Morality and Marriage Vigilantes and More in Global LGBT Recap

LGBT activists in Scotland
LGBT activists in Scotland

The United Nations General Assembly rejected repeated attempts to do away with the UN Human Rights Council’s recently created position to investigate discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Like previous attacks on the new independent expert position, the last effort was led by the African Group of nations. The vote on the most recent effort was 65-81 with 15 abstentions. The U.S. and its US ambassador Samantha Power delivered “an impassioned argument” on behalf of the independent expert.

We noted last week that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had urged incoming president Donald Trump to ferret out supporters of LGBT human rights from the State Department. On Monday a spokesperson for the department said the Trump transition team had “pushed pack pretty hard on the notion that the president-elect would in any way abide by discrimination here at the State Department.” But some State Department employees are reportedly “rattled” by a transition team request for information on “gender-related staffing, programming, and funding.”

Australia: Marriage opposition funding revealed

A report in Crikey revealed the secret funding behind the Marriage Alliance, which has funded anti-LGBT ads and the distribution of anti-gay flyers on school buses. According to the story by Josh Taylor and Robert Burton-Bradley, the group “got its start thanks to a $1.6 million loan from a Sydney couple with strong ties to the Catholic Church.”

Marriage Alliance began its operations in 2015 with a splash, a big iceberg advertisement warning about the “consequences” of marriage equality and making complaints that it wasn’t getting a fair hearing in the media. Since then, the group has become a go-to for broadcast media to get comment against marriage equality, with spokesperson Sophie York appearing on Four CornersThe Drum and other programs. While the organisation was notionally set up to fight against marriage equality, it has taken on a broader fight against the “gay agenda”, speaking out on a range of issues, most notably the obsession of conservatives: the Safe Schools program. The alliance’s anti-Safe Schools and anti-marriage equality flyers were recently found being handed out to children on school buses in regional Victoria, and the group was called out in Parliament by Labor MP Tim Watt for depicting a woman with a rainbow noose around her neck.

York has also lobbied for gay people to get a different term for marriage, called “garriage”.

While the group’s links to the Liberal Party are well known, the source of the organisation’s funding has been a mystery, until today.

Crikey can now reveal that the source of Marriage Alliance’s funding is an investment firm owned by a Sydney couple, Byron and Francine Pirola. Marriage Alliance recently filed its annual report with ASIC, and this document reveals Beronia Investments gave the group a $1.67 million loan in the last financial year.

Crikey then obtained company documents from Beronia Investments, which revealed the firm has just two directors: Byron and Francine Pirola.

Byron is a co-founder of a resources company and a director of a strategy management consulting firm, Port Jackson Partners. The Pirolas chair the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council, which advises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference — the group behind the controversial “Don’t Mess with Marriage” flyer. The pair also run a Catholic marriage service called the Marriage Resource Centre, and run a “marriage enrichment seminar” called SmartLoving Marriage.

Chad: Parliament criminalizes homosexuality

The parliament approved legislation criminalizing homosexuality; the vote was nearly unanimous. The legislation also increases the legal marriage age from 16 to 18.

The ban on homosexuality was initially proposed in 2014, but as a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The new regulation, however, categorizes homosexuality as a misdemeanor; violators, male or female, would face a fine or suspended prison sentence. Unless Déby vetoes the change, which is unlikely, Chad will become the 73rd country to criminalize homosexuality.

Former Prime Minister Delwa Kassiré Coumakoye calls the new law a fair compromise.

“Homosexuality is condemned by all religions. We do not have to forgive something that God himself rejects because Westerners have said this or that… The current provision of the Penal Code is a fair balance between conservative public opinion and an uncompromising international community on the protection of minorities.”

Russia: Muslim ‘morality’ vigilante pushing for purge of LGBT teachers

Timur Bulatov, a self-described pious Muslim is waging a campaign to out LGBT teachers and get them fired, according to BBC:

He wages his “morality” campaign from St Petersburg. On vKontakte he claims to head a movement called “First Moral Russian Front”. He calls himself “Timur Bulatov (Isaev), social activist”.

…Mr Bulatov told Russian news website Tayga.info that he had “rescued” Russian children from 65 “immoral” teachers.

Zambia: Report on emotional trauma and suicide among gay men

Prudence Phiri at Global Press Journal writes that suicide is “a common end” for gay men in Zambia, where homosexuality is criminalized.

It’s a crime to be a homosexual here. Many people in Zambia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, who face potential imprisonment according to local law, say it’s a struggle to cope with the emotional trauma that comes with living in a place where one’s most personal practices or identity is regularly attacked. Suicide is common, they say, and so is alcohol and drug abuse.

But because the LGBT community’s existence isn’t legal in Zambia, help for its members is often unavailable.

“No one wants to fund LBGTI programs because they are deemed illegal,” says Kennedy Palangwa, a program officer at ZANERLA. “The secrecy surrounding LGBTI hampers everything.”

ZANERLA stands for Zambia Network of Religious Leaders Living With Or Personally Affected By HIV and AIDS. It creates support groups within religious circles to teach about sexual minorities and urge people to accept them into their families and communities. The goal is to reduce emotional trauma for sexual minorities and reduce the number of suicides and rates of substance abuse in that community, he says.

Scotland: Anti-LGBT prejudice falls sharply

The Scotsman reports that prejudice toward LGBT people has fallen sharply:

Analysis of the 2016 Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey by ScotCen, shared with The Scotsman, reveal the proportion of people who say that they would be unhappy if a close relative married someone of the same sex has almost halved from 30 per cent in 2010 to 16 per cent in 2015, while the number who say they would be unhappy if a relative married someone who has undergone gender reassignment surgery has fallen from around a half to just under a third over the same period.

Nicaragua: New web series has queer focus

TeleSUR reports on MF, La Serie, the country’s first web series, “which will explore issues of violence, sexual harassment and queerness.” It is set to launch on January 24.

Guatemala: Lawmakers preparing push for marriage equality

A group of lawmakers is reportedly preparing an effort to amend the civil code to make it legal for same-sex couples to get legally married.

Japan: Sapporo preparing to register gay couples

The city of Sapporo, capital of Hokkaido, is reportedly beginning a process that will lead to legal certification of gay couples by the end of March 2018.

Taiwan: Police plan road closures for pro- and anti-marriage rallies

Police announced that roads around the legislature will be closed on Monday for completing rallied by supporters and opponents of marriage equality.

Montenegro: Pride activists brave hostile attitudes

Dozens of LGBT activists and allies gathered for a pride celebration in Podgorica on December 17. According to Pink News, “The Balkan country is known for having highly conservative attitudes towards the gay community, with one survey finding that 71% of people there consider homosexuality to be a disease and 58% believe it to be ‘very dangerous for society.’”

Hundreds of police officers were deployed to protect them from the possibility of an attack by conservative extremists, according to reports by the Associated Press.

Organiser Danijel Kalezic urged the relatives LGBT people to support them in their fight for equality.

“The majority of LGBT people are still forced to live in fear and hidden, without the support of friends, colleagues and loved ones. Many of us lack it where we most expect and need it, in our families”, he told Balkan Insight.

The march was supported by diplomats from the UK, US and EU, all of whom were in attendance.