The international fight for gay rights comes to Seattle

Pride Parade
(Photo by Ludovic Bertron)

The national conversation about LGBT rights has reached a fever pitch. On Wednesday, President Obama confirmed his opinion that same-sex marriage should be legal, becoming the first sitting president to publicly support one of the most controversial civil rights issues of our time.

Just the day before, North Carolinians voted to ban same-sex marriages, partnerships and civil unions, becoming the 30th state in the country to amend a state constitution with a prohibition of gay marriage.

Back in February, same-sex marriage was legalized here in Washington, but opponents are gathering signatures to get a referendum on the ballot overturning the new law.

As the debate over gay rights intensifies here at home, it is a good moment to look outside our borders for some global perspective.

That’s the aim of Gay Rights are Human Rights–planned by the World Affairs Council and scheduled for next Tuesday–to examine and discuss international perspectives on the struggle for equality within the global LGBT community

Jessica Stern, Program Director of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, will discuss international  manifestations of homophobia and transphobia. Her work on sexual orientation and gender identity has taken her to countries including Iran, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Her organization works on six continents to coordinate campaigns demanding equal rights, advocate for prisoners and expose hate crimes and abuse.

Ugandan LGBT rights activist David Kato Kisula was murdered last year. American evangelical groups have been blamed for fomenting homophobia in Africa. (Photo courtesy IGLHRC)

Dr. Kapya Kaoma is a director at a progressive think tank and an ordained Angelican preist from Zambia. He’s written extensively on the interaction between US culture’s influence on gay rights in Africa, including: How U.S. Clergy Brought Hate to UgandaGlobalizing Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia.

The event will be moderated by Charlene Strong a local gay rights advocate.  Strong’s partner, Kate Fleming, died in a flash flood in their home in the Madison Valley during a violent storm in 2006.

Upon arrival at the hospital Strong was initially denied access to her partner in the last moments of Fleming’s life.

After experiencing the “heartless humiliation of hospital and funeral home staff” in the wake of such immense personal loss, Strong became staunch activist for marriage equality, on both a statewide and national level.

You can watch Strong tell her story below. As you do, consider the millions of stories like this–around the world–that you may not have heard.

The Gay Rights as Human Rights event will be held on Tuesday, May 15, at 6:00 PM at the Center for Spiritual Living, Celebration Hall. Register here.

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