Belize Overturns Sodomy Law Defended by Religious Right, Ugandan Officials Will Continue to Suppress Gay Groups, And More on the Global LGBT Recap

The Rio Olympics, described by Associated Press as “decidedly gay-friendly,” feature a record number of openly LGBT athletes, including Brazil’s gold-medal-winning Rafaela Silva.  Among LGBT firsts are a married lesbian couple who are teammates on the British women’s Rugby team and an on-field marriage proposal from a volunteer to her Rugby-playing girlfriend. Unfortunately the Olympics also featured a Daily Beast article about the use of Grindr among Olympic athletes, an article that drew savage criticism from activists and from an openly gay Tongan athlete for providing personally identifying details of closeted athletes from countries hostile to LGBT people. The Daily Beast edited, then took down, the story. In Inverse, Ethan Jacobs warns against “homonationalism” and pink-washing, saying, for example, that Britain’s embrace of openly gay diver Tom Daley should not be used to excuse some of its politicians’ Islamophobia.

Belize: Court overturns sodomy law that had been defended by religious right

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled on August 10 that the law criminalizing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” violates constitutional protections for human dignity, privacy, and equality before the law. The case had been brought by Caleb Orozco, director of United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) more than six years ago. The Chief Justice ruled that the definition of “sex” in the country’s constitution, includes sexual orientation. BuzzFeed has the text of the ruling. Activists hope that the ruling will have an impact on other Caribbean countries; the attorney general of Antigua said that the government would be “looking at” the ruling. American Religious Right groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and C-Fam have provided support to Belize Action, a group that fought the decriminalization effort.

Georgia: President blocks referendum on constitutional restriction of marriage

President Giorgi Margvelashvili withheld his approval for a proposed referendum on defining marriage as “a union of a man and a woman for the purpose of creating a family.” Proponents of the initiative, who had gathered 200,000 signatures, vowed to challenge the president’s decision in the streets and in the courts. Democracy & Freedom Watch reported that Margvelashvili had canceled a meeting with four backers of the proposal based on their “blackmail tone.”

Georgia’s Civil Code already defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The purpose of the now rejected referendum was to write the same specification into the Constitution, effectively banning same-sex marriage.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili has promised that if the Georgian Dream Party wins a sufficient majority in the October 8 election, a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage will be introduced directly by parliament, without holding a referendum.

Anti-gay Georgian religious and political figures recently hosted the World Congress of Families annual summit.

Uganda: Government officials say they will continue to suppress gay groups

The Ugandan government said “it will ‘continue to suppress’ the public activities of homosexuals and that a rehabilitation program had been developed to allow them to ‘lead normal lives again,’” reports Associated Press:

Ugandan police last week arrested about 20 people attending a gay pride event at a nightclub in the capital, Kampala. They were questioned and released hours later, although some said they had been assaulted by police officers. “The police ordered the inmates to beat me,” one activist, Pepe Onzima, said.

Simon Lokodo, a Ugandan minister in charge of ethics and integrity, told reporters that gay pride activities are being organized “with the influence of some foreign forces” he didn’t name. He also accused gay people of trying to promote themselves…

Lokodo, a former Catholic priest who condemns homosexuality, has previously been accused to leading efforts to foil the public activities of LGBTI Ugandans.

Serbia: Prime Minister names lesbian to cabinet

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic announced that he would appoint Ana Brnabic to his cabinet as minister for state administration, which would make her the first openly gay minister in the country. More from AFP:

“Her personal choices do not interest me, she is welcome in the Serbian government,” Vucic told reporters when asked about Brnabic’s sexuality.

“I told her that what interests me is the work you can do,” he said.

Homophobia is widespread in Serbia and other Balkan societies, and Belgrade has come under pressure to improve protection for minorities, including the LGBT community, since starting EU accession talks.

More than 80 percent of Serbia’s seven million people are Orthodox Christians.

At Belgrade’s Gay Pride march in 2010, hardline nationalists attacked participants and clashed with police, wounding 150 people and prompting officials to ban the parade for the next three years.


Indonesia: Human rights activists challenge government-led attack on LGBT people

Human Rights Watch released a 56-page report documenting that actions by government officials have fueled “an unprecedented attack on the security and rights of sexual and gender minorities” this year. “The discriminatory actions of Indonesian officials and institutions has laid bare the depth and breadth of the government’s prejudice – and the campaign of hate is apparently not over yet,” said HRC researcher and report author Kyle Knight.  “The anti-LGBT rhetoric also exposed the government’s unwillingness to stand between a marginalized minority and its attackers – a most basic failure to protect, similar to Indonesia’s recent record on religious minorities.”

The report is based on 70 interviews with Indonesian sexual and gender minorities, LGBT human rights activists, and other civil society representatives across Indonesia between January and June 2016. The series of anti-LGBT remarks began on January 24, when the higher education minister, Muhammad Nasir, said he wanted to ban LGBT student organizations from university campuses. Reacting to the formation of a student-run group that led scholarly discussions on gender and sexuality at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Nasir proclaimed that such groups were not “in accordance with the values and morals of Indonesia.”

Within weeks, statements ranging from the absurd to the apocalyptic echoed through Indonesia’s media. At a maternal health seminar, a mayor warned young mothers to teach their children how not to be gay. Ryamizard Ryacudu, the defense minister, labeled LGBT rights activism a proxy war on the nation led by outsiders, more dangerous than a nuclear bomb.

Mainstream mass religious groups such as the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Muslim organization and a recipient of foreign aid money to work with LGBT populations, called for criminalization of LGBT behaviors and activism, and forced “rehabilitation” for LGBT people. The Indonesian Psychiatric Association joined the anti-LGBT chorus by proclaiming same-sex sexual orientation and transgender identities “mental illnesses” and recommending psychological “rehabilitation.”

The Jakarta Post reported on Friday that government officials have not responded to requests from Human Rights Watch to discuss their findings.

Australia: Christian lobby group shutting down; ex-gay movement promotes celibacy

Salt Shakers, a Melbourne-based Christian lobbying group that is shutting down at the end of this year, praised conservative Senator Eric Abetz, saying he had slowed the “tide of evil,” reports Josh Taylor for Crikey. Unlike the Australian Christian Lobby, Salt Shakers opposed the planned plebiscite on marriage equality, saying the neither the parliament nor the people can change the meaning of marriage. More from Crikey:

Despite a “steady increase in immorality, and the growing endorsement of immorality through laws being passed by our governments”, [Salt Shakers founder Peter] Stokes claimed a victory in same-sex marriage not having yet passed, and said Abetz was “a very good friend of Salt Shakers” who should receive much credit for helping Salt Shakers’ agenda:

“I can categorically say that had it not been for Senator Abetz and his consistent stand for Christian values in the Parliament, the tide of evil would have moved much, much faster in Canberra. One day we may be able to tell the whole story, but now is not the time.”

The conservative Christian senator has a long history with the Salt Shakers. In 2005, there were calls for Abetz to resign as John Howard’s special minister of state when he addressed the group’s inaugural annual dinner.

Abetz will speak at the group’s “Farewell Celebration Dinner” on October 15.

In a separate story at Crikey, Taylor writes about the near-collapse of the ex-gay movement in Australia, saying the movement’s promise to “pray away the gay” is being replaced by a call for people with same-sex attractions to living a celibate life. He says Australian Christian groups have twice flown Pennsylvania-based seminary professor Wesley Hill, who says he is a celibate gay man, to the country to speak.

Recordings of at least two of the talks are available online and reveal a softer approach to the topic that has haunted some Christian evangelicals, as society has moved towards a growing acceptance of LGBTI people.

Hill talks of not slandering same-sex relationships or giving into homophobia but instead preaches living a “washed” life where gay people can admit that they are gay but just don’t act on it, in the hope that whatever comes after will somehow make up for what they’ve missed out on in this life.

“Same-sex partnerships may be filled with all sorts of virtues. They may be filled with what we Christians say is common grace … but they’re still, at their very best, still contrary to nature. In that they miss that unity and difference that God creates male and female to be,” Hill said.

Egypt: LGBT community shattered by government campaign of entrapment and harassment

The New York Times’ Liam Stack reports, “Gay and Transgender Egyptians, Harassed and Entrapped, Are Driven Underground.” The story contrasts the “period of unaccustomed freedom” for LGBT Egyptians in the final days of Hosni Mubarak’s government with a crackdown by the military government that “has shattered what had been an increasingly vibrant and visible community.”

Between the unraveling of the Mubarak government and the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people faced little threat from the police, who were focused on other matters and largely ignored what happened at house parties or bars in Cairo’s crumbling, bohemian downtown.

The crackdown began in earnest when a military curfew imposed after the removal of Mr. Morsi ended in fall 2013, said Scott Long, a human rights activist who lived in Egypt for many years and wrote a landmark report for Human Rights Watch on the last major crackdown.

At the time, control of Egypt’s streets was passing from the army, a relatively trusted institution, to the police, a hated symbol of the Mubarak government.

“Somebody in the Ministry of Interior realized this was a way to get good publicity for the police,” Mr. Long said.

The arrests signaled the return of an aggressive approach by the morality police division, which has participated in a larger crackdown that has jailed tens of thousands of people since 2013. Using tools last deployed in a campaign against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people over 10 years ago, the division has reasserted the authority lost by the police before and during the revolution.

East Africa: Family with gay brothers flees Burundi; harassment follows in Kenya

In “Young, Gay, and on the Run in East Africa,” Jacob Kushner writes for TakePart that “LGBT people in Uganda, Kenya, and other countries are often disowned by their families and face violence and discrimination.” The story profiles two gay brothers and their mother who fled Burundi after a family land dispute turned violent. The family ended up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where a backlash against the brothers’ sexuality, including from the church their mother attended, made life even more difficult for the family. Harassment and abuse followed the family to Nairobi. ““They always say, ‘How come the mother can accept gay people in their family?” says one of the brothers. “They are not human. They are bringing trouble to humanity—that is the reason God causes bad things on the earth.’” The family is hoping to find asylum in Sweden.

Jamaica: Protesters slam US embassy over support for pride, say gay ideology ‘against God’

Human Rights First reports that Jamaica’s second annual pride celebration was a success. The Jamaica Gleaner reports that anti-gay protesters used the country’s Independence Day celebration to protest outside the US Embassy over the embassy’s public support for the LGBT community. “The protesters were riled up by what they claim is an attempt by the embassy to push a homosexual agenda in Jamaica,” according to the report, which quotes a spokeswoman for the protesters, Phillippa Davies:

“We think it’s fitting to mark our Independence by reaffirming our right to self-determination as a sovereign people, so today (Saturday) we think it is appropriate to say that this continuing bullying, provoking and imperialistic action by the US Embassy and others … to coerce countries around the world to accept a political ideology that is against freedom; against human dignity, against the natural family and against God, we will not accept it,” said Davies.

“We are out here with the colours of the Jamaican flag; these are colours that we are proud of. There is nothing to be afraid of. These colours represent our heritage of freedom fighting, of standing for justice and true freedom, not just for us, but for people across the world. So these are colours and truth that we stand by,” added Davies.

Nigeria: Nigerian’s same-sex wedding in US leads to harassment of his family

Eric T. Shoen-Ukre writes at Huffington Post about his wedding to a Nigerian man in a small family-and-friends gathering in Rochester, New York at the end of July. In spite of their requests that guests not post photos on social media, someone either gave or sold photos from their wedding and first dance to a gossip blogger in Nigeria and the story spread like wildfire on Nigerian blogs. An excerpt:

I felt lost. I still get a terrible feeling in my stomach just a week and a half later. I hate being helpless. How could our tiny, personal wedding in Rochester mean so much to hateful people on the other side of the planet that they would find us on the internet so they could harass us?

I worked as fast as I could asking bloggers to remove our photos and mention of us, but only one complied.  By the end of the day, more than 150 sites had blogged about us. They were not saying anything overtly mean for the most part. The comments, on the other hand, mentioned the “end of times,” beheading us if we came to Nigeria, asking God to rain down evil upon us, suggesting that we get anal cancer and die, calling us devils, and threatening us in various other vulgar ways. Some people commented positively, but they were in the minority.

David’s groomsmen were also accused of being gay.  One of them felt compelled to come out via social media after the pressure. 

David’s family was harassed by neighbors and local hooligans. He hadn’t told his family we were getting married. They were not even aware he was gay.  David’s sister called to make sure we knew that she knew and she supported us. She relayed that his mom was not admitting anything and continued to defend David to anyone who bothered her. His other siblings also messaged us to say that they were being harassed via telephone, in person, and social media…

Why would this be such big news in Nigeria? I believe it is because the press still wants to vilify gay men and women.  They want to show that the USA is a place that corrupts the morals of children and is a den of sin and iniquity. The current political election probably isn’t helping change that impression much. The mere thought of two men getting married is enough to incite vitriol from all corners of Nigeria, and other parts of the world still today.

We queer folk still have a lot of fighting to do.  We may have thankfully won marriage equality here on American soil, but until it is legally safe for our gay, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming brothers, sisters, and family to live their lives as they wish to be in all corners of the world, the fight must go on.

Mexico: Legislative leaders give low priority to president’s marriage equality plan

A legislative leader of the PRI said that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposal for a constitutional change to guarantee marriage equality nationwide will not be among the legislature’s priorities, which one news outlet characterized as the initiative being “buried in the freezer.” The announcement drew a rebuke from the Movement for Equality in Mexico. One commentator characterized the president’s initiative, which has drawn loud complaints from some of the country’s bishops, as the greatest conflict between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church since the Cristero War.

Catholic Church: Progressive Catholics and LGBT activists respond to Pope’s gender comments

New Ways Ministry’s Bob Shine collects a number of responses to Pope Francis’ comments attacking “gender ideology” when speaking to Polish bishops two weeks ago. Among them is Faith in America’s Eliel Cruz:

It is incredibly naïve Pope Francis believes the image of God is anything close to binary… In believing that God is only represented in male or female, Pope Francis is effectively eliminating the diversity and complexity of the image of God. Francis also ignores the reality of intersex individuals in his complementary lens. Pope Francis is denying the full image of God when he denies the transgender community.

Russia: Anti-gay ‘documentary’ featuring Scott Lively now available in English

“Sodom,” an anti-gay “documentary” that aired on Russia’s main government-funded TV channel in 2014,  month, is now available in English. The documentary features American anti-gay activist Scott Lively warning that in America most people oppose homosexuality but are too afraid of the powerful gay lobby to speak about it.

Lively eventually appears on camera to rail against the LGBT-friendly “Queen James Bible,” which he calls “an abomination before God.”

“There is no sacred ground for the homosexuals,” Lively says. “There is nothing that they will not do to promote their agenda. There is no opposition that they will accept at any level. They must conquer every opponent and the spirit that has produced this book, this false Bible, this gay theology is the heresy of the modern world.”

Canada: Prime Minister plans apology and pardons for people convicted under sodomy laws

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reportedly planning to apologize on the nation’s behalf to “those who were imprisoned, fired from their jobs or otherwise persecuted in the past because of their sexuality.” The Globe and Mail reports that the apology will be part of a set of actions that will include pardons for those convicted under laws criminalizing sex acts between consenting adults.

Denmark: Gay US Ambassador is a celebrity

USA Today reported on the celebrity status of openly gay US Ambassador Rufus Gifford, who has starred in a popular reality TV show.

Northern Ireland: Openly gay deputy mayor leads Belfast pride parade

Belfast’s annual pride parade was led by the city’s first openly gay deputy lord mayor, Sinn Fein’s Mary Ellen Campbell. According to the Irish Times, “footage posted on social media showed Christians giving speeches outside Belfast City Hall being interrupted by a small number of jeering protestors.”

Colombia: Bogota’s first married couple receiving death threats
According to news reports, the first gay couple to be married in Bogotá has been receiving death threats.