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LGBT Asians/South Asians Urge U.S.  Supreme Court to Strike Down Trump’s  Anti-Muslim Travel Ban

Read the LGBT Amicus Brief at bit.ly/17-956

Tomorrow on April 25, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Donald Trump’s third iteration of his anti-Muslim Travel Ban. The ban, issued by Executive Order, bars people from certain majority Muslim countries from coming to the United States.

LGBT Asian/South Asian groups submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down. The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), with the pro bono assistance of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, spearheaded the brief illustrating the impact of Trump’s travel ban on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Brief is here: bit.ly/17-956.

Glenn D. Magpantay, NQAPIA Executive Director and Counsel on the Amicus Brief, said, “Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban has a direct impact on the lives of LGBT people and tears families apart. The defense relies on some of the cases and legal theories that supported the internment of Japanese Americans.”

He continued, “We’ve been here before. In 1987, President Regan instituted an anti-HIV Travel ban. In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court banned homosexuals because they were persons of ‘bad moral character.’ In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese from immigrating to the United States. Let’s never forget. Never again.”

Arguments

The amicus brief details the oppressive conditions for LGBT people living in the countries named in the travel ban, where homosexuality is criminalized and LGBT people are persecuted. The brief explains how Trump’s ban prevents LGBT people in those countries from joining their families and loved ones in the United States, increasing their exposure to persecution in their home countries.

Moreover, the brief argues that the ban deprives U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of their constitutionally-protected liberty interests in maintaining familial relationships with their loved ones whose safety is jeopardized by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Because the ban’s narrow—and legally required—exceptions lack meaningful rules guaranteeing equal treatment of LGBT visa applicants, Trump’s travel ban disproportionately denies LGBT people the ability to reunite with their loved ones in the United States.

Co-Signers

Eight organization logos

Seven (7) LGBTQ South Asian and Asian Pacific Islander organizations across the country join as co-amici to sign on to the brief:

  • API Equality-Los Angeles
  • API Equality-Northern California (APIENC)
  • Invisible to Invincible (i2i): Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago
  • KhushDC
  • Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA)
  • Queer South Asian Collective (QSAC)
  • South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association of New York City (SALGA-NYC)

In addition to these groups, the NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti Violence Project; Immigration Equality; LGBT bar associations in New York (LeGaL), Chicago (LAGBAC), San Francisco (BALIF), and Los Angeles; and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) in Boston also joined.

Shristi Pant, a member of QSAC in Boston, said, “As an organization for South Asian queer and trans folks, we have a duty to support our Muslim community members, as well as Muslim folks from other areas of the world. This travel ban is just one aspect of the anti-Muslim violence that is being perpetuated in and by the U.S. and one that deeply affects Muslim LGBTQA+ folks in need of refuge from the violence they already face.”

Sammie Ablaza Wills, Director of API Equality-Northern California, commented that, “The anti-Muslim and anti-refugee ban is political fear mongering, directly impacting many in our communities. As LGBTQ Asian and Pacific Islander people, we understand that we cannot accept policies that dehumanize our Muslim and refugee family members. APIENC is dedicated to working towards safety and freedom for our people, and we will fight the Muslim ban at the airports, on the streets, and in the courts.”

Anne Watanabe, i2i core member in Chicago further elaborated, “As Asian Americans, we remember the disgraceful U.S. history of 120,000 Japanese American and Japanese people being forced into detention camps as a result of wartime hysteria filled with racism. We are now seeing this racist history repeat itself against Muslims and other targeted communities.”

Prior Actions

API Equality-LA works in solidarity with LGBTQ Muslims and those affected by racial profiling. In 2017, API Equality-LA took action on 9/11 highlighting the experiences of queer and trans Muslims and South Asians through a vigil hosted at Los Angeles City Hall. Its Indi(visible) Campaign advocates for a holistic approach towards immigration equality that encompasses challenging Islamophobia and the Muslim Ban, defending DACA and undocumented communities, and protecting LGBTQ immigrants, particularly trans immigrants of color.

Last fall, before the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments on Trump’s second version of the travel ban, NQAPIA and several of the co-signing groups organized awareness raising actions in seven (7) cities—Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC—protesting the violence, harassment, and profiling that LGBTQ South Asians and Muslims have endured since 9/11.

“For the past two years, on the anniversary of 9/11, KhushDC has participated in and organized direct actions to raise awareness of Islamophobia. These actions bring attention to the increased profiling and discrimination faced by Muslim people in the U.S.,” said Anish Tailor of KhushDC.

The effort, entitled “#QueerAzaadi,” featured community funerals to lift the names of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, trans women, African Americans, and undocumented immigrants killed in hate crimes; storytelling speak outs of LGBTQ Muslims and experiences of violence in the last 16 years; and mock checkpoints targeting white people to replicate the profiling that South Asian, Muslim, API, and people of color experience at airports and government buildings. 300 people participated in the actions in seven (7) cities that unveiled the interlocking systems of Islamophobia, Transphobia, Xenophobia, and Anti-Blackness.

Voices of Queer Muslims

NQAPIA has also published the personal stories of LGBT Muslims and South Asians sharing their experiences of policing and profiling in writing at nqapia.org/redefinesecurity-stories and in video at nqapia.org/redefinesecurity-videos.

Historical Timeline

1882 – Anti-Chinese Travel Ban
In 1882, Congress adopted and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first piece of federal legislation that singled out a minority group for invidious discrimination and barred their entry. It was not until 1943 that Chinese people could naturalize to become U.S. citizens. The Act was passed after many Chinese people had built the transcontinental railroad which unified the United States East and West.

1952 – Anti-LGBT Travel Ban
From 1952 to 1990, LGBT people were excluded from the U.S. because they were deemed to be of “psychopathic personality.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law and its application to homosexuals. Lower courts further denied the naturalization of LGBT immigrants because they were persons of “bad moral character.”

1987 – Anti-HIV Travel Ban
From 1987 to 2010, President Reagan issued an Executive Order, which President Bush extended, barring people with AIDS or who were HIV+ from entering the United States. Congress then codified the HIV+ exclusion into federal law in 1993. It was not until 2010, under President Obama, when the travel restriction was eliminated.

2017 – Anti-Muslim Travel Ban
Trump issued an executive order preventing people from 6 majority Muslim counties (Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia) and all refugees from entering the United States.

# # #

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a nationwide federation of LGBTQ Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (API) organizations. We seek to build the organizational capacity of local LGBTQ API groups, develop leadership, and expand collaborations to better challenges anti-LGBT bias and racism.

#NeverAgain nomuslimbanever.com #QueerAzaadi

Not Another Death Threat: Queer and Trans Muslim Realities in America

By Almas Haider

There should be a name for the particular depression of living as a queer trans Muslim of color in America. A specific PTSD of walking the streets in constant fear of being racialized as Muslim and have your gender and sexual orientation questioned. The pleasure of not just having one day a year, September 11th, to expect extra harassment, but surprise holidays like “Punish a Muslim Day.” The joy of calling your mother and father, asking them their plans for the day, and telling them to “be mindful, keep your phone charged, and go home and call me if you don’t feel safe outside today.” Because to be a queer trans Muslim of color in America means to live in a state of anticipation of what hate violence we can expect next.

In the past two years since Trump’s campaign and subsequent election, there has been a surge in anti-immigrant legislation and hate violence. According to a study conducted by South Asians Americans Leading Together (SAALT), from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017 there have been “302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in the United States.” 82% of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, a “45% increase from the year leading up to the 2016 election cycle, levels not seen since the year after September 11th.” [SAALT]

This rapidly escalating level of hate violence was not created in a vacuum. This cycle of violence is directly tied to the racist and xenophobic legislation and systems of the United States. The latest manifestation of this has been the Muslim Travel Ban which will be heard by the Supreme Court on April 25th. The executive order, “bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, suspends the entry of all refugees for at least 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely,” creating yet another form of institutionalized Islamophobia in the U.S. [ACLU].

In response, on March 26th the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) and seven LGBT South Asian and API groups submitted an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban. The brief showed how the ban has a direct impact on the lives of LGBTQIA people and tears families apart.

This brief is in part a direct response to an attempt to pinkwash the Muslim Travel Ban. Language included in the Ban says it will protect Americans by barring entry to “those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation” [Human Rights First]. This insinuates that people living in Muslim-majority countries are queerphobic and transphobic, a marketing and political tool most infamously being used by Israel to justify Palestinian genocide.

How quintessentially American: the Ban would bar queer and trans immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from seeking a complicated form of “safety” in the U.S., while claiming that the ban will help keep queer and trans people safe. This will in turn further the narrative of queerphobic and transphobic tyrants reigning in Muslim majority countries, justifying ongoing U.S. imperialism and intervention in the Middle East and creating more refugees. And the amount of physical and verbal violence queer and trans Muslims of color experience within the U.S. will continue to increase.

As the policies of the state become normalized in our everyday lives, the next turn in this cycle of queer, trans, and gendered islamophobia is the increase in hate crimes against our communities. For queer and trans Muslims of color, these attacks target multiple identities that we hold. According to the 2016 FBI Hate Crimes Statistic report, hate crimes against racial and ethnic minorities drastically increased in 2016. 25% of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim bias alongside 18% anti-queer and anti-trans bias incidents. This makes queer and trans Muslims of color disproportionately likely to be victims. [FBI report]

Through our organizing as queer and trans Muslims, we aim to change that.

For the last two years, on September 11th, we have been crafting actions across the U.S. The purpose of these actions has been to educate, empower, and hold our community who experience the nuances of being profiled as queer Muslims of color. Our actions, drawing inspiration from Black Lives Matter and the movement for Palestinian liberation, have ranged from mock “security” checkpoints to guerilla performance art.

We are questioned and detained not just because of the languages we speak, our ancestral homes, and places of worship and communal gathering, but also because of how we express our gender and sexual identity through our appearance and the political movements we align with. Through these actions we have focused on the ways that Islamophobia and transphobia reinforce each other, how Black Muslims are particularly impacted by queer and gendered islamophobia, and building solidarity internally within our LGBTQIA community.

On the 15th anniversary of September 11th, we spearheaded 20 local organizations to create “checkpoints” in high-traffic areas of Washington, D.C. The Washington Post showed how we aimed to replicate various “checkpoints” and experiences that Muslim Americans and those perceived to be Muslims have to go through every day, including being stopped by the Transportation Security Administration, being verbally and physically harassed in businesses, and routinely called terrorists.

In 2017, after a year of direct and blatant attacks on our communities by the Trump administration, we focused on creating spaces of not only resistance, but also of healing and safety. We named the Muslim Travel Ban and other forms of state violence as the root cause of queerphobic, transphobic, and Islamophobic hate crimes. We drew connections between queerphobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia. We questioned how we show up for one another. And we committed and successfully created spaces for all of our communities to mourn both the lives and the safety that has been taken from us since the election.

Through this work we as queer and trans Muslims of color have recognized and grown our power in a country that seeks to alienate, imprison, and murder us within and outside its borders. And as we wait in anticipation for the the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Muslim Ban, we begin our plans for an annualized and formal nationwide series of actions on September 11th. We now look to September 11th and every day, not with fear, but with the resolve and strengthened ability to create a different world. And ask our accomplices to be ready to join us.

Almas Haider is the Racial Justice and Immigrants’ Rights Committee Chair of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance and Community Partnerships Manager at South Asian Americans Leading Together.

You can learn more about and get involved with the work of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to combat Islamophobia, transphobia and queerphobia at www.nqapia.org.

Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBTQ South Asians – Why We Should Care

Texas SB4’s Impact on LGBTQ South Asians – Why We Should Care

By Amrit Uprety of KhushATX and Sasha W. of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

This past week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4) one of the most rigorous anti-immigrant laws passed since Donald Trump took office.

Last May, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB4 into law which would allow racial profiling and subject anyone perceived to be an immigrant — in other words, all communities of color — to unlimited questioning about their immigration status, all by local law enforcement officials with little or no training in immigration law. It prevents any city in the state of Texas from becoming a “sanctuary city,”  and levies heavy penalties against local officials who push back against federal immigration authorities.

Resistance to the bill was clear and rapid.  Just one day after the bill was signed into law, city and county officials in Texas filed a lawsuit to block implementation. The four largest cities in Texas joined the lawsuit.  Then, LGBTQ Asian and South Asian  community groups in Texas, including KhushATX in Austin, Coalition of Houston Asian Americans, and Dragonflies in Dallas joined the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance to file anamicus brief illustrating the impact of the law on the LGBTQ and Asian American community.

According to the Census, South Asians and Asian Americans make up the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the country — we are the largest percentage of documented and undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. And, as we know, many of our South Asian immigrant community is also LGBTQ. Nationally there are 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants from Asian countries, that includes various South Asian nations, including nearly 40,000 who are undocumented.

SB4 would subject South Asians and all people of color to profiling, discriminatory stops by police and interrogation about their immigration status. If the law goes into effect, our LGBTQ and South Asian community members will be caught in the crossfire.

As LGBTQ South Asians, we are no strangers to discriminatory policing and racial, ethnic and religious profiling. As queer people of color, SB4’s legalized profiling evokes the history of police raids of LGBT bars — Stonewall, which helped to catalyze the LGBT movement, which was a riot against this queer and transphobic policing. As South Asians, our communities have faced increased Islamophobia and profiling since 9/11, which has skyrocketed.  This kind of everyday profiling happens at airports, on public streets, and in our places of work and worship.

As queer and trans South Asians, we must fight back against being profile for “looking” immigrant, trans, queer, Muslim, South Asian, Latinx, Black. KhushATX, with other LGBTQ Asian American groups in Texas and throughout the South, worked with NQAPIA to oppose SB4. We hand-wrote 50 letters to government officials to block the law from taking effect, and we asked them to continue resisting this racist, xenophobic bill.

You can learn about what’s happening with our LGBTQ South Asian immigrant family in Texas. Don’t ignore the struggles and the beautiful resistance of the South. If you are in or have family in Texas, read and share this oped. And stay ready to support our family when we are called — whether it be in the form of a handwritten letter, a phone call, a protest, or a rally — to show up and hold space in solidarity with our LGBTQ immigrant family.

Learn More

Fact Sheet about Texas SB 4’s impact on LGBTQ Asian Americas and South Asians, and translation in Urdu.

2018 Community Catalyst Awards

It’s time for NQAPIA’s Annual Community Catalyst Awards Banquet Fundraisers in New York City and Washington, DC! Click each invitation to learn more about each dinner.Community Catalyst Awards NY PromotionCommunity Catalyst Awards DC Promotion

Movement Convergences

NQAPIA is coming to your city to ask you: where are we now, and where will we go? Let’s identify the threats we’re up against and build our QTAPI political home!

RSVP at bit.ly/convergences18

Movement Convergences

Program

Each Movement Convergence is an opportunity for us to learn, share, and grow with one another between our local and national LGBTQ API community. We’ll share our values with one another, and you’ll teach us the threats in your area. How do we organize with these two things in mind, and how can NQAPIA as a national organization support you locally? Together, we will build power and build our QTAPI political home!

Locations & Dates

Click each city’s name to join their Facebook event.

City Date Time
Austin March 10 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Washington, DC April 14 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
New York City April 16 6:00-9:30 p.m.
Portland April 29 12:00-4:00 p.m.
Seattle April 30 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Bay Area May 14 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Los Angeles May 16 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Chicago May 26 12:00-4:00 p.m.

RSVP

To attend, please RSVP at bit.ly/convergences18. Select your city in the drop-down menu

Accessibility

Please respect the space and the people around you by helping create a scent-free environment.

For more access needs, please let us know when you register at bit.ly/convergences18.

Donations

Any donations will go towards food and materials at each of the Movement Convergences. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

bit.ly/convergences18

If you can’t attend a convergence but still want to support us, please make a donation by selecting “No RSVP – Donation Only” in the drop-down city selection. We appreciate any support!

Help Us Save DACA Today!

#DefendDACA & Speak Out for Our Communities

Save DACA

Six months ago, the Trump administration announced a future end to the DACA program unless Congress acts to preserve it. Today is that day. DACA’s cancellation will make 800,000 undocumented young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children again fear deportation and separation from their family, friends, and lives here. We must defend DACA with all we’ve got.

We believe that all people deserve to live, work, and study in the US without fear of deportation. To keep many in the LGBT and API community safe, join us in urging Trump to save DACA by supporting a clean DREAM Act.

Overtake Trump’s Social Media!

Last month, you might have read NQAPIA’s OpEd on the impact of DACA on the LGBTQ community and the need for a #cleanDREAMact, written by Executive Director Glenn Magpantay. Make sure that Trump also reads it by tweeting the link: bit.ly/dacaoped.

Twitter%29Symbol

Tweet this message @realDonaldTrump

Protect our #LGBT and #API communities by supporting a #CleanDreamAct free of a #BorderWall, expanded detention beds & deportations, & changes to the #FamilyImmigration system. I #DefendDACA w @NQAPIA & Glenn bit.ly/dacaoped

Notice Something New?

NQAPIA is switching over our client databases, and we have all sorts of new tools! These social media callouts are some of them. Look forward to more new changes from NQAPIA in the near future.

#DefendDACA   nqapia.salsalabs.org/savedacafighttrump/

LGBTQ API Athletes: Schuyler Bailar

LGBTQ API Athletes: Schuyler Bailar

Schuyler Bailar

Schuyler Bailar
Photo Credit: website press kit, photo by Sydney Claire Photography

Schuyler Bailar, who is 21 and currently attending Harvard University, is a transgender man on Harvard’s men’s swimming and diving team. Born to a white father and an Asian mother, Bailar is a 25-time National Championship qualifier and a member of Nation’s Capital Swim Club’s 2012 and 2013 National Championship teams. Bailar also set a US National relay record with teammate and future Olympian Katie Ledecky. Bailar began to struggle with how he was presenting himself to the world during his high school years. While he had not been fully conscious of his difference as a child, he always felt more comfortable dressing in t-shirts and cargo shorts and traditionally male presentation. But, people just assumed he was a tomboy.

Swimming was his outlet as he was growing up. It was his release, blocking out everything else and giving him peace. But after he broke his back in a biking accident in 2012, he had to find other ways to cope. The social pressures of high school and his struggles with identity took their toll. He fell into depression and developed an eating disorder. After being recruited by Harvard and electing to take a gap year after high school, it was in 2014 when he went to a gender workshop that he was able to realize that he was transgender.

In 2015, he had top surgery to remove his breasts and mammary glands. Through the support of his coach and team members, he competes on Harvard University’s varsity men’s team. Bailar was a star as a female swimmer with coaches confident that he would be an Olympic trials contender and he knew that he would be throwing that potential away as a male swimmer but decided that living authentically is more important to him. Bailar chronicles his experience on social media and through speaking appearances at schools and conferences and is an inspiration for everyone through his tenacity and authenticity. He is an example of how the complex nature of biological sex and gender is changing in sports.

@pinkmanataray pinkmantaray.com

LGBTQ API Athletes: Amazin LêThị

LGBTQ API Athletes: Amazin LêThị

Amazin LeThi Bodybuilder

Amazin Lethi Bodybuilder Photo Credit: Sent directly from her just for use in this article

Amazin LêThị was a Vietnamese professional bodybuilder and now does advocacy work with her organization the Amazin Lethi Foundation, promoting HIV/AIDS awareness and equality for LGBT youth. She grew up in Australia, where she said, as a teen, she was bullied for being Asian and, later on, for being part of the rainbow community. Because she was a transracial adoptee from Vietnam and brought up in a white household, she felt that she did not fit in well in any particular group. Throughout her teenage to young adult years, she said she had felt suicidal. It was difficult to pull through those times, but when she did, she was committed to make it so other youth today would be able to have people they can turn to for support.

Her drive for changing the sports scene is rooted in her own experience as a professional bodybuilder, where she was the only Asian in her community, as well as the only woman. Homophobic and transphobic behavior is common in sports, especially in locker room talk, said LêThị. Back then, she did not have any rainbow Asian role models to look up to and could not feel comfortable coming out at all. That is why, in her own work, she aims to be that role model for youth who are trying to figure out who they are and are feeling insecure about their identity.

Through sports, she hopes to create a safe place where Asian rainbow youth can have a support network. Being in a team helps people learn about themselves as individuals as well as who they are within a larger group. They get to express themselves through their body instead of verbally. She acknowledges the pressures that people in professional sports have where they cannot express their authentic self fully to the world because their career is on the line. NQAPIA is working with her to promote LGBT equality and API inclusion through sports. She will be speaking at NQAPIA’s 2018 National Conference in San Francisco in July.

Lethi prefers using the terms “queer” and “rainbow” to better represent the fluidity in people’s sexuality, so that people are not pressured to categorize themselves in specific boxes.

Learn more about Amazin LêThị on her website at www.amazinlethi.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

FACT SHEET: LGBTQ Rights in South Korea

South Korea has the makings of a broad legal framework to protect LGBT people from discrimination and violence, but it lacks provisions for enforcement and remedy.

You can help by writing to the Korean president and urging the government to institute tangible mechanisms to hold perpetrators of anti-LGBT discrimination accountable. Only then can the LGBT community in South Korea receive the equal protection from the laws that they deserve.

In Korean society, same-sex relationships are not recognized or widely accepted.

  • According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 58% of Koreans opposed same-sex marriage, only 34% supported, and 8% were undecided.
  • The South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed his opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage in a televised debate during his presidential campaign.

LGBTQ Rights

LGBTQ Legal Status

  • South Korea does not explicitly prohibit homosexual relations; however, there are few protections that guard against actual discrimination.
  • South Korea does not recognize same-sex marriage or legal unions.
  • Same-sex couples are denied rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, such as medical self-determination, pensions, and inheritance.
  • Since same-sex couples are unable to marry, they are also unable to adopt children, since “single” parents are generally prohibited from doing so.
  • Korean courts can grant a legal change of gender, but only if the applicant complies with stringent requirements that deprive them of other civil liberties. People also cannot change their gender in the official family relations register if they are currently married or have a minor child.

Anti-Discrimination Protections

  • South Korea’s constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, religion, or social status, which the Ministry of Justice has said applies to LGBT people. However, these “protections” act as rights without any enforcement power or remedy behind them:
    • South Korean laws neither specify punishment for people who discriminate against LGBT people nor provide remedies to victims of discrimination or violence.
    • The National Human Rights Commission of Korea is tasked with protecting LGBT rights, but it too lacks any enforcement power, and its recommendations are non-binding.
  • Over the past decade, pushback from Korea’s strong conservative and Christian lobby has repeatedly foiled attempts to pass an LGBT-inclusive anti-discrimination law.

In the Military

  • Under military laws, same-sex relations are automatically deemed harassment (regardless of consent) and punishable by up to a year in prison and dishonorable discharge.
  • In April 2017, the South Korean military began identifying and punishing gay military servicemembers by confiscating cell phones of suspected gay soldiers and demanding that they identify others on their dating apps and contact list.
  • There have been repeated incidents of gay servicemen facing beatings and bullying inside army bases, shrouded from public sight.

Freedom of Expression

  • Samsung and Google banned popular gay social networking apps from their online stores. In 2013, Samsung rejected the gay app Hornet from its South Korean store, citing local values and laws that disallow LGBTQ content. The Google Play store has blocked Jack’d.
  • The government denied the charity status application of an LGBT organization for three years until 2017, where the Supreme Court ordered the government to reverse its discriminatory stance.

Signs of Progress

  • According to a 2017 Gallup Korea poll, 90% of Koreans surveyed said they supported equal employment opportunities for sexual minorities.
  • In 2015, a court overturned the Seoul Metropolitan Police’s decision to ban a gay pride parade, stating that “unless there is a clear risk of danger to the public, preventing the demonstration is not allowed and should be the absolute last resort.”
  • In 2014, South Korea voted in favor of a UN resolution aimed at overcoming discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • In 2003, the Youth Protection Committee stopped classifying homosexuality as “harmful and obscene.” Previously, the law had justified censorship of LGBTQ websites, with the “logic” of protecting youth from homosexual content.

Call to Action

Write the Korean president to support of LGBTQ rights.

Send a message to the Korean government in support of LGBTQ protections—encouraging policymakers to do right by the country’s constitution and establish tangible mechanisms for uplifting and enforcing LGBT equality.

President of South Korea Moon Jae-In
Address: 1 Cheongwadae-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul 03048, Republic of Korea
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/moonbyun1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/moonriver365
Website: https://english1.president.go.kr/util/contact_us.php


The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander (APIs) organizations. NQAPIA builds the capacity of local LGBT API groups, develops leadership, promotes visibility, educates the community, invigorates grassroots organizing, encourages collaborations, and challenges anti-LGBT bias and racism. NQAPIA acknowledges the pro bono assistance of Weil Gotshal & Manages LLP in researching country laws. Additional sources include Human Rights Watch and OutRight Action International.