Taking Children From Their Homes: Russia Introduces Bill To Remove Gay Parenting Rights

“Waves of protests surrounded Vladimir Putin’s return to power as Russia’s President in March 2012. Since then, parliament has passed so many new laws restricting civil liberties that some people now call it the ‘mad printer.'”

– Amnesty International Wire (Amnesty.org)

Russia’s Civil Liberties Record: Getting Worse and Worse In Word & Deed

“Everything you add to the truth subtracts from the truth.”

                                                                          – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

According to the Associated Press, Russian State Duma Deputy Zhuravlev (Putin’s United Russia Party/parliamentary caucus) is introducing a law making “nontraditional sexual orientation” viable grounds to remove child custody for LGBTQ parents.

In the draft bill for this proposed new law, Zhuravlev wrote:

“Following the letter of the law that forbids propaganda of non-traditional sex to minors we must restrict such propaganda not only in mass media but also the family… if one of the child’s parents indulges in sexual contact with persons of the same sex, the damage to the child’s psyche is immense as a mother or father serves as an example for their offspring.”

Additional grounds for denial or revocation of parental custody include alcoholism, drug abuse or any amount or type of drug use deemed inappropriate, which has nothing at all to do with gender, sexual orientation or law-abiding families established in-place, having committed none of these substance-related offenses.

Here we see yet another instance of punishing allies in addition to homosexual persons, as once passed, this bill would affect families and children who aren’t even LGBTQ-identified. Custodial rights could then be revoked if both or either parent were gay (out or not), so if two parents happen to have an understanding in their relationship, share post-divorce custody, etcetera, the parent who happens to be gay can be penalized, or a child can be taken away from one or both parents for any so-called ‘homosexual-affiliated’ reason(s).

As it is already illegal to mention homosexuality around children or to advise or counsel LGBTQ or questioning youth. This recent unfortunate move is thought to be the next step in Russia’s plans to eradicate gay tolerance, inclusiveness or protections altogether for LGBTQ persons, friends, allies or families.

At this point, though the bill is to be debated before it is formally passed, it seems such motions are little more than a formality. Russian lawmakers keep clinging to the through line that their anti-gay motions and laws are being instituted to protect the children, rather than being anti-gay.

Putin has already banned LGBTQ people residing in other countries from adopting Russian children, and as of this writing, the Russian government is also considering reinstating a gay blood donor ban.

Though boycotts and protests are occurring worldwide, even Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is throwing his hands up in the air, saying Russia will not change their minds or policies in terms of its anti-gay legislation, and Rogge’s sharing little more on the matter.

Rogge told the press, “…one should not forget that we are staging the games in a sovereign state, and the IOC cannot be expected to have an influence on the sovereign affairs of a country.”

Activists, lawmakers, PR representatives, athletes, spokespeople and officials can make all the claims they want leading up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, but we won’t know who’ll be arrested or how LGBT people or allies will be treated (both on arrival, during the events and while attempting to leave Russia) until it’s too late.

Many LGBTQ folks (like Johnny Weir) are Russophiles and/or have Russian spouses or partners. Have you been to Russia? Did you love it? If so, how do you feel now that Russian policymakers are passing all of these awful anti-LGBT laws?

 

Remember The Alamo, And How It’s A Little Bit Homophobic

Planning a trip to the Alamo anytime soon? Nationwide, people are remembering the city where it’s near but not for positive reasons.

LGBT grassroots social justice organization GetEQUAL Texas recently issued a travel advisory warning for queer people wanting to visit San Antonio. In its official statement, the advisory includes a warning that, “The city of San Antonio does not currently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (“LGBT”) people from being legally ejected from their hotel rooms or other places of public accommodation.”

The reason is twofold. The first came after attendees at a city council meeting on August 16th booed a gay marine for advocating for a non-discrimination ordinance that is in front of its council for consideration.

Eric Alva, a gay Marine and a Purple Heart recipient who lost his leg during combat in the Iraq War, spoke in front of the San Antonio council that Friday. He testified that the seventh largest city in the U.S. was the only major city in Texas and the country without a non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in city employment, public accommodations, housing, city contractors, and appointments to boards and commissions. An audience of around 300 people booed and hissed Alva after he said, “Without this ordinance I can be denied from applying for a job or thrown out of an establishment, regardless of if I’m a purple heart recipient or a wounded warrior.”

Alva was shocked and upset at the reaction of the crowd. Opponents to the ordinance demonstrated outside of the city hall before the measure, riled up after radio talk shows and webpages claimed that the ordinance would be used to discriminate against Christians who opposed same-sex unions and homosexuality on religious reasons. After the crowd’s negative reaction, he exclaimed, “To all you people that preach the word of God, shame on you because God loves me, like the day I laid bleeding on the sands of Iraq and that’s why he saved me!”

The second reason comes from secretly recorded anti-lgbt comments made by San Antonio Councilwoman Elisa Chan released just after the meeting.

In a May 21 meeting, a former aide to the councilwoman recorded a conversation of Chan where she called homosexuals “disgusting” and said they shouldn’t be able to adopt children. Chan has made her views clear from the start that the recording was an infringement of her First Amendment rights, that the meeting was closed-door and meant for freedom of expression, but that hasn’t alleviated peoples’ concerns of the city or its reactions to lgbt issues.

Alva and others have disagreed with the travel warning, saying that the city as a whole is welcoming to lgbt individuals and that it is a safe place. Mayor Julián Castro said that, “This advisory unnecessarily stands to hurt the city. The fact is that San Antonio always has been and remains welcoming to all.” Some say that the alert doesn’t mean much, that visitors will still go to the city and it won’t affect their travel plans. Supporters of the alert cite discrimination at the hands of the city council and their unwillingness to meet with lgbt groups and talk about political issues.

The city’s non-discrimination ordinance will be put to a vote September 5th, and the travel alert will expire September 6th, although GetEQUAL Texas assures that it could be extended.

As long as you avoid angry-looking conservative Christians and aren’t someone who’s sacrificed body parts for the freedom of this country, you’ll be more than fine on a romantic vacation to the Alamo.

Attacks on Queers in Haiti Show Religious Intolerance

The most recent homophobic attacks in Haiti show a determined part of a country that is trying to be more open to tourism.

A mob of dozens of locals attacked a private party where a British man and his Haitian partner were celebrating their engagement with friends. Several people were injured in the private residence, where the mob set fire to cars and threw Molotov cocktails and rocks through windows. The French News Agency AFP reported that police were alerted and arrived last-minute to break up the mob in order to prevent the engagement arty from being killed, which was the intent of the rioters.

After the terrifying incident, Charlot Jeudy, an official from the Haitian group Kouraj (Courage), stated that, “This is a criminal act and homophobic. There is no justification for this kind of attack on people in a private residence. Hopefully the justice authorities will react to the perpetrators of this act.” Kouraj is an activist group working to protect lgbtq people and their human rights in Haiti.

The British man identified himself only as Max, a member of the Red Cross, who did not want to speak of the incident for fear of identifying and making vulnerable his partner.

Almost expectedly, this attack didn’t come from nowhere. The fact is that some political and religious leaders are seeing the world become more tolerant and accepting of queer people and are trying to prevent the same equal sentiments from taking a great foothold within Haiti.

Back in July over 1,000 people protested in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, demonstrating against any legal rights that could be extended to lgbtq people. The protests were started by the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Organizations and were reported to be hostile and threatening toward queer people and the government if it allowed legislation to be brought forward that would legalize same-sex marriage. The president of the organization stated at the rally that, “God does not agree and nor do we because we rely on God, and because we saw the misfortunes it brought to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The protests came after watchdog groups cited a growing amount of violence toward lgbtq people in the country. On July 31 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a UN body, condemned “the recent wave of violence” that it linked “to the protest against homosexuality led by the Haitian Coalition of Religious and Moral Groups.” The body also urged the government to investigate 47 cases of “violence and discrimination” against members of perceived members of the queer community in Haiti, including two who were viciously attacked during the protests.

Many are surprised at the violence, with an official from SEROvie, an foundation that promotes human rights of marginalized people, stated that, “I am quite surprised at the violence coming from [Haitian] people who we thought were tolerant. We don’t know where all this hatred is coming from.” Especially to reach tourists and promote a welcoming country this news won’t reach many on a happy note.

The lgbtq community in Haiti has always been small and inconspicuous. That was until the 2010 disastrous earthquake which increased discrimination against queer people. A report by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission reported that Haitians blamed their fellow queer citizens for their “sinfulness” and bringing about the wrath of God. The report continued that “loneliness, invisibility, and social isolation are persistent problems” with no relief in sight.

Hopefully that can all soon change, or that at least the Haitian government will make a statement against those responsible for the attacks and show their citizens and those they want to recruit for tourist dollars that they are willing to stand up for equality and human rights.

Fearless Firsts: Australian “No to Homophobia” Campaign Aims to Change The Workplace

The ALSO Foundation, a Victoria, Australia-based LGBTQ rights and visibility activism organization, launched its high-profile anti-homophobia campaign last year, meeting with continued acclaim and supportive media coverage.

Entitled “No to Homophobia,” the campaign raises consciousness and encourages role models to liaise with the community to teach acceptance and inclusiveness to the community at large.

Jason Ball, a prominent out gay Aussie footballer, is one of the foundation’s many in-community campaign leaders who’s teaching AFL players to stand in their truth, and requesting that the AFL ALSO’s  anti-homophobia ads during footy (their first campaign was successful and the advertising  aired on national television during the AFL preliminary finals).

According to the ALSO Twitter page, The ALSO Foundation is “Australia’s first public campaign targeting #homophobia, #biphobia, #transphobia and LGBTIQ harassment.” In its video and television ads (http://www.youtube.com/user/NoToHomophobia), the foundation illustrates common scenarios where social and workplace harassment might go unreported.

Former ALSO CEO Crusader Hills told the Australian press, “There’s never been a television commercial about homophobia, let along around transphobia and biphobia.”

The short, impactful ad spots deal with thoughtless—and illegal—comments made in workplace or intersocial environments, spotlighting bullying or ignorant remarks and gestures. (For example: male workers say something to a lesbian about her personal life after she asks them a simple work-related question).

Victoria, Australia’s anti-bullying legislation does provide certain protections, and the public relations and community outreach teams for The ALSO Foundation aim to ensure  the public is made fully aware of their rights under the law.

Topics covered in the PSA series include homophobic/trans-phobic/bi-phobic harassment in sports and at work, sexually-based harassment, and gender-based harassment, as well as the legal steps to take, such as  filing reports with local authorities.

Anna Brown from the No to Homophobia campaign told The Age Online:

“This is a community-driven grassroots campaign that really aims to raise awareness of the harm caused by homophobic harassment, and the fact that it’s directly linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. The consequences of this harassment can last a lifetime. We’re really encouraging the community to understand that we all have a responsibility to stand up to homophobic harassment wherever it occurs, and even if we’re not the targets ourselves. So if you witness harassment and do nothing, you’re condoning it or letting it continue unchallenged.”

The commercials ask viewers to take action “No matter how subtle” the harassment may be.

Anna Brown continued, “We have a comprehensive online resource…it provides people with the resources they need to get informed, find support, and take action to put a stop to homophobia. We’d encourage everyone to go there and find out more about what they can do to respond to homophobia personally. But also to spread the word amongst their friends, colleague, neighbors and people to really raise awareness and tackle homophobia as a community.”

For more information, please visit http://www.notohomophobia.com.au.

If you witness or experience harassment or bullying in the workplace, do you know what your options are or what the next steps to take might be?

New Yorker’s Bert & Ernie Cover Promotes Child Abuse Says Radio Host

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Bryan Fischer, a Christian radio host in the US has gained notoriety world-wide and stolen some of the media attention around the US Supreme Court historic ruling on Defence Of Marriage Act last week, by saying the New Yorker magazine’s cover “promoted child abuse”, simply by featuring Sesame Street characters cuddling at the news.

This popular and long running New Yorker magazine features Bert and Ernie snuggling up to each other on a sofa, while an image of the US Supreme Court Justices appears on their television screen. It’s simple, it’s cute, it doesn’t have them kissing or in any way acting inappropriately yet that didn’t stop the anti-gay, anti-equality Bryan Fischer spouting out a great deal of hate.

The Christian radio host launched his attack during his Focal Point programme saying the characters were engaged in a “homosexual clinch”. Adding “I don’t know which is which” continuing: “This is grossly irresponsible for The New Yorker to promote this, they really are promoting child endangerment and they are promoting child abuse.”

Fischer also quoted figures from the heavily criticized Regnerus Study, published in July 2012, which was titled “How Different Are The Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-sex Relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study”. Its findings were refuted by many and deemed “flawed and misleading” with a lack of fact.

Many have believed that the two Sesame Street characters were a gay couple over the years, some 10,000 people even signed an online petition during 2011, urging the creators to allow the ‘couple’ to get married.

The Sesame Street workshop issued a statement at the time which stated: “Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though the Sesame Street Muppets … possess many human traits and characteristics, they have no sexual orientation.” Of course it had nothing to do with their Christian sponsors threatening to pull out if Bert and Ernie did end up getting hitched to each other.

Just recently the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which federally defined marriage as between one man and one woman. A second case, centered around California’s Proposition 8, the Supreme Court ruled that such a ruling was not in its jurisdiction, nor was it in the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court, which previously ruled, therefore deferring the decision to a previous ruling by a district court which decided the ban was unconstitutional.

Alec Baldwin Says Sorry

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Top TV and film actor Alec Baldwin has posted an open letter to GLAAD and the greater gay community sincerely apologizing for ‘questionable’ comments he made recently about a UK Daily Mail journalist.

Last week Alec Baldwin launched a very vocal and public attack via social network Twitter on George Stark a Daily Mail reporter calling him a “toxic little queen” and urging his followers to “straighten out this fucking little bitch.”

Alec’s anger came in response to a factually incorrect article by Stark in the UK’s top selling tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail. The article Stark penned accused Baldwin’s wife, Hilaria, of sending tweets about smoothie recipes and a wedding anniversary during the funeral of Sopranos star James Gandolfini.

Baldwin let fly with a string of tweets calling Stark a “lying little bitch.” He also threatened violence against Stark, writing: “I’m gonna find you, George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna fuck…you…up.”

In the open letter to GLAAD, sent to the organisation and posted on the actor’s website, Alec Baldwin said his comments were “ill advised”, and had “absolutely nothing to do with issues of anyone’s sexual orientation.” He wrote: “My ill-advised attack on George Stark of the Daily Mail had absolutely nothing to do with issues of anyone’s sexual orientation. My anger was directed at Mr Stark for blatantly lying and disseminating libellous information about my wife and her conduct at our friend’s funeral service. As someone who fights against homophobia, I apologize.”

“I have worked, periodically, with numerous marriage equality organizations, especially over the past couple of years, to achieve the very rights that gay couples are earning by recent court decisions. I would not advocate violence against someone for being gay and I hope that my friends at GLAAD and the gay community understand that my attack on Mr Stark in no way was the result of homophobia.”

GLAAD Vice President of Communications Rich Ferraro replied to the apology saying ”Alec Baldwin is making it clear that the intent behind his tweets does not excuse his language, especially at a time when there were 11 incidents of violence against gay men in New York City just last month. As we all work to end such senseless acts of violence, allies like Baldwin are right to use these moments to reinforce support for the community and LGBT equality.”

The Daily Mail newspaper however is often dubbed the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail by gay rights campaigners because of its rancid homophobic editorial style, content and campaigns against equality. Many of its writers rely little on fact and are known for ’embellishing’ the truth by incredible amounts to create stories, articles and features. Hilaria, who is pregnant, didn’t even have her phone with her at the funeral of their friend, so it would have been impossible to tweet from it.

 

 

I wonder if a gay actor had made the same remarks about the dodgy hack would they also stand accused of being homophobic?

Lesbian Murdered In South Africa

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South Africa may be the only African nation that allows same-sex marriage and recognizes gay rights, but that doesn’t mean it is free from homophobia and hate. News that a young lesbian had been found murdered and sexually mutilated last week was greeted with horror and sadness by gay rights campaigners and commentators.

The twenty-six year old was killed in what appeared to be a homophobic attack and was found with a toilet brush inserted into her vagina, in the Thokoza area, just east of Johannesburg.

“The woman was last seen at a local shebeen and we are awaiting the results of a post-mortem to determine whether she had been raped,” Captain Godfrey Maditsi of the Thokoza police station told newspaper reporters. He also confirmed that as yet no arrests have been made and asked members of the public to come forward with any information that could assist the police with their inquires.

At least seven people, five of them lesbians, have been murdered in South Africa between June and November 2012 during what appears to have been targeted violence against them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Only a couple of weeks ago the global human rights charity, Amnesty International, warned that homophobic attacks had increased dramatically in the South Africa in recent years.

Many local campaigners fear this is the tip of the iceberg, as many lesbian and gay people are deeply frightened about reporting instances of homophobic attacks or abuse. Party because of the fear of reprisals from those responsible in the first place, but a lack of trust that the Police will either believe them or do anything over such attacks.

US Radio Pastors Blame Gay Kiss For Colorado’s Wild Fires

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How can the so called religious right be oh so wrong? I could hardly believe the headline that two pastors in the US state of Colorado have blamed a single kiss between two men for the devastating Colorado wildfires.

Could it really be true that the pastors, supposedly being messengers of god really be saying the cause of the fires was god’s wrath over seeing a newspaper picture of two guys kissing. It had to be a joke didn’t it? But nope, apparently it’s true, speaking on Generations Radio, pastors Kevin Swanson and Dave Buehner, blamed God’s wrath over the Colorado Springs wildfires, on recently approved civil unions legislation and abortion law for the fires.

Swanson also went on to blame the cover of The Denver Post newspaper, which featured State House Majority Leader Mark Ferrandino, kissing his partner, for the wildfires. Buehner said: “Like the very first day [of the Legislative session], was to pass that civil union bill, which is an uncivil bill.”

Swanson responded: “When you have a state where the House leadership is performing a homosexual act on the front page of the Denver Post two months ago? Does God read the Denver Post? Do you think He picks up a copy of the Denver Post? He gets it. God gets the Denver Post.”

Buehner went on to say that the state should be grateful that God “hasn’t destroyed the whole state yet”, “as an act of grace”. I couldn’t believe it, it would make my blood boil and incandescent rage envelope my whole body were it not so utterly ridiculous and nonsensical. The more I read the report of what these two men of god spouted the more incredible it seemed and I wondered for their sanity, no I’m not being cruel, I really mean that, are they sane, really? The pair went on to blame “metrosexual” men for not growing out their facial hair, and wearing “fairy shoes”, and feminist acts like wearing hats, for going against God’s word.

These man obviously have little respect for their ‘god’ if they think he would kill thousands of animals, a dozen humans and ravage thousands of miles of land, just for a kiss, between two guys on the cover of a newspaper or the idea that same sex couples should be allowed to get married, what an evil, vindictive god he must be and certainly not the god I recognise from the scriptures.

On one hand it makes me laugh that these guys are so deluded and mentally deranged, yet it also makes me sad that there will be people out there, listening to that radio show believing every word of it simple because its said by a couple of pastors. It is equally sad because, such stories reach far beyond America’s borders and what sort of message is it sending out? Not one that reflects well on the US that’s for sure!

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.

Anti-Gay Laws Pass in Nigeria

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Nigeria’s House of Representatives recently voted in favour of a ban on gay marriage, outlaw any groups actively supporting gay rights and endorsing a measure that also calls for 10-year prison sentences for any “public show” of affection by a same-sex couple.

The House of Representatives appeared to unanimously approve the proposal in a voice vote, sending it immediately to the President, Goodluck Jonathan for him to sign it into law in Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigeria’s Senate previously passed the bill back in November 2011, although it seemed to disappear in procedure for some time before re-emerging in the most recent session of the House. This new law would not only ban any same-sex marriage from taking place either in a mosque or a church, it would also see same-sex couples face up to 14 years in jail for marrying in other locations. In a horrendous abuse of freedom the law would also have implications for friends and relations of gay people, as anyone who witnesses or conducts same-sex marriages would face a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The law would also effectively silence Nigeria’s gay population, as under the proposed legislation anyone taking part in a group advocating for gay rights or anyone caught in a “public show” of affection also would face 10 years in prison. Many fear this is just the start of an anti-gay campaign by the political leaders in the country that would lead to custodial sentences for simply being gay or lesbian. There is already a ban on gay sex in the country and a culture of hatred toward gay people has existed for many years, including when the country was rules by the British Empire.

The bill is currently with President Goodluck Jonathan awaiting for his approval or an incredibly unlikely veto. So far all requests for comment on this issue have gone unanswered either by his office or the President himself. The UK, which gives millions free money and aid to Nigeria has previously threatened to stop aid to nations that discriminate against gays, but no money has yet been stopped to any nation on this basis. Plus there seems little appetite among the government elite to make a stand on the issue because of the backbench revolt Prime Minister David Cameron faced over his stand on gay marriage recently.

During 2011 President Barack Obama issued a similar directive asking officials to “ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of” gays, lesbians and the transgender people included having diplomats “combat the criminalisation” of being gay by foreign governments, yet the US remains the biggest customer for the Nigerian oil industry.

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