International Holocaust Remembrance Day was observed around the world this week. While America’s globetrotting anti-gay religious activist Scott Lively may blame gays for the rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust, journalist Karen Ocamb and gay-rights activist Peter Tatchell review the actual history at Frontiers and Huffington Post. More from Liam Hoare at Slate and Michelle Garcia at the Advocate.
In the US Congress, The International Human Rights Defense Act was introduced by Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Alan Lowenthal. The bill would create a special envoy for LGBT human rights and require the State Department to make a priority of preventing and responding to anti-LGBT violence and discrimination. From Reuters:
“We must do what we can as a nation to enforce the precept that all human beings … are entitled to a basic set of human rights which include the right to love who they choose without fear of punishment or death. LGBT rights are human rights,” said Lowenthal, the bill’s co-sponsor, in the statement.
As LGBT rights, and especially same-sex couples’ right to marry, gained momentum across the United States throughout 2014, LGBT people remain subject to violence and discrimination in many parts of the world.
In 2013, India re-criminalised homosexuality while Nigeria, Uganda, and Gambia have all passed laws that make homosexuality a crime punishable with life imprisonment. In seven countries, homosexuality is punishable by death, the statement said.
Philippines: LGBT rights advocates reflect on papal visit
We reported last week on the visit by Pope Francis to the Philippines. This week Ging Cristobal, IGLHRC’s project coordinator for Asia and Pacific Islands, published a reflection on the papal visit. An excerpt:
The visit was an inspiring moment to the majority of Filipinos where almost 80% are Catholics, while at the same time offered crucial insight into the limitations to Pope Francis’ apparent openness about welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals of faith to the church.
While many Catholic LGBT individuals in the Philippines—and elsewhere—long have reconciled their sexuality and gender identity with their personal faith, few harbored any illusions about the official stance of their church as expressed through the Catholic Catechism (a summary of the principles of the Catholic faith in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Catholics). The Catechism calls on Catholics to act with compassion, sensitivity, respect, and hospitality toward homosexuals but it also demands that gays and lesbians remain celibate, refraining from entering into meaningful adult sexual relationships because it is gravely depraved and “intrinsically disordered.” It has little guidance on gender identity, other than noting that men and women were created as such. In fact, though the Holy See in its international diplomacy has been quite hostile to any reference to “gender” (seeing it as departing from the biological sex binary created by God), the Catholic Church has been mostly silent on transgender issues.
Over the past couple of years, however, Pope Francis has appeared to approach the sexuality question—and to a lesser degree the gender identity question—with more openness than previous Pontiffs, and even in marked departure from the views expressed by Pope Francis when he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In 2010, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, described same-sex marriage as the work of the devil and a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” He also said that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children.
While Pope Francis has never expressed support for marriage equality or adoption by same-sex couples, he has shown understanding that it is possible to be gay and simultaneously a person of faith. In July 2013 Pope Francis asked reporters, speaking about homosexual priests: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He also and said, “they [gay priests] shouldn’t be marginalized.” In September of the same year, Pope Francis, when asked if he “approved” of homosexuality said: “Tell me, when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being.”
Cristobal notes that 12 LGBT groups wrote an open letter to Pope Francis, urging him to condemn the discrimination and persecution experienced by LGBT people in the Philippines. He quotes some activists who hope “that the Pope’s, albeit measured, message of compassion and acceptance will trickle down to the Catholic Church in the Philippines.” Other activists are not as optimistic: ”Chris Salvatierra, former Coordinator of Task force Pride (TFP) stated, “The Philippine Catholic Church hierarchy & its allies will not follow because they are afraid of change.“
The Pope’s comments at a January 15 mass, in which he warned against “confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family” disappointed some activists.
Reasoning that the Pope’s statements are nothing new, Fire Sia, who identifies as gender queer, said: “There was no false hope from the pontiff. If you believed for one moment that he would be different, look back and see that he supported equality of all people within the limits of his religious beliefs.” Others were disappointed. “Where is the much bragged about compassion, to say nothing of equality and justice—which he utterly fails to comprehend?” wondered Abbot Richard Mickley of The Order of St. Aelred.
And while disappointment was the general sentiment, Dawn Madrona of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) cautions that, “these statements make us more vulnerable to discrimination and bigotry.”
Vatican: Pope meets with transgender man shunned by his parish
Pope Francis reportedly met privately last weekend with a transgender man who had been rejected by his parish in Spain and called “the devil’s daughter” by a priest. Marianne Duddy-Burke of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity, told the Washington Blade that the meeting “shows a concern for those at the very margins of our church” and said, “I hope the pope listened carefully to this man’s experience and will speak about what he heard.”
Many advocates have criticized the church for failing to welcome LGBT members of their communities. Sister Monica, a nun who ministers to transgender people, goes by a pseudonym in her public communications for fear of reprisal by Catholic authorities.
“While there is no public, official position of the Catholic Church regarding people who are transgender,” Sister Monica wrote in a blog on HuffPost, “it would be safe to say that the hierarchy of the Church would likely forbid this ministry.”[New Ways Ministry’s Francis] DeBernardo argued that the pope may have a genuine interest in opening the doors to the transgender community, however, as Saturday’s reported meeting would suggest.
“Pope Francis is an intellectual who values discussion,” DeBernardo said. “I think that his meeting with the transgender man was a gesture not only of pastoral care, but of genuine interest in learning about the transgender experience from a firsthand source.”
England: Church of England consecrates first female bishop
The Church of England consecrated Libby Lane as its first female bishop this week, more than 20 years after the church began to ordain women as priests. As the BBC noted, “The Church formally adopted legislation last November to allow women bishops, following decades of argument over women’s ordination.” The BBC reports that the ceremony was delayed by an opponent of women’s ordination shouting who shouted “not in the Bible.”
That objector, Paul Williamson, has written an explanation in the conservative journal First Things, saying “I stood out of love for the church for which I have served as a pastor for forty-one years and out of respect for the gospel which it proclaims.” Williamson also writes, “We cannot marry a man to a man because Holy Matrimony is one man married to one woman.” Another priest who is set to become a bishop, has objected to having any bishop involved in Lane’s consecration take part in his own laying on of hands.
There are Anglican women bishops in the U.S., New Zeland, South Africa, Ireland, Sweden, and Germany. The consecration of Lane could exacerbate divisions in the Anglican Communion, as did the ordination by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. of an openly gay Bishop, Gene Robinson. (Anglican Mainstream, “an information resource for orthodox Anglicans,” featured on its website this week an article by Joseph Nicolosi, champion of “reparative therapy.”)
In a related note, the Telegraph reports that BBC announced that as part of a cost-cutting restructuring, it was eliminating its top religion post, currently held by Aaqil Ahmed, the first Muslim to hold the position.
Italy: Rome recognizes civil unions; Catholic Church decries ‘anti-family itinerary’
Rome this week began to register same-sex civil unions. “Today the capital of Italy gives the signal that, in this city, love is the same for everyone,” cheered Marino Sindaco. (Translation courtesy of Google.) No cheers from the Catholic Church, which disparaged the move as an “ideological bluff.” Pink News reports that the editor of the website for the Rome diocese called the civil unions vote “a symbolic stage in an anti-family itinerary that opens up disturbing horizons damaging children.”
Colombia: Conservative activist asks Pope to help stop adoption by same-sex couples
Javier Suarez Pascagaza, director of the Husband and Wife Foundation, called on Pope Francis to intervene “in defense of human rights” and move to prevent the Colombian Constitutional Court from authorizing same-sex couples to adopt children.
Nigeria: Sharia police arrest 12 men who ‘looked gay’
Sharia police in northern Nigeria arrested 12 men in the city of Kano this week, reportedly because they “looked gay, and the way they behaved was gay.” The Sharia police agency said it had broken up an attempted gay wedding, but one participant said the gathering was a celebration of his 18th birthday.
Gambia: Man accused of being gay tortured in police custody
We have reported frequently on Gambia, whose anti-gay president uses intense hostility to homosexuality as a way of portraying himself as a defender of Islam and African independence. According to news reports this week, one of three men arrested in December on suspicion of homosexuality was hospitalized and fears for his life. BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reported that some activists fear that his move to an isolated part of the prison “may be a prelude to his murder.”
France: Anti-gay Catholic group buys neighboring gay bar at auction
An anti-gay Catholic organization, The Missions of Divine Mercy, bought at bankruptcy auction a gay bar in the city of Toulon. The group put out a statement that said in part, “The important of this place for the evangelization of the neighborhood is clear. The bar of Sodom will now become the pub of Mercy.”
Chile: Civil Union Bill Passes
On Wednesday, Chilean lawmakers gave final approval to a civil union bill that includes same-sex couples. Notes Reuters:
Chile, one of Latin America’s richest countries, is heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church, which has traditionally considered homosexuality sinful. A government spokesman said, “This is a legal status that does not discriminate and that will be applied to all types of couples, and most importantly, that recognizes the different types of families we have in our country.”
Egypt and Sudan: Stories of LGBT struggle for survival
Susanna Berkouwer, Azza Sultan, and Amar Yehia have published “Homosexuality in Sudan and Egypt: Stories of the Struggle for Survival” in the Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal.
Gay and lesbian Sudanese and Egyptians struggle daily to cope with the constant fear, discrimination, and physical abuse that they and their peers face, harboring a relentless feeling of hopelessness in the face of a relatively conservative society, with a majority Muslim population and traditional societal gender roles.
The article examines both religious and cultural roots of traditional gender norms, homophobia, and notions about family and honor that imperil the lives of LGBT people. It also tells individual stores of people who have faced brutal persecution and some who were subjected to attempts to “cure” them from the “disease of homosexuality.” It sounds a note of cautious optimism about the situation in Egypt, where recent anti-gay persecution has offered little reason for hope.