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5 Reasons to visit Maryland

Maryland may not be everyone’s first choice when it comes to east coast states in the US, but it still has its fair share of attractions that make it a place worth visiting.

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Maryland may not be everyone’s first choice when it comes to east coast states (it’s hard to compete with the likes of New York and Virginia), but it still has its fair share of attractions that make it a place worth visiting.

Here are just five reasons to take a trip to Maryland.

See the sights in Baltimore

Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland. Unlike many other large east coast cities, Baltimore has a more offbeat feel. There’s a lot of history and there are plenty of museums and old monuments worth seeing including the Washington Monument and Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. Other Baltimore attractions include the National Aquarium and Horseshoe Casino. You’ll also find Edgar Allan Poe’s grave here.

Go sailing in Annapolis

Annapolis is the sailing capital of the US – if you’re going to try your hand at sailing, this is the place to do it. There are plenty of schools here and an annual yacht show. On top of sailing, Annapolis offer various other attractions including Maryland State House and the National Cemetery. Annapolis is also a stone’s throw from Washington DC and could be worth combining into a trip.

Visit the historic Ellicott City

Founded in 1772, the historic town of Ellicott City can be found just outside Baltimore. The preserved period architecture can make a trip to Ellicott City feel like a step back in time. Some of the best attractions here include the ghost tours (it’s a popular sight for hauntings) and the Forget-Me-Not Factory, which is a three store toy factory in one of the town’s oldest buildings. The town also has some great restaurants worth visiting if you fancy a spot of fine dining.

Explore Goddard Space Flight Centre

Goddard Space Flight Centre is a major NASA research laboratory. If you love space, it could be worth taking a visit here, where you’ll find a visitor centre for learning all about the cosmos. It may not be as large and popular as Houston or Kennedy Space Centre, but it’s still an exciting place for learning about the research side of space exploration and the smaller crowds can make it more fun if you’re visiting during the holidays.  

Have an outdoor adventure at Deep Creek Lake

Maryland also has countless natural outdoor attractions to choose from. You can hike through the Appalachian Mountains or stare out across Chesapeake Bay. However, by far one of the most scenic and popular outdoor attractions is Deep Creek Lake where you’ll find a bit of everything from mountains to rivers. Deep Creek Lake is also great for outdoor activities – in the winter you can go skiing and snowboarding here, whilst the summer offer the chance to go cycling or hiking. It’s also a popular fishing hotspot due to it’s peaceful scenery and plentiful supply of fish.

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Cook Islands delays decision to decriminalize gay sex

Currently, it is illegal for men to have sex with men in the Cook Islands, and this is punishable by a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment. Same-sex marriage is outlawed, and civil unions are not recognized.

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Photo by Dean McQuade from Unsplash.com

Following the September 30, Wednesday, meeting of the Cook Islands Parliament, the decision to decriminalize sex between consenting same sex people was deferred for three months.

Currently, it is illegal for men to have sex with men in the Cook Islands, and this is punishable by a sentence of up to seven years’ imprisonment. Same-sex marriage is outlawed, and civil unions are not recognized.

In 2019, a new draft of the Crimes Bill was considered. Had it passed, it would have decriminalized same-sexual activity.

The bill had a hard time following opposition from fundamentalist “Christians”.

The nation was actually tolerant of same-sex relationships before the arrival of foreign “Christian” missionaries.

The existing law is premised on United Kingdom’s antiquated “anti-buggery law”, imposed in countries it colonized with the prohibition of same sex relationships. UK, however, already decriminalized homosexuality in 1967, even if a handful of Commonwealth countries continue to discriminate against LGBTQIA people.

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Bill banning LGBTQIA ‘conversion therapy’ reintroduced in Canada

The new bill will include five amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code to include offenses such as causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, causing any person to undergo the therapy against their will, and profiting off from the practice.

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Photo by Guillaume Jaillet from Unsplash.com

In Canada, a bill that eyes to criminalize LGBTQIA ‘conversion therapy’ was reintroduced.

An earlier effort to ban the practice failed because the parliament was discontinued due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Conversion therapy” is the most widely-used term used to describe practices attempting to change, suppress or divert one’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It is also called reorientation therapy, reparative therapy, reintegrative therapy, or, more recently, support for unwanted same-sex attraction or transgender identities.

The new bill will include five amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code to include offenses such as causing a minor to undergo conversion therapy, causing any person to undergo the therapy against their will, and profiting off from the practice.

According to Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau: “Conversion therapy is harmful, degrading, and has no place in Canada… I hope that all parties will do the right thing by supporting this bill.”

Trudeau’s Liberal Party earlier promised to ban the practice.

No voting date has been set.

Already, various Canadian cities – such as Vancouver in British Columbia and Calgary in Alberta – ban the practice within their borders.

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Norway to prioritize LGBT refugees

Norway will be prioritizing refugees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. This move is said to be in recognition of the persecution experienced by LGBT refugees on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

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Photo by Tobias Bjørkli from Pexels.com

Norway will be prioritizing refugees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). This move is said to be in recognition of the persecution experienced by LGBT refugees on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

This will be the first time that members of this community will be given priority both as a group and individuals when Norway selects for transfers. But the new rules will only apply for the transfer of refugees from one asylum country to another for permanent resettlement.

Under Norway’s previous guidelines, vulnerable women and children were given priority.

According to State Secretary for Integration Affairs in the Ministry of Education, Grunde Kreek Almeland: “It is unfortunately the case that in many countries it is not the case that you are free to love whoever you want. In almost 70 countries, homosexuality is criminal and those who violate norms of gender and sexuality can be subjected to persecution and discrimination in their home country.”

And so “we are now changing the guidelines for the work with transfer refugees so that people who are queer should be given priority.”

Migrant refugees are persons who are normally registered as refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is UN that promotes the applications for the resettlement refugees, and the UDI decides which of them is allowed to come to Norway. In 2020, the Norway decided that the quota for resettlement refugees will be 3,000 people.

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Sudan lifts death penalty and flogging for gay sex

Sudan has lifted the death penalty and flogging as punishment for gay sex after approximately four decades of hardline Islamist rule. This much-needed development follows the toppling last year of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power since 1989, with the new government pledging to lead the country to democracy.

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Photo by Erik Hathaway from Unsplash.com

Small step; though one that’s long time coming.

Sudan has lifted the death penalty and flogging as punishment for gay sex after approximately four decades of hardline Islamist rule. This much-needed development follows the toppling last year of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power since 1989, with the new government pledging to lead the country to democracy.

Same-sex relations remain criminalized in many arts of Africa and the Middle East. Sudan was one of six countries – aside from Iran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia – that imposed the death penalty for gay sex.

Under Sudan’s old “anti-sodomy law”, gay men faced 100 lashes for the first offense, five years in jail for the second, and the death penalty the third. But the punishments have been reduced to prison terms from five years to life.

The legal amendment re gay sex was part of other reforms announced by the Sudanese justice minister, which also included plans to decriminalize apostasy or the abandonment of a religion; permitting non-Muslims to consume alcohol; banning female genital mutilation; and allowing women to travel with their children without a permit from a male relative.

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Malaysian minister advocates for trans people to be arrested and re-educated

In Malaysia, the Religious Affairs Minister caused a stir after he gave “full license” to Islamic authorities to arrest and “educate” transgender people. Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri announced via Facebook that he’d given the country’s religious police, a.k.a. called JAWI, “full licen(s)e to carry out its enforcement actions” against transgender people.

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Photo by @chuttersnap from Unsplash.com

Religious extremists in positions of power?

In Malaysia, the Religious Affairs Minister caused a stir after he gave “full license” to Islamic authorities to arrest and “educate” transgender people. Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri announced via Facebook that he’d given the country’s religious police, a.k.a. called JAWI, “full licen(s)e to carry out its enforcement actions” against transgender people.

He similarly said that the authorities should subject transgender people to “religious education” in a bid to “return them to the right path”.

“Islam is a religion that wants to educate,” the Facebook post stated. “We will work towards coordinated efforts from all agencies under the religious affairs wing in the prime minister’s department.”

Local LGBTQIA organizations are, rightfully, calling out the minister’s hateful stance.

For instance, in a statement, SEED Malaysia stated that the minister’s bigoted comments would “fuel hatred” against the country’s transgender community. “The transgender community in Malaysia already face continued persecution by the state and broader society… The statement by Dr. Zulkifli and the threat of arrest will drive the transgender community further into hiding. This will deteriorate the communities’ access to basic rights even more.”

This is worth noting: Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country, and it forbids homosexuality under its Islamic laws. The country’s secular laws also criminalize gay sex.

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Netherlands to remove gender from identity cards

By 2024 or 2025, gender identity will no longer be contained in Dutch national identity cards. This move is expected to counter-check the potential harms caused by gender declaration – e.g. harassment, discrimination and violence – particularly when there is no justification to publish a person’s legal gender at all.

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Photo by @travelsnips from Unsplash.com

By 2024 or 2025, gender identity will no longer be contained in Dutch national identity cards.

This after the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, announced the decision in a letter to the House of Representatives. This move is actually part of a broader plan from the Ministry, which also includes limiting “unnecessary gender registration”.

This move is expected to counter-check the potential harms caused by gender declaration – e.g. harassment, discrimination and violence – particularly when there is no justification to publish a person’s legal gender at all.

Gender identity will, however, remain on Dutch passports due to European Union regulation.

The removal of information that used to be deemed “important” from IDs is not actually new.

Various countries, for instance, already exclude personal characteristics, such as race, religion or marital status, which could cause more harm than good.

The Netherlands is not the first EU country to do this. In 2013, Germany recognized indeterminate sex by permitting babies born with no clear gender-determining anatomy to be put on the birth register without a male or female classification.

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