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Countries Celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

  • Aline Barros

People hold rainbow umbrellas to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in the front of the Romanian Parliament building in Bucharest, May 17, 2016.

People hold rainbow umbrellas to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia in the front of the Romanian Parliament building in Bucharest, May 17, 2016.

May 17 marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. In the U.S., President Barack Obama said the country is committed to the principle that everyone must be treated fairly and with respect, but there is work to be done.

"In too many places, LGBT individuals grow up forced to conceal or deny who they truly are for fear of persecution, discrimination and violence," Obama said in a statement.

The president added that his administration has made "great strides," including marriage equality as a result of last year's landmark Supreme Court decision.

But LGBT people face challenges that some say have no place in America.

During an unrelated hearing Tuesday on the U.S. Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada took the opportunity to say he stands with the transgender community.

Reid condemned discrimination against the LGBT community and said North Carolina's controversial law is the kind of discriminatory action that has no place in the 21st century.

"Actions taken by the North Carolina legislature and governor are nothing short of state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals. Laws that are clearly and completely illegal," Reid said.

A legal battle intensified between the U.S. government and the state of North Carolina over its law that mandates transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth, not the one to which they identify.

Gays and lesbians wave gay pride flags before a Kiss-A-Thon against homophobia in Asuncion, Paraguay, May 17, 2016.

Gays and lesbians wave gay pride flags before a Kiss-A-Thon against homophobia in Asuncion, Paraguay, May 17, 2016.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the law "state-sponsored discrimination" that reminds her of a time when blacks were barred from public facilities and states could dictate who was allowed to marry.

The federal government is suing the state of North Carolina over its so-called bathroom bill, saying it breaks federal anti-discrimination laws.

Around the globe

Meanwhile in Kosovo, a few hundred people held their first pride parade seeking acceptance and respect of their rights in the conservative society.

Participants marched under heavy police presence through downtown Pristina, and organizers said the rally was for "LGBT persons who could not be part of the march because they are surrounded by homophobia and transphobia in Kosovo."

Marchers carried banners that read "I am out, therefore I am," "Come out now, ask us how" and "Homophobia-free zone." Kosovo's President Hashim Thaci and the U.S. and British ambassadors to Kosovo also marched to voice support.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an advocate group that represents LGBT people from all around the world, reports that at least 75 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships while 10 countries punish same-sex conduct by death.

"HRC Global stands in solidarity with advocates everywhere against homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and all forms of hate facing the LGBTQ community," according to a statement.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced legislation to protect transgender people from hate speech and discrimination. The bill was to be officially unveiled Tuesday by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Trudeau said in a speech at a Montreal event hosted by gay rights group Foundation Emergence that "despite all the obstacles we have overcome, the battles we have won, and the victories we have celebrated, we are still witnesses and, in some cases, victims of injustices."

"We must continue to demand true equality. We must carry on the legacy of those who fought for justice by being bold and ambitious in our actions," he said.

International Day Against Homophobia is celebrated in more than 120 countries each year. It was created in 2004 to draw political leaders' attention to the violence and discrimination that LGBT people face.

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