Peru’s Civil Unions Bill Killed as Bishop Calls Sponsor ‘Faggot’; Germany Fines Men For Trying To Force Gay Muslim Teen Into Hetero Marriage; LGBT Global Recap

We have reported on the appointment of the first U.S. Special Envoy for LGBT Equality. This week, Adebisi Alimi, a lecturer in pre- and post-colonial sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa at Berlin’s Freie Universtat and a fellow at the Aspen Institute, published a commentary in the Daily Beast in which he raised questions about the move, including concerns that it may feed into the anti-colonial rhetoric used by homophobic leaders in Africa:

The fact is that Berry is a white man—as will be his U.K. equivalent, if opposition leader Ed Miliband wins the May 7 election and appoints Lord Michael Cashman as his LGBT envoy, as promised last fall.

The envoy could run the risk of looking like (and being) a white person trying to save brown and black LGBT people from their brown and black oppressors. LGBT activists in Africa have long had to debunk the idea that homosexuality is something white people in Western countries do that is then imported into African countries. Thus the whiteness of the Western special envoy could reinforce this and create more challenges for black LGBT activists.

What are the alternatives?

First, bold and concrete actions, like banning a president who abuses human rights from entering the U.S., and not being friendly with them either. (I have not forgotten the first U.S.-African summit where President Barack Obama was seen taking pictures with Yayah Jammeh of Gambia or Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, two African leaders with terrible human rights records.) We should create visa bans for individuals or organizations involved in the spread of homophobia or who have taken a lead in the enactment of laws that will criminalize LGBT people. We also need to truly take human rights into account in trade agreements.

I would also like to see the U.S. create more mentorship, collaboration, and support for LGBT people risking their lives to change their countries, to have an approach that is driven by the countries with whom it is working. Examples of people in need of support are Maurice Tomlinson of Jamaica, who works to support homeless LGBT people, Nisha Ayub, who works to improve the lives of transgender individuals in Malaysia, and Jabu Pereira of South Africa who focuses on the intersectionality of race and sexuality. (I participated in The Daily Beast’s Quorum: Global LGBT Voices program with the three of them.)

Global South leaders hold the key to solving increasing homophobia in their own countries, and their work could be strengthened by financial support from the U.S. From the announcement about the special envoy, it sounds like support for activists and community groups will be a possibility and I urge that it be a priority.

The March 15 New York Times magazine features “From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself,” a story by Marlon James that chronicles his struggles as a gay boy and man in Jamaica, which had left him considering suicide. “I knew I had to leave my home country – whether in a coffin or on a plane,” he writes. He describes having been invited to church by an office colleague and getting “saved.”

The church was called a clap-hands congregation, meaning charismatic, except it was full of upper-middle-class folk, and a cool pastor who drove a sports car. One Wednesday night, while Pastor was telling us that blessings were five miles upstream so we should, like Enoch, wait on the Lord, I started reading Salman Rushdie’s “Shame,” hiding it in the leather Bible case. I had never read anything like it. It was like a hand grenade inside a tulip. Its prose was so audacious, its reality so unhinged, that you didn’t see at first how pointedly political and just plain furious it was. It made me realize that the present was something I could write my way out of. And so I started writing for the first time since college, but kept it quiet because none of it was holy. I stayed in church for nearly nine years, telling a woman I tried to date that the real reason I had no interest in a relationship was Jesus. In 2005, when I was 34, I published my first novel, “John Crow’s Devil,” and wrote myself all the way to a book tour of the United States.

That and subsequent visits led to a teaching job at Macalster College in St. Paul, Minnesota:

I packed up my entire life — my books — to ship to the States. It may have been only a one-year contract, but I was never going back. I felt no emotion. I didn’t see anything of Minnesota until the day I showed up for work.

Peru: Bishop Calls Lawmaker ‘Faggot’ as Civil Unions Bill Killed

On Tuesday, civil unions legislation was rejected by the Peruvian Congress’s Justice and Human Rights Commission. The day before, Chimbote Bishop Emeritus Luis Armando Bambarén Gastelumendi reportedly called Bruce a “faggot” (“maricón”). Anti-equality religious leaders celebrated. The Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers reports:

Piura Archbishop José Antonio Eguren Anselmi applauded lawmakers for rejecting the civil unions bill.

“The bill contained legal elements of marriage,” he said, according to El Comercio, a Peruvian newspaper. “It pretended to equivocate the civil union to marriage and therefore the tabled legislative proposal was really in truth an undercover gay marriage.”

More from the Peruvian Times:

“Congressman Carlos Bruce is making a fool of himself with all of this, appearing – excuse me for the term – like a faggot in the middle of everything,” said Bambarén. “He himself has said he is gay. Gay is not the Peruvian word, the word is faggot .”

Bruce responded that the bishop’s comments “reflect the hate that is typical of homophobia,” and said he was disappointed a representative of the Catholic Church, “apparently lacking arguments, now resorts to insults.”

… “We have defended the natural family, as enshrined and recognized in our Peruvian Constitution,” said Congressman Julio Rosas, of the opposition, right-wing Fuerza Popular party.

As we have noted, anti-gay American evangelicals, including Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, have traveled to Peru to urge legislators to oppose LGBT equality legislation.

Israel: Orthodox Rabbi Says Gays, Like Murderers, Not Entitled to Equality

Kobi Nachshoni reported last week that Grand Rabbi Mayer Alter Horowite, the leader of the Har Nof branch of the Boston Hasidic dynasty, held a press conference at his home in Jerusalem:

The Rebbe ruled that haredim must not vote for the Bayit Yehudi party due to its part in the IDF draft law, which imposes criminal sanctions on certain yeshiva students who don’t serve in the army, and because it is in favor of granting civil rights to same-sex couples.

“There is a community which wants to murder other people,” he said. “It’s their nature and they must murder – so we should give them equality? Why give them equality, because they are murderers?”

The Rebbe stressed that he was aware of the distress of the LGBT community members, particularly the religious ones, but that violating the Torah’s commandments was unthinkable. “Just like we have agunot (women chained to their marriage) – isn’t that unfortunate? Don’t we want to find a solution? If we have a solution, we implement the solution. If we don’t have one, we don’t.”

…The Rebbe said he had personally met haredi homosexuals who chose the solutions he suggested. “I know observant guys who I wanted to offer a match, and they refused. They likely refused for that reason. But they lived in total devotion, to protect the Torah. Sometimes a person has to sacrifice himself for things which are fundamental in Jewish life.

Horowitz “admitted that the rabbinical and religious world has failed in providing a Jewish-halachic response to the complexity involved in the existence of a state.”

“Thank God that we don’t have a majority in the government,” he said. “I fear the day when we have 61 Knesset members. For example, I don’t know how the airport could be closed on Shabbat in the modern world. Thank God that no one is asking me such questions.”

United Kingdom: Street Preacher on Trial for ‘Belligerent’ Comments

Preacher Michael Overd was on trial this week over comments he made after setting up a loudspeaker in Taunton High Street last summer. The Somerset County Gazette reports:

Michael Overd of Arundell’s Way, Creech St Michael, is charged with three counts of religious aggravation of the Public Order Act, with threatening or abusive behaviour….

Witness Darren Chalmers gave evidence about what he heard on June 7.

He said he could hear Mr Overd talking to two people about homosexuality and how, when he approached him, Mr Overd had called him a sinner for being gay.

He added: “I felt so ashamed by the comments that were made, that I was a sinner and that God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.

“He said I needed to repent my sins.

“I felt belittled. I am a gay Christian and I am accepted by my church and I am accepted for who I am.

When the defendant’s lawyer asked whether freedom of speech entitles someone to say things that are offensive, Chalmers said he didn’t want to be “victimized” by another person for being gay.

Another witness “described Mr Overd’s style as “ranting” and said she heard him make defamatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad.”

Cameroon: Human Rights Attorney Alice Nkom Seeking Support

We have written previously about human rights lawyer Alice Nkom who has been a rare champion for LGBT people in Cameroon. This week the Guardian’s Clár Ní Chonghaile profiles Nkom, who has been in London seeking more support for her work. The Guardian notes that a February report from  the International Federation for Human Rights found that under laws that criminalize homosexuality, “threats to people identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex activists had risen sharply since 2010.” Nkom is challenging the law’s constitutionality.

 “I need everyone because right now, I am a little isolated,” said Nkom, who founded the Association for the Defence of Homosexuals (ADEFHO) in 2003. “It’s on occasions like this that we must show we are one, united, universal in this fight.”

…Despite death threats from critics who call her “the devil’s lawyer”, fierce opposition from institutions like the Catholic church, and the herculean nature of her self-assigned mission to change entrenched views, Nkom’s passion for the law remains undimmed, nearly 50 years after she became the first woman to be called to the bar in Cameroon aged 24.

…“This is a fight for human rights. Its does not pit African traditions against western traditions or the colonised against colonisers. Africa has the same universal values and belongs to humanity. It is not separate, and neither is Cameroon,” she said.

Nkom, says international support is vital. “Diplomacy has a very important role to play because … if I did not have the backing of United Nations member states … I would possibly have been killed,” she said.

According to the Guardian, Nkom says the “who am I to judge” comments by Pope Francis “helped Nkom redefine her discussions with the Catholic church in Cameroon.” In addition, “Some members of the judiciary occasionally send her discreet messages of support, grateful for her willingness to say what they feel they cannot.”

Uganda: Activist Frank Mugisha Says ‘Extreme Christians’ From U.S. Foster Homophobia

This week GLAAD published a video interview with Ugandan equality activist Frank Mugisha, who was in New York earlier this month to receive the Jolli Humanitarian Award.  In the interview, Mugisha blames the rise of homophobia in Uganda on “extreme religious leaders,” the majority of them from the United States. He said it is important for allies to speak up and give hope to young people, including sports and entertainment figures whose solidarity can have a impact on public opinion.

Ireland: Health Minister Pleas for Marriage-Equality, Priest Says He’ll Vote Yes

Leo Varadkar, the Minister of Health who came out earlier this year, made a speech on the floor of the Dáil, Ireland’s parliament, urging support for the marriage equality referendum that will take place on May 22.

Mr Varadkar quoted Irish revolutionary Daniel O’Connell, saying: “The spirit of self is a great evil; the love of superiority is a great evil. The liberty which I look for is that which would increase the happiness of mankind.”

In his speech, he said: “Throughout history there are numerous examples of good people being on the wrong side of history. We are reluctant to change, and so it is often easier to accept the way things have always been.

“Why risk what change might bring? Fifty years ago women could not serve on juries in this country and had to resign from the Civil Service when they got married, two things that seem unbelievable today but which were supported at the time by many good and honourable people who were unable to see the damage these policies were causing, or the validity of the arguments on the other side, which they often saw as radical, rather than just modern.

“This is a Bill which asks us to act as legislators for the whole country, for future generations, and to do something that will benefit all of society in the long run.

“This is not a Bill about ‘gay marriage’, it is about ‘equal marriage’. It is not about weakening one of the strongest institutions in society, it is about strengthening it by making it inclusive and for everyone.

“It is about removing the sense of shame, isolation and humiliation from many who feel excluded. It lets them know that Ireland is a country which believes in equality before the law for all its citizens.

“This Bill allows allow gay men and women, for the first time, to be equal citizens in their own country. No exceptions; no caveats; no conditions; just equal. This is not an act of generosity to a minority, rather it is an act of leadership by the majority.

“It is a recognition that the majority does not become superior by making another group feel inferior. It recognises that same-sex relationships are equal to opposite-sex relationships, and by doing so, all are enhanced and neither is diminished.

Varadkar said there are “good and honourable people” with concerns about marriage equality; he said those concerns should not be dismissed or ignored but addressed. “It is up to us to convince them that this change is one for the better.”

Augustinian priest Iggy O’Donovan went public with his plans to support marriage equality, in spite of the Church’s opposition.

Fr Iggy O’Donovan told The Irish Independent this week that he was an ‘an absolute believer in Catholic teaching on marriage.’

‘[But I also] accept that there are people with different but deeply held views to me and I respect their views and I don’t think I have the right to impose my views on them.’

As a result he said he would ‘unquestioningly be voting yes’ in the referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland.

Fr O’Donovan told The Irish Independent that years of pastoral work with young gay Catholics had also been influential in his decision on how to vote.

Also this week, in advance of the spring meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran responded to a question about whether being born gay was as God intended by saying, “That would be to suggest that if some people are born with Down’s syndrome or Spina Bifida, that that was what God intended either.” After public outcry, he apologized for “hurt” that his comments caused. From Pink News:

He said in a statement: “I believe that every person is willed by God and loved by God. I simply don’t believe that God micromanages the universe in such detail.

“I regret any hurt that may have been caused either by what I actually said or by how it was presented by others.

“I referred in the interview to the way in which the Children and Family Relationships Bill sets out to broaden the legal definition of parents (and systematically removes the words “mother” and “father” from previous legislation.

“In that context I commented that people who have children are not necessarily parents.”

Spain: Catholic Diocese Issues Guidelines for Baptism of Children of Same-Sex Couples

New Ways Ministry’s blog highlights a news report that a diocese in Spain “has issued guidelines to priests on baptizing children of lesbian and gay couples, as a way of making sure that these children are not ignored by the Church.”

Spain is one of 12 European nations to legalize same-gender marriage, and in 2005 it was the third nation in the world to do so.  The Diocese of Osma and Soria is in the Castilla y León province, in the west of Spain, and it is headed by Bishop Gerardo Melgar Viciosa.

The Vicar General of the diocese, Father Gabriel-Ángel Rodríguez, said that the same “prudence and charity” should be shown to same-gender couples, as is shown to heterosexual couples and single parents.    The news story elaborated further on his explanation:

“Father Rodríguez says the past few years have seen an upsurge in the number of baptisms into the Catholic Church in Spain of children who have been born to or adopted by same-sex couples, and that this has posed a new challenge for priests and parish leaders which often leaves them with questions and confusion.”

The guide encourages respect, as well as pastoral sensitivity, for gay and lesbian couples who bring their children to be baptized. The news article observed:

“The guide does not aim to ‘judge the conscience’ of these children’s parents and warns vicars and priests not to do so either, says Father Rodríguez, even where those conducting christening ceremonies consider the parents’ ‘moral conduct’ to be ‘objectively contradictory’ to the teachings of the Church.

“Children baptised into the Catholic Church, whatever their parents’ sexual orientation, must be educated in the Catholic faith, the guide states.

“And those whose parents are gay or lesbian must be treated with ‘the same pastoral tact’ as children of heterosexual parents.”

Germany: Men Fined for Attempting for Force Gay Muslim Teen into Hetero Marriage

The father and two uncles of a gay 18-year old Muslim man were fined for trying to force the then-15-year-old boy into Turkey to try to force him to marry a woman. Joseph Patrick McCormick writes at Pink News:

Three Lebanese men have been fined by a Berlin court for allegedly attempting to force a 15-year-old relative into a straight marriage….

The associated press reports that the complaint details that in 2012, the men took the boy, who is now 18-years-old, in a car and tried to drive him to Turkey.

After being stopped at the Romania-Bulgaria border, the boy was returned to Germany.

The boy told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that he had come out as gay, and as a result his father had decided to try and force him to marry a woman.

Channel News Asia also reported on the story:

In a case highlighting the problems Germany faces in integrating its four-million-strong Muslim community, Nasser El-Ahmad, who has a Lebanese background, has also told German media that his family tortured him for being gay.

Found in a car at the Romanian-Bulgarian border two days after he went missing in December 2012, prompting an Interpol alert, El-Ahmad says he was kidnapped by his family in order to arrange his marriage to a Lebanese girl.

After a five-minute hearing on Thursday, the judge handed the three accused men, who were not present, fines of 1,350 euros (960 pounds) each for detaining him and taking him abroad.

El-Ahmad, wearing a black shirt and trousers, black earrings and a “STOP HOMOPHOBIA” badge, said the court had done what it deemed right. “I did what I have the strength to do. At least this came to court, I’m happy about that,” he said, adding he had not expected his relatives to turn up. “I’m not someone who hides. I don’t want to suppress my sexuality.”

El-Ahmad has told German media his father vowed to slit his throat and his uncle threatened to burn him after dousing him with petrol because they could not allow him to be gay.

The court did not deal with allegations of torture or forced marriage but the abduction happened after he was put into care.

Nigeria: President Turns to Homophobia as Campaign Tactic

In a press conference this week, a spokesperson for President Goodluck Jonathan accused opposing candidate Muhammadu Buhari of having secretly promised western nations that he would permit same-sex marriage in return for their political support. The spokesman would not name the countries. As BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder notes, the charge “follows a strategy used by politicians in many African countries to rally anti-colonial sentiment by linking homosexuality to colonial powers.” Buhari’s campaign dismissed the claims as a distraction from the country’s real problems. As we have noted, Jonathan signed anti-gay legislation over a year ago, fueling anti-gay violence. 

Australia: Gay Asian Migrants Find Home; Fighting Fire & Brimstone with Cyndi Lauper

Two reports by Lydia Feng for SBS World New Radio examine “whether Australia – and especially Sydney – lives up to its label as a so-called gay mecca for Asian migrants.”

Australian musician Axel Winter became a social media hit this week thanks to video of his creative approach to defusing the tension being created by a homophobic street preacher who was screaming at the crowds at Syndey’s Mardi Gras celebration. Setting up behind the preacher, Mr Winter told the angry crowd to ‘ignore the words of hate and sing some words of love’ and launched into Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 anthem Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

South Korea: Gay Celebrity Enters Politics to Make Change

Actor, entertainer and businessman Hong Seok-cheon told the Korea Times that he’s planner to enter politics “in order to promote diversity within Korean society and to help young people struggling to cope with their sexuality.”  From the website Fridae:

Male and female same-sex relations is legal in South Korea as it is not specifically mentioned in either the country’s Constitution or in the Civil Penal Code. Yet general awareness of the gay community has largely remains low despite recent gay-themed entertainment and recognizable gay celebrities. Korean gays and lesbians still face difficulties, and many prefer not to reveal their gay identity to their family, friends or co-workers.

“I think Korean society has changed a little,” said Hong. “Before, it was impossible to think about revealing one’s sexual identity to others. Now, they won’t slap your face for being gay. Friends and families are starting to understand one’s hardship of life as a gay,” he told The Korea Times.

However, Hong thinks it is still too early for legalization of gay marriage in Korea and believes that this might change in due time just as it took 10 years for society to accept him.

South Africa: Photo Essay on Black LGBT Community

This week the Advocate published a photo essay on weddings and funerals in the black LGBT community by photographer and activist Zanele Muholi.

These joyful and painful events often seem to go hand in hand in a country distinguished by a constitution that recognizes same-sex marriages, yet marked by the incredible violence that plagues black queer communities. Lesbians are particularly vulnerable and are regularly victims of brutal murders and “curative rapes” at the hands of neighbors and friends.

These images evoke death but also suggest the cycle of life as morning follows night. Life and death, love and hate are some of the antitheses that appear throughout her work.

Muholi’s first major American exhibition, “Zanele Muholi: Isiboneloo /Evidence,” will be on display at the Brooklyn Museum from May 1 – November 1, 2015. BrooklynMuseum.org.

Canada: Alberta will mandate that schools permit gay-straight alliances in schools

Nick Duffy at Pink News reports that Alberta’s government is proposing legislation requiring schools to allow a gay-straight alliance if students ask for one.

[Education Minister Gordon]Dirks said he had consulted on the issue extensively since, saying: “Some of those moments were very moving moments as you heard students telling their stories of being bullied, discriminated against, feeling suicidal, even attempting [it].

“I remember one conversation with a student talking about how they had attempted suicide so when that happens and you have those kinds of intimate, frank conversations with students, it goes from your head to your heart”.

Premier of Alberta Jim Prentice said: “This is a case of a government responding to what they are hearing from the citizens of the province, including young people, who have had a significant say in this, who have moved me, and who have moved the minister.

Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman was moved to tears by the amendment, telling the National Post: “It’s hard to contain my joy… I came into politics to change the world and today I changed the world.”

 

  • Jim ‘Prup’ Benton

    As usual, a very valuable summing up, but I need to ask a question about the Overd story. I know that British and American laws differ, but I have been repeatedly arguing with religious conservatives about their claim that ‘hate speech legislation will, eventually, result in preachers being put on trial for their opinions against gays and SSM.’
    /
    I had been denying this would happen — and still deny it could happen in America. The trial makes my claim questionable as a general statement, though, More, though, it gives me a dilemma. I believe in free speech as strongly — maybe even slightly more strongly — than I believe in gay rights. (“More strongly’ because the basic freedoms of speech, the press, and assembly — my exclusion of religion is deliberate — are the foundations of democracy which is needed to insure any other freedoms. Religious freedom — including freedom from religion — is vital, but not foundational.)
    /
    Therefore, I must insist that Overd is being wrongly tried, and that, if we believe what we have said, as disgusting and nauseating as he is, we must defend him just as if he were a pro-LGBT speaker in Putin’s Russia. The only exceptions would be if he had directly incited violence — and he doesn’t even have seemed to slip into the gray area of ‘indirect incitement’ — or if he violated a local ordinance — not related to the context of his speech — about where and when political or religious speech was allowed.
    /
    Without that, as much as I hate what he has said — and with no reference to the fact that sometimes haters on the other side frequently work to our benefit — I have to believe he is being wrongly prosecuted and we should protest the trial.
    /
    Sometimes I hate the conclusions I am driven to by my own beliefs, but I have to accept them. And, of course, sometimes I can be annoyed at things like this trial because, as well, I do not like handing ‘weapons’ to our opponents or confirming them in their paranoia.