Huffhgton Post | November 26l, 2015
“Our people are being thrown off buildings and they’re stoned to death,” Neil Grungras, the executive director of the Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration, told me this week, speaking about the plight of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the grip of ISIS in Syria. The photos and videos of gruesome atrocities committed against them have gone viral around the world, with reports of men executed on the charge of engaging in sodomy. Michael Lavers at The Washington Blade has done a great deal of reporting on this ghastly reality, quoting leaders of LGBT refugee support groups and others who discuss blood-curdling reports of violence by ISIS, including one report about a transgender woman who was hung from her breasts.
“You couldn’t get more desperate,” Grugras said. “You couldn’t get a situation that’s more shouting for justice.” Those LGBT Syrians that do make it to Turkey or elsewhere as refugees seeking permanent, new homes, find themselves with little support, he said, facing rampant anti-gay discrimination, police brutality and poverty, often forced into sex work and put in dangerous situations.
These stories are among the many reasons why an intense backlash continues against gay and bisexual Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House — Jared Polis of Colorado, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — who cowardly voted last week with the GOP and 44 other Democrats for the SAFE Act, a bill that, according to many refugee experts, would effectively shut down an already overburdened vetting process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees that takes up to two years. Polis, the first openly gay parent in Congress, was working overtime on Twitter and Facebook, clearly on the defensive and definitely not realizing the backlash would be so massive. Over the weekend, Maloney, the first openly gay person elected to Congress from New York State, tried to explain himself to AIDS activist Peter Staley, who lambasted Maloney on Facebook. But it was to no avail as Staley meticulously took apart Maloney’s distortions and rationalizations, while others jumped in to take Maloney to task.