Melanie Nathan

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Shocking revelation at briefing as the U.S.A. furthers the persecution LGBT Asylum seekers

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Shocking revelation at briefing as we in the U.S.A. further the persecution LGBT Asylum seekers through systematic recriminalization of those seeking to escape unjust criminalization!

By Melanie Nathan, January 08, 2013.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 10.49.30 PM

Briefing on Capitol Hill

Seventy Six countries criminalize homosexuality. Most recently we have focused on, amongst others, Russia, India, Uganda, Gambia, Cameroon, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Belize and Nigerian. We are not talking about equality and LGBTI rights here, but rather about a basic right to live according to one’s sexuality, in peace and privacy, with community support for those facing confusion and asking questions when they come out. These 76 countries not only deny this basic human right, but also, through criminalization, participate in the resulting trauma which includes rejection and often physical harm.

In the U.S.A., although we fail our own LGBTI with the lack of full equality, at least we do not criminalize homosexuality and though our President and State Department have condemned those who do criminalize homosexuality, we still fail potential LGBT asylees who seek our shores for refuge.

We fail them at the outset, when they need special visas to escape their unjust criminalization to come to the U.S.A. Those special considerations and much needed remedies for entry simply do not exist and no one is advocating for change, except at PCI Justice.

And we in the United States fail them further, once they reach our shores, because we do not do much more than re-criminalize the asylum seekers, the already unjustly persecuted. Indeed we re-criminalize those who have been persecuted through unjust criminalizing laws back in their home countries.

Today a briefing was held on Capitol Hill, by LGBT-FAN, the Faith Network, co-sponsored by PCI-Justice and other groups.* One of the speakers at the event included Rochelle Fortier Nwadibia, the Legal Director of PCI-Justice, (Private Courts International.) The focus of Nwadibia’s talk was the continued criminalization of LGBT asylees in the United States. And the message screams for human compassion to include the imperative call for a dramatic change in how we treat LGBT asylum seekers.

Nwadibia, a prominent immigration and international human rights attorney, renowned for litigating Mohamed v. Gonzales re: Female Genital Mutilation, reported today at the briefing as follows:

Good afternoon,

Thank you to each and everyone of you for attending this important briefing.

Our focus today on LGBT asylum highlights the increased criminalization of asylum seekers within our immigration system, and explains why we must focus on providing a true safe harbor for LGBT asylum seekers.

As Americans, we are reminded of the historical journey of many that have sought refuge in the United States for generations. We are all aware that it is THIS country that has served as the beacon of hope for many fleeing persecution abroad. Unfortunately, today our arms are not open wide for the modern day asylum seeker. Instead, we find the creeping criminalization of asylum seekers through the BED MANDATE and DETENTION, and NOT the safe harbor that we would expect.

In this process today, we detain them, subject them to criminal prosecution and imprisonment, and we force many of them to begin their “fresh start” in the United States with a criminal conviction.

The detention of asylum seekers results from the Congressional bed mandate is increasingly the door through which many asylum seekers must enter before having access to our asylum process.

In reality, we are the ones contributing to the criminalization of LGBT asylum seekers by offering a jail bed as the first place for them to lay their head.

These asylum seekers arrive at our doorstep traumatized by the fear of persecution perpetuated by family, friends, and members of their own community.

They are completely alone.

They are Fleeing family shame, societal rejection, and socially sanctioned:
* physical assault
* forced marriage
* rape
* fear of arrest and prosecution according to laws criminalizing LGBT identity, and
* death

They are completely alone.

As an attorney, I have watched asylum seekers enter court rooms shackled to convicted criminals, while escorted from place to place by law enforcement. They are housed in isolated facilities with convicted criminals where attorneys that wish to represent them have difficulty obtaining access and law enforcement authorities seldom return calls to attorneys and the criminalization process moves forward.

These practices create structural barriers to legal access and deny immediate protection of these asylum seekers.

I have observed a judge, sitting on the bench, who did not even raise his head and look at the detainees in front of him, neither as a group, or when calling their names individually. Instead he chose to focus on reading from documents throughout the entire hearing, and in the process thereby denying their dignity and never acknowledging their humanity.

What we are witnessing is a situation where the asylum seeker finds that the experience in the United States may not be too different from the criminalization that they are fleeing.

We must do better. We must provide the social supports that facilitate a pathway to freedom.

It is for these reasons, that the efforts championed by LGBT-FAN member organizations aimed at supporting LGBT asylum seekers once they land on our soil is crucial and can not be understated.

It is important the we open not only our doors, but our hearts and minds and create a safety net for asylum seekers that enable them to thrive independently in the United States.

I am suggesting that In order to accomplish this, we:
* must remove the one year rule to allow asylum seekers the time to adjust to freedom, in order to prepare and properly advance their claims,
* must provide for the immediate availability of employment authorization so that they can support themselves while seeking this relief,
* must remove the bed mandate that leads to the detention and halt the criminalization of asylum seekers by removing them from the detention process, and

By doing so, we will restore the dignity to and respect the humanity LGBT asylum seekers as they follow their quest for a life of freedom.

Melanie Nathan, nathan@privatecourts.com
#LGBTasylHELP #LGBTASYLUM @rafinlaw @pcijustice @melanienathan1

CALL TO ACTION
IF you care and this article has impacted you, shocked you, concerned you… please sign the LGBT-FAN petition at

http://www.change.org/petitions/honor-the-human-rights-of-lgbt-asylum-seekers-in-the-u-s

*Co-Sponsors: Center Global, a program of the DC Center for the LGBT Community, Daylight Consulting Group, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Integrity USA, LGBT Asylum Support Task Force, Metropolitan Community Churches, Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation, PCI Justice, St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns, Unitarian Universalist Association United Nations Office, and Unitarian Universalist Association

 

The Amazing Melanie Nathan

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Melanie NathanAs many of you know, we have been out of commission for a few days after the death of my stepmother, which happened unexpectedly two days before Christmas.

Our dear friend and talented reporter and blogger Melanie Nathan immediately contacted us and offered her services to keep things going while we were spending time with my Father ands sorting things out.

For those of you who don’t know Melanie, she is an amazing blogger and reporter who has done some great reporting on LGBT rights in Africa, including confronting some of our staunchest foes there.

She runs her own blog, O-boog-dee-o-blog-da, and often contributes at the site GayUSA too. You can find her on Facebook here.

Please take a moment to check out her blogs and Facebook page. We are indebted to her, and are thrilled that she has agreed to post to Gay Marriage Watch on an ongoing basis, as her frequently full schedule allows.

Thanks, Melanie – love you!

Marriage Equality in South Africa Threatened by Constitutional Review

Friday, May 4th, 2012

By Melanie Nathan, May 04, 2012.

Since the end of Apartheid and the inception of South Africa’s new constitution some twenty years ago, the country has been lauded for its lead on the entrenchment of anti-discrimination rights that renders it one of the few in the world to protect sexual orientation and gender identity in its Constitution.

Gays and lesbians (LGBTI) enjoy full equality in South Africa, including rights to marry and full immigration equality.

Notwithstanding this South Africa has never managed to escape the brutality of rampant homophobia which is underscored by the high incidence of so called “corrective” rape in its townships, the deployment of an anti-gay ambassador to homophobic Uganda, and its failure to lead the decriminalization of homosexuality in the rest of Africa.

Now the time has come for a Constitutional review and gay rights activists fear the worst. There is a move to consider a change to the Constitution’s provisions on sexual orientation and property rights have been referred to party caucuses for consideration.

Die Burger a local Afrikaans newspaper reported on Thursday that Parliament’s constitutional review committee has made the unusual move of referring these proposals to political parties.

Madibe Nelson Mandela sought to ensure protection against all forms of discrimination in South Africa at the time the new Constitution was formed. Now LGBTI activists fear that African traditionalists and religious fundamentalists are interfering by seeking a direction to bring South Africa back to draconian pre-apartheid era, where homophobia will be ingratiated rather than the protections the Constitution currently provides.

Once a year, the committee considers proposals from the public on possible changes to the Constitution. Normally it rejects most of the proposals, but at a recent committee meeting, these proposals were the only ones not to be thrown out.

There was a proposal that section 25 of the Constitution (enshrining the right to property and the rights of property owners and of society as a whole) be amended in order to create a new window period for the submission of land claims, while the PAC proposed that section 25 be scrapped and replaced.

Sexual orientation
The House of Traditional Leaders made a proposal regarding scrapping the sexual orientation section from the bill of rights contained in Chapter 2 of the Constitution. The Constitution reads: “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

ANC MP and review committee chairperson Chief Patekile Holomisa told Die Burger that none of the 17 constitutional amendments since 1996 have been handled by the committee, and that with the exception of two cases (allowing and then scrapping floor-crossing between political parties), the Constitution has never been drastically amended.

Holomisa said the proposed amendments could mean comprehensive changes in people’s lives, and the committee wanted to play a greater part in constitutional amendments than it had done in the past.

However, he said the mere fact that the amendments were being discussed in no way implicated that they would be accepted. They will be discussed by the committee once feedback had been received from party caucuses.

Yet activists such as Eugene Brockman the designer of the Gay Flag of South Africa notes:-

“I am truly concerned that decades of lobbying and progress for LGBTI rights in South Africa are under threat.The constitutional review committee of South Africa are actually allowing for discussion on scrapping protections for “sexual orientation” from the South African constitution. The house of traditional leaders have put forward that the inclusion of “Sexual orientation” should be discussed, in over 80 applications put to the constitutional review committee, they allowed for “sexual orientation” and land rights to be discussed. Gay rights equal human rights, there should no discussion period!”

SA GLAAD’s Cobus Fourie told me that they are alarmed that the equality clause of the Bill of Rights is even considered for amendment to summarily wipe out the rights of a significant portion of the South African society:

“We have always been very proud of our very progressive Constitution. We hope that the Congress of Traditional Leaders and political parties keep this profound statement by our first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, in mind: ” Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another”

The mere fact that they are being discussed causes a shiver and imposes an ominous dark cloud, as surely these are constitutional rights entrenchment ought to be ensured to such a degree that they the rights should be untouchable.

In essence surely any amendment or change will be unconstitutional.

Melanie Nathan
Twitter @melanienathan1
nathan@privatecourts.com

Melanie’s Blog

Scathing Response to Dustin Lance Black’s Threat to Withdraw Support for Obama

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

In an article entitled “Wise Up Dustin Lance Black on the LGBTQ Nation website, Melanie Nathan, Blogger and Activist,  hits back with a scathing response to Dustin Lance Black’s threat to withdraw support for President Obama:

The moment I saw Dustin Lance Black’s headline in the Hollywood Reporter all my admiration came a-tumbling.

While one cannot disregard the work of the screenwriter turned activist and its impetus on marriage equality, his latest critique of President Obama, and worse yet its luminous abode engorges like an unwelcome cloud on a sunny day. As an activist in the community, I want to clearly disassociate myself from the ominous loom of Black’s threatening blur.

The headline and byline present a pompous lead into an arrogant read: “Hollywood & Politics: Dustin Lance Black Blames Obama and Romney for the Mess of Gay Marriage (Opinion) — by Dustin Lance Black.”

In his article, Black attempts to connect President Obama’s record on LGBT issues to the non-record and vacillation, not to mention the irrelevance at this time, of Mitt Romney. Black says “both candidates are “up in the air” on the equal rights issue.” This trite and ill timed analogy is not only inaccurate but an insult.

Black throws a crumb or two with his cryptic mention of the Department of Justice and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” yet his stance fails to elucidate on so much more that indicates Obama’s attitude towards LGBTI rights, both here in the USA and internationally.

When, in the article, Black throws a reckless “but after all the hope and change LGBT people were promised four years ago, many are frustrated with Obama’s sluggish, self-described “evolution” on the issue of marriage equality,” I hear words out of context and in shallow meaningless void, words that indicate a misunderstanding of the milieu and politics.

Black is absolutely incorrect in his assertion that President Obama has yet to “evolve” on the issue of marriage equality, as he buys into the rhetoric that died when the Respect for Marriage Act was introduced last year by Senator Feinstein, as repeal legislation for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Soon thereafter, Obama indicated he would sign the legislation into law.

Notably, The Washington Post headline read, “Obama backs bill to repeal Defense of Marriage Act” — how much more evolving could one do than that?

Read the Full Article – Click Here

The Repeal of DADT is Mission Incomplete

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Melanie Nathan at Mission Incomplete GetEQUAL Rally in the Castro

Calling on the Repeal of DADT Supporting Senators to Co-Sponsor the Repeal of DOMA

On September 20, 2011, while the LGBT community celebrated the activation of the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy, which had prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, activists, including myself, attended GET EQUAL rallies across the country to protest “ Mission Incomplete.”

I was emphatically reminded of  this incomplete mission,  when I noticed on television, that out of the six senators attending a news conference hailing the historic DADT repeal, only three have signed on to “The Respect for Marriage Act” (RFMA) the legislation that supports the repeal of the “Defense of Marriage Act,” (DOMA.)

The repeal of DADT is a milestone, in that gays and lesbians can now serve openly. Yet, other than drawing attention to the iniquities suffered by openly gay members of the military, it does nothing to further equality for LGBT servicemembers. Certainly not until all enjoy marriage equality and the protections provided by ENDA.

Transgender people still serve in silence and LGBT Servicemembers  are denied marital benefits in parity with straight members of the military.

Accordingly, activists and advocates ought to use the DADT repeal activation as an opportunity to enter what is clearly now an historically wide open door. Until this time, we have been tip toeing around legislation always knocking at the back door.   The opening is a view to the offensive inequality suffered by all LGBT members of our American society, whether in uniform or not.

The DADT repeal serves to highlight the discrimination because even though gay and lesbian  servicemembers can serve openly, they are still unequal in the eyes of the law.  Serving openly is not equality. That is why the fight has truly just begun.

The three senators who are co-sponsors of the marriage equality legislation attending the news conference for DADT, on Capitol Hill included Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); and the three, standing next to them, who have yet to sign on to the repeal of DOMA and who were supporters of  the DADT repeal include Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

By standing at the conference and celebrating the conclusion of DADT, the latter three senators are definitely MIA – they are missing in action and ought to show up for equality – not merely the right to exist in the military or the right to exist in society for that matter. De facto existence is a given – yet de jure equality remains elusive!

It would be hypocritical for Senators Lieberman, Levin and Collins, at this point, to remain silent on DOMA and I hope their constituents will call them on this serious omission.  When they show up on the Respect for Marriage Act,  they will provide the votes needed to have the Senate repeal of DOMA. Of course the House has a long way to go; but the Senate will provide an advance trend favoring full equality for same-sex partners.

Nothing short of full equality will suffice. There is no excuse for anything less; that means the repeal of DOMA, the passage of ENDA and an Equality Bill – an omnibus of sorts – that spells out to the individual States in the US  that even though they are free to create their own laws, they are not free to discriminate.  It is un-American to discriminate.  The most basic of American values is equality and freedom. Now is the time for all to share in the magnificent intent of the Constitution.

So like the folks at GetEQUAL have asserted through the rallies, the “mission is incomplete” –  and  it is up to us as a movement to define and lead and compel the mission.   Let’s do it….  DOMA must be repealed immediately.

By Melanie Nathan.
melanie@gayusathemovie.com
www.visualcv.com/melnathan

Senators Co-Sponsoring  DOMA’s repeal:

1. U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

2. U.S. Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO)

3. U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

4. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

5. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

6. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

7. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

8. U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-OH)

9. U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

10. US. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

11. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

12. U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN)

13. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

14. U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)

15. U.S. Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI)

16. U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

17. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

18. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI)

19. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

20. U.S. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

21. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

22. U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

23. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

24. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

25. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

26. U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

27. U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)

28. U.S. Tom Udall (D-NM)

29. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

30. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

1. U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

2. U.S. Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO)

3. U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

4. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

5. U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

6. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

7. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

8. U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-OH)

9. U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

10. US. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)

11. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

12. U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN)

13. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

14. U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)

15. U.S. Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI)

16. U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

17. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

18. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI)

19. U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

20. U.S. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

21. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

22. U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

23. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

24. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

25. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

26. U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

27. U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)

28. U.S. Tom Udall (D-NM)

29. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

30. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Defrocked Minister Shares Experiences and Offers Insight on Road to LGBT Equality

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Foundry United Methodist Church Welcomes Equal Rights Author and Speaker Jimmy Creech

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This Sunday, Sept. 25, Foundry United Methodist Church proudly hosts former United Methodist minister and lifelong equal rights advocate Jimmy Creech to celebrate the 16th anniversary of Foundry’s induction as a Reconciling Congregation and the church’s one-year anniversary of voting to practice marriage equality.

An inspiring advocate for full equal rights, Creech, now retired, was defrocked for officiating same-sex marriage ceremonies and now works with social action organizations like Soulforce – an interfaith movement confronting spiritual violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people – and Faith in America – an organization working to end religion-based intolerance.

When his ministerial credentials were removed for “disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church,” Creech channeled his energy and passion into advocacy and has traveled the country speaking at churches, on college campuses, and to various community and national organizations about LGBT human and civil rights.

Creech will speak at each of Foundry’s services this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. In addition to a book signing for Creech’s recent release Adam’s Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays at Foundry after the 11 a.m. service, Busboys and Poets (5th and K Street) will host a discussion and book signing with Creech the following day, Monday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.

For more information on Jimmy Creech and other upcoming events at Foundry United Methodist Church, visit www.foundryumc.org.

Foundry United Methodist Church continues to remain a beacon on light for the Methodist community in Washington, D.C. In 1995, Foundry became one of the first larger United Methodist Churches to publicly affirm its commitment to the full inclusion of all persons when it joined the Reconciling Congregation Movement. For additional information, visit Foundry on the Web at http://www.foundryumc.org.

Posted by Melanie Nathan.
melanie@gayusathemovie.com
www.visualcv.com/melnathan