This week’s recap includes evidence of ongoing struggles over LGBT equality within Europe and between Europe and non-European countries, as well as the fraught intersections in many countries between religious belief, official policy, and the law.
A secret meeting discussing ways to rid Europe of the ‘satanic gay lobby’ was hosted by a Russian oligarch and attended by a host of far-right MPs and ultra-conservative Eurasian ideologists in Vienna at the weekend – just across the road from where the Life Ball was taking place the very same night.
The meeting was hosted by Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeew and his Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation and was attended by nationalists and Christian fundamentalists from Russia and the West. These were thought to include the chief Russian ideologist of the Eurasian movement Alexander Dugin, the nationalist painter Ilja Glasunow, and MPs from far right parties including the Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache….
A star guest was Alexander Dugin, a Russian political scientist and Eurasia ideologist who believes in Russian supremacy and authoritarianism, and wants to see a ‘conservative revolution’ across Europe.
A spokesperson for the FPO has said it was “a private invitation” and did not want to acknowledge whether Strache had attended.
Also reportedly present was 24-year-old Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a French politician for the far-right National Front party. Marechal-Le Pen is also the granddaughter of the party’s founder and niece of its current leader Marine Le Pen.
As it happens, the Russian oligarch who convened the meeting is Konstantin Malofeev, who is also heavily involved with the Illinois-based World Congress of Families. According to a talk WCF’s managing director gave in February, Malofeev’s St. Basil the Great Foundation was to be a major sponsor of WCF’s since-postponed conference in Moscow this year and Malofeev was a member of the conference’s planning committee.
It was also Malofeev who hosted the meeting in Moscow that National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown attended last summer, just in time to cheer on the Russian parliament’s approval of new anti-gay laws. (Brown had been invited to participate in the event by “Russian activists working with the World Congress of Families“).
In a BBC interview, former Health Secretary Sir Norman Fowler said the world is “going backwards” in the fight against HIV in part because anti-gay laws make people afraid of being tested for the virus. Fowler’s new book, AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice, is due to be released next week.
Slovakia: Constitutional Marriage Ban Adopted to Cheers from Religious Right
“Slovakia’s parliament approved a constitutional ban of same-sex marriages, following some of its east European peers with Catholic majorities, as premier Robert Fico seeks boost support among conservative voters,” reported Business Week’s Radoslav Tomek this week. There is no legal recognition for same-sex civil unions in Slovakia. The move was denounced by European equality activists but praised by anti-gay American activist Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel:
Let’s pray that this pro-family trend across the world continues. As the radical “LGBT” agenda continues to weaken America, obliterate religious liberty and hurt and confuse countless children and families, we can at least take solace in the fact that much of the world has not been duped by this demonic incursion of sexual anarchy.
Netherlands: Senate Rejects ‘Refusenik” Clerks on Marriage Equality
The Dutch Senate voted this week to do away with a legal exemption for official registrars with religious objections to same-sex couples getting married. The Netherlands passed the world’s first marriage equality law 13 years ago, and have been dealing since then with the issue of “weigeramtenaar” – clerks that refuse for religious reasons to register marriages for same-sex couples.
The senate on Tuesday voted in favour of legislation which will stop town councils employing registrars who refuse to carry out gay marriages.
At the moment, civil servants are allowed to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages. The escape clause was included in the initial legislation as a gesture to areas where strict Protestants dominate. Same-sex marriages have been legal in the Netherlands since April 2001.
All but one Christian Democrat senator and the two minor orthodox religious parties CU and SGP voted against the motion, which was passed by the lower house last year.
The change in the law will not affect registrars already doing the job but councils will be able to move them to other functions.
Gay rights lobby group COC welcomed the change in the legislation which, it said, ‘ends discrimination on the happiest day of your life”.
South Africa: Chief Justice Says His Anti-Gay Religious Views Do Not Trump Constitution
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said this week that comments he made last week promoting religious views in the public arena and saying that the law should prohibit divorce and adultery were being misinterpreted to mean he was not committed to protecting gay rights. He vowed to protect all citizens’ rights and said he would not allow his faith to take precedence over the Constitution.
“I know as a Christian that the Bible speaks against homosexuality, but I have taken an oath and I am very serious about my oath,” he told reporters in Johannesburg.
“It cannot be a lie when I assure the nation that I will uphold the Constitution, the laws and the human rights.”
Mogoeng pointed out the right to sexual orientation was a human right and it would be perverse of him not to accept that.
“Justice is not supposed to be perverted, to begin to get at those who are gay and lesbian just because of their choice.
“My responsibility is to ensure that every gay person, every lesbian person enjoys their right as protected by the bill of rights. There’s no question about that,” he said.
Cyprus: Pride Event Opposed by Orthodox Church a Success
Last Saturday thousands of people turned out in Nicosia for the first gay pride parade in Cyprus. The event, which had been opposed by Orthodox Church officials, was backed by diplomats and activists from a number of European countries.
European Parliament acting head Alexandra Attalides said the Parliament stood at the forefront of campaigns for human rights. “A country cannot be European unless there are equal rights for all. Today we are proud,” she said.
Political party representatives voiced support for civil partnership, with organisers noting that human rights could not be “a la carte” and reminding the government that had not delivered on a campaign pledge to submit legislation to allow gay civil partnerships to parliament within a year. The current government came to power in February 2013.
Star singer Anna Vissi said she had come “with much love to take part in Cyprus first gay pride”.
Some sections of Cypriot society still consider homosexuality taboo, and the island’s conservative Orthodox Church has described it as an “illness which needs treatment”.
A delegation headed by the Bishop of Tamassos presented a petition to the Presidential Palace earlier on Saturday voicing opposition to legislative changes. Some 50 people belonging to a fringe religious group organised a counter march in Nicosia and there were scuffles with police when they tried to approach the place where the gay pride was due to end.
UK: Church Bans Clergy from Far-Right Parties; Witness Store Owner Refuses Gay Couples
“The Church of England announced on Tuesday that none of its clergy would be allowed membership of the BNP [British National Party] or the National Front because of the racist rhetoric of both organisations,” reports Pink News, which said it is the first time Anglican priests have been banned from joining a political party.
Bishops declared that both the BNP and National Front are “incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England” because of their respective stances on “equality of persons or groups of different races”.
In response, a BNP leader said that it was the church that had abandoned biblical teaching by accepting gay clergy, and that the church had been “hijacked by people who are more interested in neo-Marxism.”
Also in the UK, a stationery store owner who is a Jehova’s Witness and who has refused to provide services to gay couples was compared by Communities Minister Stephen Williams to the owner of a Bed & Breakfast turning away people for being black or Irish.
Mr O’Reilly told PinkNews he was upset at the refusal, saying: “We would understand if her company was solely aimed at her religious group – but it’s not. She does not refuse anyone due to their religion yet she is quite happy to refuse us because of our sexuality.”
…“It’s not just wrong, it’s illegal to discriminate against people when you are providing goods and services, you should not discriminate on the grounds of sexuality or race.”
When asked his opinion on the fact that Ms Wilson attempted to justify her actions by stating that she is a Jehovah’s Witness, he said: “If they have a deeply held religious views they should separate them from their commercial activities, which have to take place within the framework of the law of the land.
“This is the same sort of thing as people used to have notices in their B&B windows reading ‘no blacks, no dogs no Irish’, we’ve moved on from that. If people want to operate in business, and have all the protections that the law gives people to operate as a commercial enterprise, then they need to comply with all aspects of the law and not cherry pick.”
Israel: Justice Minister Presides Over Same-Sex Ceremony; Surrogacy Bill Advances
Marriage by same-sex couples is not legal in Israel, but Justice Minister Tzipi Livni presided over a wedding ceremony for a same-sex couple. According to Pink News, “Same-sex marriages are recognised in Israel, but must be conducted overseas as only the religious authorities: Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Druze can perform marriages, and none offer gay couples the chance to marry.” The Jerusalem Post quotes Livni:
“I was under the huppah 30 years ago and yesterday. Then, I had personal happiness and today my happiness can help make other people happy
“At the ceremony, I said that the government cannot give out licenses for love.
“No power in the world can veto love or stand in the way of a couple that is in love and wants a life together.”
This week the Israeli cabinet approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to use surrogates in Israel.
Jamaica: Leading Newspaper Calls Gay Marriage Ban Hypocritical
The Jamaican Gleaner published an editorial June 5 which said that the country’s legal ban on same-sex couples marrying is grounded in prejudice and is hypocritical given the decline in heterosexual marriages and increasing rate of divorce among couples who do marry.
We draw attention to these statistics neither to ridicule nor undermine marriage, for this newspaper appreciates its potential as an institution of social stability and respect its centrality to Christian and other religious ideologies. But by taking the marriage to its contractual core, it bares the persistence of hypocritical and anachronistic attitudes that perpetuate discrimination.
In Jamaica’s case, we refer to Section 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, thereby ruling out the possibility of formal recognition of same-sex relationships. It is a provision that has its foundation in a deep-seated, if slowly receding, homophobia that has caused us to maintain the buggery provisions, which, essentially, criminalise male homosexuality and allows the State the role of commissar of sexual preferences and to invade the privacy of people’s bedrooms. It matters nought that the power is little used; its existence is chilling.
Further, it is unassailable logic that Section 18 represents an assault on the principle of equality of people; people’s right to forge relationships, especially when the exercise of those rights does not impinge on the rights of others; and their right to equal protection under the law. Indeed, a denial of these human rights is also an attack on the dignity of individuals who are prevented from the public expression of the powerful human emotion of love within the sanctity of marriage, although same-sex couples could well give the institution a shot in the arm.
The religionists and churches who are not willing to embrace same-sex marriages, but who already co-exist in a morally plural society, need not fear that they may have to compromise their ideologies. While civil registers are not so precluded, ministers of religions who are marriage officers are exempt, at Section 8 of the Marriage Act, from performing weddings that are contrary to the rules of their denominations.
Malaysia: Former Prime Minister Says Gays Can’t Reproduce, Will Disappear
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told students at the International Islamic University Malaysia, “If you understand your religion, you will never be gay,” according to The Malay Mail.
The former prime minister said same-sex relations is now prevalent because the gay and lesbian communities have been following their emotions and lust and said it would not exist if people were strong in their religious beliefs.
Mahathir was answering a question by a student who asked for a way to curb the spread of the LGBT movement in Malaysia.
Mahathir said that one of the dangers posed by the LGBT community is that they cannot have children, despite religion prescribing sex for uses of procreation.
“It is good that they are having gay marriages, very soon they will disappear,” Mahathir added.
According to Gay Asia News and when he was Prime Minister Mahathir threatened to deport any visiting foreign diplomats or officials who were gay.
Maldives: President’s Office Threatens Asylum Seekers
The Minivan News reports,“ Maldivians seeking asylum abroad on grounds of religion or sexuality can be assured of prosecution should they return, says the President’s Office.” The spokesperson’s comments reportedly were in response to a story from New Zealand about a Maldivian asylum seeker in New Zealand who had become an award-winning drag queen in Wellington.
Abraham Naim told the Dominio Post that he had been granted asylum in 2013 after facing persecution in the Maldives.
The article quotes New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment as stating that Naim was “at risk of serious harm from state agents” and that “there is a real chance of persecution if he returned to the Maldives”.
Naim also told the news website that he has been prey to numerous online threats and hate mail. “My entire existence is controversial,” he said.
Asked to comment on the matter today, Mushrif Musaid (Supervisor) at Ministry of Islamic Affairs Jannath Saeed stated that acts of homosexuality are clearly anti-Islamic and against the country’s laws, and thereby subject to legal action.
“Such acts of homosexuality are haraam in Islam. However, this ministry has not so far received any complaints from anyone claiming to be a persecuted homosexual,” said Jannath.
“We will need to check if the ministry has issued any threats or statements against a homosexual. The fact remains that such an act is without doubt against Islam,” he commented.
Uganda: Anti-Gay Law Becomes Political Weapon Against Nonprofits
Ugandan officials are using the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Act to target a leading nonprofit organization, leading activists to fear that it indicates how the law will be used as a political weapon, reporters BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder.
The Refugee Law Project, whose office hosts the coalition of organizations opposing the anti-LGBT law, has been under investigation by the officials in the prime minister’s office for “promoting homosexuality” since mid-March. The organization has been trying to resolve the matter quietly, but activists in Uganda say privately the investigation could be the beginning of an ominous political turn they have long feared — that the law would work not only to destroy the lives of hundreds of LGBT individuals, but also would become a weapon used against critics of the government of President Yoweri Museveni.
Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo said his office had “recommended that [RLP] be suspended pending further investigation” because the group had been “promoting homosexuality and lesbianism,” NTV, one of Uganda’s leading television stations, reported Tuesday. The report said, “The allegation against the Refugee Law Project is that it has been working with … [the coalition] which has been handling the petition … against the Anti-Homosexuality Act” which is due to be heard by the Constitutional Court later this month….
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which criminalizes advocating LGBT rights and imposes up to a lifetime sentence for homosexuality, is just one of many measures enacted by the Museveni regime targeting freedom of expression. A vaguely worded Anti-Pornography Act went into law around the same time as the Anti-Homosexuality Act, potentially criminalizing a broad range of expression if authorities deem it to be sexual. The government also has broad powers to monitor electronic communications and regulate NGOs, and President Museveni has recently moved to shut down media outlets in retaliation for their reporting and has blocked opposition rallies.
Also this week, HRC President Chad Griffin urged President Obama to take stronger action to demonstrate to Ugandan officials that there will “continuing and long term political and economic consequences to state-driven homophobia.”
Paraguay: Activists Clash with Police at OAS Meeting
In 2013, the Organization for American States adopted an anti-discrimination resolution that includes sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. This week, activists protesting a decision by the Paraguayan president not to endorse that resolution clashed with police. The Washington Blade reports, “At least 10 LGBT rights advocates were injured on Monday during a protest in the Paraguayan capital that took place ahead of the start of the Organization of American States’ annual meeting.”
Russia: Activists Arrested at Banned Pride Events
A number of activists were arrested for participating in pride events in Moscow, where officials had withdrawn permission for the event. Among them were a woman arrested for having a beard resembling that of Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst drawn on her face. A Moscow official had said permission was denied “to respect morality in the education of the younger generation”, but also due to “concerns [the march] would provoke clashes between gays and their opponents”.
India: Census Documents Nearly 500,000 Hijra
We reported in May that India’s Supreme Court had ruled in favor of allowing transgender people to identify themselves as a “third gender” on official documents. Less than 30,000 people used that designation in registering for the recent general election, but data released from last year’s national census – which included a third gender option for the first time – indicated that 490,000 people identified themselves as “third gender.”
United Kingdom: Couples Can Marry in 23 Consulates
Starting this week, British gay couples living oversees can now get married at 23 British consulates in countries where they would not otherwise be allowed to marry.
The countries on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s list include: Australia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, and Vietnam.
Vitaly Milonov, a member of the St. Petersburg city council and author is its anti-gay “propaganda” law, responded by saying , “They can marry monkeys and register perverts for all I care.”
Mexico: Supreme Court Continues Approving Gay Couples’ Marriages
Marriage is legal for same-sex couples in Mexico City. Couples in other states have won court declarations in “amparos” cases that their states must treat their marriages as legal. There are reportedly about 30 such cases pending before the Supreme Court. This week the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of a couple from the state of Colima; after more cases from the state go through the same process, the state’s ban will legally fall for all couples there.