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Vatican Approves Blessings For Same-Sex Couples 

The Vatican announced this week that Roman Catholic priests can administer blessings to same-sex couples as long as they’re not a part of regular Church rituals or liturgies. The “landmark ruling” was approved by Pope Francis and released to the public in a document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office. 

This declaration reversed a previous ruling from 2021 that said blessings for same-sex couples would not “legitimize irregular situations but be a sign that God welcomes all,” according to reports from Reuters

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The declaration also added that this new ruling should not be confused with the Catholic Church’s sacrament of heterosexual marriage. Reuters reported that “priests should decide on a case-by-case basis and should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing.”

The Church teaches that while same-sex attraction is not sinful, homosexual acts are. Pope Francis has made various proclamations since his election in 2013 in support of the LGBT community. 

Father James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who ministers for the LGBT community, called the document “a major step forward in the church’s ministry” to them.

Martin said “the document recognizes the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships, along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.” 

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According to Francis DeBernardo, an executive director of a group that advocates for LGBT rights in the church known as New Ways Ministry, said that “the document’s importance cannot be overstated. 

The document said the “form of the blessing should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage.

It can be applied to those who do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God, which must be nurtured, not hindered.”

The document also stated that “the blessing should not be linked to or timed with a civil marriage ceremony and be performed with none of the clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.

Places for such blessings might be in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage”.

Elton John States Gay Rights Are Going Backwards In The US

Famous singer Elton John has stated that gay rights are moving backwards in the US in response to the slew of anti-LGBT+ legislation being brought up throughout the nation’s governments.

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LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance Celebrates Pride Month 

The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance is celebrating 2023 Pride Month with a wide variety of events, meant to educate the community on home owning opportunities, as well as showcase the community within the real estate industry.

On June 8th and the 29th, the Alliance is offering two sessions on their Alliance Certified Ally course. Led by director of education Alex Cruz, the sessions are meant to help participants learn about the LGBTQ+ community and how to better interact with, and find properties for, individuals in the community. 

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The course is meant to give professionals a deeper understanding of the struggles and discriminations members of the community face, and how they can be the best ally in terms of real estate. 

“Pride Month is incredibly important to the LGBTQ+ community, and so much of what occurs this month comes from the allies who care about us,” said Erin Morrison, national president and chair of the board of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. 

“This month around the globe, millions will attend parades and events, and in most cases experience a genuine outpouring of love and support. Pride Month also allows the LGBTQ+ community to reflect on how far we have come in societal acceptance,” she explained. 

“But the reality of today’s environment, where there are more than 700 anti-LGBTQ+ bills being discussed, voted on or passed in statehouses around the nation, we are reminded of the fight we are still engaged in for basic civil rights.”

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“It’s also critically important for all of us in real estate to remember that sexual orientation and gender identity are still not protected classes under the 1968 Fair Housing Act leaving the LGBTQ+ community susceptible to housing discrimination,” Morrison concluded. 

Another event on June 22nd will showcase “LGBTQ+ Leaders in Real Estate. According to RIS Media, “Farrah Wilder, an Alliance member and former vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for California REALTORS®, will host the program, which allows LGBTQ+ people in real estate to share their perspectives and experiences as ‘out’ leaders in the industry. Guests include: 

Tommie Wehrle, chair of Anywhere LGBTQ+ ERG group and Alliance National Treasurer, Jennifer Green, director of DEI for Mortgage Investor’s Group. Ryan Adams, VP of government affairs for Birmingham REALTORS, and Cody Gilkeson, head of DEI for eXp Realty.”

To learn more about the multitude of events the Alliance is holding, and to register for any of them, check out their official Pride Month event calendar!

law

US Considering Placing Restrictions On Visas For Ugandan Officials Over Anti-Gay Law 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that the United States is considering restricting visas for some Ugandan officials after the nation adopted what is being referred to as one of the world’s toughest anti-LGBTQ laws. 

Blinken has stated that the US was “deeply troubled” by Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which had been signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni this past Monday. 

Same-sex relationships have been illegal in Uganda for a while now, however, this new law states that acts of “aggravated homosexuality and/or promoting homosexuality” will lead to a capital punishment of potentially 20 years in prison. 

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US President Joe Biden condemned the law as a “tragic violation of universal human rights,” and even threatened to stop providing aid and investing in Uganda, while urging the nation to repeal the measure. 

Blinken continued his statement to discuss how the US would “consider deploying existing visa restrictions tools against Ugandan officials and other individuals for abuse of universal human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.” 

“Washington will also help develop mechanisms to support the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals in Uganda and to promote accountability for Ugandan officials and other individuals responsible for, or complicit in, abusing their human rights.”

Adrian Jjuuko, the executive director of the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Fund, announced Monday that they would be filing a legal challenge with Uganda’s High Court, arguing the newest laws are “blatantly unconstitutional.” 

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“By criminalizing what we call consensual same-sex activity among adults, it goes against key provisions of the constitution including rights on equality and non-discrimination,” said Jjuuko.

Additionally, The European Union, United Kingdom, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, various human rights groups and LGBTQ+ organizations have expressed their disdain and shock at the adoption of the law. 

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria released a joint statement with UNAIDS, as well as the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief: “Trust, confidentiality, and stigma-free engagement are essential for anyone seeking healthcare.”

“LGBTQI+ people in Uganda increasingly fear for their safety and security, and increasing numbers of people are being discouraged from seeking vital health services for fear of attack, punishment and further marginalization.”

“Uganda’s failure to safeguard the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is part of a broader degradation of human rights protections that puts Ugandan citizens at risk and damages the country’s reputation as a destination for investment, development, tourism and refugees,” Blinken said.

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LGBTQ+ Activists Want Better From Companies Who Promote Equality During Pride Month

After Target announced that it would be removing products from their Pride collections and moving the displays in other stores throughout the South, LGBTQ+ activist groups have been calling out large companies and corporations to establish campaigns without caving to anti-LGBTQ+ groups. 

California state senator Scott Wiener, a member of the LGBTQ legislative caucus, stated “we need a strategy on how to deal with corporations that are experiencing enormous pressure to throw LGBTQ people under the bus.” 

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“We need to send a clear message to corporate America that if you’re our ally – if you are truly our ally – you need to be our ally, not just when it’s easy but also when it’s hard.”

Target stated their decision to remove displays were made to ensure their employees safety after multiple protestors knocked over Pride displays and confronted workers in stores. However, activists are stating this isn’t the time to back down from hatred, as the nation is in the midst of multiple battles with the community and its rights. 

This year alone in America, there have been nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures, and at least 18 states have enacted laws that restrict and/or ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. 

“We are forced to think differently about how we handle security at our events and whether or not we can post our staff’s names and emails on our website,” said Janson Wu, executive director of LGBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

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Bud Light has made headlines as well recently after their partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who posted a picture of a Bud Light can with her face on it, which led to a lot of hateful transphobic backlash. 

Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light’s parent company, stated it “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” signaling no clear support of Mulvaney or the LGBTQ+ community. Several gay bars in Chicago specifically responded by refusing to sell Anheuser-Busch products since they went back on their pride campaign. 

“Since Anheuser-Busch does not support us, we will not support it,” said the company.

The largest gay bar in the Midwest, Sidetrack, also made a statement regarding Anheuser-Busch “wrongfully validating the position that it is acceptable to acquiesce to the demands of those who do not support the trans community and wish to erase LGBTQ+ visibility.”

“Now’s not the time to back down. I think both business and us as citizens need to look within ourselves into new strategies. The old models aren’t necessarily working,” said Brian K. Bond, executive director of PFLAG, an organization advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families.

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Singapore To Repeal Law Banning Gay Sex, ‘A Win For Humanity’

Singapore will repeal a law that bans gay sex in the city-state, effectively making it legal to be homosexual, which activists are calling a “win for humanity.”

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Ugandan Government Shuts Down LGBT+ Organization, Members Call The Move A ‘Clear Witch Hunt’ 

Uganda’s government this week decided to shut down operations of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a non-governmental organization that works on improving LGBT+ rights in the nation. The government released a statement in which they explained that the group was operating illegally in the country. 

Members of SMUG responded by calling the move a “witch hunt” against the LGBT+ community. 

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Uganda’s National Bureau for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO Bureau) said Friday the “group operated without being registered in the NGO Bureau.” The group initially tried to register in 2012, but was rejected “on grounds of being undesirable.”

SMUG members released a statement this past Friday stating that the choice to shut down the group’s operations was a “clear witch-hunt rooted in systematic homophobia that is fueled by anti-gay and anti-gender movements.” 

“The refusal to legalize SMUG’s operation that seeks to protect LGBTQ people who continue to face major discrimination in Uganda, actively encouraged by political and religious leaders, was a clear indicator that the government of Uganda and its agencies are adamant and treating Ugandan gender and sexual minorities as second-class citizens,” the group stated

“The government should uphold their obligations to protect all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics.”

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Uganda is no stranger to anti-LGBT+ policies and laws. In 2009 the nation introduced an anti-homoseuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex. Lawmakers in the country passed another bill in 2014 that replaced the death penalty punishment with a proposal for life in prison. 

That law was ultimately struck down, but lawmakers have attempted to reintroduce it in more recent years. 

Uganda is known as a socially conservative country, beyond just their restrictions to the LGBT+ community. In 2014 they introduced the Anti-Pornography Act which banned mini-skirts, and arrested victims who were subject to revenge porn. 

LGBT+ community members in Uganda face arrest, assault, and overall persecution for their identity.

Hungary Fines Bookshop Chain Over Picture Books Depicting LGBT+ Families 

The bookshop chain known as Líra Könyv in Hungary has been fined by the government for selling a children’s book that depicts the day in the life of a child with same-sex parents. Government officials are condemning the bookstore for featuring the families so prominently in their store. 

The picture book is called “Micsoda család!”, and is a Hungarian translation that combines two titles by US author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elīna Brasliņa. One of the original books was called “Early One Morning,” and depicted a young boy’s daily routine with his two mothers, and the other was called “Bedtime, Not Playtime!” and showed a young girl with two fathers who’s reluctant to go to bed; so basically depicting normal family life with a young child. 

The chain was fined 250,000 forints, which is equivalent to around $600, by Pest County, which is the local authority for all businesses located in the areas surrounding Budapest. Pest County commissioner Richard Tarnai told a local television station that the book chain violated rules on unfair commercial practices by failing to clearly indicate that the book “contained content which deviates from the norm.” 

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“The book was there among other fairytale books and thus committed a violation. There is no way of knowing that this book is about a family that is different from a normal family.”

Schimel immediately took to Twitter to speak out against the Hungarian government and Tarnai in general. 

“The Hungarian government is trying to normalize hate and prejudice with these concerted attacks against books like mine, which represent for kids the plural and diverse world they live in,” he exclaimed.

“The idea for the books was to celebrate queer families, to put more queer joy into the world, so that the only books available to children weren’t about conflicts”.

“In these stories, the fact that the parents are two moms or two dads is incidental to the story, as it is to the daily lives of children in rainbow families. These families don’t only experience homophobia, they also have fun,” he said.

Líra Könyv said that it would “now put up a sign warning customers that we sell books with different content than traditional ones,” as per request of the government and to avoid further fining in the middle of a global pandemic that’s impacting businesses everywhere.  The book’s Hungarian distributor, Foundation for Rainbow Families, released a statement in response to this fining as well:

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“Rainbow families are completely normal, ordinary families. These families haven’t had their own story book so far. That’s why we thought it was important to publish a fairytale book about them – and first of all for them.”

Schimel claimed that he “was more determined to keep trying to create books like these, that respect the intelligence of children and offer the vast, complex world to them in fun and accessible ways.” 

The fine was imposed under a Hungarian law that bans all unfair trading practice, which has been known to specifically target LGBT+ rights in Hungary. In fact, this Thursday the Hungarian government will be implementing a new law which bans LGBT+ people from being featured in educational materials, or TV shows for children under 18.

It’s expected that the European Parliment will be condemning this law and calling upon the European commission to fast-track a legal case against Hungary over human rights violations and discrimination against LGBT+ people. 

The Hungarian Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association has already condemned the law itself, labelling it as “unacceptable.” 

“The law creates conditions for restricting freedom of the arts and speech. Several masterpieces of world and Hungarian literature that are currently used in the secondary school curriculum, including Sappho, Ovid, Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust, Mihály Babits and Sándor Weöres could come under the ban.”

LGBTQ Flags

HRC Study Reveals LGBT+ People Are Disproportionately Facing Employment Challenges During Pandemic 

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) recently collaborated with PSB Insights on a study that revealed that LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately facing employment challenges as the economy begins to reopen in the US. These challenges are nothing new for the community, however, the pandemic is adding a whole other layer of increased risk. 

LGBTQ+ individuals have already been dealing with an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 due to a systemic lack of access to sufficient medical care. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be working in industries heavily affected by the virus, and are more likely to experience homelessness. 

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As a majority of states in the US begin to reopen, citizens in general are noticing a massive increase in pay cuts, and a decrease in available working hours/jobs available. For the LGBTQ+ community, these obstacles are even more prominent, as they existed long before the pandemic began as well. HRC President Alphonso David recently released a statement on this study and its staggering results. 

“As some communities start to go back to work, many times in fear and without choice, we’re seeing that LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, are being left behind.” 

According to the report, LGBTQ+ individuals have been 20% more likely to experience a cut in their work hours, LGBTQ+ people of color have experienced a 44% increase in the likelihood that their hours would get cut, and transgender individuals specifically have experienced a 125% increase. 

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LGBTQ+ people have also been 30% more likely than the general population to lose their jobs; the reported stated that bisexual people have been discriminated against the most in terms of job losses during the pandemic. Bisexual people have been 80% more likely to lose their jobs, and LGBTQ+ people of color are 70% more likely to become unemployed. All of this data was specifically taken from when states began reopening to ensure the numbers were exclusive to the pandemic and its economic impact. 

LGBTQ+ individuals were 50% more likely to receive a pay cut since the economies general reopening, and LGBTQ+ people of color have been 150% more likely to receive a pay cut. A majority of LGBTQ+ people who have the ability to go back to work are going back with the understanding that they would be receiving a cut in their salary; and for many, this is their only option of potential income. 

“We must make sure that elected officials at all levels are ensuring that LGBTQ people, especially the members of the community who are living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, receive the support they need.”

When states began reopening the study also found that 69% of the general population and 80% of the LGBTQ+ population believe prioritizing containing the virus is more important than reopening the economy. For more information on HRC’s study, click here.

2020 Election Pins

Kamala Harris Officially Chosen As Joe Biden’s Running Mate For 2020 Election

California Senator Kamala Harris, a former 2020 presidential candidate, made history this week when presidential candidate Joe Biden announced her as his running mate. If Biden and Harris win, Harris will be the first women of color vice president for the United States of America. 

Harris herself is a former prosecutor who is generally known as one of the more liberal members of Senate, however, her track record working as a prosecutor and officer of the law has many younger voters skeptical as to where her priorities will lie once in office. So where exactly does Harris stand on all the issues?

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When it comes to health care, Harris was a co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All act. During her initial presidential campaigning she claimed that she wanted to eliminate private insurance, but more specifically all of the “waste and bureaucracy” that was embedded in private insurance companies. Harris also has made claims that she would never deny a person health care based on citizenship status; something that’s become a major problem for undocumented individuals living in America in the current political climate.

Harris has always been pro-choice in terms of abortion access for women in America. Pro-abortion rights group NARAL gave her a 100% rating in regard to her support of a womens right to choose, however, while working as an attorney general in California Harris also allowed a hospital to stop providing elective abortions once that hospital entered into a new partnership with the Catholic St. Joseph Health System; a decision that caused Harris to receive a lot of backlash.

When it comes to the current Covid-19 pandemic Harris has been adamant about her support of Biden’s plans for the future of America and it’s continuous fight against the virus. Specifically, she’s said that she wants Americans to receive monthly stimulus checks; $2,000 per adult and an additional $2,000 per dependent. 

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Climate change is currently one of the largest issues the world is facing (besides the pandemic of course) and has also become a major point of contention among all world leaders. Trump’s presidency has been heavily rooted in the belief that climate change is not actually occurring and the scientific evidence is simply false. 

While campaigning for president, Harris introduced a $10 trillion plan to address climate change. The goal of this plan is to have zero-net emissions by 2045 and 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030. Harris also claimed that she would go after major corporations who contribute the most to pollution in America, and would end federal spending on fossil fuel production. 

LGBTQIA+ rights have also been under fire throughout the Trump presidency. Harris pledged that she would be including members of the community in her cabinet if elected. When she was California’s attorney general she also declined to defend Proposition 8; a law that defined marriage as something between a man and a woman. 

Harris has also claimed in the past that she supports the federal legalization of marijuana, especially now since our economy is suffering so much. However, as attorney general Harris oversaw hundreds of marijuana-related convictions that have been seen as unjust as severe in terms of punishment. 

Finally, when it comes to gun control, another major point of conflict in American politics, Harris has promised to take executive action on guns if elected president. She’s been a major advocate for stricter gun control policies and supports requiring anyone who sells more than five guns a year to perform intensive background checks on their clients.