State Senator Ed Murray Ahead in Race for Seattle Mayor

Will  be Seattle’s 1st Gay Mayor If Wins in November

In early returns in Seattle’s mayoral primary, openly gay Ed Murray leads with 30 % of the vote while incumbent Mike McGinn Mayor since 2009, state Chair of the Sierra Club, had 27 percent. Murray, who was pleasantly surprised, said “just a month ago, I was no. 3.  Tonight, I’m no. 1!”

The State Senator told the crowd “I’m not running to be a gay mayor of Seattle,” Murray told the crowd. “I’m not running to be a progressive mayor of Seattle. I’m running to be an effective mayor of Seattle who actually gets results.”

Murray represented Seattle’s 43rd Legislative District in the Washington State legislature since 1995 and serves as the Senate Majority Leader. He was elected to the State Senate in 2006 and previously served in the House of Representatives for eleven years.

Instrumental in Washington State’s Legalizing Gay Marriage

Murray may not be running to be a gay mayor of Seattle, but as a state senator, he is credited with leading the fight for same-sex marriage which voters approved with Referendum 74 last November. A Democrat, Murray lives in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood with his partner of two decades Michael Shiosaki, whom he plans to marry this month.

Other LGBT friendly legislation he sponsored was the 2002 Safe Schools bill, which protects sexual minority youth in schools from verbal and physical harassment.  He also sponsored a bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation signed into law in 2006.

His Platform

Despite a nine-candidate field, the primary focused on a narrow swath of progressive issues. During his time in the House, he was chair of the Capital Budget Committee that doubled funding for low-income housing.  He was also chair of the House Transportation Committee, and produced the first new major transportation construction package in thirteen years. Two years later, he replaced the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. These two packages in 2003 and 2005 represent the largest investment in Washington’s transportation infrastructure in the state’s history.  He sponsored legislation making Washington’s car emission standards to be the highest in the United States.

Murray is running on a platform of building bridges between the city and its suburbs. He says the next mayor must make police reform the “number one issue” when selecting a new chief “who will restore our police force and regain the respect of the citizens of this city.”  McGinn was criticized in 2012 for fighting federal officials who sought greater oversight of the city’s police force.

An attorney, McGinn is also against plans that would have Washington state host export terminals and tracks for trains hauling coal from Montana and Wyoming and destined to Asia and is opposed to the State 99 Tunnel. Whereas McGinn would create separate bike lines on more streets, Murray wants a single balanced plan instead.

Publically Elected Out Gay Mayor Shows Opinions Changing in Mexico

Even with cartels and drug wars making headlines within Mexico, the lgbt community has some bright spots within the country.

Most recently, the country is celebrating its first openly gay elected mayor, who will be taking office in September in a remote and rural township (approximately a U.S. county) in the state of Zacatecas. The region is “known for cowboy boots, embossed belts and drug gang shootouts” reports AP, and Benjamin Medrano, the elected official, agrees. “Very machisto, I would say. I am going to be the mayor of a township where there are 258 villages full of tough country people, who don’t necessarily have much information on what’s happening elsewhere, and have even less of an automatic sympathy with their gay mayor.”

Medrano, who is 47, pins his fame and elected status not on being openly gay, but because he’s a respected singer and has been the owner of a gay bar for 18 years. Like many countries throughout the world, lgbt individuals are readily accepted in Mexico in the entertainment industry. While he is also openly gay, he does not consider himself an activist: “I’m not in favor of gay marriage, I don’t share that view, because we are still a very small town… in short, we’re not prepared.” He notes that his style of being gay means “It’s not like I’m going to paint the city hall pink.”

Medrano is not the only out public official in the country, but he is the first elected. While many other elected officials have been rumored to be queer, none have come out, and those who are out in the legislature have won their seats through a proportional-representation method where their parties designate them. Alejandro Brito, director of “Letra S,” one of the foremost gay rights groups in Mexico, said that the ability for out gay public officials to serve openly “shows that our human rights system is providing some protection. Because, even though there is no public majority in favor of electing gay politicians, [Medrano] knows that the legal framework will protect him.”

Much like in the U.S. currently, “It is now more risky for a political rival to be openly homophobic than it is to be a homosexual candidate,” Brito added.

Mexico City is the only place in the country where gay marriage is legal, but a supreme court ruling back in December 2012 opens the door for bans throughout the country to be repealed. And to top it off, over 80,000 people participated in the Gay Pride parade in Mexico City at the end of June. The conservative Catholic nation is opening up on this issue, slowly but colorfully.

NY State Estate Tax Refunds Due Gay Couples

Cuomo and U.S. Supreme Court Rule So

On July 23, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that same-sex spouses who were forced to pay high New York estates when their partner died can now get refunds from the state if they filed amended estate tax returns.

The refunds are possible because of the June Supreme Court ruling that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Because the Court declared that section unconstitutional, it granted the same rights to gay couples as heterosexual couples in terms of assets and lower tax costs under estate tax laws.

U.S. v. Windsor

The court decision came after Edie Windsor sued the Internal Revenue Service because, in her determined mind, it denied certain rights to same-sex couples that it granted to other wedded couples. Because of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize Edie Windsor’s same-sex legal marriage to Thea Spyer, her partner of forty years, in New York. When Spyer died in 2009, Edie was hit with a bill for $363,000 in federal estate taxes and more than $200,000 in state taxes. She paid the tax and then sued to get it back (U.S. v. Windsor).

The state of New York did recognize Windsor’s marriage. Same-sex marriages, under The Marriage Equality Act, were legal when Spyer died.  Signed into law in June 2011, gay marriage become legalized and a month later the IRS department extended equal rights under the estate tax law to legally married gay couples, even those married in other states before New York legalized gay marriage. However, the state could not extend the rights retroactively because of DOMA.  The Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling changed that issue.  

Happy Ending for Windsor and Countless Others

Windsor now has the same tax breaks as a married taxpayer, and is now due a tax refund from the IRS plus interest because she was forced to pay as a “single” taxpayer. She is hoping to receive a sizable refund from the state as well.

Filing for Refunds

Total amount of taxes that will be refunded?  New York has no estimate.

A claim for refund of an estate tax, in general, must be filed by a taxpayer within three years from the date the original return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid.

The I.R.S. has said “we are reviewing the important June 26 Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act.  We will be working with The Department of Treasury and Department of Justice, and we will move swiftly to provide revised guidance in the near future.”

Gay Marriage Opponents in France More Violent and More Pink

If you’ve been worried about protesters arguing against gay marriage in the United States, you should hear about what’s been going on in France. Gay marriage in the country has been legal since May 18 of this year, and had a huge pride parade to celebrate a month later, but ever since its passage the country has had protesters demanding a change in some odd and scary ways.

After the ruling of the constitutionality of same-sex marriages, Paris saw protests flare up in its streets, some of which had to be broken apart by police forces.

The most violent anti-same-sex marriage group in France calls themselves “Hommen,” and they have been up to many things to protest within the country. Their main goals include “No to gay marriage” “Women and children first,” and “Protect kids.” The group’s main strategy for spreading their message has been to recruit young, good-looking men, put them in white masks, take away their shirts, and have them run around popular events in order to say that homosexuality is wrong. The color for the anti-same-sex marriage groups was chosen as bright pink and it is proudly displayed in the country as anti-gay. American news outlets have been happy to point out how against their own cause these groups seem to be.

Hommen is mirroring the appearance of Ukraine’s feminist group Femin which champions women’s rights worldwide. Their demonstrations involve going topless with political messages in public places, much like what Hommen has been doing. Except that is where the two groups diverge.

On June 9 members of the group protested at the French Open championship: two standing up and showing a banner that accused France of trampling on children’s rights, one lighting a flare and running onto the court, and ten others earlier in the day by trying to disrupt other matches. The protesters were turned over to and questioned by the police.

The group has recently been protesting the arrest of one of their members, Nicolas Bernard-Brusse, after he was caught by police after a protest in Paris. He was arrested along with 20 others by police after refusing to disperse from a demonstration, but he fled the scene, gave a false identity, and refused to submit to fingerprinting. Bernard-Brusse was the only one sentenced, with two months in prison with two months of suspension, the severity due to his challenging attitude toward magistrates as well as an earlier offense—for doing the same thing a month earlier. Hommen calls him a “political prisoner” and call for President François Hollande to release him from the “socialist dictatorship.” The group has also been calling for the removal of President Hollande, and actively demonstrates against him.

Unrelated to the group but kin to the movement, one man committed suicide in front of hundreds of tourists and worshippers at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris as a protest against both immigration and the dissolution of the “traditional family.” Dominique Venner, 78 and a leader of the modern extreme right in France, left behind a note where he explained that, “I think I need to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that overwhelms us… I give myself to death… I protest against fate,” “poisons of the soul,” and “individual pervasive desires that destroy our family identities and anchors.

Most recently, during this month’s Tour de France, right-wing groups have been protesting at the bicycle race all across France. Calling themselves the “Tour of France for All,” families with banners of pink and blue have posted demonstrations on the sidelines throughout the country, showing pictures of a nuclear family—a mother, father, son, and daughter, all holding hands. The group has also scrawled messages on the roads in front of races. While they have threatened to disrupt the race with other means, thus far they’ve resorted to only demonstrating.

Setting the record straight on which side it is on, Paris on July 14 lit up the Eiffel Tower in rainbow colors to celebrate the passage of same-sex marriage during Bastille Day, France’s day of independence.

The problem with the protests is that over 60% of French people are in favor of gay marriage, according to a Guardian opinion poll, with numbers on the rise. The French far-right won’t be gaining any popularity by protesting at such beloved and national events, especially if they resort to violence and disrupt them. Hopefully French protesters can take a leaf out of those in the U.S. and just tweet or Facebook angry things about gay marriage like civilized people.

Attorney General in Pa Won’t Defend Gay Marriage Ban in Court


Leaves Job To Republican Governor Tom Corbett

Kathleen Kane, the Attorney General of the state of Pennsylvania, said on July 11, 2013, that she will not defend the state’s gay marriage ban in court.  Under Pennsylvania law, it’s the Attorney General’s duty to defend the constitutionality of state laws.  But the law also says that the Attorney General may allow lawyers for the Governor’s office or Executive Branch agencies to defend a lawsuit if it’s more efficient or in the state’s best interest.

Kane’s Decision Not To Defend the Ban

I cannot ethically defend the constitutionally of Pennsylvania’s (law banning same-sex marriage) where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” Kane, the first Democrat and woman to be elected to Attorney General, said.

Kane will instead leave the defense to the state’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett who wants to keep the ban that the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to strike down in the federal lawsuit, known as Whitewood v. Corbett. On behalf of twenty-three state residents, the suit was filed on July 9, 2013.  The plaintiffs are ten couples and one widow who lost her same-sex partner after twenty-nine years together, and two children of another such couple.  Collectively, they want the state to recognize their out-of-state marriages or want equal protections granted to straight married couples. This is the first known challenge to the state lawwhich effectively bans same-sex marriage.

Pennsylvania’s History with Gay Marriage

Pennsylvania is the only eastern state that doesn’t allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. The state law defining marriage as a civil contract in which a man and a woman take each other as husband and wife was passed in the legislature in 1996.  Trends in Pennsylvania show increasing support for same-sex marriage.  A Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,221 registered voters in Pennsylvania found that forty-seven percent favored same-sex marriage.

Comments From Party Chairmen

Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn applauded her ” courageous and firm stand against a law with little merit.”  However, GOP Chairman Rob Gleason vehemently disagrees and attacked Kane, voted into office in 2012,, as “blatantly politicizing the Attorney General’s office.”

Brian Sims’s Testimony

Openly gay State Representative Brian Sims tweeted “ Attorney General Kathleen Kane, if you were a man, I’d marry you.”  He went on to say….”when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the federal DOMA unconstitutional, the decision thrust many states, Pennsylvania included, into the national spotlight.  Kane has decided that continuing to defend the Common’s DOMA has no legal merit.  Kane’s announcement is a step in the right direction to address the legal inequalities impacting LBT Pennsylvanians.  The truth of the matter is, our Commonwealth currently does not have a single LGBT civil right.”

Employment Non-Discrimination Act Passes U.S. Senate Committee


Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Passes Bill, 15 to 7

What is ENDA?

In thirty-three states that don’t have legislation prohibiting discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, it is perfectly legal to fire a LGBT employee solely due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, characteristics completely irrelevant to job performance. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act would finally put in place uniform and comprehensive protections for the LGBT workforce in all fifty states.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) submitted to the Committee letters from over one hundred businesses and over 140 religious organizations endorsing ENDA.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation that would provide protections in the workplace for LGBT employees.  According to the Williams Institute at UCLA Law, it is estimated that the number of LGBT employees are as follows: seven million in the private sector; one million state and local employees, and 200,000 employees of the federal government. Thirty percent of state and local LGBT employees live in California and New York.

Who is Exempt From ENDA

The current version of the bill #S815 prohibits private employers with more than fifteen employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Exempt from the legislation are non-profit membership-only clubs, except labor unions, and religious organizations.

Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois is the co-sponsor of the bill along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Senator Harkin is the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  

How the Bipartisan Vote Split:

Only Republicans at the hearing were Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Kirk (R-Il.).  Every Democrat except Casey (Pa) and Hagan (D-NC) were at the ENDA hearing. The Republicans who voted no were  Lamar Alexander, Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Rand Paul (Ky), Pat Roberts (Kansas) and Tim Scott (S.C.)  Republican Senators Orrin Hatch, Mark Kirk, and Lisa Murowski voted yes to the passage of ENDA.

History of ENDA

The full Senate may take up the bill in the fall of 2013.  Enda hasn’t had a vote on the House or Senate Floor since November 2007, when it passed the House by 235-184.  It has been introduced in every session of Congress except one since 1994.  Representative Jared Polis, Democrat of  Colorado introduced the bill in the House and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Or) introduced it in the Senate.

Comments About the Vote on July 10, 2013

Senator Harkin:  “This is a great day, not only for the Committee, but also for America.  It is time, long, past time to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Senator Mark Kirk: “ The bill is necessary so gay Americans won’t have that potential cloud of discrimination over them.”

The White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We look forward to the full Senate’s consideration of ENDA, and continue to urge the House to move forward on this bill that upholds America’s core values of fairness and equality.”

Senator Orrin Hatch:” I voted for it because it prohibits discrimination that should not occur in the workplace.”

President Obama wants to sign the legislation and is urging quick passage of ENDA.

 

Gay Marriage Green Cards and Impact on Immigration Reform

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A fairly straightforward process available to most Americans—obtaining a green card for your foreign-born spouse—has caused many headaches and heartaches for same-sex couples. For these over 40,000 recorded eligible couples, they have been forced to live away from their spouses without recognition of their lives as a couple, with infrequent visits and harsh penalties for too much time together, and/or have had to live in exile in countries that allowed same-sex couples easy residency.

That all is changed after the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Same-sex marriages, regardless of the country of marriage as long as they are legal, are now recognized as completely equal in the eyes of the Federal Government. For LGBT American citizens married to or in a relationship with someone from another country this means that the elusive, unattainable green card is now a possible reality, and will bring many couples together after years of hassle.

A story illustrating the impacts of this decision occurred just after the Supreme Court publicly released their decision. American Sean Brooks and Columbian Steven Infante, a gay couple living in New York City, were going to an immigration hearing that most likely would have had Infante deported because of the overstaying of his via. Immediately, the immigration judge opened the way for Infante to get a green card and remain in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, and this pathway is available to those who wish to seek it.

If you are in this situation and are looking how to obtain a green card for yourself or your spouse, Immigration Equality, a national organization that has been fighting for equality for LGBT and HIV-positive individuals since 1994, has released information about how the law is applicable and the steps to take to apply.

Gay marriage checked off the list, the country’s focus now turns toward immigration reform. A landmark immigration bill, one that would revamp the current immigration system and allow millions of undocumented persons the chance to gain citizenship, has been held up in the Senate because of a debate about the inclusion of gay and lesbian spouses. Interestingly enough, with the DOMA ruling, the same-sex spousal amendment was allowed to be removed from the bill and it passed the Senate on a vote of 68-32 after being held up with debates around the issue. Although the rewriting of immigration law is complicated and is surrounded in enough controversy as it is, the court’s decision allowed the bill to push forward, giving hope to many.

Couples Can Wed Again in California


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Proposition 8 Struck Down

What is Prop 8?

Proposition 8 in California is the voter-approved law that limits marriage to one man and one woman that was passed in 2008.  In 2010, Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional by Judge Vaughn Walker because it limited marriage to only opposite couples thereby denying gay and lesbian Californians their basic rights.

Judge Walker’s decision was challenged by a group of citizens who put Prop 8 on the ballot. A federal court ruled that this group did not have legal standing to challenge the law.  Hollingsworth vs. Perry was the case before the Supreme Court.

The justices essentially adopted the rationale of the federal appeals court that found that California could not take away the right to marry that had been granted by the state Supreme Court in 2008, before Proposition 8 passed. The Court ruled that “because the Governor and Attorney General of California – the officials responsible for defending state laws in court- decided not to appeal Judge Walker’s decision. The supporters of Proposition 8 could not appeal that decision on their own because they could not show that allowing same-sex couples to marry would personally affect them in any way.”

This historic ruling on June 26, 2013, restores the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in California. Because of the demise of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, Californians once married can now receive federal benefits equal to those of heterosexual couples.

Time-Line for Same-Sex California Marriages

On June 28, 2013, the Ninth Circuit lifted the stay preventing California from marrying same-sex couples.  California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. issued a statement saying “I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s fifty-eight counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.”

Immediate Weddings

Attorney General Kamala Harris, rushed to San Francisco City Hall within minutes of the meeting to marry two of the plantiffs Kris Perry and Sandy Stier.  Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa of Los Angeles married the other two plantiffs in the case Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo.

Many legal experts and advocates had expected the court to wait for an official decision from the Supreme Court –this is normally the procedure.  But Attorney General Harris urged the Circuit Court to act immediately.

Counter Argument

Under Supreme Court rules, the losing side in a legal dispute has twenty-five days to ask the high court to rehear the case.  The court said that it would not finalize its ruling in the Proposition 8 dispute until after that time had elapsed.

Justice Anthony Kennedy denied the emergency petition from an anti-gay marriage group to halt same-sex weddings in California immediately.  The Ninth Circuit’s June 28, 2013 Order purporting to dissolve the stay allowed weddings to resume two days after the Supreme Court declined to rule on Proposition 8’s constitutionality.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Supreme Court’s majority opinion: “we have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statue when state officials have chosen not to.  We decline to do so for the first time here.”

 

  

 

 

The Little Engine Who Could: Edie Windsor

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The Woman Who Sued the United States and Won!

“I think I can, I think I can” must have been Windsor’s motto as she led an uphill battle that lasted five years, and culminated in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal law DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that regarded marriage as a union only between a man and a woman.  But in terms of her strength,  Edie Windsor’s  impact on gay rights in the U.S. was  (like Superman) “as strong as a locomotive.”

Auspicious Beginnings

Edith Schlain was born eighty-four years ago in Philadelphia.  She briefly married a man, divorced , and moved to New York City “to be gay.” A math and computer whiz, Edie worked at I.B.M.., one of the few women at the heart of the revolution in programming.  She was closeted at that time, but did ask a friend “if you know where the lesbians go, please take me.”

The First Meeting

On Friday evenings, Portofino in the West Village was a hangout for gay women.  It was here that she met Thea Spyer, a wealthy Jewish emigre from Holland, who was a psychologist and violinist in 1963.  Four years later, they began what turned out to be “ a very long engagement”( the title of a documentary about Edie and Thea).

Sickness Enters Equation

In 1977, Spyer was found to have multiple sclerosis.  Edie quit her job to care for Spyer.  At that time, Edie became a gay activist, financial donor, and was drafted to design and manage computer systems for gay groups.

Because of the severity of Spyer’s illness, Edith and Thea went to Toronto to wed in May 2007 ( New York did not have legalized gay married until 2011).  Thea died on February 5, 2009. They were a couple for forty-four years!

Edith Taxed Unfairly

Because the federal government did not recognize the couple’s marriage, Edie could not receive federal benefits, according to DOMA. She was saddled with $363,053 in federal estate taxes and more than $600,000 overall because the government did not recognize her as Spyer’s spouse who could inherit the modest cottage in the Hamptons and couple’s Fifth Avenue apartment, tax free.

Windsor sued the federal government Windsor v. United States for failing to recognize her marriage to her partner after Spyer’s death in 2009.  In her lawsuit, Windsor argued that DOMA violates the equal protection guarantee of the U.S. Constitution because it requires the government to treat same-sex couples who are legally married as strangers.

Challenging Laws:  Through The Maze of Courts

Windsor’s lawsuit was filed by the law firm of Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP,, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In October 2012, in a 2 to -1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled in her favor: that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples.

On December 7, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that the justices would be hearing Windsor’s challenge to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act as well as a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 marriage amendment. 

During this past March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard gay marriage arguments. On Wednesday, June 26, they finally came to a conclusion.

Supreme Court Delivers Victory to Windsor

In a 5-to-4 ruling, U.S. Supreme Court justices, with Anthony Kennedy as the “swing vote,” said that DOMA is unconstitutional because it is deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.  Same-sex couples who are legally married must now be treated the same as married opposite-sex couples and be entitled to benefits including income taxes, social security benefits and over a thousand other federal laws and programs – same as heterosexual couples. (See Gay Agenda’s Post “Supreme Court Delivers Gay Marriage Victory,” Gay Agenda, 26/6/13.)

Edie never lost sight of what was fair not only for herself, but for other gay couples who have been denied their benefits in states where same-sex marriage is legal.  Because of this hero’s tenacity, a bill known as the Respect for Marriage Act is working its way through Congress to supplant DOMA.

 

  

 

Obama Gives Hope for Gay African Community

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South Africa might be progressive and pretty in pink, offering a great gay tourist destination and gay marriage for everyone, but it’s only the rainbow tip in the largely homophobic African subcontinent.

Amnesty International released a report this week titled “Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa”  which detailed facts and human rights abuses against LGBT individuals within the sovereign countries.

Of its various findings, it notes that 38 countries consider homosexuality illegal. Four of them—Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria, and southern Somalia—offer the death penalty for those found guilty of “homosexuality,” and five more—Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia, and Nigeria—have all attempted to further criminalize homosexuality within their countries. Open discrimination within these countries has resulted in difficulty obtaining or outright refusal of medical treatment, and such things as “corrective” rape occur to try to “cure” lesbians and queer women into becoming heterosexual. Other sexual violence, like forced anal exams, and targeted killings happen throughout the region, making the situation for LGBT individuals rather dire and extreme.

For all of these reasons, and because of his vocal support of the LGBT community, President Obama is expected to make a statement of some kind against these practices while on his African tour later this week and next. The primary reasons for the trip are to promote democracy and U.S. businesses (competing with China for markets), and to discuss subjects of development with several African leaders. He will be visiting Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania during his unusually long (for a U.S. president) international tour, and be back in the U.S. for Independence Day.

It seems almost a given that the president will make some kind of comment. In foreign affairs, back in 2011 he asked individuals in the State Department “ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of” gays, lesbians and transgender people. His second inaugural address indicated a full-fledged support for gay marriage. And just last week he called on Congress to draft a bill outlawing workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals.

The situation is quite sensitive: President Obama seems to be in a position to make a political statement that would affect American relations in the Sub-Saharan region, and he will have to choose the timing and the nature of his comments carefully if he does make them. Africa is a dynamic continent, and we could see a changing landscape, albeit slowly, with strong positive LGBT sentiments from its leaders.

To end on a slightly more positive note, Amnesty’s report also mentions a few uplifting points in its report. Mentioned before, South Africa allows same-sex marriage and joint adoption, and Cape Verde, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and the Seychelles have all decriminalized homosexuality. Several countries also have a history of homosexual marriages and art, which while current leaders tend to see as incorrect and “un-African,” some are starting to see these things in a more accepting light.