Mexican Marriage Marches Show Struggle Between Church and Secular State; Pro-LGBT Mormon Group Grows After ‘Apostate’ Declaration; Botswana Gives Anti-Gay US Pastor the Boot; Global LGBT Recap


Mexico: Anti-marriage marches stir clash between church officials and proponents of secular state

A march drew tens of thousands – or hundreds of thousands depending on whose numbers you believe – of anti-marriage-equality Catholics and evangelicals to Mexico City, the culmination of weeks of protest organized by the National Front for the Family. Days before, the Supreme Court ruled that adoption by same-sex couples should be considered, like other adoptions, according to the best interest of the child. In preparation for Saturday’s anti-marriage-equality march, Mexico City officials lit the Angel of Independence monument in rainbow colors. On the day of the March, which had the monument as its destination, pro-equality activists positioned themselves to greet the marchers as they arrived

Some gay-rights activists hoped to engage marchers in conversation, holding signs seeking dialogue such as “I’m Catholic and I’m gay. I want to talk with you!” But march organizers blocked their signs with white balloons. Other counter-protesters held a banner proclaiming, “A secular state should ensure rights for all.” The photographer who took the picture we posted last week of a 12-year old boy standing with arms outstretched to block one of the anti-equality marches, says he has been subjected to death threats since the photo went viral.

In a controversial response to the Catholic hierarchy’s anti-equality activism, a group of gay activists last week “unveiled a list of Catholic leaders who have maintained homosexual relationships,” including priests and an archbishop. Meanwhile, the Church’s spokesman Fr. Hugo Valdemar responded to criticism of anti-equality marches by the government’s anti-discrimination agency by charging, “There is persecution against the Church” and he challenged the government “to imprison all those who don’t agree with what he calls the ‘gay dictatorship,’” reports teleSUR. At his weekly blessing in Vatican City on Sunday, Pope Francis offered his support to the Mexican hierarchy’s involvement in the protest “in favour of family and life, which in these times require special pastoral and cultural attention around the world.” (New Ways Ministry notes that the pope’s negative comments about “gender theory” and “ideological colonization” are “encouraging bishops around the globe to speak similarly when marriage equality or transgender rights are discussed.)

Brian Brown of the U.S. National Organization for Marriage and the World Congress of Families attended the march, which had also drawn support from U.S. anti-gay activist Brian Camenker. From BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder:

Mario Romo, director of Red Familia — one of the lead groups in the National Family Front — confirmed to BuzzFeed News that foreign activists were in Mexico City this weekend to discuss forming a Latin American “front for the family.” He also said that Ludovine de la Rochere of the French anti-marriage-equality group La Manif Pour Tous was in town this weekend.

The Colombian outlet Semana reported earlier this month that Mexico’s evangelical party, Encuentro Social, had bought a flight to Mexico City for a Colombian lawmaker active in recent protests against Colombia’s education minister, who is a lesbian. (Hernandez did respond to messages from BuzzFeed News.) The report also said activists were coming from Peru and Panama.

A tiny group of people responded to NOM’s call for a solidarity protest at the Mexican embassy in Washington, D.C., a conservative online organizing platform affiliated with Brian Brown’s CitizenGo, organized a similarly small event at Mexico’s embassy in Madrid. Hazteoir told El Universal that demonstrations were also being held in Paris, Rome, Budapest, Brasilia, Quito and Bogota.

Reminder: Journalist Rex Wockner explains and tracks the complex march of marriage equality through Mexico’s federal courts and state legislatures.

Human Rights Campaign launched a workplace equality initiative in Mexico.

Australia: Anti-marriage-equality Catholic politicians distribute ‘smear sheet’

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Heath Ashton reported on Friday that “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s promise of a civil’ debate over same-sex marriage is unravelling, with the group behind an anti-equality smear sheet distributed in suburban Sydney revealed as members of the Liberal Party.”

The group “Children’s Future”, which has firm links to the secretive Catholic religious society Opus Dei, has made the false claim in leaflets that legalising same sex marriage would trigger the controversial Safe Schools program becoming “compulsory” in all Australian schools, even if parents objected.

According to Ashton, the three directors of Children’s Future Ltd are members of the Liberal Party described by one party official as part of the “lunar right” and by some locals as “the Taliban,” reportedly “due to their hardline religious views.”

Mormon Church: Pro-LGBT group grows after ‘apostate’ declaration

Affirmation, a group for LGBT Mormons and their family and friends, has been growing since the church declared married same-sex couples “apostates” and denied baptism to their children. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Affirmation’s dues-paying membership has topped 10,000, and it has held conferences in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mexico, and England, as well as the U.S. The group’s 2016 international conference was held in Provo, Utah over the past few days.

As the Tribune notes, church officials in Mexico are still urging the 1.4 million church members there to get involved in fighting marriage equality. From the Tribune:

These actions pain gay members in Mexico, says an Affirmation leader in that country.

“I felt a tense atmosphere in the church, because of several intolerant comments of members who would say they are not against gays but against homosexual adoption and education on these issues in the schools,” says Francisco Villalobos, president of Affirmation Mexico. “I particularly felt very sad on the Sunday after the march because of the comments from my friends who are members talking about their experience. It made me feel attacked at church.”

World Congress of Families: Nairobi conference draws international Religious Right support

The World Congress of Families, a global network of anti-LGBT and anti-abortion groups, held a regional conference in Nairobi, Kenya this past weekend. American Religious Right figures on the schedule included Don Feder of the World Congress of Families, Sharon Slater of Family Watch International, Michael Hichborn of the far-right Catholic Lapanto Institute, In a conference preview, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted:

Africa continues to be a nexus of anti-LGBT and anti-choice activism on the part of U.S.-based individuals and groups, some of which, like Arizona pastor Steven Anderson, openly call for violence against LGBT people. Anderson was recently banned from the UK and South Africa and deported from Botswana because of his virulently anti-LGBT rhetoric. But many other anti-LGBT groups cloak their rhetoric in terminology like “support for the natural family,” which sounds benign on the surface but actually excludes any family structure that does not follow the so-called “one man/one woman” model.

Kenya has been a particular focal point of the U.S. Christian right for years. In 2010, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ; founded by televangelist Pat Robertson), opened an office in Nairobi, around the time that Kenya was debating a new constitution that included controversial addendums to its penal code regarding abortion. The ACLJ pledged when it opened in Nairobi to lend financial support to help defeat the constitution. It has also supported the criminalization of same-sex intimacy.

Ann Kioko, president of African Organization for Families and one of the main organizers of the gathering in Nairobi, said that her organization is concerned about a recent push to legalize abortion and implementation of comprehensive sexuality education. “These programs go way beyond regular sex education and are designed to change all the sexual and gender norms of society,” Kioko stated. Kioko has described homosexuality as a “learned behavior” imported from the West, and claimed that “homosexuality exposes those that practice it to health and mental issues.” Sex education is one of the things that anti-LGBT groups battle because of fears that it promotes such things as homosexuality and promiscuity.

Conference organizers in Nairobi have already indicated that Phyllis Kandie, cabinet secretary for Kenya’s Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection will be in attendance and the conference agenda includes an exclusive closed-door meeting for speakers, dignitaries and members of parliament.

Among the reported co-sponsors are the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, Global Institute for Family Integrity (Cameroon and Foundation for African Culture Heritage (Nigeria).

Botswana: Anti-Gay US pastor kicked out after saying gays should be killed

We reported last week that U.S. anti-gay pastor Steven Anderson, who had celebrated the massacre at the Orlando gay nightclub, had been barred from entering South Africa. This week Reuters reported that Anderson’s visit to Botswana was cut short when President Ian Khama ordered his arrest and deportation after Anderson said during a radio interview in the capital Gabarone that gays and lesbians should be killed. More from the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers:

Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana said it received a report that Anderson assaulted someone who attended his church service on Monday. The advocacy group wrote on its blogthat Anderson called the person “a fag, a homosexual and with a mouth full of AIDS” before he was forcibly removed.

Malawi: Coalition of Christians groups plans march

A pro-equality group, the Centre for the Development of People, “has condemned planes by the Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission, a social governance arm of the Evangelical Association of Maawi (EAM) to hold a countrywide march against gays and abortion,” reports Nyasa Times:

EPJC, an umbrella body of about 122 church denominations and Christian organisations , plan to march for life and family in all 28 districts in the country.

“The march will take place in all districts in the country with the objective of according Malawians irrespective of political, social and religious divide an opportunity to publicly affirm that sex and marriage is between man and woman and that life begins at conception,” said the statement sent to Nyasa Times signed by chairperson of the EPJC national coordinator Zaac Kawalala and the group’s interim national coordinating secretary Makhumbo Munthali.

Recently President Peter Mutharika said the problems facing the country are signs of “moral degradation in our society” and that Malawians are “far away from God’s Commandments.”

Romania: Court again delays ruling on marriage recognition request

The Constitutional Court was scheduled to rule last Tuesday on a petition asking the government to recognize the marriage in Belgium of a Romanian man and a U.S. citizen; instead it delayed the ruling until October 27. According to Associated Press, “Romania currently does not recognize same-sex marriages or relationships amid opposition from the conservative Romanian Orthodox Church… Same-sex relationships are a sensitive issue in Romania, which only decriminalized homosexuality in 2001.”

A spokesman for a group that opposes same-same marriages said Monday that recognizing the couple’s marriage would “traumatize” Romanian society.

“We are a Christian country… and we accept traditional families as they are defined in the Bible,” Alliance of Romanian Families spokesman David Tut said.

United Nations: UN LGBT Core Group holds high-level event; Chilean president promises marriage

The UN LGBT Core Group, a network of equality-supporting countries, held a high-level meeting at the UN, which was addressed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Norwegian Prime Minister Ema Solberg, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, reports Ashey Fowler for HRC. Bachelet announced that she would send a marriage equality bill to the Chilean Congress in the first half of 2017. More from Reuters:

Legalizing same-sex marriage would give Chilean couples additional welfare and state life insurance rights, among other benefits, and clarify adoption rules, according to gay rights groups.

Same-sex marriage has been legalized in recent years in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and parts of Mexico, despite the powerful influence of the Catholic Church, which opposes such unions.

Chile, which returned to democracy in 1990 after a brutal 17-year military dictatorship, is by many measures Latin America’s most economically developed country, but is less socially progressive than many of its neighbors.

In 2004, it became the last country in the Western Hemisphere to legalize divorce, and it is one of the few that still outlaws abortions in all cases – something that center-left Bachelet is trying to change, against strong opposition.

Serbia: Pride parade in Belgrade gets strong police protection

Balkan Insight reported that the September 18 pride parade in Begrade went off without incident; the parade was joined by politicians and protected by thousands of police officers “who had the city centre in lockdown to ensure participants’ safety.”

Boban Stojanovic, one of the event organisers, said that the Pride Parade is not only for the LGBT population, but for all those who are discriminated against and invisible in Serbian society.

“This is a celebration not only of LGBT people, but also for all workers who fear in their pain not to lose a piece of bread. A celebration of all Roma people who are silent. A celebration of all persons with disabilities who are suffering in four walls because they cannot describe what it’s like when everyone is staring at you and you are the subject of derision,” Stojanovic said.

He added: “This is a celebration for all women who suffer violence, the pride of all people in the workplaces who are silent and suffer because they feel powerless.”

During the march, protesters stopped for a minute of silence at the Patriots monument on Terazije street, intended to show support for the LGBT community in Turkey, where Pride parades have been banned, and as a homage to Hande Kader, a trans-person and activist who was brutally murdered in Istanbul in August.

United Kingdom: Marriage equality reaches inhabitants of Guernsey; Lord Mountbatten comes out

The States of Guernsey approved marriage equality on Wednesday, which after similar votes in Jersey and the Isle of Man, leave Northern Ireland as the only jurisdiction in the British Isles without marriage equality, reports BuzzFeed’s Patrick Strudwick.

Lord Ivar Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, became the first openly gay British royal.

Russia: Court bans LGBT news site

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that a Siberian court has banned one of the country’s most popular LGBT news sites “without warning.”

Uganda: Police block pride march before it starts

Police blocked supporters of LGBT equality from convening on a beach and told them to leave the area, reports BuzzFeed’s David Mack. Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, had warned that demonstrators would be arrested and prosecuted.

Lokodo said the parade was designed to promote homosexuality to young people.

“We are aware that there are inducements, including money, being offered to young people to promote the practice,” he said.

Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo said he believed the minister was unaware that parade organizers had formally notified police of their intention to hold a public gathering. “In terms of the legal procedure, they ticked all the boxes,” he said.

Pride parades have been held in Uganda for the past few years without incident, after the country’s constitutional court overturned an anti-LGBT law in 2014.

However, organizers canceled a pride parade in August after a meeting between Opiyo and Minister Lokodo.

“We decided to suspend it because of the risks to personal safety,” Opiyo told BuzzFeed News in August. “The minister threatened to mobilize a mob and a large police group to beat up anyone who shows up for pride.”

Ecuador: LGBT equality advocates ask politicians to make written pledge

Acuerdo por la Igualdad (Agreement for Equality) is a campaign by a group of nonprofits to get political candidates and parties to publicly commit to equality for LGBTI people. Four of the 16 parties entitled to run candidates in 2017 have signed the agreement to date, reports El Universo.

Cambodia: Report examines discrimination against trans women

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights published a report this month on “Discrimination Against Transgender Women in Cambodia’s Urban Centers.” The report notes, “Cambodia’s predominantly Buddhist religious tradition suggests that there may have been a greater historic tolerance of diverse gender identities in Cambodia, compared with many other parts of the world.” But still, “Traditional family values, which encourage marriage and children, are deeply felt and often conflict with trans identities.” The group said the report reveals “shocking levels of discrimination against transgender women in Cambodia, and urges government to take immediate action to protect trans rights.”

Pakistan: Human Rights Commission calls for investigation into anti-trans attacks

The Nation Commission for Human Rights, in what Human Rights Watch calls a “rare move of support” for transgender people, “issued a forceful call for an investigation” after a violent attack on a transgender woman in Peshawar, which is “the latest in a surge of attacks on transgender and intersex women” in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Thailand: Study on gender and the law offers ‘gimmer of hope’

The Department of Women’s Affairs and Family Development at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security “partnered with the Faculty of Law at Thammasat University to present their study on gender recognition and law,” reports Melalin Mahavongtrakul at the Bangkok Post, who calls the development a “glimmer of hope” in spite of relative lack of progress:

Laws and the LGBT community, at times, are like water and oil. They just don’t seem to agree with one another. Same-sex marriage legalisation, if it’s even possible in this country, is a long way away. Adoption and surrogacy are not allowed for homosexual couples. Transgender individuals can’t change their legal title to the one that befit their gender identity.

A law guaranteeing basic rights for all people is sorely needed. Sadly, the gender equality bill released last year didn’t quite deliver its promised equality.

China: Man challenges ‘cure therapy’ he was subjected to

A 32-year-old man is suing a mental hospital that held him against his will and subjected him to therapies designed to “cure” his homosexuality.

Myanmar: Interview with an LGBT equality advocate

Myanmar Now published an interview with Shinn Thant, program officer for Colors Rainbow, an LGBT advocacy group.