By Kierra Elfalan
Advocates for international gay and lesbian rights gathered at RN74 restaurant in Seattle on Sunday, April 6, where International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) Executive Director Jessica Stern described acts of violence, criminalization and homophobia around the world.
The restaurant was packed with supporters and leaders in the LGBT community, including Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark, IGLHRC Co-chair Amie Bishop, and Human Rights Commissioner Charlene Strong.
“We wanted to have tonight’s event because we think it’s important to bring together people that care about LGBT rights domestically, regionally and internationally,” Stern said.
And they succeeded. With an expectation of what Stern referred to as a “living room” full of people, the host committee for the event was ecstatic after they filled the restaurant. Even though Washington State is moving forward on gay rights with the election of a gay mayor and the right to marry, local supporters were there to support the international movement.
“Sometimes we forget that there is so much more to be done,” said LGBT leader John Payes. “So I came here to support, primarily, the work that needs to be done for the next decade,” he said.
The IGLHRC has been around for 24 years and works in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. This non-government organization was given official consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council on July 19, 2010, according to the IGLHRC website, allowing them to become even more present at the international level.
The LGBT community in North America is better protected from violence under the law than it is in other regions. Some international communities do not have the same protections. According to Stern, they are subjected to laws that prohibit gay acts and encourage violence against the LGBT community. Stern spoke of an Iraqi case in 2009 where Iraqi men who were perceived as being homosexual were killed.
The Seattle event was a networking opportunity for members and supporters.
“Seattle is an important place to me and to my colleagues at IGLHRC because we feel like this is a community we can partner with in recognizing that the LGBT community is not just in Seattle, it’s not just in Washington, it’s actually global,” Stern said.
The IGLHRC works through partnerships with local activist organizations to create resources for social change and justice.
“One of the things that I like about the organization is [that] it’s small,” said David Schraer, supporter of the IGLHRC and long-time activist in the LGBT community. “They’re focused on training and networking and movement building rather than on any kind of direct action. Direct action by non-nationals in foreign countries is highly problematic.”
“I think together we can see the world in which we want our children to live in,” Strong said to the crowd. “Let’s end ignorance and apathy.”
All photos courtesy of Michele & Jack Storms.