Human Rights

Could Gay Rights Rip Apart Netanyahu’s Conservative Government?

On Dec. 28th, 2015, the first openly gay member of the ruling Likud party, and the third ever in Israel, was sworn into the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).

Amir Ohana took office, following former Member of Knesset (MK) Silvan Shalom’s resignation after Shalom, the then Interior Minister faced a barrage of sexual harassment complaints.

Ohana will take over as Interior Minister, replacing Shalom.

Noticeably absent from the 120 member parliament were 13 members of Israel’s right wing coalition, of which Likud chairs. All of the absentees were from the Shas and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties.

UTJ admits that Ohana’s potential advocacy for the LGBT community led to their boycott of his swearing in, while Shas claimed ignorance of the event altogether.

Regardless of whether Shas is feigning ignorance to save face, this demonstrates one of the peculiar cleavages in the Likud led Israeli coalition.

Regardless of whether Shas is feigning ignorance to save face, this demonstrates one of the peculiar cleavages in the Likud led Israeli coalition.

Both Shas and UTJ are Orthodox Jewish parties, and thus inclined to hold more socially conservative positions than the secular Likud party.

Navigating between the secular and religious movements in the Israeli Right presents a strong problem for the coalition.

One such instance includes UTJ leaving the 1999 coalition  due to a turbine delivery on the Sabbath.

Israeli Knesset Building. Photo Credit: Chris Yunker/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Israeli Knesset Building. Photo Credit: Chris Yunker/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

These cleavages further present themselves in discussion of the Palestinian residents of Israel, and Palestinian Administered regions.

While UTJ trends against expansion of the Israeli state to encompass the West Bank and Gaza, Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party (another right wing partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government) and the current minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs has inserted himself in several controversies related to the Palestinian question, including claiming there is “no problem” with killing Arabs, and banning a book from school curriculums about a pair of lovers separated by the Israel Palestine conflict.

This new exposure brought about by the swearing in of Ohana of these cleavages only reveal longstanding issues between various religious and Zionist flavors in the conservative coalition.

While this show of disrespect to the Likud party may be an isolated incident, Netanyahu ought to take care not to allow these instances, or growing instability in the PA, to break up his narrow majority in Knesset.

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Cover Photo Credit: Nadav Shushu Siman Tov‎/Facebook

Millennial Intel: LGBT Asylum Seekers From War-Torn Countries Sometimes Face Brutal Conditions

Whilst the plight of asylum seekers has been well documented in recent months, specific demographics within the overwhelming numbers of people escaping Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria face specific advantages and disadvantages from the general population of people fleeing violence and repression.

One such group is the LGBT community, who are primarily seeking refuge in Europe and North America.

A 2012 report by ORAM (the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration), says that protection for LGBT individuals seeking asylum is particularly poor in so called “transit” countries.

This protection appears to be greatly needed however.

“Despite many advances, the widespread violence and discrimination against LGBTI refugees often means that these individuals face severe obstacles to protection and long-term safety in countries of first asylum,” The report reads. “These individuals commonly undergo regular and often violent harassment from the local communities and refugee populations”.

The Washington Post recently reported on just such an instance that took place in Dresden, Germany.

When a young Syrian man revealed to another the meaning of his rainbow flag, he was subject to verbal and physical abuse from fellow asylum seekers. In an even more severe case, a transgender woman and her friends were raped and tortured by Jordanian police.

In response to the particularly vulnerable condition of LGBT asylum seekers, and calls from the UN, the Canadian government announced that it will consider gay men a priority for resettlement, due to the high likelihood of their safety being compromised by ISIS, the Assad regime, and fellow refugees.

This may result in single heterosexual men being much lower priority than other asylum seekers, as suggested by Amnesty International.

A similar move was made in the United States, when the State Department expanded its protections for LGBT couples by allowing already qualified refugees to bring their same sex partner, even if they are not legally married.

Despite these and other moves by governments and NGOs, the sheer volume of asylum seekers from the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria all but guarantee that minority groups, including the LGBT community, will continue to bear a particularly heavy burden.

Cover Photo Credit: vl04 /Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Guantanamo Diarist Loses Court Challenge Of Prison Conditions

The Mauritanian captive whose censored Guantanamo memoirs have been published around the world has lost a bid to have a federal court intervene in his conditions of confinement at the U.S. Navy base prison in Cuba. ?U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth wrote that he doesn’t have the authority to order the Obama administration to set… Read More

M.I.A. Releases Striking Music Video Depicting Plight Of Refugees

M.I.A., one of the most edgy artists of her era has released the music video for her new song “Borders”.

The song which is a rallying cry for the Syrian refugee crisis is quite impactful as it portrays the difficulties that refugees face when fleeing from crisis.

The artist talked about it on her Twitter page:

According to the Verge, “Borders” is set to be included in M.I.A.’s upcoming album Matahdatah- which will be her fifth studio album.

WATCH: M.I.A. new music video for her song, “Borders”

Cover Photo Credit: Apple Music/ Screengrab

Report Says That 40% Of Girls In Juvenile Detention Are LGBTQ. But Why?

There are few topics more depressing than that of crimes committed by young people. But a shocking study regarding the make up of the children in the American juvenile delinquency system has come back in the public consciousness.

report for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency says that 40% of girls in the juvenile delinquency system fall under the LGBTQ umbrella. Shocking.

The report was authored by Dr. Aisha Canfield and Dr. Angela Irving.

“New NCCD research findings from a sample of 1,400 girls in juvenile jurisdictions around the country show that 40% of girls in the juvenile justice system are lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or gender-nonconforming (LBTQ/GNC), and 86% of girls in the system are of color.[i]” Irving explained in a blog post.

She further went on to elaborate that these girls would end up there due to committing what she called “survival crimes” such as prostitution.

OZY commented that falling under the LGBTQ umbrella set these girls up for further discrimination and harsh treatment, which leads to them being placed in juvenile hall.

From OZY:

“‘LGBT of both sexes are also three times more likely to receive disproportionately harsh consequences at school, while also being the target of harassment. Perhaps surprisingly, LGBT girls are more likely to get in trouble for fighting; for boys, it’s disruptive behaviors in the classroom.”

This information means that people who work in juvenile halls should probably have to adapt their training and practices to learn how to address issues that girls who fall under the LGBTQ umbrella could face.

“I think statistics like that really identify the importance for us to think intersectionally…A lot of times when we think about the criminal justice systems it’s often directed at young black men… this is not only about young black men, it’s about young black trans women, it’s about young cis women, it’s about the LGBTQ population also,” Jonathan Lykes, policy analyst of the Center for the Study of Social Policy told the Huffington Post. “So really understanding how all of these different populations are impacted by these oppressive systems.”

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Cover Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

VIDEO: This Pastor Went On A Hatefully Epic Anti-Gay Rant

Kevin Swanson is a right wing radio host and a pastor based in Elizabeth, CO.

He is also not a big fan of gay people. Actually, I think its fair to say that he hates them.

His bigotry was in full plume this past weekend at the Freedom 2015 Conference held in Des Moines, Iowa. The conference, which Swanson organized was a gathering of conservative Christian leaders and activists who believe that the United States is on a path to moral decay.

“The Supreme Court of the United States recently legalized homosexual marriage in all 50 states in the Obergefell V. Hodges decision,” a statement on the conference website read. Are you ready to face persecution for opposing the homosexual agenda?”

Swanson’s remarks on how he would handle the news if his son came out as gay is pretty hilarious and scary.

WATCH:

 

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Cover Photo Credit: Right Wing Watch/ Screenshot

Criminalizing Disability: This Autistic Man Arrested For Watching Child Porn Should Not Be Tried

In Miami, a magistrate judge will soon be making an important decision that will have wide implications regarding the character of the United States.

Alberto Rodriguez, a 24-year-old North Miami man admits to viewing a large amount of child pornography. The feds raided his parents home last year and took computers full of the disgusting images of men raping children.

A terrific piece by Jay Weaver in the Miami Herald lays out the situation.

Federal prosecutors are pushing for Rodriguez to be put on trial where, if found guilty, he could serve 20 years in prison. It is up to the magistrate judge to decide whether Rodriguez can stand trial.

I do not believe that Rodriguez should be put on trial or spend another night behind bars for his actions. He had no way of knowing that his actions were wrong, let-alone “illegal” and it is a moral failing of our nation that he has spent months behind bars already.

Rodriguez is autistic and while being “high functioning” when compared to other people on the spectrum, he has the “emotional and intellectual maturity of a 10 to 12 year old child” according to the Herald.

Our society would not stand for a 10-year-old child to be tried for a crime of this magnitude. And we should not stand for this either.

I understand that it is difficult to get past the alleged wrongdoings in this case. Surely interacting with child pornography in any way is shameful and bad for society. We have a duty to protect those that are most vulnerable, and must crack down on those that harm our innocents.

We can not pretend to protect the most vulnerable in our society when we prosecute and criminalize the even more vulnerable.

But Rodriguez is another innocent in this situation and not a criminal.

The hard truth is that our criminal justice system is not equipped to render judgement on the cruel mysteries of the human mind.

Rodriguez has an IQ of 73- which places him in the range of “borderline impaired” according to the Herald.

Of course stupid people can commit crimes. But Rodriguez is not stupid. He is disabled and therefore should be protected by the gross incompetence of a system that can’t even offer equal justice to normally functioning people because of something as simple as their skin color.

From the Herald story:

“[Dr. Jacqueline] Valdes [a neuropsychologist] said his only interests are watching cartoons for young children, playing video games and looking up child pornography-though he does not have a “deep understanding” as to why he got in trouble.”

Let me be clear. Very few autistic adults are searching the web for child porn. This is a very isolated innocent and an uncomfortable situation to be sure. But reality is uncomfortable as anyone that has ever had to face adversity in their lives can attest to. And disabled reality does not play by the same set of rules that we do in the so called “functioning” world.

I have serious doubts about the “education” that Rodriguez received at North Miami Senior High School and as such, his graduation is no indication of intelligence.

The impulse to prosecute Rodriguez is clear and easily understood. He graduated from high school and is able enough to find child porn on the Internet after all, clearly he is competent to stand trial. Not so fast. Put the lynch mob away.

Rodriguez was pushed up the grades at North Miami Senior High School, a school where the night principle was recently arrested for accepting bribes, and the day principle rushed to social media to defend a cop who slammed a black Texas teenager to the ground at a swim party.

And most disgustingly and interesting for this conversation, this is the same high school where four students allegedly gang raped a mentally disabled girl in a darkened janitors closet. The victim had the vocabulary of a toddler and yet the school was so negligent to misplace her for a long enough period of time for her to be orally, anally and vaginally raped by four fellow students. Other than that, I’m sure she was learning a great deal in a safe environment.

According to the Herald, Rodriguez didn’t have to take the FCAT (Florida’s mandated testing battery) and was given a “special” diploma after graduating with a 2.0 flat GPA (how convenient).

I have serious doubts about the “education” that Rodriguez received at North Miami Senior High School and as such, his graduation is no indication of intelligence. This is especially accented because the Herald report indicated that Miami-Dade Public Schools psychologists and Rodriguez’s parents misdiagnosed his autism for ADHD.

It is not clear if he has ever received any treatment or therapy designed for autistic people at any point in his development.

America doesn’t care about autistic adults. They are scary and burdensome. Sometimes they are big and can cause harm. And yes sometimes, one may look at child porn.

But he has received four months of training in a federal jail in North Carolina on how to defend himself in a criminal proceeding. Only in America do we give you the best education you’ve ever had in order to prove that you are a criminal.

The truth is that Rodriguez’s situation is unique only in the extent of what he is being accused of. Millions of disabled people in this country are basically left to fend for themselves.

Our Social Security system deducts entitlement payments from severely autistic adults who live at home because they don’t contribute to the monthly rent, even if they could never hold a job. Police officers are often not trained to deal with disabled people and sometimes kill them. Our public education system does the bare minimum it needs to do under law- and that’s not very much at all.

America doesn’t care about autistic adults. They are scary and burdensome. Sometimes they are big and can cause harm. And yes sometimes, one may look at child porn.

But that is not their failure. It is all of ours. And we should be ashamed of ourselves.

We can not pretend to protect the most vulnerable in our society when we prosecute and criminalize the even more vulnerable, especially when we don’t even care to understand them.

Free Alberto Rodriguez.

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Cover Photo Credit: Aapo Haapanen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Exclusive: Man Says Florida Bar Bouncer Physically Moved Him Off Dance Floor Because He Is Gay

A gay couple was physically separated from each other Saturday night by a bouncer working at a Boca Raton, Florida bar.

Joseph Raia, a 22-year-old Florida State University graduate and Miami native, said on his Facebook that he and his boyfriend were singled out because of their sexuality.

Raia’s social media post quickly went viral after he blasted Blue Martini Boca for the treatment he said that he received at the bar.

“The bouncer was paid to remove us from the bar because the men who ordered the bottle service did not want us there anymore because we were gay.”

“For the past four years I have been openly gay and extremely fortunate to have never had a problem, felt threatened, or been discriminated against because of who I am until Saturday night, Raia wrote on the social media site. “I am proud and happy of who I am but unfortunately I experienced how hateful homophobia can be at Blue Martini Boca.”

Raia said that he was dancing with his boyfriend within a group of four other friends when he was grabbed and separated from them.

“The bouncer had pulled me off saying ‘We can’t have this here, you two can’t be here, you need to stop it and leave,'” Raia said. “I was genuinely shocked and did not understand why or where it was coming from. I kept asking why this was happening, what was his reason for attempting to kick us out.”

Raia said that he knows the reason for the physical treatment he received.

“A friend had come up to us to see what was going on and said he had witnessed a man who had ordered bottle service give the bouncer cash, thinking to himself that it was weird, but now making sense,” Raia said. “The bouncer was paid to remove us from the bar because the men who ordered the bottle service did not want us there anymore because we were gay.”

Another bouncer at the bar came over to Raia and apologized about the incident and said that the bouncer who touched Raia would be “reprimanded.”

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The logo for Blue Martini at one of their 12 national locations. Photo Credit: Nick Bastian/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“The manager on duty had said the same thing, that Blue Martini does not stand for this, and gave us $100 gift card to use when we return. I said I would never be coming back and we had spent much more than that, having a great night until that point but he would not let us leave without taking it,” Raia wrote on Facebook. “We left upset, hurt, and threatened since we did not know if the men would become physical towards us. I have never in my entire life felt wrong for being who I am and after the support from friends and family now realize that we were not wrong for dancing with each other.”

In an interview with Rise News, Raia said that he thinks the bouncer who got physical with him should be fired.

“As for the bouncer that tried to eject us, I would like to know that he has been removed from his position. The manager said there would be an investigation and then he would be reprimanded, but a slap on the wrist isn’t enough of a consequence for his illegal act of discrimination and bribery,” Raia told Rise News. “In our shock and being upset, we did not file a police report l, which we should have. At the time all we wanted to do was leave before someone got physically hurt.”

Raia said that he was fearful that the men who ordered the bottle service would turn physical toward he and his boyfriend.

 “I am unapologetically proud of who I am and who I have become and I will not change because of pressures from someone else.”

“The men who ordered bottle service did not directly speak with us, only the bouncer,” Raia said. “They just stared at us, which was why the second bouncer suggested us to move.”

Rise News has tried to reach Blue Martini Boca for comment numerous times. A manager on call Wednesday evening said that she did not know who the on-call manager was on Saturday, and had not heard about the incident. The general manager of the bar could not be reached for comment before publication of this story.

Raia said that he would not be returning to any of the 12 Blue Martini locations.

“It is true that the actions of one man does not represent the actions of the group, but all the locations look the same. I would not feel comfortable being in the same environment that the incident occurred in,” Raia told Rise News. “As it stands now, I feel like I have to watch my back while walking down the side walk with my boyfriend. I know there is a time and place to show affection freely but I stand by my belief that we did nothing wrong.”

Raia ended his viral Facebook post with a poignant message.

“Our love is the same as anybody else’s love,” Raia said. “I am unapologetically proud of who I am and who I have become and I will not change because of pressures from someone else.”

Rise News will update this story with additional information as it becomes available. 

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Cover Photo Credit: Joseph Raia/Facebook

This Florida Democrat Didn’t Vote To Give Gay Veterans Equal Partner Benefits In Congress

Congresswoman Corrine Brown, a long serving Democratic member of the US House didn’t vote to extend federal benefits to the spouses of LGBT couples last Thursday.

In a shocking move first reported by Politico, Brown reversed course on her previous support of an amendment that according to the Human Rights Campaign would “correct outdated language” in statutes that define spouses as a member of the “opposite sex”.

The proposed amendment- the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act was proposed by Dina Titus (D-NV) and was designed to allow same-sex spouses of military veterans to receive benefits entitled to them under federal law.

“This amendment would take a critical step in ensuring in statute that the voices of LGBT veterans are consistently heard and ensure the LGBT community is represented when addressing the issues that affect minority veterans,” a statement from the Human Rights Campaign said.

Brown, the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted present when the amendment came to a vote.

“I never question someone’s motives for how they vote, but what upset us is, one, she changed her vote and second, she didn’t let us know and she is our leader,” Titus was quoted by Politico as saying about Brown. “We’re talking about a number of options….We’re going to do something. We want to hear her explanation and we want her to hear why we are upset. It was really disappointing.”

While Brown’s vote didn’t impact the outcome of the failure of the amendment to pass (12 of the 14 Republicans on the committee voted against it), it has sparked questions about her motivations and whether it is due to her positioning for the 2016 election- when she is expected to compete in a more conservative district.

Twitter was not pleased with the Congresswoman after the vote.

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Photo Credit: JAXPORT/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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