016, HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act includes companies with operations in all 50 states, headquarters spanning 23 states, and a collective revenue of $2.6 trillion. In total, these companies employ more than 5.8 million people across the United States.

The Equality Act creates clear, consistent protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment ensuring that LGBTQ employees are hired, fired, and promoted based solely on their performance. In addition, the bill provides protections from discrimination for LGBTQ people in housing, education, credit and jury service. It would also prohibit discrimination in public accommodations and federal funding on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. Today, in 31 states, LGBTQ people remain at risk of being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are.

First introduced in 2015 by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), the Equality Act is currently co-sponsored by 241 members of Congress.

The overwhelming majority of Americans across the political spectrum support full federal equality for LGBTQ people. Polling released last year by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that support for a bill like the Equality Act topped 70 percent nationally, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. PRRI’s groundbreaking survey included 42,000 interviews in 50 states and found majority support for the Equality Act in all 50 states.

Major corporations in the HRC Business Coalition for the Equality Act include Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; Accenture; Adobe Systems Inc.; Advanced Micro Devices Inc.; Airbnb Inc.; Alcoa Inc.; Amazon.com Inc.; American Airlines; American Eagle Outfitters; American Express Global Business Travel; Apple Inc.; Arconic; Ascena Retail Group Inc.; Automatic Data Processing Inc.; Bain & Co. Inc.; Bank of America; Best Buy Co. Inc.; Biogen; Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corp.; Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.; Boston Scientific Corp.; Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc.; Brown-Forman Corp.; CA Technologies Inc.; Caesars Entertainment Corp.; Capital One Financial Corp.; Cardinal Health Inc.; Cargill Inc.; Chevron Corp.; Choice Hotels International Inc.; Cisco Systems Inc.; The Coca-Cola Co.; Corning Inc.; Cox Enterprises Inc.; CVS Health Corp.; Darden Restaurants Inc.; Delhaize America Inc.; Diageo North America; The Dow Chemical Co.; Dropbox Inc.; E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. (DuPont); eBay Inc.; EMC Corp.; Facebook Inc.; Gap Inc.; General Electric Co.; General Mills Inc.; Google Inc.; HERE North America LLC; The Hershey Company; Hewlett Packard Enterprises; Hilton Inc.; HP Inc.; HSN Inc.; Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP; Hyatt Hotels Corp.; IBM Corp.; Intel Corp.; InterContinental Hotels Group Americas; Johnson & Johnson; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Kaiser Permanente; Kellogg Co.; Kenneth Cole Productions; Levi Strauss & Co.; Macy’s Inc.; Marriott International Inc.; MasterCard Inc.; Microsoft Corp.; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Monsanto Co.; Moody’s Corp.; Nationwide; Navigant Consulting Inc.; Nike Inc.; Northrop Grumman Corp.; Office Depot Inc.; Oracle Corp.; Orbitz Worldwide Inc.; Paul Hastings LLP; PepsiCo Inc.; Procter & Gamble Co.; Pure Storage Inc.; Qualcomm Inc.; Replacements Ltd.; S&P Global Inc.; Salesforce; SAP America Inc.; Sodexo Inc.; Symantec Corp.; Synchrony Financial; T-Mobile USA Inc.; Target Corp.; Tech Data Corp.; TIAA; Twitter Inc.; Uber Technologies Inc; Under Armour Inc; Unilever; Warby Parker; WeddingWire Inc.; Whirlpool Corporation; Williams-Sonoma Inc.; and Xerox Corp.

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