Hundreds of people attended last weekend’s conference on global LGBT activism in New York. At Huffington Post, the Williams Institute’s Andrew Park discusses a shift in LGBT advocacy strategy at the U.N. to focus more on economic development. Zachary Quinto narrates a new video on the cost of anti-LGBT discrimination for the United Nations Free & Equal campaign
The European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency this week released an EU-wide legal analysis of protections against discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristic.
…The report also emphasises that the absence of a clear definition of ‘family members’ in EU legislation hampers the freedom of movement in the EU for LGBTI families, and stresses that this could be solved by adopting legislation on EU level ensuring mutual recognition of civil documents.
Earlier this month, Poland and Hungary “blocked a proposal for regulations which would simplify legal procedures for EU couples living or working in another Member State in the event of divorce or death,” according to the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
Couples who use their right to freedom of movement in the EU are often faced with legal uncertainties as to the applicable law when dividing property. The regulations were supposed to tackle this uncertainty, while leaving family law, which is a Member State competence, untouched. However, during the debate in the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the Polish Justice Minister argued that the proposals would interfere in national family law, and should be rejected on the basis of subsidiarity. Hungary’s Justice Minister added that the proposals violate Member States’ national identity, particularly “traditions and values related to the family as a basic element of society.”
Also this month, the U.K.’s Human Dignity Trust, which promotes decriminalization of homosexuality, released a set of papers on the damaging effects of criminalization on democratic values, the rule of law, public health, and more.
Greece: Bishop Attacks Civil Union Proposal, Denounces Gays as ‘Scum’ to be Spit On
Bishop Ambrosios, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Kalavryta and Aigialeia, has been condemned by some politicians and other public figures for a vitriolic blog post, in which he denounced gays as the “scum of society” and encouraged readers to “spit” and “blacken” gays and atheists with violence.
A cartoonist at a Greek newspaper depicted the bishop blessing someone with a Golden Dawn (ultra-nationalist) tattoo for beating and spitting on those who support civil unions.
Another Greek newspaper showed him wearing a pendant with the image of Adolph Hitler and quoting words from blog saying “scum of society, the misery of homosexuality! Atheists… spit on them!”
Draft legislation that would reportedly grant full civil partnership rights to same-sex couples is expected to be introduced in parliament. The explanatory note accompanying the legislation notes that the European Court of Human Rights had criticized Greece for bring one of the last countries in Europe without official recognition for same-sex couples.
More on reaction by Ambrosios from Philip Chrysopoulos at Greek Reporter:
The Holy Synod decided to adhere to its previous position, namely that the Church of Greece denounces alternative family forms because they are a devaluation of the holy concept of the Christian family. It is also a devaluation of human life, turning the holy institution of marriage to a simple civil transaction, according to the Church of Greece.
Controversial Kalavryta Bishop Ambrosios took it a step further verbally attacking homosexuals and members of parliament who have stated that they will vote in favor of the bill.
Using very offensive language against lawmakers, Ambrosios calls on Greek people to, “Spit on them! Deprecate them! Vote against them! They are not human! They are freaks of nature! Mentally and spiritually sick! They are mentally insane! … Don’t hesitate, then! Wherever you see them, spit on them! Don’t leave them in peace! They are dangerous!” Ambrosios wrote in his blog.
Catholic Church: English Version of Family Synod Cheers Conservatives
Conservative Catholic writer Glenn Stanton is celebrating the release of the English version of the final report of the Catholic bishops’ synod on the family. “It not only dashed the hopes of those who hoped the Church would jettison its historic and biblical teaching on sexual ethics, it blew them to hell,” he writes. Stanton says “the report’s many affirmations of the unique and irreplaceable virtue of the natural family” make it clear that “any hope for even a wink at the possibility of the so-called same-sex family is beyond any possible consideration.” More from his column:
Every serious Christian—Protestant and Catholic—should read the final report. It strikes a precise and biblically serious note. It is deeply pastoral and theologically rigorous. Not one note of it equivocates. It establishes our understanding of the sacredness of marriage and family as both a private and public necessity on Christ’s words in Mark 10 and Matthew 19, which of course point us back to the first two chapters of Genesis as the starting authority on this matter. Neither Christ nor the Church will permit a view of the creation narrative as a quaint bible story that smart people no longer believe. It is, as Leon Kass held, the beginning of wisdom. Established upon this proper foundation, even a dull reader will easily pick up that the drafters have gone to great effort to make certain no one can miss the truth that both the marital union and the family itself are established between, and only between, male and female. It does so right out of the gate. In the first chapter, the Synod Fathers declare:
“Today, a very important cultural challenge is posed by ‘gender’ ideology which denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without gender differences, thereby removing the anthropological foundation of the family.”
They continue the warning:
“This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative guidelines which promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological differences between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, which can also change over time.”
Australia: Priest Calls for Marriage Legislation, Saying Plebiscite Could Get ‘Nasty’
The state of Victoria will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who get married overseas. According to Gay Star News:
Victoria joins the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania in recognizing overseas same-sex marriages – meaning a majority of the Australian states now legally recognize the existence of same-sex marriages in some way.
An Australian Jesuit Priest, Fr. Frank Brennan, published an essay calling a proposed plebiscite on marriage equality a “waste of time” that “risks turning very nasty.”
“When the plebiscite vote is carried in favour of same sex marriage, as I am confident it will be, there will still be a need for our Parliament to legislate complex provisions protecting religious freedom and expanding the freedom to marry.”
…“Given the increasing number of children being brought up by same sex couples, it is desirable that the state take away any social stigma against same sex parents.
“Given the ageing population, the state has an interest in recognising and protecting long term relationships of same sex couples who care for each other.
“Given the harmful effects of homophobia, the state has an interest in encouraging broad community acceptance of those members who are homosexual. Laws and policies can help in this regard.”
Church of England: Archbishop of Canterbury Says He’d Attend Child’s Gay Wedding
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has been grappling with divisions in the Anglican Communion over gender and sexuality, made a splash when he said that if one of his children was having a gay wedding he would attend and pray with them. Matt Chorley reports for the Daily Mail:
In an interview, Archbishop Welby suggested that if one of his five children asked for his blessing for a gay marriage, he would pray with them and attend the ceremony.
He also refused to say that a gay relationship was ‘sinful or inappropriate’, insisting he would ‘always love them’ whatever their sexuality.
During parliamentary debate on marriage equality law, Welby had testified against it, saying it would “weaken” the idea of the family “in its normal sense.”
Israel: Gay Iranian Poet Who Fled to Turkey Seeks to Stay in Israel
Isaac Scharf at Associated Press writes about Payam Felii, a gay poet who “fled his native Iran last year because of the persecution he faced over his sexuality.”
Feili, who has written nine books, many of them openly discussing homosexuality, escaped to Turkey last year when the Iranian government’s threats against him and his family became unbearable.
He is in Israel to see his latest novella, “I Will Grow, I Will Bear Fruit … Figs,” staged as a play in Hebrew in a Tel Aviv theater. While his always supportive family remains in Iran, he said he hopes to stay in Israel permanently.
Feili has nurtured a fascination with Israel since he was a youngster, when he began watching films about the Holocaust and started learning about the Torah. He has a coin-sized Star of David tattoo on his neck.
…Israel’s economic and cultural hub, Tel Aviv is a popular gay-friendly destination. Israel accepts gays serving openly in its military, but homosexuality is shunned among the country’s conservative ultra-Orthodox community. This year, an extremist ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed a 15-year-old girl to death at a Jerusalem Pride parade.
Homosexuality is a taboo topic in Iran, where gays and lesbians can face lashings or death sentences if convicted. Human rights groups estimate that over 4,000 gays have been executed since the Islamic Revolution. Famously, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd at New York’s Columbia University in 2007 that “in Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”
Feili was reluctant to talk about the threats against him back home, but said they began after the publication in Iran of a heavily censored version of his first book, a collection of poetry titled “The Sun’s Platform,” in 2005. Feili was blacklisted and has been banned from publishing in Iran since.
United Kingdom: What a Gay Boy Learned Living Across the Street From a Mosque
Thomas Machline writes in Medium about “15 things I learnt about Islam and British values being a gay boy living opposite a mosque,” concluding his list with:
The media stories about islam meant that I was genuinely a little nervous about moving in across the road to a mosque. What I have learnt in the four years since I moved is that the ridiculousness of British culture is universal. We all love tea, are really polite and tut rather than saying something, no matter our religion.
Costa Rica: Activists Promote Marriage Equality Bill Opposed by Evangelical Lawmakers
Equality activists are promoting new marriage equality legislation, which is backed by deputies from different parties, though one of the lawyers supporting the bill acknowledged that it might be blocked by evangelical lawmakers who have to date prevented other attempts.
Tunisia: Court Jails Students on Sodomy Charge
Last week a court sentenced six male students to three years in jail after ssubjecting them to anal examinations and convicting them on sodomy charges. Human Rights Watch argued that the convictions “violated international law and were contrary to the rights to privacy and nondiscrimination under Tunisia’s 2014 constitution.”
“While Tunisians were celebrating the Nobel Prize for the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet on Human Rights Day, a Tunisian court was handing down a medieval sentence to six students on the basis of a gross invasion of their private life and bodily integrity,” said Amna Guellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch.
Jamaica: Activist Maurice Tomlinson Launches New Challenge to Sodomy Law
BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder profiles Maurice Tomlinson, an attorney who has filed a challenge to the colonial era “buggery law” that criminalizes homosexuality and acts as a “blackmailer’s charter” that allows police to extort gay men under threat of arrest. The court has scheduled the first procedural hearing for February 23.
As we have previously reported, conservative Christian activists from the U.S. and the U.K. have worked to rally resistance to decriminalization of homosexuality in Jamaica.
The new suit is being brought by Maurice Tomlinson, a gay Jamaican attorney who received death threats after a local newspaper published a photograph of his marriage to his Canadian partner in 2011…
“The laws of Jamaica that criminalize consensual sexual intimacy between men essentially render me an un-apprehended criminal,” Tomlinson states in the court filings…
Tomlinson now splits his time between the home he shares with his husband in Toronto and Jamaica, he said in an interview with BuzzFeed News, though he says he follows a “security protocol” and restricts his activities when he is in the country because he is still receiving death threats. He agreed to be the claimant in this new suit after difficulty recruiting someone to replace Javed Jaghai, the man who withdrew his challenge to the buggery law last year because of safety concerns.
“I’ve certainly reached a point where I can’t imagine things getting much worse than they already are” in terms of security concerns, Tomlinson said. “The good thing is that I have the option to not be where the danger is,” since he has a home in Canada.
Disclosure: Tomlinson appeared on a panel I moderated on “Globalizing Homophobia” at the 2015 Netroots Nation conference.
Mexico: Marriage Equality Makes It to State of Sonora
Last week two men were married in Hermosillo, the first pair of men to marry in the state of Sonora, which borders the U.S. Alberto Saldaña y Miguel Ángel Cisneros, who have been in a relationship for three and a half years, said that they hope the precedent will encourage other same-sex couples to do the same. They thanked God and the State Commission on Human Rights for helping them overcome local resistance. As we have reported, marriage equality has been spreading slowly but steadily across Mexico as federal court rulings are enforced by injunctions required by the country’s complicated justice system.
Estonia: Cohabitation Act Will Go Into Effect Jan 1 Without Implementing Legislation
Implementing acts to the Cohabitation Act, which gives same-sex couples more legal rights, have been delayed by opponents offering 300 amendments. Because the implementing acts, affecting 85 regulations, will not have been passed by the time the Cohabitation Act goes into effect on January 1, there will be ongoing legal loopholes and problems, according to a report from Estonian Public Broadcasting.
Puerto Rico: Court Allows Woman to Adopt Partner’s Child
A Puerto Rican court ruled in favor of a woman who had been trying to adopt her partner’s child, which the Washington Blade reports was the first ruling in the U.S. commonwealth in favor of adoption by a same-sex couple.
Czech Republic: Court Recognizes Gay Adoption
The Czech man and his French husband adopted the boys as new-born babies in San Francisco, where they bring them up, MfD writes.
However, the children spent their holidays with their grandmother in the Czech Republic where the father, aged 41, had no rights to them.
“Now we can be granted Czech citizenship, thanks to which we can move to the Czech Republic,” the Czech father, who works as a financial director in the USA, is quoted as saying.
“Our travelling across Europe will be easier and the boys will have their door to Czech schools open,” he added.
The Post says the ruling was possible based on a new law giving Czech courts the ability to recognize foreign rulings on adoption. Lawmakers have resisted efforts to pass legislation allowing the same-sex partner of a biological parent to adopt their child.
Armenia: New Constitution Defines Marriage to Exclude Same-Sex Couples
Bermuda: Court Grants Equal Rights to Same Sex Partners
Last week the Royal Gazette reported, “Same-sex partners of Bermudians will get the same right to reside and seek work as spouses of Bermudians in less than three months.”
Chief Justice Ian Kawaley yesterday declined the Bermuda Government’s application for the declaration to be delayed for at least four to six months to allow wide-ranging legislative changes.
Dr Justice Kawaley said the ruling would come into effect on February 29, 2016.
The decision comes less than two weeks after Dr Justice Kawaley ruled in favour of the Bermuda Bred Company — a group of binational same-sex couples — in a civil case against the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General.
Dr Justice Kawaley found that the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act had to be read in conjunction with the Human Rights Act, which forbids the denial of services based on marital status or sexual orientation.
Russia: Legislation Empowers Government to Ignore International Human Rights Rulings
During a month in which President Vladimir Putin and U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump have expressed their mutual admiration, the Russian Duman has voted to pass a law that would allow them to ignore human rights decisions from international bodies.
The bill-drafted by all four Russian parliamentary parties – will allow the country to over turn any decision handed to them by the European Court of Human Rights.
Earlier this year, the Supreme court of Russia established that no international treaty held precedence over national sovereignty and any international decision meted out would only be upheld if it didn’t contradict basic Russian law.
Speaking at the Russian constitutional court, Judge Sergey Mavrin said “All decisions of the ECHR must be executed only with consideration to the Russian Constitution’s supremacy”.
…The country – no stranger to human rights violations – has recently passed laws giving the police power to fine and imprison its citizens for protesting for a period of up to 15 years.
…One reason Russia has put this new law forward could be the result of a fine imposed by the European Court of $2.5 billion for the unfair tax proceedings case involving the now defunct Russian oil company Yukos.
However, this law also allows them to sidestep other decisions by the ECHR concerning the country’s enactment of unpopular LGBT laws.
Montenegro: Police Protect Pride Parade
Hundreds of people marched in the capital of Podgorica on Sunday. Organizations and activists participating in the third Montenegro pride parade called for a reduction in homophobia and transphobia and for more legal rights for LGBT people, including marriage equality.
According to Balkan Insight:
The Pride was originally planned for October 18 but was put on hold due to weeks of opposition protest rallies against the government of Milo Djukanovic, which turned violent on October 24.
The Montenegrin capital Podgorica was under tight security on Sunday ahead of the Gay Pride parade, the third in a row since the event was marred by violence in 2013.
Hundreds of riot police officers were deployed in the city centre in the downtown area in Podgorica, where streets have been closed to traffic since the early morning on Sunday protest, but no incidents were reported.
Germany: Commission Calls For Improving Gender Equality
An independent commission of the German Equality Body released its final report on improving gender equality, which made recommendations on the rights of transgender and intersex people along with those on issues like equal pay and sexual harassment.
The commission also recommends limiting the recording and display of gender markers on public documents as much as possible and sees urgent need for legal reforms in the gender recognition procedures. A new option “other” should be made available and changes of registered gender and name should be simplified. The Commission calls for an end to label trans people as mentally ill (depathologisation) and wants to see criminal sanctions introduced for non-consensual medical interventions in young intersex persons.