Marriage equality comes to Slovenia, continues to spread in Mexico; Civil Union legislation approved in Sicily, debated in Peru; Global LGBT Recap

March 1 marked the second annual Zero Discrimination Day, which is promoted by UNAIDS to “celebrate diversity and reject discrimination in all its forms.”

On March 2, a Russian diplomat demanded that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reverse an administrative ruling made last year extending marital benefits to lesbian and gay employees of the UN. More details from Foreign Policy:

Speaking Monday morning at a meeting of the U.N.’s main budget committee, Russian diplomat Sergey Khalizov demanded that Ban reverse his decision on the matter, saying the U.N. chief’s action violated a U.N. General Assembly resolution that left it to U.N. employees’ governments to determine whether are eligible for spousal benefits. Moscow has been weighing whether to force a vote in the budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee, to halt funding such benefits, a vote that it likely could win. Unlike the U.N. Security Council, the United States and other big powers don’t have the power to veto votes in the Fifth Committee. While its decisions are generally made by consensus, states can call for a vote.

“We will insist that the secretary-general urgently revoke the administrative bulletin” expanding benefits to same-sex couples, the Russian diplomat told the committee.

“For us it is a very important issue,” Russia’s spokesman Alexey Zaytsev told Foreign Policy in an email. “We would prefer to make a decision…by consensus but if some delegations do not demonstrate a constructive approach to the concerns raised by us and shared by many other member states, then we’ll have no other choice but to call for a vote.”

Jessica Stern with IGLHRC characterized the move as a way to undermine the authority of the Secretary-General who has been critical of Russia’s moves in Ukraine.

Slovenia: Marriage equality bill approved over church opposition

On Tuesday, legislators in Slovenia approved a marriage equality bill that would also extend adoption rights to same-sex couples. Associated Press reported that the move came “amid opposition from conservative groups and the Catholic Church.” Opponents of the legislation rallied outside the Parliament building earlier in the day under the banner “Children Are At Stake” and are planning to try to overturn the law through a referendum, which would require 40,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Mexico: Marriage equality continues to spread

We noted last week the wave of marriage-equality cases spreading across Mexico. This week saw the 5th anniversary of marriage equality in Mexico City, and saw continued progress. In Chiapas, a gay collected called Unidos Diferentes received a federal court injunction – known as an amparo – allowing them to celebrate weddings for more than 50 same-sex couples. The legislature in the state of Guanajuato began analyzing marriage equality bills introduced after two same-sex couples had received amparos allowing them to marry. Legislation was also introduced in Nuevo Leon.  BuzzFeed, which published the story we highlighted last week, is working to keep its story and Mexico Marriage Equality map updated.

Italy: Sicilian legislature approves civil union legislation

The Sicilian Reigional Assembly this week approved a civil union registry and protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Three years ago, Bishop Paolo Urso broke with the Vatican and called for recognition of civil unions.

UK: Right-wing party appeals to Catholics; teacher claims anti-Christian bias in firing

Officials for the right-wing UKIP Party are making a push to get Catholic votes. Paul Nuttall, a UKIP member of the European Parliament, told The Tablet, “On moral issues, we, more than any other political party, are more in line with Catholic thought. Whether it’s on gender-choice abortion or same-sex marriage, we are absolutely 100 percent behind the Catholic Church.” Catholic bishops had recently urged worshippers to challenge candidates on their positions on issues such as immigration, the Tablet reports, to which Nuttall responded that his party would be attempting to reach grassroots Catholics.

“We don’t get a fair shake in the national press and I guess that’s where the bishops get their perception from. We want to show them that we are a serious, credible political party that has a significant amount of support among Catholics,” said Mr Nuttall….

Last year, Bishop William Kenney, the bishops’ conference spokesman on European affairs counselled caution about Ukip, saying he was not convinced its policies would help the “poor and under-privileged”.

Belgian Sarah Mbuyi, who was fired from a London chain of childcare centers, is criticizing “hostility to Christian values” in the United Kingdom. She was reportedly fired after giving a lesbian colleague a Bible and telling her God is not OK with her sexuality. She told her employers that she would refuse to read a book featuring same-sex couples to children. More from the London Evening Standard:

“There is a feeling in the UK that Christianity does not need to be respected and can be disparaged. With other faiths there is extreme sensitivity from employers. This attitude of disrespect is very strange; this would not occur in Belgium and I cannot understand why the UK displays such Christian animus.”

She added: “As a Christian I try to be kind and considerate; I am conscious of the need to act in a manner appropriate to my faith. As a citizen I have as many rights to discuss my faith as any other subject, such as politics or sexuality.”

The devout Christian, who said she takes her views on homosexuality and marriage from the Bible, is fighting her sacking for breaching the family-owned Montessori nursery’s equality rules, claiming that in doing so it breached European law.

The British government asked a number of countries and all 50 U.S. states to clarify whether the jurisdictions recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who wed in the United Kingdom. Equalities Minister Jo Swinson told the Guardian,

“One of the things we committed to do in the coalition agreement is recognising that for gay people who are in a civil partnership or now have got married, and who are travelling, working or studying abroad, for them to know what their rights are in that country and ideally to have their partnership or marriage recognised would make a big difference.”

However, she acknowledged that the list of jurisdictions contacted was limited and included many whose marriages and civil partnerships are recognised by the UK. At present the Government Equalities Office has no plans to contact all countries to urge them to recognise UK gay marriages and partnerships, though Swinson said the Foreign Office had encouraged British diplomats to raise the issue.

“They obviously make a degree of local judgment about when is the right time to raise these issues. Sad to say, there are plenty of countries where LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights are in a dreadful state and the people in those countries themselves suffer greatly, and I’m not going to have rose-tinted specs to think that those countries are going to rush to recognise our same-sex marriages.

“But there are plenty of countries that do have a much more positive approach, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t recognise our partnerships.”

Ireland: Catholic voices for and against equality referendum

At New Ways Ministry, Francis DeBernardo writes that Catholic voices for and against the upcoming marriage equality referendum (May 19) “go from the ridiculous to the sublime.” The most outrageous comments, he writes, “often come from Catholic officials,” including a recent “silly” comment from Bishop Kevin Doran which “bewilders logic.”

While the Irish bishops oppose marriage equality, other Irish church leaders and the Irish Catholic lay people are very much in support of it.  The Irish Times reported on a recent statement from a coalition of religious organizations, including two Catholic lay groups, We Are Church Ireland and Gay Catholic Voice Ireland.  One leader was quoted in the story:

“Brendan Butler, of We Are Church Ireland, said the Catholic Church’s opposition to marriage equality was the view of ‘the hierarchical church. We are representing a huge squad of ordinary Catholics. We have people in our group who are gay people as well as mothers and grandmothers of gay people. They are appalled at the attitude of the church.’ “

DeBernardo quotes from a recent op-ed by Butler for The Irish Times:

“We as followers of Jesus must also challenge the injustices of our Church and society.

“This Kingdom of God is not confined to the Church but to the creation of a more just society in which all people are valued as equals.

“This is a vision which We are Church Ireland proclaims. We wish and work for a society where a person’s sexual orientation is not a cause of discrimination or prejudice.

“When it comes to marriage, Christians do not have the ownership of the institution and should invite gay, lesbian and transgender people to share in the joys of marriage if they so wish.

“As a result of a yes vote in the referendum we will have a more just and inclusive society befitting the dignity of all people.”

Northern Ireland: Church of Ireland split over religious right-to-discriminate bill

Pink News reports, “The Church of Ireland is split over a proposed bill in Northern Ireland that would allow people to discriminate against gays on the grounds of religion. (The Catholic Church in Ireland supports the bill.)

Reverend Adrian Dorrian, who chairs the Church and Society Commission, told the Church of Ireland Gazette that he broadly welcomed the bill.

He said: “We will certainly encourage a comprehensive conversation around religious and civil freedom in Northern Ireland and I will be affirming the Church of Ireland’s position that marriage ‘is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh’.”

He added that he would seek amendments “to ensure it cannot be used to facilitate discrimination against members of the LGBT community”.

Canon Charles Kenny, affiliated with the pro-equality Changing Attitude Ireland, challenged Dorrian’s comments, saying, “He seems to be making this an issue between gay people on one hand and Christians on the other. And it’s not. There are lots and lots of members who do not accept the hardline, fundamentalist biblical literalistic line that Mr Givan and the DUP has as a whole.”

ISIS: Another man publicly executed for homosexuality

ISIS once again released images of a man being thrown from a building in Syria and stoned to death after being accused of being gay.

Latvia: Opponents try to block the summer’s EuroPride

EuroPride 2015 events scheduled for Riga in June may be threatened by an “anti-globalist” organization that filed permits for events in the same places where EuroPride events are planned. One application is for an event “promoting family values.” The municipality has turned to the Ministry of Justice for advice on how to proceed. MOZAIKA, the group planning EuroPride, is asking people to contact the prime minister’s office an urge them not to allow the disruption of the event.

Peru: Civil Union bill gets debate

Hundreds of Peruvians rallied on Monday night on the eve of legislative debate on a same-sex civil unions bill; activists released a video pushing for a public debate on the measure. As we have reported, American evangelical activist Mat Staver has traveled to Peru to urge lawmakers to resist calls for civil union legislation.

Singapore: Gay blogger fined for questioning court; trans activist deals with fame

Alex Au, a prominent blogger was fined for questioning the high court’s timing in hearing two constitutional challenges to the law banning gay sex. According to the Associated Press, “The 62-year-old blogger is one of the few dissidents who continually tests the limits of Singapore’s closely policed media environment. He is gay himself and in his writings has championed repealing the ban, which the government upholds in favor of the majority, still-conservative society it has.”

Contented magazine profiles Christopher Khor and the directions his life has taken since the publication of a newspaper profile last December.

“The best bit about the story going viral was that people started getting in touch – other transgender people who didn’t know that they were not the only ones,” he shares. “They were mostly young, and struggling with what to do next, or just being open. So that was nice, because I think we’re starting to build a community now.”

Khor, who works in television production, is producing a documentary on trans men titled Some Assembly Required, which follows trans men in various stages of transition. Khor has been open about his own medical procedures but does not want to be defined by them:

Ask him when he first realised he was a man in a woman’s body, and he replies: “I’m trying to stay away from the phrase ‘man in a woman’s body’ because I’m starting to realise that my body is my body and only I can define it.”

Put simply, he isn’t a “man in a woman’s body”; he’s, well, Chris in Chris’s body.

Zimbabwe: Activist says anti-gay policies hamper HIV efforts

In Zimbabwe, led by the intensely anti-gay Robert Mugabe, a gay-rights activist is warning that the government’s hostility is hampering anti-HIV efforts. Chesterfield Samba, director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, told the Zimbabwean that “there must be a revision of laws that inhibit COSs and the government from engaging on issues of key populations.”

Kyrgyzstan: Russian-style anti-gay law set for vote this month

The anti-gay law that has been moving in the parliament of Kyrgyzstan will reportedly get its second reading before the end of the month. From Al-Masdar News:

Kyrgyzstan is set to vote on a controversial bill that would make it a crime punishable by up to six months in jail to present gay relationships in a positive way in the ex-Soviet state.

The move by the predominantly Muslim Central Asian country follows an anti-gay law passed in Russia in 2013 which bans promoting gay relationships to minors.

The Kyrgyz legislation would criminalise “forming positive attitudes toward non-traditional sexual relations” — a euphemism for gay relationships.

The proposed law has been criticized by international human rights groups but is being defended by pro-Russian and nationalist groups.

On February 5, the Kalys (Justice) group rallied in support of the text outside the main government building in the capital Bishkek.

“Between five and 10 NGOs are actively lobbying the interests of the LGBT community,” the group’s leader, 31-year-old Jenishbek Moldokmatov, told journalists. “What gives them the right to speak for the rest of the country?”

In the country’s more conservative provinces, a homosexual will still be “met with pitchforks,” he warned….

Moldokmatov is known for his anti-gay stance.

Last year he burned an image of a Kyrgyz-born Ukrainian man he deemed a “gay activist” outside the US embassy in Kyrgyzstan.



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