Last week we inaugurated a regular feature recapping international highlights and lowlights in religion and LGBT advocacy. This week Russia and India are still in the news, along with Australia, Zambia, Ethiopia, the U.K. , and more.
This week’s stories include more evidence that American LGBT rights advocates working overseas are finding their work made harder by anti-gay American religious activists encouraging other countries to resist moves toward equality.
Russia: Defiant Putin Cheered on By U.S. Conservatives
On December 12, Russian strongman Vladmir Putin spoke to a joint session of the Russian parliament and defended the country’s anti-gay policies. He decried “top-down destruction of traditional values” and “so-called tolerance,” which he described as “genderless and fruitless.” Putin proclaimed Russia’s role in “the defense of traditional values, which for ages have been a spiritual and moral basis of civilization and every nation: the traditional family values, true human life, including religious life…”
Putin’s defiant homophobia continues to set a tone for others in the country. Moscow’s largest gay club, which has been repeatedly attacked since the anti-gay propaganda law went into effect, was set upon by a group of people who dismantled its roof. A popular actor, Ivan Okhlobystin, who resumed his career after becoming an Orthodox priest, announced that he would like to burn all Russian gays alive:
“I myself would shove all live gays into furnace. This is Sodom and Gomorrah, I as a beliver in God can not treat this indifferently, this is a live threat to my kids!… I do not want my kids to think that faggots are normal. This is lavender fascism. If a person can not choose someone of an opposite sex for procreation – this is a overt sign of mental abnormality, so they should be denied of voting rights.”
Okhlobystin also said promoting gay rights is a “betrayal of God” and serves the devil. “Plus the existence of official organizations which sodomites have in all their forms, from homosexuals to pedophiles – it is a direct insult to the feelings of believers in God, and therefore it should be prosecuted.”
Putin received The Advocate magazine’s “Phobie” Award for worst anti-gay person of the year.
In contrast, conservative American leaders continue to praise Putin. This week right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan hailed Putin as a leader of traditionalists worldwide who are resisting “the militant secularism of a multicultural and transnational elite.” Buchanan complains, “America was de-Christianized in the second half of the 20th century by court orders, over the vehement objections of a huge majority of a country that was overwhelmingly Christian.” Says Buchanan of Putin, “The adversary he has identified is not the America we grew up in, but the America we live in, which Putin sees as pagan and wildly progressive.”
Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber also praised Putin, writing, “How sad that the leader of an atheist government, in a country where tens of millions have died under Marxism – another of Obama’s pet causes – could out-Christian our once-Christian nation.” Barber complained that for the far-right WND that America “now looks less like Reagan’s ‘shining city on a hill’ and more like the biblical Whore of Babylon.”
America groans because the wicked rule.
Indeed, under this president, America’s chief export has become immorality. Sexual deviancy, murder of the unborn, redistribution of wealth and other evils have been sanitized and propagandized as “basic human rights.”
Thus, when this arrogant man stands before the U.N. and decries those nations that refuse to embrace his special brand of pagan relativism, we shouldn’t be surprised if those nations push back.
And so they push back.
To be sure, in addition to triggering our own spike in angst, Obama’s fevered push to “call evil good and good evil,” is likewise responsible for America’s snowballing marginalization across the globe.
For instance, there has been, of late, great weeping and gnashing of teeth among mainstream media – and other circles of intolerant “tolerance” – over successful efforts by several foreign governments to stem the tide of “LGBT” propaganda within their own sovereign borders.
Having witnessed, from afar, the poisonous results of such propaganda here in the U.S. (the hyper-sexualization of children, the deconstruction of natural marriage and family, the rampant spread of sexually transmitted disease, religious persecution and the like), there seems an emerging global recognition that the radical “LGBT” agenda – a pet cause of Obama’s – is not about securing “human rights,” but, rather, is about promulgating moral wrongs.
The world is finding that forcing others to “tolerate” – indeed, to celebrate – unfettered licentiousness, under penalty of law, is as harmful to society as is said licentiousness to those who practice it.
In response to the anti-gay wave in Russia, actors, musicians, and other entertainment industry figures have launched Uprising of Love, a campaign to raise funds for Russian equality activists. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reports that money raised will go to The Russia Freedom Fund, a partnership between the Arcus Foundation, the Council for Global Equality, and the Open Society Institute.
This week the Obama administration announced that no members of the Obama or Biden families would attend the Olympics in Sochi. The U.S. delegation will include two out LGBT athletes, two out LGBT athletes — Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow.
United Kingdom: Marriage and Adoption Equality Advance
Months after Parliament passed a marriage equality bill, the government has announced that same-sex weddings will begin in England and Wales on March 29 of next year. That same month, same-sex couples who were married in other countries will be recognized in England and Wales as being married. (Marriage equality is expected to move forward in Scotland next year as well.) According to Gay Star News, the government is also working on plans that will allow married people wanting to change their legal gender, while remaining married, to do so. In contrast to last week’s news from Croatia, the progress in the UK illustrates the growing divide between eastern and western Europe on LGBT issues that is documented in a new report from Pew.
A ban on adoption by gay couples in Northern Ireland has been lifted over objections from government officials after the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court denied a request from Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots to appeal a June court ruling that the ban violated European rights law. Northern Ireland’s Attorney General had also defended the ban. The Belfast Telegraph reports, “Adoption agencies – including agencies associated with church groups, which are opposed to gay adoption on doctrinal grounds – have been circulated by the department with advice on the new protocols which they must observe.”
Australia: Marriage Equality Law Rejected by Supreme Court
On December 12, the Australia High Court ruled that a federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman trumps a marriage equality law passed two months ago by the Australian Capital Territory. According to the Canberra Times, the ruling nullifies at least 27 marriages conducted in the five days the law was in effect. The ruling puts marriage equality in the hands of the parliament, where equality advocates have vowed to push for a new law. It is not clear whether the government will allow its MPs to vote their own conscience. Prime Minister Tony Abbott opposes marriage equality even though he has a younger sister who is in a relationship with another woman.
India: Response to High Court Ruling Rages
As we reported in the last recap, the Supreme Court of India on December 11 reinstated a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality several years after the law had been struck down by the Delhi high court. Activists organized “Day of Rage” protests in India and around the globe.
In the U.S. leaders of the Hindu American Foundation criticized the ruling. “No law should interfere in a consensual relationship of two individuals behind closed doors,” said Harsh Voruganti, Associate Director of Public Policy at HAF. “We had hoped that the Indian Supreme Court would have upheld the lower court’s progressive decision.” More from a press release:
“The essential core of Hindu teachings is that an individual’s value is not based on his or her sexual orientation, but on one’s ability to transcend the body, senses, and ego,” said Swaminathan Venkataraman, HAF’s Director of India Strategic Relations. “And unlike many interpretations of Abrahamic scripture, Hinduism does not provide a fundamental spiritual reason to reject or ostracize homosexuals,” continued Venkataraman, also the primary author of the widely acclaimed article, “Hinduism and Homosexuality,” which appeared in Trikone magazine in 2009.
Hindu teachings about mutual respect and dignity have informed HAF’s public policy positions, noted Voruganti. “HAF has repeatedly taken a stand in support of equal rights for LGBT individuals in the United States, from joining an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act to advocating for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. Senate.”
In contrast, in the wake of the ruling, the leadership of the Sikh faith said they had directedmanagement committees of all its gudwaras (Sikh houses of worship) worldwide not to allow them to be used for same-sex weddings. The New Indian Express reported this week thatAkal Takht high priest Jathedar Gurbachan Singh declared “God has created men and women and same-sex relations are not allowed. Preachers should spread the message against same-sex marriages among the public. I agree with the Supreme Court verdict.”
Baba Ramdev, an anti-gay spiritual leader know for promoting yoga, has backed the ruling and criticized politicians who haven’t supported it, suggesting they must be gay. He says homosexuality is a sickness that can be cured by spending a few days at his Ashram.
And amidst controversy over the treatment of an Indian diplomat by law enforcement officials in New York, a senior leader of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has called for the arrest of gay American diplomats.
Chile: Pro-Equality Bachelet Returns as President
In a race that gave voters a choice between two women vying for the presidency, Chilean voters on December 15 overwhelmingly elected former President Michelle Bachelet, a supporter of marriage equality, stronger anti-discrimination and anti-hate crime laws, as well as laws important to transgender Chileans. Her opponent had cited the Bible in opposing marriage equality and adoption rights for same-sex couples.
Zambia: Justice Minister Criticizes Pro-Gay Churches
In Zambia, where homosexuality is already criminalized, some politicians are urging stronger laws against homosexuality and hope to rally churches to get involved in the process of rewriting the nation’s Constitution. On Sunday, Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba criticized churches that are advocating on behalf of LGBT equality. ‘Why are some churches forming alliances with people that are championing causes that threaten our cultural norms and our Christian values?’ According to the Zambia Daily Mail, he said “it is critical that Government and the Church continue to cultivate a harmonious relationship by creating opportunities for dialogue at all times.”
Brazil: President Slows Anti-Discrimination Bill in Deference to Evangelicals
Last Friday, Brazilian lawmakers shelved a law that would have prohibited discrimination or inciting violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, reports Dan Littauer at LGBTQ Nation. He reports that the country’s minister of institutional relations instructed ruling party senators to hold the bill until after next year’s presidential election. The bill was read last week in the Committee for Human Rights despite attempts by evangelicals to have senators boycott the meeting. “According to reports, Minister Salvatti acted under the instruction of President Dilma Rousseff to prevent this from happening.” Evangelical leaders threatened to penalize supporters of the legislation:
”There’s no point having coffee with [religious] ministers, visiting churches and after the elections, defend projects against the family, as conceived by God,” said Senator and Baptist minister Magno Malta.
“We will position ourselves against politicians that defend this homosexual ideology. In the [previous] second presidential run-off all the country stood with Dilma, but now nobody will use me again,” warned Malta.
Vatican: Francis Replaces Culture Warrior on Bishop-Selection Committee
Pope Francis continued to make news, replacing outspoken right-wing Cardinal (andflamboyant fashionista)Raymond Burke on the Congregation of Bishops, a position that gave him influence over the selection of new bishops in the U.S. and around the world. Burke’s replacement, Washington D.C. Archbishop Donald Wuerl, is no liberal but he has publicly disagreed with Burke’s advocacy for denying communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians. And, as the New York Times’ Jim Hardley and Jason Horowitz report, some Catholics hope the change signals a future shift from recent appointments that disappointed many progressive Catholics, including the appointment of Salvatore J. Cordileone, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, as archbishop of San Francisco and Leonard Blair, who played a major role in the Vatican investigation of American nuns, as the archbishop of Hartford.
Pope Francis was named Person of the Year by both TIME magazine and by the Advocate, the latter choice angering some gay-rights activists.
Ethopia: Newsweek Reports ‘Cheered on by Americans, Ethiopia has Declared War on Gay Men”
A major story in Newsweek reports on the extraordinary legal and cultural hostility toward LGBT people in Ethiopia.
Seventy-six countries criminalize sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and 38 of them, including Ethiopia, are in Africa. According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97 percent of Ethiopians think homosexuality should be outlawed. Unlike Mauritania, Sudan, and Northern Nigeria, Ethiopia doesn’t mandate the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts, but thanks to draconian laws that forbid activism while allowing Western evangelicals to promote homophobia, Ethiopia is on track to join their ranks.
“In many countries, it’s getting better for the LGBT community,” says reporter Katie J.M. Baker. “In Ethiopia, it’s getting worse.”
She writes that anti-terrorism and anti-advocacy laws, both adopted in 2009, mean that “there are no health centers, charities, publications or even nightclubs that expressly serve Ethiopia’s underground LGBT community – the few reputable organizations that once existed have been shuttered or forced to remove any mentions of human rights from their mandates.” Ethiopia refuses to fund or permit any HIV prevention, treatment, or care that targets men who have sex with men.
Newsweek reports that anti-gay hostility is an interfaith affair:
Leaders of Ethiopian Muslims, heads of the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic churches, government officials, members of the Ethiopian Parliament, leaders of political parties, and youth organizations routinely put their differences aside to attend conferences on the “gay problem” – one last year, entitled “Homosexuality and Its Associated Social Disastrous Consequences,” was held in the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. “Ethiopians do not need their identity to be dictated for them from outside no matter how wealthy or powerful the forces applying the pressure,” Abune Paulos, the former head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, told conference goers last year.
But, while Ethiopia prohibits foreign LGBT-related activism, it welcomes international religious groups that preach homophobia. Thus, “religion is used as proxy for discrimination,” explains Ty Cobb, director of Global Engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, by groups who “couch hateful rhetoric in faith-based terms.”
Last year’s anti-gay conference and others like it are organized and funded by United for Life, a Western Evangelical Christian organization that receives funding from the U.K. and U.S. In May 2013, United for Life hosted a workshop during which police told government officials, religious leaders and health professionals that “homosexual family members and neighbors” were likely to sexually abuse children. A representative from the Ethiopian Inter-Religious Council Against Homosexuality announced that the council was making “promising” progress in convincing the government to introduce the death penalty to punish “homosexual acts.” United for Life’s president, Seyoum Antonius, has made it clear that he won’t quit anti-gay advocacy until Ethiopia adopts the death penalty. One of his rallying cries is, “Africa will become a graveyard for homosexuality!”
Ethiopia is a deeply religious country – the majority of its citizens are Orthodox Christian, then Muslim – but many church leaders are increasingly progressive when it comes to social issues like family planning. During a visit to the Holy Trinity Church, tour guide and longtime teacher Getenet Teshome said the church had relaxed its stance on contraception but that LGBT rights were “unthinkable” – even discussion was “highly condemned,” since gay people would “bring doom to the whole earth.” He added, with a smile, “I would kill them and expose them to the public, and I’m sure the public will never have mercy upon them.”
The national campaign against sexual minorities has gained “extraordinary momentum” in the past five years, says Dagmawi Woubshet, a gay Ethiopian English professor at Cornell.
“There’s complete silence around LGBT experiences because there’s no forum for stories about the violence meted out by the state and family members on a day to day basis,” he says. “My biggest fear is that these religious organizations are monopolizing the conversation and perpetuating a fear that’s becoming impossible to combat.”
U.S.: Anti-Gay Religious Right Activist Scott Lively Running for Governor in Massachusetts
Scott Lively, currently embroiled in a lawsuit over his fomenting of anti-gay persecution in Uganda, announced that he is running for governor in the state of Massachusetts. The Republican newspaper reports:
“The people of Massachusetts need a candidate who can clearly and unapologetically articulate Biblical values without fear or compromise,” his campaign literature states. “They need a candidate who will tell the simple truth that abortion is murder, and homosexuality is condemned by God (but that Jesus forgives those who repent).”
He cites the greatest threat to the citizenry as the “Godless ideology of Cultural Marxism, better known as the ‘progressive movement.’”