Anglican Bishops Punish Episcopal Church Over LGBT Inclusion; Secularization’s Role in Moving Latin America ‘Beyond Machismo’; Greek Orthodox Bishop Says Gays Deserve Respect; Global LGBT Recap


Anglican Communion: Episcopal Church ‘Suspended,’ Anti-Gay Bishops Not Satisfied

We reported last week that conservative Anglican bishops were threatening a walk-out of this week’s primates’ gathering, and talking about splitting the communion over issues including the Episcopal Church’s ordination of gay bishops and more recent support for marriage by same-sex couples. This week the bishops voted to suspend the Episcopal Church for three years, meaning that representatives of the Episcopal Church “will not be allowed to participate in many of the communion’s internal decisions or represent Anglicans in meetings with Christians and other faith groups,” according to CNN’s Daniel Burke. The resolution called the Episcopal Church’s adoption of a marriage rite for same-sex couples a “fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of our provinces on the doctrine of marriage.”

The Anglican Church of Canada, also targeted by conservatives, apparently escaped sanctions for now because it had not yet formalized its support for same-sex marriage, which will be addressed at its synod in July. (The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey notes that there are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in the U.S. and Canada combined.)

There was no mass walk-out by African bishops, but Ugandan Archbishop Stanley Ntagali left the meeting on January 12, explaining later that he did so because his resolution asking the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada “to voluntarily withdraw from the meeting and other Anglican Communion activities until they repented of their decisions that have torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level.” The Ugandan church broke bilateral ties with the Episcopal Church after the 2003 ordination of openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson.

Said Ntagali in a letter explaining his decision, “They would not agree to this request nor did it appear that the Archbishop of Canterbury and his facilitators would ensure that this matter be substantively addressed in a timely manner.” He said, “It seemed that I was being manipulated into participating in a long meeting with the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada without the necessary discipline being upheld. My conscience is at peace.”

Ntagali, who has vigorously supported Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act, urged voters last month to shun politicians that support LGBT equality:

“I hear some people who received dirty money to promote homosexuality in our Christian country are currently seeking to be re-elected. I hear one of them is seeking for a higher office. Elect only those that promote good Christians values because voting people tainted with such dirty money may bring a curse on our country,” Archbishop Ntagali said.

Matthew Davies at the Episcopal News Service writes that Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, addressed the primates before the January 14 vote, saying in part:

“Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.

“For so many who are committed to following Jesus in the way of love and being a church that lives that love, this decision will bring real pain,” he said. “For fellow disciples of Jesus in our church who are gay or lesbian, this will bring more pain. For many who have felt and been rejected by the church because of who they are, for many who have felt and been rejected by families and communities, our church opening itself in love was a sign of hope. And this will add pain on top of pain.”

Davies reports that Foley Beach, who heads the Anglican Church in North America, a collection of conservatives that has split from the Episcopal Church, was invited to attend the gathering by Archbishop of Canterbury Welby to avoid a boycott by conservative bishops.

In a note written after the vote, Beach complained that the sanctions, while strong, “are not strong enough, and to my deep disappointment, they didn’t include the Anglican Church of Canada as they should.”

Greece: Orthodox Bishop Says Treat Gays With Respect and Honor, Not Violence and Rejection

When Greece voted last year to legalize same-sex civil union, it did so over “fierce opposition from conservative elements in the county, like the Greek Orthodox Church,” writes James McDonald for Out Traveler. Indeed, as we noted last month, Bishop Ambrosios, Metropolitan of Kalavryta and Aigialeia, denounced gays as the “scum of society” and encouraged readers to spit on and “blacken” gays and atheists with violence.

This week, Andrew Potts reports for Gay Star News that Chrysostomos Savvatos, Metropolitan of Messinia, while affirming the church’s teaching that homosexual acts are sinful, said in an interview that gays should be treated with respect and honor as children of God.

‘Homosexuals, like all humans, are a creation of God and they deserve the same respect and honor, and not violence and rejection,’ Metropolitan Chrysostomos said.

‘We shouldn’t forget the way Christ responded to the sinful woman, according to the Gospels, which became his word. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

‘That canon should be our guiding principle for the way in which we should handle every person and fellow human, regardless of their otherness or differences. The church doesn’t reject people.’

…In a follow up article Metropolitan Chrysostomos warned against the ‘the moralistic approach to the ethics of relationships – those who judge, criticize, blame and stigmatize everyone else except themselves.’

‘They consider themselves as judges of the people and try to criminalize all forms of sin, to confirm the supposed “purity” of their lives and their own sinlessness, and forget that … we are all in one way or another people of sin and of the fall.’

Romania: Orthodox Church Supports Constitutional Initiative on Marriage

The Associated Press reports today that the Romanian Orthodox Church has declared its support for an initiative to put a man-and-woman definition of marriage into the country’s constitution, which currently refers to marriage between “partners” without specifying gender.

The statement comes amid concerns from some that the conservative East European nation will align with other EU nations and permit gay marriage. Romania currently does not recognize marriages between people of the same sex.

The church, to which more than 85 percent of Romanians belong, said Friday it supports a recent proposal made by the Family Coalition to amend one article in the constitution referring to marriage.

Spain: Muslim City Councilor Officiates Wedding for Gay Men

Moroccan-Spanish Councilor Fátima Taleb officiated the wedding of two men in Badalona, Spain, last Saturday. At Morocco World News, Karla Dieseldorff writes, “An image of Taleb dressed in hijab, next to the newlywed couple at the city town hall has made the rounds on social media networks stirring outrage and receiving all kinds of comments.”

Fátima Taleb, 39, is the first ever Muslim woman to be elected councilor in Guanyem Badalona, in eastern Catalonia, Spain, according to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

Some Twitter users have described the wedding as an “incredible example” of the “spirit of tolerance,” democracy and respect, while others have criticized Taleb’s actions as a “disgrace for a Muslim.”

The report says Taleb’s election campaign focused on the ideals of unity and tolerance.

“We need to breathe clean air, without racism, without xenophobia and discrimination, we need a diverse society that includes all groups without exception”, she argued in her candidature.

The 39-year-old Muslim who was elected councilor on June 13, 2015 touched on the importance of having an open-mind and debunking myths.

“If you do not know your neighbor, you believe all the rumors and stereotypes that circulate about it. If you approach them, you talk to them, you know their culture, their thinking and their religion, you can break down barriers,” Taleb told Spain’s El País.

Cayman Islands: Marriage Lawsuit Causes Rift Between Premier & Fundamentalist Lawmaker

Alden McLaughlin, premier of the Cayman Islands, said on a talk show that “discrimination is wrong in any form” and violates the country’s Bill of Rights, but he gave no indication that he will move to change the law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. According to Cayman News,

Well aware of how the issue sits with Christian voters, it is clear the premier will not be going much further than addressing the immigration laws due to the imminent risk of government losing the legal action expected to be brought by lawyers, Dr Leo Raznovich and his husband, over the discrimination they have suffered since the professor lost his position at the law school.

In the immigration case, as we noted last September, “two gay lawyers whose marriage is recognized in their home countries of Argentina and the UK, are challenging the immigration authority’s refusal to treat the couple as a spouse, in a move that could pave the way to a broader challenge of the country’s marriage law.”

Cayman News Service reports that the government’s move to address discrimination in immigration laws has cause a split between the premier and a friend and political ally, Anthony Eden, a fundamentalist Christian.  Last summer, the legislature approved a motion by Eden to maintain the definition of “traditional marriage.” Speaking about that motion, Eden cited “Holy Bible evidence” and called homosexual behavior “a perversion and an abomination in God’s sight.”

Latin America: Secularization Plays Role in Moving Region ‘Beyond Machismo’

Omar G. Encarnación, in “Beyond Machismo” in Foreign Affairs, examines the forces that moved the region from a history of anti-LGBT violence to today, when “Latin America stands, alongside Western Europe and the United States, among the most progressive regions on LGBT rights.” Encarnación writes that both home-grown activism and international pressure have played a role:

Last but not least has been the timely intervention by several individual foreign nations, most notably Spain. After 2005, when Spain became the first Roman Catholic nation to legalize same-sex marriage, the Socialist administration of José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero made LGBT rights a priority in its diplomatic relations with Latin America. This intervention, ably aided by a host of Spanish NGOs, such as Fundación Triángulo and the Federación Estatal LGBT, is credited with spurring gay rights policies throughout Latin America, especially same-sex civil unions and same-sex marriage. No other Latin American country was more impacted by this “diffusion” effect than Argentina, a country that is predominantly populated by people of European descent, has high levels of social and economic development, and possesses Latin America’s richest history of organized activism around the issue of homosexuality. Not surprisingly, in both Spain and Argentina the campaign for marriage equality shared the same slogan: “The same name with the same rights.”

Additionally, he writes, secularization has played a role in the region’s social modernization.

Since the mid-1980s, when Latin America began to emerge from military rule and embrace democracy, the region has experienced a deep process of social modernization. Among its most significant aspects is the growing secularization of the public, as can be seen in the rise of so-called lapsed Catholics, also known as “cultural Catholics.” These are self-professed Catholics who do not see themselves as beholden to the Church’s teachings. In countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, about two-thirds of all Catholics fall into this category. These religious trends, which have undoubtedly have been accelerated by the Church’s loss of moral authority ensuing from its support of bloodthirsty dictatorships and sex abuse scandals, have made the public more accepting of homosexuality and more supportive of gay rights.

A decline in religiosity in Latin America has also lowered the risks for Latin American politicians of supporting gay rights. In 2009, when Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a left-wing politician famous for his social liberalism, signed into law Mexico City’s same-sex marriage ordinance, he tuned a deaf ear to the Catholic Church’s threat of excommunication. That would have been unthinkable only a few years prior. Former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, today hailed as a gay rights heroine for her fierce advocacy of marriage equality, all but welcomed the opposition to same-sex marriage by then Cardinal of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio (today Pope Francis). When Bergoglio branded the same-sex marriage bill “the Devil’s Project,” Kirchner delivered a rhetorical smack down, characterizing his words as “reminiscent of the Dark Ages and the Inquisition.”

Macedonia: Profile of Albanian Muslim LGBTI Activist

Alturi has posted a profile of Bekim Asani, who “began his activism at age 18 working to rebuild trust between people of different nationalities after the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia.”

Through this work and joining in a variety of other struggles he realized “I can be a great gay boy and a great citizen of my country at the same time!” Being out is important as he works to help other LGBTI people to live openly, and representing his true identity creates the possibility of finding hope in even the most ardent foe. “I feel even the most homophobic person has something good in their heart.”

Bekim’s struggle for LGBTI equality takes place outside large cities, and across sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic, religious and class lines. As a gay man he takes pride in the gains of his friends and colleagues working for women’s rights, Roma rights, transgender rights and the rights of all marginalized communities in Macedonia. And Bekim is well placed to be a leader in the LGBTI arm of this larger human rights movement. He’s ethnically Albanian, Muslim, gay and an adopted child.

“I have always said it is about human rights, not only LGBTI, because we are all marginalized. We work with youth, women, disability and Roma rights organizations. We have to work together because we have the same problems, we have to fight for our human rights.” he says.

Asani’s activism has made him a regular target of threats.

Earlier this year he was invited to participate in the “Love Exchange” where he spoke publicly from the Amsterdam Pride stage about his experience. “I have been crying the whole week,” Bekim proclaimed before a huge audience. “because for the first time I felt free. In some countries it is so hard to be LGBTI, to be free. Love each other and accept each other because, at the end of the day, we belong to each other.” When he returned to Tetovo, he faced the stark contrast of cultural acceptance between the two countries: he was forced into hiding for a month as he and his parents received death threats motivated by anti-LGBTI media coverage of his speech in Amsterdam.

In addition to working with people throughout the country, “Bekim is active internationally as a founding member of the Muslim Queer European Network and co-chair of LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey where he serves alongside his friend and colleague Arber Kodra.”

Through his work as an LGBTI activist Bekim has learned important lessons. “Macedonia is so multiethnic everyone has to fight for their identity, but it’s easier to fight together. When you have a homophobic culture and government it is important to fight together.”

Russia: Bill to Ban Public Gayness Set to Move

BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that the parliament is scheduled to take up a law introduced last fall that would essentially ban gays and lesbians from being out. The law imposes a fine for ““the public expression of nontraditional sexual relations, manifested in a public demonstration of personal perverted sexual preferences in public places.”

Ivan Nikitchuk, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the law, said in an interview with the Russian outlet Meduza published on Thursday that he drafted the proposal to stop “sick and crazy people” from “displaying their demonic desires which the West has forced on us.”

Switzerland: Upcoming Vote on Tax Initiative Includes Definition of Marriage

The Christian Democratic People’s Party has been pushing for an initiative to amend the Constitutionunder the banner of “For the couple and the family – No to the penalty of marriage.” While the proposal is about ensuring that marriage is not disadvantaged regarding taxes, a victory for the February 28 initiative would also insert into the Constitution a definition of marriage as “the stable long-term and statutory cohabitation of a man and a woman.”

While the CDPP’s proposal initially passed all the required stages of Swiss Parliament after gathering enough signatures some years ago, opinions later changed between many MPs who believed that the heterosexual marriage definition went too far and now different sections of government have released official positions urging the electorate to vote for its defeat. The youth wing of the Christian Democrat People’s Party in the country’s most populous canton of Zürich has broken ranks with the main branch and also called for a No vote on “For the couple and the family”.

Venezuela: Trans Legislator Sworn In

The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports that Tamara Adrián, the first openly transgender person elected to the National Assembly, was sworn in on Thursday as a member of the left-leaning Popular Will political party from Caracas.

Mexico: Marriage Advancing in Michoacan

Marriage equality’s advance across Meixco is reaching the state of Michoacan. Pascual Paez Sigala, president of the Political Coordination Board of the State Congress, has reportedly said that the Michoacan Family Code “will be amended as soon as possible to recognize the right to marry same-sex couples.”