On the first day of June, celebrated as Pride month in many places, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for all countries to provide legal protections for same-sex couples and their children. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder points out that Hussein, who took office last September, is a prince of the royal family of Jordan. Feder suggests that the report may carry special significance with the UN’s human rights office having a leader from a Muslim majority country. Egypt and other members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation had opposed the UN Human Rights Commission resolution calling for the report. Hussein’s office has also issued a report calling attention to the “pervasive violent abuse, harassment and discrimination” against LGBT people in all regions of the world, citing “hundreds of hate-related killings,” according to AP.
Amnesty International this week decried the refusal of Ukranian officials to meet with Kyiv Pride organizers to plan security for the event which they hoped to hold on Saturday, June 6.
In the U.S., the anti-gay Family Research Council kicked off the month by inviting National Organization for Marriage Chair John Eastman to rail against the Obama administration’s promotion of LGBT rights overseas. Eastman defended Uganda’s notorious anti-homosexuality law and said he hoped it would come back “in short order.”
Randy Berry, a special US envoy for LGBT rights, will visit Uganda next month, according to the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers. This past Monday he began an 11-day trip to Latin America and the Caribbean, a trip whose schedule includes travel to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic.
Australia: Protesters challenge Prime Minister’s stubborn opposition on marriage
Among the protesters who gathered in Sydney last Sunday to call for marriage equality was an 87-year old former Catholic priest, Dr. John Callis. Callis said his partner of nearly 50 years was too frail to attend. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Deborah Snow tells his story:
Tormented in his 30s by the suspicion that he was attracted to other men – and indoctrinated with the church’s belief that this was a “grave, unnatural, evil perversion” – he decided to visit a brothel to have sex with a woman.
“Of course, it didn’t work!” he told the good-natured crowd, to whoops, cheers and laughter. “As soon as she started to take her clothes off, I felt sick and fled. She earned her money easily that night.”
Also speaking, and introducing her fiancé, was Christine Forster, the lesbian sister of Prime Minister Toby Abbott, the main obstacle to marriage equality legislation moving forward. Abbott told reporters the government needs to focus on budgetary issues, which suggests that a marriage equality bill introduced on Monday may not be debated “before mid-August, if at all.”
In a CNN commentary this week, Professor Carol Johnson of the University of Adelaide examines “Why Australia is so far behind the times on same-sex marriage.” She cites a number of factors, including the lack of a bill or charter of rights as well as the way the issue has been used in electoral politics, as then-opposition leader Kevin Rudd did during the 2007 election, when he “used his opposition to same-sex marriage to reassure socially conservative, religious voters.” (Rudd shifted his position to support marriage equality in 2013.) In addition, writes Johnson, “The residual religious framing is one of the reasons same sex marriage has not yet been introduced in Australia,” suggesting that “the separation between religion and the state is not yet fully accepted in Australian politics.”
The Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart, reports Naith Payton at Pink News, asked that children in Catholic primary and secondary schools be asked to take a 15-page anti-marriage-equality document home to their parents along with a letter from Australian bishops entitled “Don’t Mess With Marriage.”
Korea: Conservative Christians seek to prevent pride parade
This week police in South Korea refused the Korea Queer Cultural Festival a pride parade permit, bowing to pressure from conservative Christian groups who blocked the parade last year. The anti-gay Love Your Country, Love Your Children Movement applied for permits for events at the same time, causing police to invoke a law allowing the banning of rallies by groups with conflicting goals or when events might cause traffic problems. AFP’s Jung Ha-Won reports:
Five major Protestant groups, including the Christian Council of Korea (CCK), have urged Seoul to ban the festival in its entirety, arguing that it encourages homosexuality and would contribute to the spread of AIDS.
“We will not stand blindly by when our social values are being threatened and the … lives of our children are at risk,” they said in a joint statement this week.
Bodies like the CCK — an alliance of churches that claims to represent around 12 million Christians — wield significant social and political influence in the country.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon, a former liberal activist, was last year forced to dump a proposed city human rights charter, which included protections for sexual minorities, after a storm of criticism from the same Christian groups.
Since then, a handful of Christian activists have become a near daily fixture in front of City Hall, singing songs and chanting slogans that label Park as the “mayor of Sodom.”
According to AFP, this year’s police decision was the first ban on the parade since the Queer Festival began 15 years ago. But on Thursday, organizers vowed to push ahead with plans for a parade in downtown Seoul in spite of the police ban.
Morocco: Arrests of foreign protesters and two Moroccan men who kiss in solidarity
Two Moroccan men who kissed in public were arrested by authorities in the conservative Muslim kingdom and a Spanish feminist was expelled after a pro-gay protest, officials said on Thursday.”
On Tuesday authorities arrested two French members of the controversial feminist campaign Femen after they protested topless in front of a Rabat landmark against Morocco’s treatment of gays.
The women, one of whom had the slogan “in gay we trust” written in black on her torso, were expelled Tuesday evening.
The men arrested for “an obscene act” had reportedly kissed at the site in an act of solidarity with the feminist protest. The government blamed the incidents on foreign provocateurs:
The interior ministry denounced what it said was “a series of provocations and harassment carried out by foreign organisations who deliberately violate Moroccan laws… to undermine morality.”
Homosexuality is considered a crime in Morocco.
Article 489 of the penal code states that any one found guilty of carrying out “a deviant act with a person of the same sex” will be jailed for to up to three years.
Last week three men accused of homosexuality were jailed to three years each.
In March, Human Rights Watch called on Morocco to decriminalise homosexuality, saying that “criminalising consensual, adult homosexual conduct violates international human rights law”.
Guam: Judge opens door to marriage licenses over governor’s objections
Lambda Legal reports that today, June 5, District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood granted summary judgment for plaintiffs in a marriage equality suit and barred the government of Guam from enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage. According to Lambda Legal, same-sex couples will be able to apply for a marriage license in the US territory starting on Monday morning. As we have previously reported, Guam’s Catholic Governor Eddie Calvo has been stalling in spite of clear rulings from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, under whose jurisdiction Guam falls. This week USA Today reported that Calvo had said he would abide by a ruling of the US Supreme Court. He has written that the Court’s decision would be “an opportunity to continue a health conversation about our humanity, civil rights, and our future.”
Spain: Former PM says tolerance, like phobias, is contagious
Last week’s recap focused on responses to the marriage equality vote in Ireland. Late last week, former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post, noting that next month will mark the 10th anniversary of marriage equality in Spain.
I know how so many people in Ireland feel right now. When the parliament passed Spain’s same-sex marriage law on June 30, 2005, I said that our country would from that moment on be a fairer place. And I honestly believe that this has been the case. Our Constitutional Court ultimately upheld the act, and today all parties in the Spanish parliament accept legal gay marriage as a matter of course, as do most people in my country.
It is important to note that only a few decades ago, Spain was an officially Roman Catholic country where the law defined homosexuality as “antisocial” and stipulated that gay people be confined to rehabilitation centers. Most young Spaniards likely are unaware that this was the case as recently as January 1979, when the laws making homosexuality a criminal offense were repealed. This is understandable given that, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, Spain is now among the most tolerant countries in the world toward homosexuality; 88 percent of Spanish people consider homosexuality to be socially acceptable, compared with 60 percent of Americans. As Ireland’s vote suggests, Western European countries are generally the most tolerant toward homosexuality, while a connection can be observed between societies in which religion tends to hold a central position and greater intolerance in this area.
As a citizen of a democracy that is still young, allow me to show how proud I am of the level to which Spain accepts homosexuality and to recognize how valuable this acceptance is. Because I do not believe that tolerance can be divided. There is no middle ground between tolerance and intolerance. It is quite often the case that those who reject or are wary of homosexuals feel the same way to some extent about immigrants, those who practice other religions and perhaps women as well. And those who are comfortable with homosexuals tend to be comfortable with other groups. Phobias seem to be contagious, as is tolerance.
Therefore, a society that is tolerant of homosexuals is highly likely to be, quite simply, a tolerant society. And this is the situation in my country, where there are low levels of xenophobia, even as high numbers of immigrants have arrived from different regions of the world over the past few decades; where there is a positive climate of religious tolerance; and where clear progress has been made in the struggle for effective equality between men and women, although there is still some way to go.
Costa Rica: Family court judge gives same-sex couple common-law marriage
Along with being the first legal recognition of a same-sex relationship in Central America, the decision could set an example for judges elsewhere in the country to recognize gay relationships and even adoption. But both supporters and opponents of the decision expect a forthcoming legal battle over the landmark ruling.
Common-law marriage grants all the same benefits of a traditional marriage in Costa Rica, but requires the approval of a judge after the couple has been together – but not necessarily lived together – for at least three years. It guarantees partners the rights to inheritance, to social security and public insurance benefits and to visit the other person in the hospital.
Costa Rica does not currently recognize gay marriage but a bill is pending in the Legislative Assembly that would approve civil unions here.
The Tico Times article notes that a bill to legalize same-sex civil unions has been introduced in the Legislative Assembly, but that there is strong opposition, especially from “conservative Evangelical parties.”
Northern Ireland: Belfast city council endorses marriage equality
This week the Belfast City Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of marriage equality. Northern Ireland is the last jurisdiction within the United Kingdom that does not grant legal recognition to same-sex couples. BBC notes that the Northern Ireland Assembly rejected a marriage equality in proposal in April.
ISIS: More executions of men charged with homosexuality
The group calling itself the Islamic State released images this week showing the executions of three men charged with homosexuality. The images show a large crowd gathered to watch the executions in Mosul.
Gambia: Post examines US role in defeat of unsuccessful coup
We have reported extensively on the violently anti-gay President Yahya Jammeh. This week the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock and Adam Goldman reported on actions by US law enforcement agencies that had tipped off West African authorities to the travel of at least one plotter involved in a failed coup attempt. “In doing so, U.S. officials may have at least indirectly helped to protect the president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, who has drawn international condemnation for his dismal human rights record, his violent rhetoric against gay people and bizarre beliefs such as his claim to have concocted an herbal cure for AIDS.” The story, which notes that the Obama administration has been critical of Jammeh, also quotes Jeffrey Smith of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Right raising questions about Obama posing for a photograph with Jammeh at the White House during a summit with African leaders last August:
Jeffrey Smith, an advocacy officer for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, said that, from Jammeh’s perspective, the photograph’s underlying message back home was invaluable: “He was saying, ‘There’s nothing you can do to oppose my rule. The strongest nation in the world and the strongest man in the world stand behind me.’ ”
Argentina: Judges who cut sentence of child abuser resign
Two judges who cut the sentence of a man convicted of sexually abusing a six-year-old boy from six years to 38 months because the boy was supposedly showing signs of being gay have resigned. Associated Press reports that there had been calls for the judges to resign after they “ruled the abuser’s acts should not be considered ‘gravely dangerous’ in legal terms because the boy already ‘was making a precocious choice’ of his sexuality, an apparent reference to homosexuality.”
Cambodia: LGBT magazine debuts
NCB News’s Kristi Eaton reported from Phnom Penh this week on Q Cambodia, a print magazine directed at LGBT people and their allies, the first in “a country known for its abysmal human rights record and gender inequality.” The story says that the country’s main cities can be friendly for gay tourists, but that life is difficult for LGBT Cambodians, citing “at least three cases recently where police have arrested a same-sex partner at the behest of upset parents.”