Madrid hosted the massive WorldPride and an affiliated human rights conference this week. Among those who attended were Iceland’s former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the first openly LGBT head of government, and former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Among the events was a discussion of the situation faced by LGBT people in Arab countries.
Poland: Progress for LGBT people and backlash over Catholic national identity
At EU Observer, Andrew Rettman reports on a gay-rights backlash in Poland even as big cities have become islands of relative toleration and attendance at Warsaw’s pride celebration has “skyrocketed.” The story quotes a activist with the pro-equality group KPH saying that “the Polish government fostered the idea that Poland belonged to ‘white, gendered, Catholic’ people and that gay people or Muslim refugees were a ‘threat’ to Polish identity.”
Russia: Orthodox TV channel offers to buy one-way tickets to help gay people leave country
Tsargrad TV, a channel affiliated with right-wing Russian Orthodox activists and modeled after Fox News, offered to pay for a one-way ticket overseas for gay people who want to emigrate. The channel was funded by Konstantin Maofeev, a billionaire known as “God’s oligarch” who dreams of Vladimir Putin becoming a Tsar.
In a video on its social media channels this week, Tsargrad TV called on gay people to compete for a one-way plane ticket overseas.
“Just recently, California—the most liberal state in the USA by the way—proposed to facilitate the granting of green cards to Russian perverts,” said TV host Andrei Afanasyev.
The channel regularly uses offensive terms to refer to LGBT people.
“The staff of Tsargrad TV support this initiative. Moreover, we are ready to pay for a one-way ticket to anyone who plans to emigrate in complete earnest, and can provide a medical certificate proving that they are sodomites or have other forms of perversion,” he added.
“We really want you to move there, where you can openly submit to your sins.”
Argentina: Proposed religious freedom bill could threaten sex ed and marriage equality
The government of President Mauricio Macri sent the Congress a proposed religious freedom bill in June, which ARG News said would threaten sex education and marriage equality. Amnesty International sent a letter objecting to the legislation.
Georgia: Officials push for marriage ban in constitution
The speaker of parliament and head of the constitutional commission Irakli Kobakhidze, defending the ruling Georgian Dream party’s plan to amend the constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying by saying it would “prevent ‘certain groups’ from stirring up homophobic and anti-Western sentiment,” reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. But a gay rights activist says it is the conversation promoting the amendment that is inflaming homophobia. RFE/FL cites survey research saying more than 80 percent of Georgians have strongly negative attitudes toward homosexuality.
Social research on homophobia in Georgia shows that attitudes toward gays are strongly influenced by traditional stigmas, taboos, and values promoted by the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Those studies also show that psychological and physical violence often accompany widespread homophobia that is backed by traditional ideologies and a Soviet legacy of condemnation.
Gays in Georgia also often face domestic violence within their own families when they reveal their homosexuality.
Georgia and its Orthodox Church hosted 2016’s World Congress of Families global summit of social conservative activists; the date was picked to coincide with a mob attack on an anti-homophobia rally in 2013.
Germany: Marriage equality passes parliament; Merkel allowed conscience vote but voted no
Chancellor Angela Merkel, a longtime opponent of legal marriage for same-sex couples, decided to allow a parliamentary vote and the German parliament passed a marriage equality law. While polls show that an overwhelming majority of Germans support marriage equality, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union “has always opposed it on religious grounds,” notes Bloomberg. According to The Independent, all six Muslim members of parliament voted in favor of marriage equality.
Merkel, who said she recently changed her mind about gay couples adopting children and decided to allow a question-of-conscience vote after having dinner with a lesbian couple who care for eight foster children. about adoption, voted against the law but 75 members of her conservative coalition joined left-wing parties in backing the change. Some saw the whole abrupt shift and quick vote as a question of coalition politics that may strengthen her hand in the next election.
Ms Merkel said after the vote: “I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace.”
The Chancellor also said she supported the bill’s introduction of full adoption rights for same-sex couples – a move she had previously opposed – and was fighting anti-LGBT discrimination.
When opposing same-sex marriages she has cited German law, her values as an evangelical Christian and those of her party, which describes its foundations as the “Christian understanding between people and their accountability before God”.
Johannes Singhammer, the vice president of the Bundestag, said his party, the CDU, should challenge the law in the Constitutional Court. The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party also said it is studying a constitutional challenge. From Politico.eu:
The AfD wants to entice conservative voters, some of whom oppose gay marriage, away from chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) ahead of parliamentary elections in late September.
AfD’s internet site features on its front page a death notice, saying “In deep sorrow, we say good-bye to the German family, whose constitutional protection was buried by the ‘representatives of the people’ at the German parliament.” Instead of condolence notices, the AfD advises Germans to throw out the parliamentarians who voted for equal marriage rights in the upcoming elections.
Until now the AfD, which doesn’t have a single seat in parliament, had been noticeably quiet about gay marriage. One of the AfD’s two so-called lead candidates who would take a top government post if it won is Alice Weidel, a gay woman who lives in a registered relationship with another woman.
LGBT activists in neighboring Switzerland hoped that the German move might boost chances for passage of marriage equality there.
Northern Ireland: Sinn Fein sees parallel between marriage equality stance and advocacy for Catholics
A July 1 marriage equality march drew a large turnout, which Chairperson of Sinn Féin Youth in Derry Caolán McGinley called a sign that marriage equality should be brought forward now; the Democratic Unionist Party has consistently blocked action on marriage equality. Sinn Fein has drawn a parallel to its efforts on behalf of Northern Ireland’s Catholics:
Human rights violations of Catholics helped fuel three decades of violence in Northern Ireland between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland and mainly Protestant unionists who wanted Northern Ireland to remain British.
“I see parallels with 25 years ago and sectarianism when we thought Catholics and Protestants were a different species,” said Reverend Charles Kenny, a Church of Ireland rector from Belfast, who took part in the march.
“We have come a long way on that now and should on marriage equality.”
The BBC notes that the DUP’s position on marriage equality has been getting a lot of attention in the UK since the DUP agreed to support Theresa May’s Conservatives in parliament:
The DUP has rejected accusations that it is homophobic, insisting it is instead protecting the “traditional” definition of marriage between a man and a woman.
Speaking on Friday night, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford called for the tone of the debate to improve on all sides.
“To be a supporter of traditional definition of marriage is, at times, to open yourself up to being called a religious zealot, a Bible basher, a fundamentalist, a dinosaur – all these sorts of the things,” he said.
“The language that’s been used by people who share my view, towards others who don’t, has also been inappropriate and wrong.
“I think we just, frankly, in terms of this discussion, could do with being a bit less screechy at each other.”
Indonesia: More reporting on police adopting anti-LGBT tactics of Islamist group
The Independent is the latest outlet to report on the deteriorating treatment of LGBT people in Indonesia:
Indonesia’s Islamists have long sought to criminalise gay sex. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the vigilante group that threatened the now defunct Q! film festival in Jakarta, has previously broken up what they said were gay parties and then urged the police to detain the men.
But what is sending a new chill through the gay community is that police seem to have taken on the vice patrol role themselves. In May, officers detained 141 men in a raid on the Atlantis sauna, accusing them of involvement in a gay prostitution ring in a part of Jakarta that is also home to many heterosexual “spas”.
Bermuda: Religious opponents of marriage equality ruling file appeal, but may be too late
Churches are continuing to collect signatures on an effort by anti-marriage-equality group Preserve Marriage to appeal the Supreme Court’s May 5 marriage equality ruling. The Royal Gazette reported that the application for appeal, joined by thousands of people, was filed after the deadline.
East Timor: Prime Minister backs LGBT equality; first Pride parade opens with prayer by nun
Prime Minister Rui Maria De Araujo made a public declaration of support for LGBT equality, a step praised by activists as a “breath of hope in the region.” GayStarNews reports:
The small country is located in the Timor Sea between Indonesia, Australia and Papua New Guinea.
It gained independence from Indonesia in 2002 and has since worked to build itself as an autonomous nation-state in the region. Timor Leste is known as a region leader on human rights and the PM’s statement confirms that.
‘Everyone has the potential to contribute to the development of the nation, including members of the LGBT community,’ De Araujo said in a video last week.
‘Discrimination, disrespect and abuse towards people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity does not provide any benefit to our nation.’
De Araujo argued for the young nation to develop its people needed to live free from violence and discrimination.
‘For a nation to develop well, every young person needs to be able to grow up in an environment that provides them with protection, love, and opportunities for personal growth – regardless of their differences,’ he said.
GayStarNews also reports that last week the capital of Dili hosted the country’s first Pride parade, and said, “A Catholic nun who runs a shelter for vulnerable people, including LGBTI people, opened the proceedings with a prayer.”
Turkey: Gay Iraqi refugee stranded by Trump freeze on resettlement
Last week we reported that Turkish police had targeted LGBT activists who tried to defy a government ban on Istanbul’s planned pride celebration. IGLYO has shared reflections on the day from Hakan, an activist with the KAOS GL organization.
Also, the New York Times reported from Istanbul on the story of Mohammed, a 26-year old Iraqi:
For Mohammed, an Iraqi civil engineer, the cruelest experience of his life was not when his father tortured him for being gay.
It was not when Islamic State extremists took over the 26-year-old’s hometown in northern Iraq, forcing him to flee to Turkey. Or when he says he was almost raped at knife point and later laughed out of a Turkish police station when he tried to report the crime. Nor was it in January, when President Trump first tried — unsuccessfully — to bar refugees from entering America.
Tens of thousands of applicants for resettlement in the United States are affected by the freeze, and Mohammed is among the unluckiest: His application has been accepted for months, and he was simply waiting for the American government to give him an arrival date. …
He is, ironically, fleeing much of the very extremism that Mr. Trump says he wants to wipe out. Mohammed left Mosul soon after Islamic State militants seized control of the city, when his sister warned him that their father had told the extremist group that he had a gay son.
But Mohammed’s persecution had started much earlier. In 2009, when he was 18, his father, a former officer in the army of Saddam Hussein, caught him during a sexual encounter with male friends. So began half a decade of torture and abuse. As punishment for his sexuality, Mohammed’s father beat him with metal, and sometimes burned him with a hot skewer. His legs and feet still bear the scars.
Serbia: Lesbian elected prime minister
Serbia’s powerful President Aleksandar Vucic nominated the Western-educated Brnabic for the post two weeks ago amid opposition from hard-line nationalists. Gays have regularly faced harassment and attacks in Serbia.
Vucic’s move was widely seen as an attempt to calm Western concerns that Serbia is getting too close to Russia, including having enhanced military cooperation and ties, despite its proclaimed goal of joining the European Union.
Brnabic has said Serbia’s EU integration will be a priority along with maintaining good relations with Russia, China and the United States. But her government includes openly anti-Western ministers who are staunchly against joining the EU.
Vucic is likely to remain the country’s main leader. He has faced accusations of imposing an autocratic rule by muzzling free speech and media freedoms.
Tanzania: Government threatens LGBT activists and NGO supporters
Government officials have “threatened to arrest and expel activists, as well as deregister all non-governmental organisations that campaign for gay rights,” reports Reuters.
Singapore: Pink Dot rally succeeds without banned participation and funding from foreigners
Thousands attended the July 1 Pink Dot rally – the local version of LGBT Pride – even though government officials had banned foreigners from attending and forbade donations from foreign companies. More than 120 local companies stepped up to replace funding that had come in from multinationals in the past. Here’s how the Ministry of Home Affairs explained the ban:
“The Government has made clear its position on this matter. We would like to reiterate that foreign entities should not fund, support or influence events that relate to domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues with political overtones.
“These are political, social or moral choices for Singaporeans to decide. This restriction applies, for example, to both events which are organised to support the LGBT cause, as well as to events which are organised to oppose that cause.”
Panama: First Lady attends Pride celebration and makes video
Journalist Rex Wockner reports that First Lady Lorena Castillo de Varela, “marched in Pride, then made a fabulous video, and tweeted it, and you should watch it.” The Panama City twitter account joined in, declaring, “The City of Panama belongs to all those who live in it. From the Mayor’s Office we promote respect for diversity #CeroDiscriminacion.”
Armenia: Justice Ministry says couples married in other countries should be recognized
The Justice Ministry has confirmed that a same-sex couple married abroad should receive the same benefits in that marriage.
China: Targets of sweeping new censorship rules for online media include homosexuality
The Chinese government imposed sweeping new censorship rules for online media; Reuters reports that homosexuality is among the topics that are no longer approved, along with “violence, drug addition, extramarital affairs and religious cults.”
Under the new guidance, which comes into immediate effect, censors should check that content adheres to proper Chinese values and strive to tell Chinese stories to help “realize the China dream of a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
Content should “sing the motherland, eulogize heroes, celebrate our times in song, and lead the people to hold the correct historical, ethnic, national and cultural view”.
Programs that undermined a respectful national image, ridiculed leaders, promoted negative or decadent views of life and showed the “dark side” of society would be edited, or in severe cases stopped.
Jamaica: Outgoing ambassador defends U.S. LGBT advocacy but says it’s not tied to aid
Outgoing U.S. ambassador Luis Morena said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer that while the U.S. will not use foreign aid to pressure the government to address LGBT issues—such as the colonial-era “buggery” law defended by religious conservatives—the U.S. will continue to advocate for the human rights of LGBT people.
Honduras: Profile of activist who sees LGBT human rights as part of broader resistance movement
Erick Vidal Martinez Salgado, an activist for LGBT rights and a leader of the resistance to the conservative government that took power following a 2009 coup, is profiled by teleSUR.
Cambodia: Government introduced LGBT issues to school curriculum
News Deeply’s Women & Girls reports that the government has introduced education on LGBT issues to the curriculum for middle- and high-school students, “a bold move that bucks the country’s socially conservative culture.”
Colombia: Nine activists and academics reflect on Pride celebrations
Sentiido published interviews with nine activists and academics reflecting on the growth of LGBT pride marches in Colombia.